Sixers giving some reasons to smile

RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Damien Wilkins has added spark to the Sixers lineup.
RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Damien Wilkins has added spark to the Sixers lineup.
Posted: March 19, 2013

IN A YEAR that certainly hasn't seen many positive signs, the 76ers are showing some as an apparent playoff-less season comes to a close.

The last three games have been against some of the elite in the Eastern Conference in Miami, Brooklyn and Indiana, and the Sixers have come through the trifecta with a close road loss in Miami and home victories against the other two. At a time when teams in the Sixers' position (15 games under .500 at 25-40) usually are just playing out the rest of the season with about as much gusto as an Irishman the day after St. Patrick's Day, Doug Collins' team seems rejuvenated.

"I think our guys are settling in to a really good style," said Collins after Sunday's practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "I'm really happy the way they've responded here at the end. Our guys want to win and they want to build. This is not a situation where our guys want to do anything other than that. They've talked about that. Just watching the tape, we're playing really connected basketball. Twice now I put on a 6-minute tape after the Miami game, even though we lost, and just showed how our guys played. [Saturday] we had some possessions where there were seven passes and a guy is shooting a layup, just the ball moving and guys moving and not standing. Our defense has been good. Guys are settling in."

None more so than Spencer Hawes and Dorell Wright. Over the past eight games, Hawes has averaged 14 points and 9.5 rebounds. And that streak started just two games after a 20-point, 15-rebound performance in a loss at Chicago.

Wright, now a fixture as the first wing man off the bench, has scored in double figures in 11 of the past 14 games. He has added stability to a rotation hobbled by injuries and, even moreso, inconsistent play.

"Damien [Wilkins], what he's done to our starting lineup has been a real plus, Dorell has really settled in to a great spot. Evan [Turner] played a really good defensive game [Saturday]. He didn't score a lot [11 points] but watching the tape, defensively he was very, very good," Collins said. "I'm just happy with the spirit, I really am. This has been a tough year with our guys. Losing beats down on you. As a professional athlete you want to win. I hope our fans recognize how badly our guys want to win. We want to put a good team out on the floor for the Sixers fans. They love basketball here and we want to play good basketball."

They've been doing that mainly because of a new-found offense, one in which the ball moves constantly until a good shot opens up. It is something the team has been lacking for much of the season, with movement stymied by too much dribbling during possessions.

"[Indiana's] George Hill looked over to me one time and said, 'Man, you guys are really moving the ball,' " said Collins. "It was noticeable. I don't know how many times where we had a play and it looked like the play was over and a guy just kept moving and he got open, rather than standing. When that ball has got energy it's contagious. We're playing that way. We're trying to make a conscious effort to, make or miss, try to get the ball up the floor a little bit quicker. Damien helps us because he's the one guy who will get out early. He got out on the break, hit a couple of layups. If we can continue to do that our defense has been pretty sound, for the most part."


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: philly.com/Sixerville

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