TORONTO - When last seen, the Philadelphia 76ers were in free fall.
The Raptors held them to a seven-point fourth quarter a week ago in a win over the Sixers that had head coach Doug Collins talking about showing his charges Tony Robbins tapes (facetiously) in hopes of getting things turned around.
Not sure if he ever got around to the Robbins’ self-help tapes but it appears that a tweak to his starting lineup has done wonders.
In the two games (including last night) since inserting Nikola Vucevic in the starting lineup at centre in place of Spencer Hawes, the Sixers are operating much more efficiently.
Hawes responded to his demotion with a team-high 19 points on Tuesday in a 107-88 win over New Jersey.
Wednesday in Toronto, Collins got a starting-five high 12 points from Vucevic and another 10 from Hawes off the bench in a 93-75 win over Toronto.
That’s back-to-back wins following a four-game losing streak for Philly.
The Sixers are trying to avoid a monumental second-half collapse. This is a team that was one of the NBA’s best in the first two months but has since gone into a tailspin and are now fighting it out with the New York Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks for the seventh and eighth playoff spots in the East.
The Raps, who were without Andrea Bargnani for the second consecutive game (he’ll have an MRI Thursday) were abused in the paint all night giving up 58 and scoring just 20 of their own.
The only positive of the night from a Toronto perspective came from Ed Davis who had his second consecutive double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
COULD BE A KEEPER
Alan Anderson who has been starting at small forward for James Johnson for the past five games, has made a definite impression with Dwane Casey as his second 10-day contract winds down.
While a decision has yet to be made about him finishing out the season with the Raptors, that seems a very good bet when the head coach is calling him “one of the guys definitely on our radar” when talking about next season.
Casey also described Anderson as a “pro’s pro.” It certainly doesn’t sound like he’s going anywhere any time soon.
Davis is averaging 10.2 points in the five starts he has made but more importantly is giving Casey a feeling of confidence that the plays that need to be made when they are needed will get done.
ENDING ON A HIGH NOTE
Ed Davis is making a large push to end the season on a positive note.
The former North Carolina Tar Heels forward really hasn’t had a full pre-season in the two years since he came into the league. An injury cost him his first one and the lockout abbreviated whatever he got this season.
Davis is far from a finished product, but Dwane Casey has liked what he has seen from his second year particularly over the past three to four weeks.
Casey has seen Davis putting in the extra work with assistant coach Johnny Davis and has seen dividends on the floor with the improvement of Davis’ jump shot.
But as much progress as Casey has seen in Davis he hopes to see plenty more this season, he has high hopes for even more improvement in the off season.
He wants Davis living in the weight room to put more bulk on and he wants him in there sooner rather than later.
The Raps are going to have a longer off-season than a lot of teams but that doesn’t mean more down time as far as Casey is concerned.
He would like to see Davis take a short breather after the season (a few days) and then hit the weights.
There is also an expectation that Davis will be with the Raptors for the summer league in Vegas in mid-July.
NO SIXERS LOVE
Not sure what Jose Calderon did to the Philadelphia 76ers, but they seem to have it in for him.
For the second matchup in a week between the two teams, Calderon had to be stitched up.
Last Wednesday an Elton Brand (inadvertent) elbow cut him for four stitches above the right eye but below the eyebrow.
This week it was a collision with Thaddeus Young whose noggin connected with Calderon and split him open. This time the stitches, three of them, were actually on the eyebrow but again on the right side of his face.
GIVE IT A REST
Sixers head coach Doug Collins didn’t like the timeout Casey called late in the game last Wednesday in Philadelphia with the Raps blowing out the Sixers. Casey subsequently explained that he only called it to get his key players off the court and get some of his scrubs some run.
Wednesday, Collins again got upset at the end of the game when Ben Uzoh scored on the final play of the night after Collins and the Sixers had purposely turned the ball over on a shot clock violation rather than attempt a score.
What Collins might consider is Uzoh is on a 10-day contract and regardless of the score or the time of the game, he’s not going to shut it down. He’s still trying to make an impression.