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Increase in activity right move

Sixers have been aided by work of Allen, Young

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 21, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA - One of the things 76ers coach Doug Collins has mentioned is his team’s need for movement, for action, the need to not have the offense stand still. The team can’t compete by launching a bunch of jump shots. Cutting, driving, and passing in the paint are musts.

That’s why the combination of Lavoy Allen - who nearly negated Kevin Garnett Friday night - and Thaddeus Young was so crucial in Philadelphia’s win in Game 4.

“Activity, activity,’’ Collins said. That’s what the pair of bench players provided. And though they scored a combined 20 points, it was their defense, their 19 combined rebounds and their work in the paint that made the biggest difference.

“Any time Thad is cutting and rolling and getting next to that basket, he puts so much pressure on the defense,’’ Collins said. “I thought he and Lavoy had some great interior passes the other night, big plays, keeping the ball alive.’’

Allen and Young had five offensive rebounds apiece. That equaled the number the Celtics had as a team. It kept the ball on the Sixers’ end of the court, giving them the extra chances they needed because of their often poor shooting (37.8 percent from the floor).

“When you’re not shooting the ball well, to give yourself multiple opportunities [is big],’’ Collins said. “That’s the activity I’m talking about.’’

Young has benefited in the second-round series against the Celtics simply by not having Bulls forward Taj Gibson guarding him. Instead, Young often has been defended by Paul Pierce, which means being knocked around less, and Young often ends up defending Avery Bradley with Andre Iguodala on Pierce when the Celtics go small.

“He’s had a little bit more freedom of movement, rather than having to play against that big strong guy like he had to play against in the previous series,’’ Collins said. “He’s not having to play that post-up guy, and I think that’s helped him.’’

The two are part of a bench that was a significant boon in Game 4. While the Celtics got just 12 points from their subs, the Sixers got 44 points from the combination of Allen, Young, Lou Williams, and Jodie Meeks.

Again, though, it was the defense of Allen and Young that helped the Sixers. Garnett was limited to just 9 points and 11 rebounds in Game 4, a far cry from the series of 20-plus point games he has put up this postseason.

“[The coaches] want certain guys guarding certain guys at all times,’’ said 76ers forward Elton Brand, who has seen his minutes decrease in the wake of injury and the impressive play of Allen on Garnett, though he remains in the starting lineup. “A few lineups that we had earlier in the playoffs didn’t work, so putting that lineup together, inside-outside passing, good defense, quickness . . . it really worked well for us.’’

It also opened up some spacing on the court, allowing some different looks, some different pressure for some of the other shooters the Sixers have. That enabled other players, such as Iguodala, Williams, and Meeks to knock down key shots in the final moments as the Celtics lead vanished and Philadelphia started to take over.

With the Sixers hoping for a chance to steal home-court advantage Monday night in Game 5 at TD Garden and go home one win away from the Eastern Conference finals, it’s clear the team will continue to need big things from the Allen-Young tandem.

“When you have inside-outside presence, it definitely helps, draws the defense in,’’ Iguodala said. “Thad did a good job of having some plays where he kicked to Lavoy, Lavoy finished or got fouled, and offensive rebounds helped us a little bit. Kind of got the swing in momentum because those guys were playing with some activity.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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