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76ers Notebook

Reaching deep for a little extra

Collins is getting quality performances from bench

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 22, 2012
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In an NBA season shortened and condensed by a lockout, bench players have been more important than ever - even in the playoffs, when teams normally shorten their rotations.

For the Sixers, and teams such as the Spurs and Pacers, success has come as much from the subs as from the starters. In the Sixers’ Game 4 win Friday night, they got 44 points from their bench. The Celtics got 12 from their reserves.

That wasn’t the case in the Celtics’ 101-85 win in Game 5, highlighting the importance of the bench for the Sixers. On Monday night, Philadelphia came up with 27 points from its reserves, 12 from Lavoy Allen, but the Celtics improved to 20 points.

“I think depth is vital,’’ Sixers coach Doug Collins said before Game 5 at TD Garden. “It was all season long based on the compacted schedule. When you’re playing four games in five nights or seven games in nine days, you better have guys on that bench you can trust. And we do.’’

That trust is well-placed, with Lou Williams - the team’s leading scorer in the regular season - as well as Thaddeus Young, Allen, and Jodie Meeks all making significant contributions off the bench. Allen and Young, in fact, both played double the minutes that starters Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes did in Game 4.

“We trust our bench,’’ Collins said. “It was one of the most potent in the league. Our bench brings a different dimension than what we start with.

“You can change the game. That’s what I’ve always felt about a bench. I like a bench that’s got a lot of energy, because they can change the game.’’

Collins said he likes to go to his bench when things aren’t going well - or when they are, but a change is needed. And for the most part his players have performed exactly the way he’s wanted them to, especially in Game 4.

“They make a really big difference for us,’’ Andre Iguodala said. “They were really important in the regular season because we had so many games. If you can use as many bodies as you can it’s going to benefit the team if they’re effective. And our bench has definitely been effective.

“It really showed Game 4. So we want that effort from them every single night.’’

Brand resurfaces

It was nearly three weeks since Brand had made a significant contribution to the Sixers’ playoff cause, scoring 19 points in 35 minutes Game 1 of the Bulls series.

Limited by a neck and shoulder issues, Brand had not scored more than 7 points in a game since then. But Monday night, the forward collected 19 points (12 in the first half) on 8-of-13 shooting in 30 minutes.

“I know a lot of guys that are playing with a lot of ailments,’’ Brand said. “I can’t complain. Hopefully it will just carry over, just confidence with the coaches. The teammates say, ‘Hey, he’s ready,’ and our back’s against the wall, but all season long we played well, we stepped up to the occasion.’’

Brand did that Monday night, even though Collins was skeptical before the game. As the coach said, “His neck still looks pretty stiff to me. There’s no question he’s hurting. But EB’s not going to say anything. He just won’t do it.’’

Feeling the pain

Iguodala, who has been battling Achilles’ tendinitis, said the injury bothered him more in Game 5 than it had in previous games. He had just 8 points and six rebounds . . . If Philadelphia were to force a Game 7, it would seem the younger Sixers would have the advantage. But Iguodala doesn’t think it’s that simple. “I don’t want to think that,’’ he said. “That could be a curse. They have a lot of experience. We don’t have Game 7 experience, so it would work in our benefit not to have to try to go up against a team that’s won a championship in a Game 7 situation.’’

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

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