Pressure point: Sixers growing up on the fly

The Sixers dropped a close Game 1, 92-91, in Boston over the weekend.

Experience. Growth. Closing out quarters.

Those were the things Doug Collins was preaching the day after his Sixers lost a tight Game 1 to the Celtics.

It was a game a veteran team thrives in. It was also a game that a young one learns from. The Sixers led by eight points with 9:17 to go in the fourth quarter, then watched Boston go on a 20-5 run.

“This Celtics team is a championship team,” Collins said. “These guys are [Rajon] Rondo and [Kevin] Garnett and Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, this is the core of a team that has won championships, and a lot of games. And coming down the stretch, they were sharper — and we have to do better.”

Collins spent some time in the film room with his team, going over that fourth-quarter lapse. Then, they took to the practice court. The biggest challenge for them is learning how to play under pressure.

“You can’t get that in a film session,” Collins said. “You got to get out here on the court, you got to feel the heat, you got to feel the fans, you’re on an opposing court … you got the Celtics, you got the Sixers … all these things. It’s [the experience] invaluable.”

The Celtics, meanwhile, took yesterday off. Coach Doc Rivers is trying to keep his dinged-up squad as fresh as possible since the schedule-makers did him no favors. The Sixers and Celtics will play three games in five days.

“I couldn’t have prescribed a worse solution for us, at least,” Rivers said. “I don’t know about Philly, but for us, I was very surprised by that.”

Those old legs certainly didn’t look it in Game 1. And the Sixers understand that age doesn’t matter. To beat Boston, they need to play smarter.

“We’re young. But even though they may be old, they know how to play,” Evan Turner said. “They play at their own pace, so you can’t really worry about the age or anything, but who’s the tougher team.”

What to watch …


1. Fresh paint.
Doug Collins said Kevin Garnett played one of the best games he’s ever seen the 35-year-old play in Game 1. Garnett exploded for a season-high 29 points (11 rebounds) and controlled the paint. The Sixers know they can’t pound it inside, but they must find a way to disrupt Garnett.

2. On Holiday. The Sixers can’t win with Jrue Holiday playing like he did Saturday night. The point guard was just 3-of-13 from the field (eight points) and had no answer defensively for Boston maestro Rajon Rondo.

3. Going small. It was Boston’s small lineup that fueled its fourth-quarter flurry in Game 1. The Sixers usually thrive when opponents go small, with Thad Young causing match-up problems. However, the versatile forward rolled his ankle and missed the third quarter. Young said he’ll be “fine” for Game 2.
 metro/mg


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