The Philadelphia 76ers signed Elton Brand to a five-year deal in July to help turn around the fortunes of a struggling franchise. But while he’s been sidelined the past 16 games with a dislocated right shoulder, they’ve started to figure things out without their $80 million man.
On Saturday night, though, it appears Philadelphia will have to find a way to fit Brand back into the rotation as it goes for a ninth straight home win over the New York Knicks.
“Reggie had a good feel for him because he was guarding him for the last five minutes as we were making our comeback,” said Philadelphia interim coach Tony DiLeo, 11-7 since taking over for the fired Maurice Cheeks on Dec. 13. “Reggie is a physical guy who did push him out and contested the shot.”
While the defense has suffered just marginally without Brand - Philadelphia has allowed 97.6 points per game during his absence compared to 94.7 with him in the lineup - the 76ers have shown a vast improvement in their scoring the past month.
Philadelphia averaged just 94.0 points with Brand, but has scored 100.4 points per game since he was injured on Dec. 17 in a 93-88 win over Milwaukee.
Starting in Brand’s place, Thaddeus Young has averaged 13.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and is shooting 51.1 percent from the field during Philadelphia’s 9-7 stretch. In last Saturday’s 107-97 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Young posted his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 boards.
Brand, who had 24 points and 14 rebounds in a 116-87 win over the visiting Knicks on Oct. 31, will initially come off the bench and play limited minutes.
Andre Iguodala, averaging 22.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists since Brand went down, will be looking for his third consecutive double-double on Saturday. Iguodala had 18 points and a season-high 12 boards in Monday’s loss, including seven points during a 12-0 run that tied the game at 93 with 8.5 seconds remaining.
“I was proud of the way we came back,” said Iguodala, who had 28 points and 10 rebounds in last Saturday’s win. “I think we need to continue to have that hunger.”
New York (18-24) feels the same way after matching a season-high three-game winning streak on Friday by defeating Memphis 108-88. David Lee posted his sixth consecutive double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds as the Knicks closed out their four-game homestand.
“Guys were picking each other up, and that is what good teams do,” said Lee, averaging 11.8 points and 10.3 boards in his last four games in Philadelphia.
Since last Saturday’s loss to the 76ers, New York’s bench has scored 47.5 percent of the team’s points.
“You think about with me and Nate coming off the bench and Tim (Thomas) and now Gallo (Danilo Gallinari), it’s a lot of offensive power,” said Harrington, who had a team-high 26 points off the bench last week against Philadelphia. “We could start on a lot of teams.”
New York’s last win in Philadelphia was 113-107 in overtime on Dec. 17, 2004.