Entering Tuesday night's game against the New Jersey Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers were in a bad way. They had lost four in a row, six of eight overall, and were about to go down 3 1/2 games to the Boston Celtics in the fight for the Atlantic Division lead. The team's scoring center, Spencer Hawes, was also suffering through a frustrating turn, attempting to return to his early season form after suffering an Achilles injury, all while Doug Collins was warding off suggestions that he had lost his team.
Probably as a result of all this, Hawes (now coming off the bench, with his minutes limited due to his lingering injury) was an angry dude at Tuesday's shootaround. And as a release, of sorts, the Philadelphia coaching staff decided to treat him to a Keith Moon-styled rage session. From the Delaware News Journal:
"Spencer was not happy at shootaround," Collins said. "[Assistant coach] Jeff Capel told Spencer, 'Go back to your [hotel] room, act like a little child, tear up your room, give me the bill and be ready to play.'"
Hawes didn't completely follow through on Capel's advice, there were no TVs in the hotel pool at the team's Newark-area living quarters, but Hawes came through with a season-high 19 points and eight boards in the team's needed win over the Nets. Rage helps, my friends. Especially if your bosses offer to pick up the bill, after you lash out a bit.
Spencer didn't credit his sulk session for his improved play, but instead pointed to the added quirk of coming off the team's bench. Again, from the Journal:
"I don't know if it was coming off the bench," Hawes said. "But the game in general, I just kind of slowed down a little bit."
There is truth to that. The most successful off-bench practitioners will tell you that observing the game from the side can change your perspective on the game in a good way, if you head into your gig with the right attitude. Hawes is definitely starter material, he was playing All-Star level ball before he went down with that Achilles injury, and it can't be easy to both have to work through a limited minutes allotment and deal with mitigated production. All while your team, the team you were a central figure for as it raced out to an Atlantic Division-leading surge earlier in the season, is losing game after game.
Low point now over with, the Sixers can look forward to the future. Boston might not continue their white hot ways from the floor, as Dan Devine pointed out on Wednesday, but the team probably has a pretty good stranglehold on the division lead, up three games with nine left to play for both outfits. Boston has the tougher schedule, there's no doubt, but the four-game swoon may have felled Philly's chances.
Still, the second-place team in the division will no doubt face the Miami Heat in the first round, and both Philadelphia and Boston (as we saw Tuesday night) match up exceedingly well with the team that knocked both Philly and Boston out of the playoffs last season. If the Sixers can just stay healthy, find ways to score in the paint, and climb their way back to that aggressive joie de vivre we saw from the squad in January, then the first round can be a fun one.
Let's get all the primal screaming out of the way, first. That's what the regular season is for, you know. Grr.