Before most games, 76ers coach Doug Collins comes from the locker room, walks onto the court, and a lovefest ensues.

Collins has been around the NBA for close to 40 years, has built numerous relationships and earned the respect of nearly everyone.

One of his most special bonds was formed with Byron Scott, now the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who visited the Wells Fargo Center last night.

The two met when Collins was an assistant coach at Arizona State and Scott was a player. They bonded at a summer workout before the 1982-83 season.

"With Byron, my first experience with him was when they had to run the mile for time," Collins said. "It was real hot in Tempe in August, and Byron did not make his time. I was going to have him run it again, but I decided to have the other players who made the time run it for him. Byron said he'd run it, and a few minutes later, he made his time.

"The next day, his car broke down and he called me in the office and said, 'Coach, can you come pick me up?' I said, 'No, I won't.' He said, 'Why not?' I said, 'Because yesterday, you had a chance to be a real leader for our team and you didn't run your time.' I said I was disappointed in that. He said, 'Please come pick me up.' I went to pick him up and loved him ever since. Funny how one little thing happens that brings two people together, and ever since that point in time, I'm not ashamed to say I love Byron Scott."

Scott has not shown his former coach much respect this season, as the Cavaliers took the first two games before last night's 117-97 loss to the Sixers.

Getting defensive

Heading into last night's game, the Sixers had been doing a much better job on the defensive end of the floor, allowing only 40.6 percent shooting their past four games - three of which they won.

The reasons are many, but much has to do with the speed roaming the perimeter and talking.

"We've started to communicate better," Jrue Holiday said. "We're definitely feeling each other out more and we're relying on each other, which is good. I know if I get beat someone will be there to help or if somebody comes off a curl, someone's there to help. Even on double-teams, we're all there to rotate and we're starting to play together on D."

Not surprising, the effort on that end of the court has led to more success.

"I think the one thing is we feel like we have some pretty good speed back there," Collins said. "And we want to pressure the ball, but we want to contain the ball. We don't want to get broken down off the dribble. So much of the game now is screen-roll. A big part of your defense is your big guys working in tandem with one another and with that guard and communicating. I think it's a constant work in progress every day. I think you develop a trust with one another, that you-get-me-I'll-get-you thing. We have each other's backs.

"Guys are talking more, communicating more. I think they're taking ownership. When you start out the season, you put in a basic defense. As the year gets into the season a little longer, you can start making what I call scouting-report tweaks, where all of the sudden [you can make changes]. Early in the season, we weren't ready to do that. We are starting to be able to make changes and do different things out there to keep teams off balance. For the most part, we can stay at home and get hands on three-point shooters, not give them open looks. And then it helps your rebounding not having to double-team because guys aren't out chasing on the floor.

"We play pretty simple ball. We don't do anything creative. We just play the basic ball."

Sometimes the most basic ways prosper the most. *