OAKLAND - Just about an hour before last night's game against the Golden State Warriors, swingman Andre Iguodala informed coach Doug Collins that he wasn't able to go due to "a sore leg."

Iguodala missed time earlier this season due to a strained tendon in his right Achilles' and has struggled offensively in his past two games, shooting just 5-for-23 from the floor and scoring a total of 18 points.

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"We were hoping tonight that if the game was close we could play him on Monta Ellis late," said Collins. "I guess his legs are a little sore."

Ellis, the Western Conference player of the week, averaged 39.7 points in the three games prior to last night's clash with the Sixers.

Though his scoring has dipped a little this season, Iguodala will never let his offensive troubles interfere with what he does best on the basketball court, and that's play defense.

The 7-year forward is averaging 14.2 points this season, down from his career average of close to 16 a game. In Sunday's win over the Denver Nuggets, though he scored just nine points and missed seven of his 10 foul shots, Iguodala was one of the main reasons the Sixers were able to pull out an improbable win.

The Nuggets were playing their third-straight game without star Carmelo Anthony, who was with his family following the death of his sister last week. In his absence, Chauncey Billups had picked up the scoring slack, scoring 50 points in the previous two games without Anthony.

Sunday against the Sixers, Billups again was lighting up the scoreboard. His two free throws early in the fourth quarter gave him 19 points and his team a 12-point lead.

Collins decided to put Iguodala on Billups to disrupt not only the point guard's game, but the whole offensive flow of the Nuggets.

It worked. The Nuggets scored just four points over the next 7 minutes, 2 seconds and the Sixers used a 24-4 run to put away a game that seemed more than improbable early in the final quarter.

"Dre's that [defensive] guy," Collins said. "In Orlando, we put him on J.J. Redick late in the game to try and take him out. That's why he's so valuable to our team. He can take out two or three different kind of guys and give us a chance, especially late in the game when we need defensive stops."

Collins seemed as surprised as anyone as he addressed the media before last night's game and revealed Iguodala's status.

"He just said he couldn't push off," Collins said. "It was sore [Sunday]. Kevin Johnson [head trainer] had been treating it, and he just said he wouldn't be able to go. That's why it was so important for us to win that game [in Denver] with him playing [hurt]. Hopefully it will be day-to-day with him. Hopefully we'll get him back for Phoenix [tomorrow]."

Shorthanded

Not only were the Sixers missing Andre Iguodala last night, but Lou Williams was back in Philly awaiting the birth of his first child, and swingman Jason Kapono strained a calf muscle at practice in Denver on Saturday and was unavailable. That left Collins with a very short roster.

In place of Iguodala, Collins started Andres Nocioni and was planning on big minutes for rookie Evan Turner.

"We're really down to one guard off the bench," Collins lamented. "So we'll keep Evan in that same role. I've got some guys down right now. We'll be going young with 20 [year-old Jrue Holiday], 22 [Evan Turner] and 23 [Jodie Meeks]. But, hey, Noc started for us early in the season. I feel good about him being out there."

Young growing up

Collins has talked about how teams are now showing Thaddeus Young the ultimate respect by throwing double-teams at him so he can't get to the basket as easy with his dribble-penetration. Young has noticed it and adjusted nicely.

"Before, it was drive the ball to the basket, drive the ball to the basket, drive the ball to the basket," Young said. "Now, with the double-teams coming, it might be a hard dribble or two to get to a spot to get a better passing angle or to get someone else a better shot at the basket. I still am looking to take the ball to the hole, but I'm not going to force it. And, if they back off of me, I'm comfortable hitting the midrange shot."

Sunday in Denver, Young kept the Sixers in the game in the first half with his scoring and finished with 20 points. The Sixers are 4-0 on the year when he scores 20 or more. *

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