JUST ABOUT each and every tinker to the offense and defense that the 76ers made in Tuesday's 109-92, Game 2 playoff win over the Chicago Bulls worked to perfection.
It included not only the starting lineup change of Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner, but also defensive assignments.
While Bulls shooting guards Rip Hamilton and Kyle Korver were running their defenders in circles and off picks in Saturday's Game 1 win for Chicago, Sixers coach Doug Collins realized rather quickly that it couldn't happen again, not if his team was going to compete. So Collins inserted Turner into the starting lineup, but with a wrinkle. Instead of putting the bigger Turner on Chicago's shooting guards, he had point guard Jrue Holiday chase them and asked Turner to smother Bulls point guard C.J. Watson, filling in for the injured Derrick Rose.
The moves went a long way in helping the Sixers even up the series at 1-1, going into Friday's Game 3 of their best-of-seven, Eastern Conference series at the Wells Fargo Center.
After scoring 19 points in the first game, Hamilton was limited to 10 on Tuesday. Watson was virtually invisible, outplayed by his backup, John Lucas III, who scored 15.
"Jrue is a great off-the-ball defender; he was chasing Korver; he was chasing Rip Hamilton; he's great at that," said Turner, who collected 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists in Game 2. "We figure my length will be able to disrupt and distract Watson a little bit. We did the same thing a little bit vs. the Knicks this year when I was guarding [Jeremy] Lin. We were just getting stops and stuff. Sometimes things can go your way that day. That's basketball. They dialed in on Saturday, and that's what we did on Tuesday."
The thinking seems to be this: With Turner on Watson, who is more of a standstill shooter, Turner can be out on the perimeter with him and, when a shot is taken, leave him to go get a rebound. Holiday is quicker running off the picks and, after a shot is taken, he gets out on the break looking for the ball, now that Turner is helping in the lane.
"We didn't want Evan chasing Rip," Collins said. "We thought Jrue would be a better guy chasing Rip, and we wanted to keep Dre [Iguodala] on Luol [Deng]. Evan does a good job guarding the ball. At this stage of his career, to me, he does a better job on the ball in most situations than he does in chasing. That's something that he didn't do in college. And then when the ball goes up, he can go back and rebound it."
While Hawes didn't provide as much on the offensive end as Collins would have hoped for (two points, three fouls in nearly 18 minutes), rookie Lavoy Allen supplied a huge spark off the bench by collecting 11 points and nine rebounds in nearly 26 minutes. Allen supplied the toughness down low that Collins needs, often stunting the shoulder-burying drives of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Omer Asik.
"When the guy is bigger than me, I just try to get low, as low as I can because it [strength] is all in the legs," Allen said. "If they have a big upper body, as long as I'm lower than them, they can't really push me around that much."
The changes worked for Game 2. That doesn't mean more won't be on hand for Friday.
"There was a lot of review [at Thursday's practice]," Iguodala said. "I think we had some old sets, old plays that got out of circulation that we brought back a little bit that I think will help us - something fresh and new."
"As this series goes on," Collins said, "the X's and the O's, those things that you talk about, the adjustments, the tape you watch and everything, it comes down to the will to get the ball to where you're supposed to get it. It's the will to go get that rebound, the will to get that 50-50 ball. I showed our guys tape today about us not cleanly rebounding free throws. We were making free-throw misses 50-50 balls.
"But I like where our guys are. I think they are very focused. I think there's a fine line between being confident and being assertive and ready to go. And then that line of losing a little bit of your focus. I thought we were good today, I want us to be good on [Friday], coming to shootaround, getting our business done."
Perhaps the only real concern after Tuesday's win was the health of Iguodala, who was limping noticeably because of a strained Achilles' tendon. At Thursday's practice, the All-Star forward wouldn't deem himself 100 percent, but also seemed confident of playing Friday.
"The 2 days [off] definitely helped," Iguodala said. "Hopefully, we can continue to get it better, and try to be closer to full strength on Friday. I feel like I can think the game, even when I'm not at full strength, so I'll still be able to have an affect out there on the court. So I'll be ready to go."