BOSTON - It's that time of the year when nearly every player lucky enough to still be playing is battling some sort of ache or pain. It's certainly no different for the 76ers.
In Game 1 against the Boston Celtics on Saturday, forward Thaddeus Young was kneed in the shin by Celtics forward Ryan Hollins. The kneeing caused Young to also twist his right ankle. The ankle, he said, is feeling just fine, but the shin is giving him a little bit of a problem. Before Game 2 on Monday, Young was getting treatment and being fitted for a special pad to absorb any contact.
The more serious injury appears to be the shoulder/neck area of Elton Brand. After Monday's shootaround, Brand admitted that the problem occurred when he took a spill in Game 4 of the Chicago series. He has been getting treatment and deemed himself fit, but the pain is obviously affecting him.
"We just treat it," said Brand with a wincing shrug of his shoulders. "Everybody has something going on with them, but you just work through it. It affects just the left side of your body, reaching up for rebounds and stuff. I'll be fine shooting and rebounding and playing defense. As long as I can run and jump I'll be fine."
"I think Thad is feeling a little bit better. I think Elton is still having a little bit of a problem with his shoulder and neck," said coach Doug Collins. "He's not been one to say much about it, but it's been causing him some problems. He'll play but I think it's pretty sore. He's not one to say much, he just goes about his business. I noticed last series when he came out of the game he would put heat on it and stuff. I don't know if he has a cervical strain or a muscle up there or whatever but I think he's a little bit sore."
On Monday, Young and Brand combined to play just over 30 minutes, but it wasn't due to the injury, Collins said. "It's matchups, just matchups."
In Saturday's Game 1 loss, rookie forward Lavoy Allen played almost 20 minutes for coach Doug Collins, spelling an ineffective and hurting Elton Brand. Allen, who did not play a minute in the series-clinching Game 6 against the Chicago Bulls two nights earlier, produced 12 points and six rebounds during his stint Saturday.
Asked why Allen is getting the nod over fellow rookie Nikola Vucevic, Collins said: "He's older. Nik is 21 and Lavoy is 23 or something, he has a little bit more experience. Lavoy is physically stronger. Lavoy is better on pick and rolls, he's more mobile. I just think that he's a little ahead in those areas and in playoff basketball those are really key."
Allen played 30 minutes, 21 seconds Monday, turning in an impressive defensive job on Kevin Garnett, limiting the center to 15 points while scoring 10 himself and grabbing eight rebounds. The team was a plus-21 during his time on the court.
With no real dominant scorer on the roster, the Sixers have limited options when they need a basket. The player they lean on most is sub Lou Williams, who led the team in scoring this season with 14.9 points a game. It doesn't come easily for Williams to score when needed most, as other teams key on him defensively.
"When we play Miami, they put LeBron [James] on him," Collins said. "When we played Chicago, they put Luol Deng on him. The other night, they put a bulldog defender on him and if you run him off a screen they're going to trap him. If you have him with the ball on a pick and roll, they're going to trap him. That's why it's so important for Lou, any time we can, to get him that ball in the open court. Any time we can get him a little more freedom to do some things where they can't lock in on him as much. Any time we can get some defensive stops I think it helps him because we can get some opportunities to get some shots on the move without them getting their defense set up. He's usually priority No. 1 on the other team's white board. 'Don't let Lou Williams get started.' They know he's a guy who's critical for us. When he scores, we're pretty tough to beat."
When the Celtics got out to a 9-0 start in Game 2 Monday, Collins was quick to go to Williams in favor of Evan Turner. Williams helped the Sixers cut the deficit to 25-21 at the end of the quarter.