PHILADELPHIA – Just like you, Sixers coach Doug Collins (or at least someone on his staff) has access to NBA.com’s Advanced Stats tool. The Sixers coach noted Thursday that Kevin Garnett is shooting 71 percent (24-for-34) with Lavoy Allen on the bench and 47 percent (7-for-15) with Allen on the floor.
Philly’s rookie big man, who has made somewhat of a name for himself in this series, is listed at only 6-foot-9. But in defending Garnett, speed is more important than size, because KG gets his best post position when he beats his man down the floor in transition.
“You have to do a better job early,” Collins said of slowing down Garnett. “You can’t let him get such deep position. You can’t let him run to the front of the rim and turn and just stand underneath the basket. You’ve got to start maybe meeting him at the free throw line.
“He has the mobility factor over both of our starters. Both EB [Elton Brand] and Spencer [Hawes], he has the speed advantage. So therefore, he’s going to get down the floor, and that’s a problem.”
Not only is it important to defend Garnett early in every possession, it’s critical to defend him in early in the game. The Celtics have made it clear that their biggest offensive priority is establishing the post early and often. So the obvious question is whether or not Collins should make a change to his lineup and start Allen.
The Sixers’ starters were a plus-10 in Game 1, but are a minus-26 in a little over 15 minutes since then.
Collins did go to Allen early in Game 3, subbing the rookie and Thaddeus Young in for Brand and Hawes at the 7:18 mark of the first quarter, with the score tied at 10. But Allen played just six minutes against Garnett on Wednesday, mostly because he picked up three fouls by the middle of the second quarter.
Foul trouble or not, a change in the lineup would maximize Allen’s minutes on KG. Allen is a plus-25 in the series, the only player in the Sixers’ rotation with a positive plus-minus. We know that Collins pays attention to that stuff, because he also noted Garnett’s plus-47 on Thursday. We also know that he’s not averse to making lineup changes if things aren’t going well.
The Sixers’ problems in Game 3 went far beyond who was guarding Garnett. Their defense was pretty awful all around.
“I never take away from a team playing well offensively,” Collins said, “but I just didn’t think that we put up a lot of resistance.”
Game 4 on Friday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) is a chance for the Sixers to prove that they really belong in the conference semifinals. And their ability to rebound from Wednesday’s loss is more about their mental toughness than anything else.
But a lineup change could help too.