Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins has done his best patching together lineups with the team generally struggling without a couple key players.
As a result, players like Nick Young are beginning to embrace their roles.
Philadelphia reaches the halfway point of an eight-game homestand Friday night as it seeks an eighth victory in nine meetings with the Sacramento Kings.
Andrew Bynum has yet to play for the 76ers (19-26) due to a right knee injury after being acquired in the Dwight Howard trade, and Jason Richardson is likely to miss a sixth straight game Friday because of a left knee problem.
Collins has started Young the last three games in place of Richardson and has given him increased minutes in the past six. Young is averaging 17.8 points over the last four, including 18 in Wednesday's 92-84 win over Washington as Philadelphia improved to 2-1 on its homestand.
Dorell Wright had seven points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes after not playing the previous two games.
"It's been a challenge, to say the least, to try to get the pieces to fit," said Collins, who has started 11 different players. "I thank them for their professionalism. It's very easy for guys who have been in the league a long time like that to just pack it in, and neither one of them did that."
Young was benched for a win over Houston on Jan. 12, providing him with the motivation to contribute in any way he's asked.
"That DNP, it hurt," Young said. "Sitting on the sideline, I don't want to get back to that. I'm starting to buy into what the coaches are talking about."
Collins has noticed the difference.
"He has really listened as we've tried to teach," Collins said. "He has talent. I knew if he focused, he could be a terrific player. He's earned the respect of his teammates and coaches."
The Sixers haven't won back-to-back games since a season high-tying three-game winning streak Nov. 25-30. They'll try to do so against a Sacramento team they've beaten by an average of 18.4 points over their last seven victories in the series.
The Kings' only win in the past eight meetings came in overtime.
They enter this one having dropped five of six, with the defeats coming by an average of 14.8 points. They're allowing an average of 106.5 points in that span and rank near the bottom of the league at 103.1 per game for the season.
Sacramento (17-30) is 1-2 on a six-game road trip after falling 99-81 at Boston on Wednesday. Tyreke Evans had 19 points and 11 rebounds but also committed four of the Kings' 19 turnovers, about their average (18.6) in the last five games.
"We were lackadaisical," said rookie Thomas Robinson, who scored 11 points off the bench.
Philadelphia has been outrebounded in six of its last seven games, though it seemingly has a good opportunity to win that battle against a Sacramento team that ranks among the league's worst with a minus-3.5 rebound differential per game.
"We're as good as our big men play," Collins said. "When they play well, we can play with most every team. People are going to try and attack us in the paint because without Andrew Bynum we're a small team."
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, though, has averaged 10.5 points and 5.0 rebounds over the last four games. He has no double-doubles in that span after a stretch in which he posted six straight, averaging 21.7 points and 13.3 boards.
The Associated Press News Service
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