NEW YORK — A reserve the last three seasons, Thaddeus Young’s ability to outmuscle opposing defenders could very well land him back in the Philadelphia 76ers’ starting lineup.
Young had it easy against the Brooklyn bigs Friday night, scoring 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds as the 76ers withstood a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Nets 106-96.
The 76ers have won their last three games and improved to 4-1 in the preseason. They have two more games left before the season opens up, visiting Boston on Sunday before hosting New York on Monday.
“I think it’s great. They’re using me to my strengths and not to my weaknesses,” Young said.
It didn’t matter if he was matched up against Gerald Wallace or Kris Humphries, as he got it going in the second quarter by shooting 6-of-9 for 13 points as Philadelphia built a 54-46 lead going into to the half.
“That’s what Coach has been doing the last couple of years, just playing me to my strengths. I’m definitely liking the situation when I can be out there (against) a bigger guy and just get up and down the court and beat guys.”
76ers coach Doug Collins said that with outside shooters around him, playing Young at the 4 spot as a starter is a no-brainer.
“All that activity he is doing is because our 3-point shooters have that floor space. He’s not jamming into four, five bodies in there. There’s room for him to work, for him to use his quickness where he’s not having to arm wrestle,” Collins said. “That spacing on the floor is huge.”
Dorell Wright added 18 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, and Jrue Holiday had 11 points and 12 assists.
The Nets have lost their last two preseason games on their $1 billion home court after opening it with a win over Washington on Monday night.
The 76ers led by as much as 12 points in the third quarter but Brooklyn cut it to 97-96 with 3 minutes, 7 seconds left in the game after a pair of free throws by Brook Lopez, who led the Nets with 23 points and nine rebounds.
But Young answered with a fadeaway jumper to make it 99-96 and Wright followed with two free throws to extend Philadelphia’s lead to 101-96 with 2:06 remaining. Nick Young’s 3-pointer made it 104-96 and Deron Williams, who had 22 points, missed a 3-pointer.
The Nets have one more preseason game remaining, Wednesday night at the Nassau Coliseum against the New York Knicks, before the teams open against each other on Nov. 1.
Williams said the Nets are “not there yet.”
“We can’t get away with playing half speed and going through the motions against a playoff team, a perennial playoff team. A team who’s been there and done it,” Williams said.
“You hope things gel faster than they do, but who says they won’t. Sometimes it just clicks.”