76ers

Dario Saric's shooting display could be sign of things to come

Dario Saric's shooting display could be sign of things to come

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — In a four-minute span, forward Dario Saric showed just how valuable he could be to the Sixers this season coming off the bench.

The 6-foot-10 big man sank four three-pointers to start the second quarter of the Sixers' 133-114 cruise past the Nets Wednesday night (see observations), with his assigned defender — $64 million man Timofey Mozgov — oftentimes barely in the same zip code. 

Mozgov outweighs Saric by 52 pounds, and the Sixers’ sophomore was able to use that to his advantage to generate open looks.

“It’s easy, because I can drive, too, and he’s sometimes in a difficult position,” Saric said. “If he goes to step out on me a little bit more, I can drive. If he stays too low down there, I can shoot like I did tonight. I like having guys like that.”

Mozgov committed the error of hanging too far back on Saric time and again. On Saric’s fourth and final three-pointer of his second-quarter shooting spree, Mozgov committed to staying low in the paint and turned his head away from Saric as Robert Covington drove to the rim.

Saric backpedaled to the left corner and by the time Mozgov could even raise his arms above his head to contest the shot, the ball had already left Saric’s fingertips and was well on its way towards giving the Sixers a 44-27 lead.

Coach Brett Brown said before the exhibition contest began that he planned on tightening up the team’s rotation. Saric wound up playing a shade over 24 minutes off the bench and led the team in field goal attempts (14), made field goals (10) and made three-pointers (5).

Though much of the focus on Wednesday’s game surrounded center Joel Embiid’s first action on the court since the meniscus injury that ended his 2016-17 campaign in January and his new $148 million contract extension, Saric’s performance did not go unnoticed. In the postgame media scrum, Brown asked that the second question out of reporters’ mouths touch on Saric.

After a reporter complied with the fifth-year coach’s request, Brown waxed eloquently, eventually touching on Saric’s flexibility. Saric could wind up playing significant minutes spelling different starters in various roles.

“It makes him just a really fantastic sort of teammate and an improving player,” Brown said. “You forget sometimes that he’s only going into his second year.”

The fact that Saric — who was unanimously voted to the NBA All-Rookie First Team last season — will likely spend 2017-18 coming off the bench and rotating into various spots on the Sixers’ lineup demonstrates just how far the team has come in the span of one offseason. Brown is now the beneficiary of roster flexibility and depth he never had in prior campaigns.

If Saric’s three-point shooting form can hold up once the season starts, he may become a weapon beyond what even Brown could have envisioned. Saric shot just 31.1 percent from beyond the arc last year but has hit six of his 13 shots from distance in his two games of preseason action, good for a 46.2 percent clip.

“I think that in the first game I was a little bit slow in the game, but this game I understood how to play,” Saric said. “I remember how it goes in an NBA game and of course, sometimes you need this game before the season.

“I hope I have so many games like this during the season and I hope I find myself and do the right things.”

NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

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NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers were right.

The Sixers argued they should have set up at halfcourt, not fullcourt, for a decisive final possession of double overtime in Friday’s game against the Thunder. After a closer look following their triple-overtime loss, the NBA ruled the Sixers were proved correct. 

“After review, it was determined that the 76ers called timeout with 00:01.2 remaining on the game clock, which was prior to Saric's (PHI) dribble. Therefore, they should have been given the opportunity to advance the ball into their own frontcourt for the inbound,” the NBA Officiating’s Last Two Minute Report noted.

The confusion occurred at the end of the second overtime. Dario Saric got a defensive rebound and the Sixers called a timeout before he dribbled the ball. Because of this, the Sixers should have been allowed to set up a final play in the halfcourt, which is exactly what they had practiced and called.

But the referees made a last-second change as the Sixers were setting up. The Sixers were told they had to inbound from fullcourt, which would have been the case if Saric had dribbled before the timeout. The Last Two Minute Report indicated he, in fact, did not. 

“Respect that they are that transparent, but complete disappointment that it can happen,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “You really scratch your head. It’s significant.”

Every play, every basket can make a difference for a team fighting to make the playoffs. The Sixers were confident they could have won the game with the halfcourt play. Instead, they dropped back down to .500 and currently 10 in the Eastern Conference.

“Those things you need to avoid to give yourself every chance to win,” Brown said. “We can point to many other things that were self-inflicted wounds that we’ve got to do better. But when it’s that exposed and that prominent of an environment with 1.2 seconds left, it’s disappointing. But like I say, they’re transparent. I respect the fact they admitted it and we move on.”

Joel Embiid out Monday against Bulls; 2 other Sixers sidelined

Joel Embiid out Monday against Bulls; 2 other Sixers sidelined

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid does not play both games of a back-to-back, but whether he plays in either of the Sixers' next two matchups will have to be determined.

Embiid is not traveling with the Sixers to Chicago for Monday’s game against the suddenly-streaking Bulls, who have won five straight. The big man usually plays at home in these scenarios, and considering he played 49 minutes in Friday’s triple-overtime loss, the decision was expected.

Embiid’s availability for Tuesday at home against the Kings, though, has not been finalized at this point. This is not surprising either being two days ahead of the game. Embiid, who has been dealing with back tightness, did not participate in practice Sunday. The Sixers will evaluate, monitor, and go through treatment with Embiid before making their call.

“Unsure at this stage,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “I do know he’s categorically out tomorrow and we’re going to learn more about him being available when we come back [for] Sacramento, I’d expect in the next 24 hours.”

The Sixers do know they will be without another two players for some time.

Trevor Booker will miss at least the next two games after suffering spraining his left ankle Friday. The newly acquired reserve will be reevaluated in approximately five-to-seven days.

Even though Booker was traded to the Sixers less than two weeks ago, he already made an impact on the second unit. Brown has seen enough over the last four games to know what the team will be missing.

“His toughness,” Brown said. “He’s got a motor. He plays with such a spirit. He’s a man. He’s a pro. He’s been in the league for a while. He gets it. It’s everything that you miss. It’s really everything this team needs.”

Furkan Korkmaz likely will be sidelined even longer. The rookie suffered a Lisfranc injury on his left foot while playing for the Delaware 87ers on Dec. 15 and is out indefinitely. The Sixers recalled Korkmaz from the G League and he is going through evaluation and testing. There is no timetable set for Korkmaz at this point.  

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons described the injury as, “Lisfranc (midfoot) injuries result if bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments that support the midfoot are torn. The severity of the injury can vary from simple to complex, involving many joints and bones in the midfoot.”

Korkmaz has been going back and forth between the Sixers and their G League affiliate in Delaware to get playing opportunities as part of his development in his first NBA season.