Embiid's return not a magic pill for Sixers

Embiid's return not a magic pill for Sixers


TORONTO — Though Joel Embiid returned Saturday night from a three-game absence in the Sixers’ loss in Toronto, he alone couldn’t solve their persistent turnover problems.

The center did made a difference early, reeling off the Sixers’ first eight points after being listed as questionable with tightness in his back.

Yet the Sixers ultimately lost to the Raptors for the second time in three days, 102-86 (see observations)

They turned the ball over 23 times Saturday, leading to 28 points. The Sixers’ 24 turnovers Thursday led to 32 points in their 114-109 loss to Toronto. 

The Sixers have lost a season-high five in a row and have dropped nine of their past 10. Amir Johnson, a former Raptor who had 12 points Saturday, said the Sixers need to cut down on turnovers to end the drought.

“Take care of the ball,” he said. “I think that’s when we’ll start winning. I think it really is just our turnovers. It’s tough when you are in transition or in mid-play, throw lob passes and then we’re scrambling back in transition. We do play at a fast pace, but we just have to take care of the ball. We don’t win anything if we don’t care of the ball.”

“You just have to make it a point of emphasis, or you just have to do it,” said Ben Simmons, who had 10 points, five rebounds and six assists. “You can’t talk about it, you just have to go out there and take care of the ball and focus, and make the right decision.”

While Sixers coach Brett Brown was pleased with his team’s improvement in some areas, he was still disappointed with the turnover problems. 

“I thought we did a better job of not blatantly hacking them, fouling them like we did at home,” Brown said. “We did a little bit better job of offensive rebounding. I think the turnovers, especially in the first half, continue to hurt us. I leave mostly thinking that this is a really good team. I think they’ve lost one game at home (12-1), I think they’ve won 12 out of the past 13 games (overall), and we feel every bit of that.” 

If turnovers are an aspect that does not seem to change during this process, nor do losses to the Raptors, as the Sixers are 1-18 against Toronto since 2013-14.

Embiid wanted to help end that trend. He said his back did not feel much better Saturday, but he wanted to play. He had 14 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes.

He appeared to grow frustrated as the game wore on.

“I think because he wants to do so much more and he can’t,” Brown said. “He just hasn’t practiced or recently played, and so it didn’t really surprise me that what I thought was good form at the start of the game, he had his legs underneath him, his conditioning obviously at the start wasn’t challenged but as the game wore on, I think none of us should expect less.

“It’s going to take him some time to feel the game and play basketball again. You don’t just click your heels and jump into an NBA game and do what he did at the start consistently, and he got frustrated. It’s just part of really what makes him quite unique, he wants it and he wants everything now and sometimes you just can’t have that.” 

Raptors continue to take care of business at home

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Raptors continue to take care of business at home

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan added 21 and the Toronto Raptors beat San Antonio 86-83 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak against the Spurs.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 17-3 at home, the second-best home record in the NBA behind San Antonio's mark of 19-2.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 15 points and Patty Mills had 13 as San Antonio lost for the fourth time in six road games. The Spurs are 11-15 away from home.

It had been more than two years since Toronto last beat San Antonio. The Raptors won 97-94 at home on Dec. 9, 2015.

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili missed his second straight game because of a sore right thigh. Ginobili returned to Texas after the Spurs won at Brooklyn on Wednesday (see full recap).

Beal, Oubre spark Wizards’ win over Pistons
DETROIT -- Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 26 points each, and the Washington Wizards scored 45 points in the third quarter before holding on for a 122-112 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

The Pistons cut a 20-point second-half deficit to four in the fourth quarter, but John Wall made a big 3-pointer to put the Wizards up 107-100. Oubre added a four-point play a few possessions later to push Washington's lead to nine.

Andre Drummond had 14 points, 21 rebounds and eight assists for the Pistons, who have lost four straight.

Both teams were struggling coming into the game. The Wizards lost by 24 at Charlotte on Wednesday, and they fell behind by 15 in the first quarter at Detroit. It was tied at 46 at halftime, though (see full recap).

Nets edge Heat to snap 5-game home skid
NEW YORK -- DeMarre Carroll scored 26 points, Spencer Dinwiddie had 15 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Miami Heat 101-95 on Friday night.

Brooklyn snapped a five-game losing skid at Barclays Center and a seven-game home losing streak to the Heat.

Caris LeVert and Joe Harris each added 12 points for the Nets. D'Angelo Russell played 14 minutes and went 0-for-5 from the field for Brooklyn in his first action after missing 32 games following left knee surgery.

Hassan Whiteside had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Goran Dragic scored 17 points for the Heat.

LeVert made an acrobatic layup to give the Nets a 95-91 lead with 57.8 seconds remaining and then made a step-back jumper to ice the game at 97-91 (see full recap).

Is a rival upset with Embiid's ASG starter nod?

Is a rival upset with Embiid's ASG starter nod?

While Joel Embiid was sharing his first All-Star nod with his teammates and deciding to move on from his former crush, at least one person wasn’t happy that the Sixers’ center was tabbed as a starter.

Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis feels like he should have garnered that final frontcourt spot in the Eastern Conference.

“Players know,” he said, per the New York Daily News. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

True, Porzingis had more of the players’ support as he finished third in the East in that category compared to Embiid in fourth. 

However, Embiid had the trump card with a pair of third-place finishes in both media and fan voting while Porzingis came in fourth. The fan vote was the main key, as it accounted for 50 percent of the overall tally.

“I feel very blessed to be in this type of position,” Embiid said Thursday. “Thank all the fans out there for the support. It’s been a tough couple of years and I really appreciate it — everybody out there, everybody around me, the whole team, the whole organization, the fans especially, for making this happen. We can only get better from here.”

If Embiid is going to get even better, look out. He’s already averaging 23.9 points (48.7 percent shooting), 11.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 blocks per game this season. Oh yeah, he also has the Sixers with a 21-20 record and sitting in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Porzingis’ overall numbers have gone down every month this season. He’s currently putting up 23.6 points (43.4 percent shooting), 6.9 boards, 1.2 assists and 2.4 blocks a night. And the Knicks have lost 11 of their last 15 games to fall to 20-25.

“Everybody has their own opinion,” Porzingis said. “Fans are one thing. It is what it is. There are a lot of things I could have done better also. It is what it is.”