76ers

Sixers-Celtics observations: Embiid struggles in home-opening loss

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Sixers-Celtics observations: Embiid struggles in home-opening loss

BOX SCORE

The Sixers' home opener Friday night was spoiled by the Celtics, 102-92. The Sixers led after three, but the Celtics broke an 84-84 tie with a 6-0 spurt to change the momentum. The Celtics outscored the Sixers, 33-20, in the fourth, led by an 18-8 run down the stretch.

With the loss, the Sixers fall to 0-2 on the season. Boston is 1-2.
 
• The game was dominated by the sound of whistles. The Sixers were called for 31 personal fouls, the Celtics 24. Robert Covington fouled out while T.J. McConnell, Dario Saric and Aron Baynes had five apiece. The Celtics shot 22 of 32 from the line compared to 12 for 16 by the Sixers.
 
• Embiid (11 points, 14 rebounds) didn’t score his first basket until the third quarter. He shot 0 for 6 from long range, making it 0 for 10 on the season. He doesn’t need a reminder of his struggles, either.

“My three-point shot is trash so I’ve got to work on that,” he said before the game.

Embiid was one of the last three players to leave the court after shootaround, going through three-point drills.
 
• Ben Simmons followed up his debut with another double-double: 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in 37 minutes.
 
• Markelle Fultz (6 points) drew a foul against Jayson Tatum in the No. 1 vs. No. 3 pick matchup. Fultz got the better of Tatum on that second-quarter play, but what he did next was more significant. He went to the line and made … both free throws (see video).

What a difference a game makes.
 
• This is sharp-shooting JJ Redick’s version of running the break: dash to the three-point line and pull up for a shot. It worked. (He shot 4 for 7 for the night.) Later on, Redick got to the arc and kicked it to Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot in the corner. Luwawu-Cabarrot drove the basket and scored.
 
• The Sixers got Baynes in foul trouble early (three in the first quarter) and quickly took the 6-foot-10, 265-pound presence out of the game. The team was against Baynes, including 6-2 McConnell who drew a whistle.

• Opening night celebrity sightings included Meek Mill, Samuel L. Jackson and M. Night Shyamalan. The Eagles showed their support, too, as the ceremonial bell ringers.

Sixers' future is now, but maybe not quite there yet

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Sixers' future is now, but maybe not quite there yet

Wow, was that first half against the Golden State Warriors fun last night or what? Going into the break up 22, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons dominating, Robert Covington and JJ Redick hitting from everywhere and the Warriors playing at least marginally shook, looking like a team woefully underprepared for a fully weaponized Sixers squad. It was absolutely stunning seeing it all come together, since as good as the Sixers had been through 14 games so far this year, they'd still never played a full game this season with both their shooters hitting and their stars locked in. 

And they still haven't. As second quarter gave way to third, can't say for certain if the Warriors' switch was flipped, but something definitely was. All of a sudden, the paint closed off for Embiid and Simmons, Covington started clanking and trying to defend the Warriors was as fruitless as trying to save a soup with a hole torn in the takeaway carton. Philly's 22-point lead turned into a 10-point deficit, and it wasn't coming back. Final score: 124-116, Warriors. 

Once this one really got outta control -- in the bad way -- you kinda just had to laugh about it. The Sixers' first-half steamrolling was head-smackingly unsustainable, but to see everything good about their performance dissolve so fully and so quickly, there was nothing really to say: You just had to recall fondly how hilariously beautiful those first 24 minutes were, and know that someday we'll get a performance like that from the Liberty Ballers that extends all 48. Maybe even against these Warriors, who probably weren't gonna lose to both the present and the future of the Eastern Conference in back-to-back outings. 

As much fun as it would've been for the Sixers to jump their timeline about two seasons in one night, they're not there yet. Half their bench is out, for one thing, including that guy Markelle Fultz who should still be an enormous difference-maker for Brett Brown's crew if he ever gets his head (and his shoulders) straight. And though Simmons and Embiid already both show flashes of "Oh My God They've Figured It Out" and "We're All Doomed" with absurd frequency, to expect them to have totally solved the NBA with 59 games of Association experience between them is not terribly realistic. The team's turned a corner this season, no doubt, but there's still a lot of corners left in that treehouse for them to investigate. 

The good news? The Sixers are staying at home for a while now -- after playing 10 of their first 14 on the road, they're now in the midst of eight of nine in South Philly -- with challenging, but mostly winnable games coming up, including Monday night against the Utah Jazz. The Sixers are not ready to run the rest of the league off the court just yet, but they're ready to establish themselves as one of the decisively good teams, and hopefully their home building as one of the league's obviously tough arenas. For a team where crisis forever lurks just below the surface, that would certainly be enough Process-to-Progress for one season. 

Markelle Futlz progressing, but not ready to return to Sixers yet

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Markelle Futlz progressing, but not ready to return to Sixers yet

Updated: 2:45 p.m.

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Markelle Fultz isn't cleared to play just yet.

The Sixers rookie was re-evaluated on Sunday for right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance and will be re-evaluated again in approximately 2-3 weeks, the team announced. 

His return date will be based on how he handles training and practices. An examination with Dr. Ben Kibler, Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic, showed Fultz's soreness and muscle balance is improving. Fultz met with Kibler on Oct. 29 and has seen multiple shoulder specialists. 

The rehab plan is for Fultz to continue with physiotherapy treatment.

"Just the fact we expect to get back into full basketball activity soon, I don't know the exact timeframe of that, but the news is good in relation to the improvement of his shoulder, enough for us to put out a press release saying what I just said and look forward to bringing him into the team and playing basketball again," Brett Brown said after practice Sunday. 

The No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft has appeared in only four games this season, averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists off the bench. He has been battling the shoulder discomfort since training camp, and his shot was visibly affected by it.

Fultz has been traveling with the Sixers. He is staying engaged with the team during his own pregame warmups, assisting with rebounding after practices, and staying incorporated with teammates off the court. 

Bayless to return
The Sixers anticipate getting one player back from injury on Monday. Brown expects Jerryd Bayless (left wrist) will play against the Jazz. Bayless went through practice on Sunday. He looks forward to having Bayless' veteran experience, playmaking, and on-ball defense back in the mix. Bayless has missed the last six games and doesn't plan to have any minute restrictions in his return. 

"It's feeling ok," Bayless said of his wrist. "It's feeling like it's ready to go. I'm excited to play and be back out there." 

Justin Anderson (left leg) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) remain sidelined. As a result of all the injuries, guards T.J. McConnell and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot have seen a bump in minutes.