76ers

Sixers' late collapse sealed by Eric Gordon buzzer-beating 3

Sixers' late collapse sealed by Eric Gordon buzzer-beating 3

BOX SCORE

If the Sixers are going to take the next step in their development, it’s going to start right before the game ends. 

The team has to figure out how to close out late in the fourth quarter. The Sixers have blown leads down the stretch in the past (a fairly common result in recent years), but their 105-104 defeat to the Rockets had a different burn to it (see observations).

“I think this is the toughest one,” T.J. McConnell said. “To work as hard as we did, I certainly think we deserved that one.”

The Sixers weren’t a lottery-bound team making a statement against a contender on Wednesday. This time around, they are a revamped and playoff-hungry squad with a chance to compete any given night. 

The Sixers took a 104-96 lead off a layup by Ben Simmons with 3:05 to play. They didn’t score again the rest of the evening. 

The Rockets closed out the game on a 9-0 run and stole the win with a deflating buzzer-beating three from Eric Gordon in the corner (see video). The Rockets earned a key basket leading up to that play when Joel Embiid toppled over James Harden while blocking a shot and was whistled for goaltending (see story). Harden went on to sink a free throw to cut the Sixers’ lead to two with 30 seconds to go. 

During that final three-minute stretch, the Sixers shot 0 for 4, including an uncharacteristic pair of three-point misses on back-to-back possessions from JJ Redick. They also committed a trio of turnovers and failed to get a shot to the rim while they were up two with six seconds remaining. 

Their last misstep led to the Rockets’ winning play. Brett Brown said he didn’t have “buyer’s remorse” for not calling a timeout to regroup before then. 

“The growth that we’re going to make to be in the game, have the chance to win a game against a really good Houston team isn’t good enough,” Brown said. “Ultimately we do have to be able to walk those games down with a little bit more authority.”

The Sixers’ crowd will have to wait another week for the team to try to deliver a ‘W’ in Philadelphia. The Sixers are 0-2 at the Wells Fargo Center and do not play at home again until next Wednesday against the Hawks. 

“The reason why it stings so much is because we’re on our home court,” Justin Anderson said. “We wanted to try to get our first win here in front of our fans.”

The Sixers are not practicing on Thursday. They will take the day off to regroup before they face the Mavericks and Rockets, again, on the road. 

While the team is not going to wallow in this loss, it won't forget the final three minutes either.

“It’s time to buckle down and get stops,” McConnell said.

Sixers-Warriors observations: 22-point halftime lead evaporates against defending champs

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AP Images

Sixers-Warriors observations: 22-point halftime lead evaporates against defending champs

BOX SCORE

The excitement of a monster first half and the letdown of a lackluster second.

The Sixers went through dramatic ups and downs Saturday night in a 124-116 loss to the Warriors that seemed like an upset early on but turned into a disappointment for them.

• The Sixers scored … ready for this? You sure? Forty-seven points in the first quarter. They led the defending champions by 21 during a quarter that prompted double takes at the scoreboard.

The Sixers put together enough noteworthy plays in the first 12 minutes for a highlight reel: one-handed dunks and three-pointers by Joel Embiid, slams by Ben Simmons and a steal followed by a trey by Robert Covington to name a few.

The team shot a monster 73.1 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from three, led by 4 for 4 from Covington in the first game since signing his contract extension.

• You didn’t expect the Warriors would be quiet out of halftime, did you? Veteran teams — championship-winning veteran teams — make adjustments. They outscored the Sixers, 47-15, in the third and took a 10-point lead heading into the fourth. Steph Curry netted 20 points in the quarter. The Sixers shot 1 for 7 from three during the third and did not hit a basket in the final 2:20 of the quarter.

• Where did the third shut down on the Sixers end? Simmons attempted just one field goal in the third (0 for 1) compared to eight attempts in the first half. JJ Redick (0 for 3 from the field) was scoreless, too. Adding to that, Embiid had two points and did not pull down a rebound in the quarter. (Saric had six.) 

• The problem with playing the Warriors is, give them an inch — in many cases, all they need is a deficit less than 20 points — and they will take advantage. Even though they looked completely out of the game in the first half, they have been there, done that and know how to flip the switch. 

• Twenty-plus point performances by Simmons (23 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists), Embiid (21 points, eight rebounds), Covington (20 points, six rebounds) and Redick (20 points) were not enough to overcome 35 points by Curry and 27 from Kevin Durant. 

• The Sixers and Warriors flip-flopped shooting halves: 59 percent by the Sixers compared to 47 percent by the Warriors in the first half. In the second, the Sixers shot just 38 percent while the Warriors knocked down 62 percent.

• Simmons did whatever he wanted early on.

There was this …

… and this

… to name a few.

• Injury update: Markelle Fultz (right shoulder), Justin Anderson (left leg), Nik Stauskas (right ankle), Jerryd Bayless (left wrist) and Jahlil Okafor (personal) were out for the Sixers. 

• In years past, the seats would have been occupied by those wearing Warriors jerseys for a must-see opponent in town. On Saturday, it was clear the fans came to the Wells Fargo Center to watch the home team. 

• The early matchup between Saric and Zaza Pachulia was intriguing to watch. They both bring international experience to the court and had been familiar with each other’s game before Saric got to Philadelphia: Saric following Pachulia in the NBA and Pachulia learning about Saric’s play in Turkey. Pachulia referred to the Sixers forward as a  “young, talented kid” and “smart” last season.

• Notes and Numbers: The Sixers tied the record for most points scored in a half (74) by either team at the Wells Fargo Center. … Redick netted career three-pointer No. 1,300. He currently ranks 15th among active players. … The Warriors improved to 4-0 in the next game following a loss. They were defeated by the Celtics on Thursday. … The Sixers have lost 10 straight against the Warriors. Their last win was on March 2, 2013. 

Stephen Curry saw potential in Markelle Fultz as one of his campers

Stephen Curry saw potential in Markelle Fultz as one of his campers

How quickly two years fly by. It was only then that Markelle Fultz attended Steph Curry’s basketball camp in the Bay Area. 

Fultz stood out to Curry, who recognized the teenager’s promising talent. In the time since that camp, Fultz became the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. 

“You knew right away what kind of potential he had in the league,” Curry said to NBC Sports Philadelphia Saturday at Golden State's shootaround. 

There will be no matchup between teacher and student this season, though. Fultz is out because of a right shoulder injury and will miss the Sixers’ two games against the Warriors, both of which are scheduled in November. 

When the Sixers played in Oakland last weekend, Curry wanted to make sure he still talked to the rookie. Get healthy. Don’t lose confidence. Ignore the outside noise, the two-time championship winner and MVP encouraged. 

“The hardest thing is dealing with people’s expectations and the hype around you,” Curry said. “I don’t even know what it’s like being a No. 1 pick and having to deal with that. That’s part of the learning curve too. Hopefully, he’ll be able to keep his confidence through all this.”

Fultz’s rookie year hasn’t started out smoothly. He suffered soreness and scapular muscle imbalance in his right shoulder early in the season. Fultz missed the majority of the preseason and played his first four games off the bench before he was ruled out indefinitely Oct. 29. At the time, the Sixers approximated a reevaluation three weeks from then, which is Sunday. Fultz was averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 19.0 minutes prior to being sidelined. 

Curry, though, saw in Fultz what the Sixers saw when they traded up to acquire the No. 1 pick from the Celtics. The team’s vision was for Fultz to complement Ben Simmons off the ball. As a freshman at Washington, he averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists while leading the Pac-12 and all freshmen in scoring. 

“He’s just a great basketball player,” Curry said. “Obviously he’s quick. He’s athletic, he can shoot, he can play above the rim, he’s got the full package. I’m sure that’ll show as soon as he gets fully healthy and learns the ropes of the NBA.”

Curry can relate to Fultz. He is no stranger to battling injuries himself. Before Curry was dominating the NBA, he underwent ankle procedures and played only 26 games in his third season. He proved there can be a new chapter after being sidelined, one that’s better than the first. 

“Just be patient because this doesn’t define you,” Curry said. “It’s not the ideal way to start, but he’s going to be in good shape if he takes the necessary precautions to get fully 100 percent and understand he has a long career. He’s still young so this will be a distant memory very soon, the injury battle that really a lot of people have to go through, so he’s not alone.”

Curry has high expectations for Fultz in the NBA. He may have to wait another season to compete against him, but Curry will be looking forward to seeing how the 19-year-old develops and improves until then. 

"It’s kind of cool seeing guys that I got to see before they even got to college show out and do what they do and now get to play against them in the league," Curry said.