76ers

Sixers pull out the fire extinguishers at home

Sixers pull out the fire extinguishers at home

BOX SCORE

The Sixers snapped the Wizards’ five-game winning streak Tuesday with a 115-102 victory. 

The Wizards had been playing surprisingly well in the absence of All-Star guard John Wall, who underwent arthroscopic left knee surgery at the end of January. That was until they came to the Wells Fargo Center.

Bradley Beal's 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists were not enough to counter a 27-point, 12-rebound double-double from Joel Embiid and another 20 points and seven boards from Dario Saric. Embiid reached 20 points for the 30th time this season.

“You just beat a team that was hot,” Brett Brown said. “They'd won five games in a row, their style of play when you study them during that five-game stretch was really impressive. They shared the ball, they ran with great pace and they guarded.”

• The Sixers sprinted out to an early first-quarter lead as Wizards not named Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris struggled to score. The opening quarter included an alley-oop from T.J. McConnell to Jerryd Bayless and threes by McConnell and Amir Johnson.

• There were more third-quarter ups and downs. The Sixers committed turnovers on three consecutive possessions in the third. During that quarter, the Wizards, led by 11 points from Beal, cut the Sixers’ lead from 19 to seven. The Sixers committed 17 turnovers (leading to 22 Wizards’ points) on the night.

“We just wanted to come out and be aggressive, especially after the bad one we had against Indiana,” Embiid said. “We just wanted to be aggressive, especially defensively.”

• The Wizards didn’t go away in the fourth. They got within eight with four minutes to play. The Sixers pulled away on a 10-3 run to hold on for the game in which they led by as many as 22 points. 

• The Sixers have the rare opportunity to play five straight home games leading up to the All-Star break. The team is focused on maximizing the rare schedule, especially as it faces Eastern Conference competitors Wizards and Heat. 

“Coach talked about that,” Saric said. “After we finished with the meeting, he put on the screen, 'Four more, guys.' It's important in that situation. Playing four games at home in front of our fans, in front of the crazy energy from the Super Bowl. We need it, we need it. We really need to be focused for the four games and try to win. I think if we win before [the All-Star break], we get better as we go on and be ready for the last part of the season.”

• The Super Bowl champions were in the building. Members of the Eagles' offensive line rang the ceremonial bell to kick off the game.

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

The Sixers have been rising steadily in the standings and players around the league are taking notice. 

The young squad improved to 31-25 with a victory over the Bulls Thursday. They have won six straight and have not lost at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. That totals up to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, only two games behind the Wizards for the fourth spot and two games ahead of the Heat for the eighth. 

"I like them," Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler said at the All-Star break. "They've got a lot of great young talent. We do as well. But I think the way that they're going and how they play so hard and play so together, that's how you win basketball games. They're going to be really, really good for a long time."

The Sixers turned heads with a statement win over the Rockets in only their seventh game of the season. From there, they have defeated playoff teams, including a rare sweep of the Spurs, while struggling against sub.-500 opponents. 

They have 26 games remaining to make a postseason push. Of their upcoming opponents, only 10 games are against current top-eight teams in their conferences. Brett Brown has emphasized they can't take any team lightly. This is the time for the Sixers to maximize their schedule and show they learned from previous letdowns.

"They look good," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "Obviously as a young team, it takes time to learn how to win. ... The mature, really high-level teams, they find a way to get it done. I think for them, that's what their record shows. You play against them and it's hard to play against them. 

"They're really talented, they play hard, they play for a great coach. It's just those nights where you might not have it, having that understanding and that experience that'll lead you to more wins. I think once they get to that point, that's when maybe nine or 10 games that they've let slip, maybe they win those games."

The Sixers wrapped up the majority of their Western Conference schedule prior to the All-Star break. They have only the Timberwolves, Nuggets and Mavericks left to play. Those in the conference still are keeping an eye on the Sixers' progress, even if they may not face off again for months. 

"Everyone definitely sees the talent there," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Any time you've got Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid to build around, they've got a very bright future. I think everyone had very high expectations, but it's hard to have high expectations with a team that's got a lot of first-, second-year guys that have never been in the playoffs. 

"But you can tell that they're going to be in the playoffs for, shoot, the next decade or so, probably be upper echelon pretty soon."

Leave the NBA playoffs alone

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USA Today Images

Leave the NBA playoffs alone

You can't kill NBA commissioner Adam Silver for trying.

Last week, Silver announced to the media during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles that he's considering a change to the playoffs, where rather than the top eight seeds in each conference competing to determine a conference champ, playoff teams will be seeded 1 through 16.

More recently, ESPN reported that the league is kicking around a "play-in tournament" to determine the final two seeds in each conference.

Let's take these ideas one at a time:

Re-seeding the postseason may sound fun, and even kind of fair, but it completely dissolves conference rivalries that the league has celebrated for decades. Looking for the Warriors and Rockets in the Western Conference Finals? Sorry. Under the new format, there would be no more West Finals. Right now, those are the two best teams in the NBA. So you might see them in the Finals in that format — if they both get that far.

I could understand this argument in years when the disparity in balance of power is egregious. That's not the case this season. If the NBA season ended today, one team would reap the benefits of a 1-16 playoff format: the 9-seed in the West, the Clippers, who are a half-game better than Eastern Conference 8-seed Miami.

(Psst, right now the 5-12 matchup in a 1-16 format would be Sixers-Cavaliers. But let's stay on topic.)

As for the play-in tournament, this completely contradicts the re-seeding idea. The NBA wants the best teams in the playoffs, right? Is a Pistons-Hornets play-in game must-see TV? Or what's left of the Clippers vs. the Jazz?

And how long do you want the postseason to be? Last season, the playoffs lasted nearly nine weeks. It was only that "brief" because the Finals didn't go the full seven games. Adding another round could extend the NBA season into July (unless it corresponds with a shortening of the schedule). We have seen what happens in Olympic years when players don't get enough offseason rest and it ain't pretty.

I'm guessing this is a backhanded way for Silver to keep more teams from tanking for better draft picks. "Hey, you may be 11th in the conference, but you're one 3-game win streak away from a shot at the postseason!!"

I'm all for change, but in the case of the NBA playoffs, commish, I think we're good for now.