This time, Sixers flip 2nd-half script

This time, Sixers flip 2nd-half script


DENVER — The Sixers on Saturday night picked up their second win of the season without Joel Embiid thanks to a third-quarter comeback that led to a 107-102 victory over the Nuggets.

They moved to 2-7 without the big man, who sat out of the first night of a back-to-back because of his medical restriction. The Sixers had not won an Embiid-less game since Nov. 7.

Jamal Murray led all players with 31 points. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 20 (see more below).

The Sixers took this game back with disciplined ball. They trailed by 14 with 7:29 to play in the third before going on a 19-4 to run to take the lead. The Sixers did not commit a turnover during that stretch. They made the push with Ben Simmons and Redick on the bench. Saric scored seven points and Jerryd Bayless added six in the quarter. Bayless finished with 14 points (6 for 10 from the field).

The game wasn't a guarantee, though. The Nuggets crept back into it, as both teams' offenses stalled in the fourth. The Sixers led 103-97 with 4:10 to play. From that point on, the Sixers didn't score again until 19.5 seconds left (Robert Covington free throws).

• Amir Johnson got the start in place of Embiid. Richaun Holmes clocked 19 minutes off the bench after not playing in the last two games. So how does Brett Brown decide who to start?

“One's better at defense, one's better at offense,” Brown said at shootaround. “It's really that simple. Amir is a better defensive player and rebounder at this stage of his career. Richaun is lightning in a bottle, can change a game, got a bounce, probably more capable in bursts offensively.” 

Johnson scored eight points, five rebounds and five assists. Holmes posted 14 points, three rebounds, three assists in 19 minutes off the bench. He fouled out with just under three minutes to play.

• Wilson Chandler said the Nuggets’ approach to Simmons was keeping him out of the paint. Simmons took (and made) one shot outside of the area. He finished the game with six points (3 for 9 from the field), six rebounds and six dimes.

• The Nuggets were game planning to limit Saric, which didn’t pan out. Before the game, head coach Mike Malone broke down why he considers Saric “a really skilled basketball player.”

• Covington started after leaving the last game with a left middle finger injury. He finished with a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double.

Covington explained how he was hurt against the Trail Blazers.

"I got hit directly on with the ball," he said. "My finger just kind of drooped. It was weird and I didn't have feeling in it for a while. Then we had to put it in a splint right after the game."

• Justin Anderson was inactive. His status was in question leading up to the game because of shin splints. He has not played since mid-November.

• The Sixers travel to Phoenix Saturday night to take on the Suns Sunday evening.

Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

AP Images

Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

You’ve witnessed the Miami scenes. 

The pristine beaches, exciting nightlife, eclectic cuisine. The list goes on.

It all adds up to one of the best destination experiences in the United States.

And the Sixers don’t want anything to do with it.

This is a business trip.

Scratch that. This is battle.

“It just becomes, I think, a little bit more insular, a little bit more of a bunker mentality,” Brett Brown said at Wednesday’s practice. “It’s a little bit more of trying to minimize distractions. You’re not in your own bedroom. You’re not in your own sort of comfort zone, your own routine, rhythm to your day.

“It’s a huge part of young players figuring out life on the road and it certainly gets exacerbated in the playoffs. But I like it. I like the mentality and the spirit of being together. I think we have a very close team and I think it forces you to become even closer when you’re just not at home.”

Games 3 and 4 inside AmericanAirlines Arena will feel like anywhere but home for the Sixers. In the first road playoff game for this young team, the players will have to deal with crowd noise and an extremely physical opponent.

The volume will subside as the Sixers are able to string together baskets, and they know the only way to do that is take the smart approach to the Heat’s increased physicality.

“It doesn’t have to be macho vs. macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality. It can mean speed, it can mean space, it can mean the technique of just creating a lead and getting open. A simple jab step and putting your arm in somebody’s chest and throwing out a lead hand as an example of stuff you’d learn in eighth grade. But it all equals fundamentals, poise, technique, that stuff to combat physicality.

“It’s not they punch you, you punch them, they punch … it’s not that at all."

“You don’t want to do anything that can put yourself in a predicament, allow someone to get hurt,” Robert Covington said. “Nobody wants to get fined, nobody wants to be on the back end of something like that because it can be retaliation that can come from it. You have to play smart and just have to sit up here and do it different ways. You cannot get caught up in the moment and do something crazy.”

Whatever physical tactics the Heat attempt, the Sixers promise they’ll be ready this time around.

“I’ve got a few hits for people coming their way,” Ben Simmons said.

“I’m ready to play.”

Sixers officially list Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 3

AP Images

Sixers officially list Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 3

MIAMI — Just over 24 hours before the Sixers face off against the Heat in Game 3, Joel Embiid was listed as doubtful because of a left orbital fracture, or a 75 percent he will not play. That doesn’t mean, though, that status won’t change.

Embiid went through his second straight day of light practice Wednesday shortly after the team arrived in Miami. The Sixers will hold morning shootaround Thursday and could evaluate him again in pregame warmups before he is ruled in or out. 

Embiid was knocking down threes prior to the start of practice. 

Brett Brown said Embiid did a “little bit” of contact work Tuesday and handled it “quite well.” Conditioning is also a big part of his return. Embiid has not played in a game since March 28 when he suffered the fracture and a concussion. 

“It’s going to take time getting hit fitness up,” Brown said. “I think because he is an athlete, whenever the time comes where he does play, I think it’ll move in a more rapid way. I think his body looks great … I feel like it’ll kick in quicker than most.”

Embiid expressed his frustrations of being sidelined with an Instagram post shortly after the Sixers lost Game 2. They had previously won nine straight without him, which helped with his patience. 

“His spirit was very high,” Robert Covington said of his first practice. “Overall, he felt really good and we felt really good to have him out there with us.”

Embiid will have to shake off some rust when he does return. He thrives on consistent action to stay in game shape, and he’s been out for three weeks. If he’s not at 100 percent when he plays, Brown could see him still making an impact. 

“Defensively, he immediately comes in and changes the landscape,” Brown said. “The game is being played so fast right now and he has not been with us for a while, so I think the adjustment offensively might be a little more noticeable than defensively initially. He’s so gifted and he’s intelligent. He really is as smart and as instinctive a player as I’ve coached. He can look at something without doing it and then go do it.”

The Sixers are expecting another physical matchup with the Heat, especially with the next two games being in Miami. Embiid’s tough play would help them in that aspect as they try to take another series lead. The team has an approach, though, even if he cannot battle on the court. 

“It doesn’t have to be macho versus macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality." 

The Sixers are looking for their first win of the season in Miami.