76ers

Dario Saric says his new minutes guideline is 'hard to accept'

Dario Saric says his new minutes guideline is 'hard to accept'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Dario Saric can relate to Joel Embiid.

Saric has been placed on a 24-minute guideline designed to get him through the final five games of the season. He's been dealing with left heel soreness, and the Sixers capped his minutes, which had reached 31.7 per game during March.

Earlier this season, Embiid played under a minutes restriction that was incrementally increased to 28.

"It's hard to accept," Saric said after shootaround on Tuesday. "Now I feel how Joel [felt] the beginning of the season. Your mind, you want to play. You have opportunity to play one minute more or two minutes more, why not."

Saric has played one game under this guideline. He scored 16 points with three rebounds in 24 minutes on Sunday in the Sixers' loss to the Raptors. 

Saric would like to play all 82 games this season to "show I am tough." He is following the direction of the Sixers' medical team to get to that mark, but he can't guarantee he won't plead his case to go beyond the guideline with the game on the line.

"(The) medical staff, I can say just positive things about them and that means they take good care of us," Saric said. "I want to play more minutes if it's a chance to win the game. It would be hard, sometimes if you have minute restrictions and get the win, but it's OK. I'll try to push myself and I will try to explain to coaches if it's like last minute or something, to go over that 24."

Saric's playing time is scaled back as he wrapped up his second straight Rookie of the Month award. He averaged 18.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists in March.

"I am very proud of myself," Saric said. "I am very proud especially of the staff of coaches who worked this year with me, who worked on my game. I think I deserve that. I push myself every game. I try to play every game. I try to be competitive every game. I'm very happy because of that."

Saric reiterated his main objective this season is to experience team success, not individual accolades. He is eyeing 30 wins. The Sixers have 28 heading into Tuesday's game against the Nets. 

"I think it's more beautiful to see you have 30 wins than for example 29, 28. Sometimes for eyes, it's better," he said. "(It's) something special when the team last year got 10 wins and make three times better. ... It means something for us and it means something for the organization. We're moving forward. We're growing. ... To get 30 wins, I think we can be proud."

Sixers-Raptors observations: Not much life without Joel Embiid in blowout loss

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Sixers-Raptors observations: Not much life without Joel Embiid in blowout loss

BOX SCORE

TORONTO — The Air Canada Centre has become a tough place for the Sixers.

Nothing has changed with a new season.

The Raptors defeated the Sixers, 128-94, Saturday night for their 16th win in the past 17 games against the Sixers, including 10 in a row at the Air Canada Centre.

The Sixers have problems beating the Raptors at home as well as away, which pretty well takes care of all the possibilities.

Say this for the Sixers, after falling behind by 17 points during the first quarter, they had the lead down to eight in the second quarter on a pair of free throws by former Raptor Jerryd Bayless. It was 62-49 for Toronto at the half.

Then there was the second half.

The Raptors raced out to a 72-51 lead early in the third quarter, with Serge Ibaka scoring eight of their first 10 points. Kyle Lowry finished the scoring in the third quarter with a three-pointer to increase Toronto’s lead to 102-71.

• Amir Johnson got the start at center with Joel Embiid missing the second half of a back-to-back to rest his left knee. Johnson knows his way around the Air Canada Centre, having played for the Raptors for six seasons before going to the Boston Celtics for the past two seasons. He received a nice cheer during the pregame introductions and then scored the game’s first basket on a dunk.

• Jahlil Okafor took over at center 5:27 into the first quarter and quickly scored to tie the game at 13, but he was out of the game after playing 2:49 after picking up three quick fouls.

• Ben Simmons had his third consecutive double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He also had eight assists. He already had accomplished something never done before in franchise history entering the game against the Raptors. The rookie forward recorded double-doubles in his first two career NBA games against the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics. He is the 11th player in NBA history to do so.

• Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan was listed as questionable for Saturday’s game because of flu symptoms. No such luck for the Sixers, he was in the starting lineup and looked quite well as he pumped in 15 points in the first quarter on 4 for 4 shooting from the field and a telling seven free throws in eight attempts. He finished with a game-high 30 points.

• As if the discrepancy in free throws has not been enough of a problem in the early going for the Sixers, Markelle Fultz missed three of his first four free-throw attempts against the Raptors. Toronto was 24 for 28 from the line in the first half and the Sixers were 12 for 18. Toronto made 31 of 37 foul shots on the game and the Sixers made 22 of 36. 

• Toronto reserve Lucas Nogueira scored on a breakaway dunk during the third quarter, which may redefine garbage time.

• For those who thought the 17 turnovers committed by the Sixers in each of their first two games were bad, what do you think of 20 turnovers Saturday night?

• Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas was restricted to 15 minutes (five points, four rebounds) because of a sprained left ankle. He had a double-double in the team’s opening game win over the Chicago Bulls.

Breaking down Joel Embiid's rough shooting night

Breaking down Joel Embiid's rough shooting night

Joel Embiid has joked in the past about his desire to be a guard in the NBA. All kidding and three-point shooting aside, the big man wants to play at the basket.

“We’ve got to do a better job of finding me in the post,” he said Friday following the Sixers' loss to the Celtics. 

Embiid was candid about where he needs the ball following his 11-point performance. He didn’t score until the third quarter and shot 4 for 16 from the field and 0 for 6 from three in 28 minutes. 

“I felt like I needed to go to the perimeter to make something happen because I wasn’t getting the ball in the post,” Embiid said. “I think we’ve got to look at the tapes and find ways to get me the ball in the post. But I felt like because I wasn’t doing that, I had to go outside and make something happen to help us win.”

Embiid started off the game taking shots away from the basket. He went 0 for 2 from three in the first quarter and also missed a 20-foot jumper. His two points came at the line.

Embiid went scoreless in the second quarter and didn’t attempt any shots in the paint, either. He failed to connect on another three as well as an 11-foot jump shot and a 13-foot floater. 

He began the second half going 0 for 2 from long-range in the first four minutes. Finally, with 4:35 remaining in the quarter, he recorded his first field goal off a layup from Dario Saric. He scored off a dunk from Markelle Fultz late in the third and notched another point off a free throw. 

Embiid became more aggressive at the basket in the fourth quarter. He checked in with 5:37 remaining and the Sixers trailing by four. He knocked down a 13-foot pull-up and then missed his next four attempts: an eight-foot jumper, a layup, a trey, and a tip layup. Embiid made a layup with 16 seconds to play. 

The Sixers system has changed from last season when Embiid was the offensive go-to (20.2 points per game). As a rookie, he made 63.6 percent of his field goals within three feet of the basket, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

The Sixers have added more scoring options, including Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, who drive the basket and are not perimeter-focused. Of the two, only Fultz made a shot outside the paint Friday. The team as a whole scored 40 of their 92 points in the paint, compared to 28 by the Celtics. Below is a combined shot chart for Simmons and Fultz. 

Embiid's teammates will look to feed Embiid the ball at the basket. Just two games into the season, this newly-constructed squad still is learning how to play with one another. Embiid was limited in full-court practices for the majority of training camp and only played in two preseason contests.

The Sixers also are adapting to the offense when Embiid is both on and off the court as his minutes and availability fluctuate. He is not playing Saturday against the Raptors in the second night of a back-to-back. 

“If he’s in the game and he’s in the post, get him the ball,” Fultz said.

Embiid echoed, “He’s right. That’s the right answer.”