76ers

Justin Anderson stars against former team as Sixers destroy Mavericks

Justin Anderson stars against former team as Sixers destroy Mavericks

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Justin Anderson admitted it: this game had been on his mind for a while.

When the Mavericks decided to trade Anderson last month, he remembered head coach Rick Carlisle told him, "I'm not sure exactly where you're going to go, but I'm almost certain it'll be somewhere that we play you. You'll get a great opportunity to show what you've got against us."

The Mavericks sent Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a draft pick to the Sixers in exchange for Nerlens Noel at the Feb. 23 deadline. Anderson made it a point to look at the calendar: March 17. Less than a month away.

"I've been looking forward [to it] ever since," he said.

Anderson played like he had something to prove in the Sixers' lopsided 116-74 win Friday, their largest victory since Jan. 30, 2008 (see Instant Replay). He tied a career-high with 19 points (7 for 11 from the field, 2 for 5 from three, 3 for 3 from the line), grabbed eight rebounds and dished three assists in 26 minutes off the bench. His performance far surpassed his averages with the Mavericks this season (6.5 points, 2.9 rebounds). Anderson has scored 19 points in three of his 11 games as a Sixer. 

"Anderson played with the attitude we needed tonight. That's one thing we will miss about him," Carlisle said, adding, "I'm happy for him. I did not want to trade him, but we needed to do it to get another good player."

Noel had nine points, five rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes off the bench in his return to Philadelphia (see story).

On the other side, Anderson opened his scoring with a three-pointer. In a situation in which anxiousness could set in, he didn't look nervous against his former team.

"When you've got the confidence that your teammates give you and Coach (Brett) Brown gives you all that confidence in the world to step into your shots and do what you do, it helps out a lot," Anderson said. "I was comfortable out there. I was used to a lot of actions that they run and how they defend, so I was kind of a step ahead tonight and it felt good."

Anderson's intensity powered the Sixers to maintain their halftime lead, which they have struggled to keep in the past. He scored 12 points in the third quarter, only four less than the entire Mavs team.

"His energy, his demeanor, it just made us that much more aggressive and amped us up even more," Robert Covington said. "The plays he made were very, very amazing and they really got us going and kept us in the position we were in throughout the game."

The Sixers have lauded Anderson's athleticism and he put it on display. In the third, Anderson brought the crowd to its feet with a one-handed putback slam dunk off a Nik Stauskas missed three-pointer. He finished it off with an extra exclamation (see feature highlight).

"I felt like I was floating up there for a second because it bounced so high," Anderson said. "I was waiting for it to come down. I got lucky on the timing and I got a chance to squeeze it in there. The way I landed, my back was already kind of arched so I was excited. If anyone knows me, I'm a player that's just going to play hard. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. It's never to disrespect or show any harm. It's the reaction to an athletic play."

Anderson was glad to see the Mavs, the only team he had known in his short NBA career before being traded. He chatted up Dirk Nowitzki in between plays and exchanged friendly banter with Nicolas Brussino. Anderson even heard from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who was sitting courtside next to the team's bench.

"He told me he didn't like my haircut," Anderson said. "But, no, it was cool. There was no trash talk. … It's cool being able to play against former teammates and stuff. They were very excited to see me, so was I, so it meant a lot."

It means a lot for the Sixers to have him now.

"He brings toughness, physicality," Richaun Holmes said. "He comes prepared to play, prepared to win. That's what we need and it's great to have him as a teammate."

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers have hit a four-game skid and there is not a clearly defined way out of it thanks to a laundry list of injuries.

“I think it’s painfully obvious,” Brett Brown said of what needs to be done. “Let’s get our better players back in a uniform.”

The Sixers have to play their best with their pieces available down two starters (Joel Embiid, Robert Covington) and a key bench player (T.J. McConnell).

There are adjustments that can be made to prevent a losing streak from spiraling the Sixers down in the standings.

“We need to be just smarter,” Dario Saric said. “I know we are a young team. I know are playing without Joel, without our very important players … we need to find a way. We need to be more calm down, don’t be nervous, especially on defense.” 

Saric pointed to the Sixers’ late-game defense in their 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). They were tied with eight minutes to play before the Pelicans hit threes on their next four straight possessions. Jrue Holiday drained four treys himself during a five-minute stretch to push the lead to 11. The Sixers were outscored 44-29 in the fourth quarter.

“In that situation, to me, we are playing like a high school team,” Saric said. “That cannot happen. We need to be smarter at that point. I hope we will grow up and we will be mentally ready for that last five, six, seven minutes.”

The Sixers also were in the position to come back Saturday in Cleveland. They trailed the Cavaliers, 99-98, with 1:39 to play and did not score after that point.

It was during that final stretch when Covington landed out of bounds and suffered a lower back contusion. A day later, Embiid was a late scratch because of lower back tightness (see story). McConnell has missed five of the last six games with a left shoulder injury.

“We’ve got to be consistent with making the right plays every time,” Ben Simmons said. “It’s hard to make mistakes without those guys there. When you make mistakes and you don’t have Jo or Cov and guys like that to make up for that, it’s tough. But we’ve got to just come together as a team and get through it.” 

The Sixers don't have it easy their next two games. They face the Timberwolves (16-11) Tuesday in Minnesota when Embiid said he expects to play but has not been cleared. Covington is doubtful, while McConnell's status is to be determined. The Sixers return home Friday from a three-game road trip to host the Thunder (12-13).

Joel Embiid: 'If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone'

Joel Embiid: 'If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone'

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NEW ORLEANS — Joel Embiid is trying to kick back tightness he has been dealing with since Thursday.

Embiid was a late scratch for the Sixers in Sunday's 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). He said he began to experience the tightness while playing Thursday against the Lakers. Embiid received treatment during the game but felt "pretty sore" after.

The big man already was slated to miss one of the two back-to-backs in Cleveland and New Orleans because of his medical restriction. He sat Saturday, but when he warmed up pregame Sunday, he still didn’t feel healthy enough to go.

“I tried to warm up earlier but I couldn't,” Embiid said. “If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone. But we've got 82 games and they don't want me to push if I'm not a hundred percent, so that's what I did.”

The Sixers need Embiid (23.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.0 blocks) back on the court. They have dropped to 13-13 on a four-game losing streak, including these last two without him. Embiid is an integral part of the Sixers’ defense, especially against a Pelicans team with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis in the frontcourt. The two bigs combined for 52 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks. 

Embiid said he expects to play in the Sixers' next game, Tuesday in Minnesota. Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns is posting 19.8 points, 11.6 boards and 1.3 blocks per game this season. Embiid still has to work out Monday before that his availability. In the meantime, he is receiving massage treatment.

“I just got to keep resting for a couple days and see how it feels day-by-day,” Embiid said. “But it's been getting better. It's a lot, much better.”

Embiid is the latest Sixers to be added to the list of injuries. Robert Covington suffered a lower back contusion Saturday and is doubtful for Tuesday (see story). T.J. McConnell continues to be hampered by a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder. He has missed five of his last six games. Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Justin Anderson (left leg) are weeks out from another reevaluation.