76ers

Doug Collins insists Sixers won't pack it in

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Doug Collins insists Sixers won't pack it in

ATLANTA -- The men’s NCAA tournament has invaded Atlanta with this year’s Final Four taking place at the Georgia Dome.

While four teams have dreams of leaving this city a champion, the Sixers would just like to put together a better showing than Wednesday night’s loss to the Bobcats when they face the Hawks on Friday.

That game was not one of their finer showings. All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday shot 2 of 24 from the floor. The team made just 35 percent of its shots and had only 16 assists.

Despite those challenges and the season winding down, there will be no packing it in under Doug Collins. He insists it wasn’t an option for him as a player and won’t be one as a head coach.

“I came into the league with a team that was 9-73,” Collins said. “I remember Gene Shue talking to me as a young player about how every minute you play is important. Learning to play against these great players every night, that as good as they are everybody has a go-to move that they want to go to under pressure, so learn what that is. You are constantly learning. You learn end-of-game situations, execution, doing things right.”

That is why the end of Wednesday’s game against the Bobcats was so disheartening for Collins. He was forced to watch a team that came together seven months ago during training camp still succumb to youthful mistakes in the clutch of a matchup late in the regular season.

However, Collins is still pleased with his team’s desire to compete. He isn’t ready to put a bow on the season and neither are his players.

“It is hard as a coach to get all these new pieces and try and put them together,” Collins said. “But the satisfaction of watching our guys compete and want to win and how some of our guys have really grown -- Damien Wilkins, Dorell Wright, Spencer Hawes -- watching how they approach their job on a nightly basis has been really fun for me.

“I have never been in this position as a coach where the numbers start getting against you as you are finishing out the season. You don’t know how guys are going to want to finish it, but our guys want to finish it well. I have always felt as a professional you have a responsibility every night for getting yourself individually ready to play and collectively ready to play with your team.”

Sixers refuse to look at silver lining from season-opening loss

Sixers refuse to look at silver lining from season-opening loss

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — In years past, overcoming a 12-point deficit and trailing a playoff-contending team by just two points with a minute to go would be considered an “A for effort” for the Sixers

If they held their own against a more experienced team and didn’t get dominated by John Wall, a 120-115 loss on the road wasn’t really that bad … was it?

Not this season.

The Sixers are in a new phase, one with actual pieces versus promising potential. With that comes higher expectations to win, and it starts in the locker room after the first game. 

“I don’t like taking positives from losses,” JJ Redick said. “We need to clean up a lot of stuff. We need to be better. It takes a lot to win in this league. We need to figure that out, and we will. We are good enough to do that.” 

The Sixers were in Wednesday's game until the end (see observations). They withstood the combined 53 points from Wall and Bradley Beal with a 29-point performance by Robert Covington and double-doubles from Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (see studs, duds, more).

The team acknowledged it had a chance to win. Yes, there were encouraging moments. No, they weren’t hanging their heads and writing off the season after opening night. 

At the same time, they are not ignoring the missteps that landed them in the loss column. Those are the turning points to learn from this season. 

The Sixers gave up just three points off four turnovers in the first half. The second half was a different story: 20 points off 13 turnovers. Down two points late in the fourth, the Sixers committed a pair of turnovers in a span of 30 seconds that hindered them from closing the gap. Those errors have been a focal point of conversation among the players. 

“Too many turnovers. That's big,” Embiid said (more on him here). “That's been the talk in the locker room. Got to work on that.”

The Sixers have one day of practice before facing the Celtics and Raptors in back-to-back games. It's just a small taste of what's to come in a stacked schedule over the first two months of the season. The attitude is be good enough to win, not good enough to compete. 

“We’re not going to try to lose this season and take a bunch of positives from that,” Redick said. “We’re trying to win. We’re trying to be in the playoffs this year. That’s got to be the mindset.”

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

WASHINGTON — In the end, Joel Embiid’s playing time was a non-issue.

After days of frustration leading up to opening night, Embiid played just three seconds shy of 27 minutes against the Wizards. That far surpassed the 16 minutes he anticipated a day earlier on Tuesday (see story)

“I was surprised,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 120-115 loss on Wednesday night (see observations). “I was expecting way less than that, but it just shows you they trust me.”

Brett Brown had maintained Embiid’s minutes were going to be more flexible than last year and he wasn’t locked into a specific number by the medical staff. Initially, Brown projected Embiid would play somewhere in the teens, but the game presented an opportunity for him to log more. 

Embiid had played 21:38 through three quarters and it seemed, based on last season, he was done for the night. The coaching staff calculated Embiid had over 20 minutes to rest between the third and the fourth quarters, so Brown put him back into the game with just over five minutes to play. He finished the game with 18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, a block and four turnovers (see highlights).

“It’s a range,” Brown said. “It’s more of a plan that we have this year than a restriction. When you look at and you feel the flow of the game, that’s where the variables come in.”

Embiid wants open lines of communication between him and the medical staff — for him to know what its planning and for him to be honest about how he is feeling.

“It’s on me to not lie to them and tell them how my body feels when I’m tired,” Embiid said. “At some point through the game I was tired and I told them to take me out.”

Embiid is ready for a new outlook on his availability moving forward. 

“We’ve got to stop calling it 'minutes restrictions,'" Embiid said. "There’s a plan with that — it’s just go out and play. If you’re tired, get out because injuries happen more often when you’re tired.”