76ers

Lavoy Allen struggles to take next step in second season

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Lavoy Allen struggles to take next step in second season

A lot of folks had some decent-sized expectations for Lavoy Allen this season. With Andrew Bynum expected to anchor the middle and Allen inked to a two-year contract after a strong performance in the playoffs against the Celtics last May, higher expectations seemed reasonable.

But as the Sixers limp to the finish line of a disappointing season, Allen might not be quite ready for prime time.

Headed into Wednesday’s game against the Hawks, Allen averaged 5.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 74 appearances. Though that’s up a bit from his rookie season but it hasn’t come close to matching the numbers posted by Nik Vucevic, whose minutes fell to Allen when he was traded to Orlando in the Bynum deal.

Like a microcosm of the Sixers’ season, Allen was sometimes brilliant and sometimes even good. But mostly he was underwhelming. After Allen pulled down a career-high 22 rebounds against Charlotte on Feb. 9, he was nearly shut out on the boards the next night.

In the course of two games Allen set the team season high for rebounds and then nearly became the first player to follow a 22-rebound night with a goose egg.

It could have been a better season, Allen admitted.

“Basketball-wise, I didn’t have a great year,” Allen said. “I was up and down here and there.”

But there is promise for Allen. Selected with the 50th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft out of Temple, Allen went from starting his rookie season on the inactive list to playing significant minutes against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. When the 2012-13 season began and Bynum wasn’t ready to go, Sixers head coach Doug Collins put Allen into the starting lineup.

Allen started 37 of the first 42 games, but fell to a role on the bench when Spencer Hawes emerged as the team’s best option in the middle. As always, Collins said, it got back to one element of Allen’s game.

“I go back to when we drafted him -- play with a motor,” Collins said.

“I remember in the playoffs the job Lavoy did to match up with Kevin Garnett and how we wanted him on the floor because of the job he did with him,” Collins continued. “We need him to have a much better year. We need him. We need our bigs for what we’re trying to do and obviously Thad [Young] and Spencer are two guys we count on heavily, but over the course of a long season, Lavoy can shoot, he has size and a good feel for the game. Arnett [Moultrie] has all of those capabilities too, so he’s going to have to take a big jump, too.”

Though Allen says his performance could have been better this season, he didn’t have an answer when asked what he learned about his game this year in comparison with his rookie year. He also said there were very few folks whose expectations he tries to live up to.

In fact, when asked which elements of his game he planned on working on this summer, Allen said he plans to work on his overall game. As far as increased energy goes, what you see is what you get with Allen.

“I only thought automobiles had motors, not people,” Allen said with a laugh.

Still, Collins believes Allen has a lot to work with and the problems he has on the court have nothing to do with his talent.

“With Lavoy it’s never about whether he’s talented or not,” Collins said.

Collins often points out that it often takes a player three years until they settle in to the NBA life and get their games together. For big men, however, sometimes it takes longer than three years. When Collins coached the Pistons he had a big man who showed all the signs of becoming a great player, but didn’t put it together until he joined the Sixers.

“I remember I had Theo Ratliff where all of a sudden he started taking off,” Collins said. “You have to be patient, but unfortunately in this business when winning and losing on a nightly basis are so important, it’s sometimes tough to have that kind of patience.

Collins seems to hint that the Sixers will have some patience with Allen.

“I think as long as guys show that commitment and you see it every day, that patience is longer,” Collins said.

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors

BOX SCORE

TORONTO — Ben Simmons' double-double feat aside, the Sixers have had little to enjoy about the start to the season.

They were outclassed Saturday night, 128-94, by the Toronto Raptors and have lost their first three games (see observations).

As has been their custom for back-to-back games, center Joel Embiid did not play Saturday after playing Friday in the loss to the Boston Celtics to protect his left knee.

Head coach Brett Brown said he did not expect things to go this way.

“I didn’t,” he said. “I knew the first three games were going to be difficult. I knew coming into this building after a back-to-back was going to be difficult, but you are certainly not expecting it to be that margin of a deficit. I give Toronto credit.

“We have a lot of work to do; we look forward to getting Joel (Embiid) back in this and continuing to learn how to play the group.”

After trailing by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, the Sixers whittled the lead to eight when Jerryd Bayless hit a couple of free throws with 2:22 left in the first half.

Toronto led 62-49 at the half and blitzed the Sixers to open the third quarter with Serge Ibaka scoring eight of their first 10 points of the second half. With 3:12 left in the third, the Raptors led by 29.

“They jumped us, especially at the start of the third, certainly portions of the first period but especially the start of the third and you’re just playing catch up pretty much for the rest of the game after that first almost minute, minute and a half,” Brown said.

“You’re just trying to find some type of order and purpose to end the game with that in mind.”

It was a subdued atmosphere in the dressing room after the game.

The edge surely was removed from another double-double by Simmons.

He had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Simmons joins Oscar Robertson as the only NBA players to average 10-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in their first three career games.

“It looks great, but I’d rather have a win,” he said. “I’d rather we had three wins than three double-doubles.”

Simmons said he is looking forward to Embiid returning to the lineup Monday against the Detroit Pistons.

He said he could feel the game slipping away Saturday.

“Toward the third, coming out we just didn’t click, didn’t have it together,” Simmons said. “It’s tough without Joel (Embiid), obviously there’s chemistry and then you switch it up, so that comes into it, but we need to learn to play without him, with those back-to-backs.

“We have to stay together as a team, talk it out, get through it, communicate on the court and hold each other accountable. … We have to sit down and look at what we did wrong, that’s with every game, you have to fix your mistakes and come out ready for the next one. It’s a long season.”

It could seem even longer if there aren't signs of improvement.

“Coach Brown has talked since Day 1 of camp about our goal; to build every day, to take something positive every day and I think for tonight, we were unable to do that,” guard J.J. Redick said. “I was just saying if it’s a six-minute stretch where we are doing things well, cutting into their lead, that’s something to build on. I don’t think we did that before but that’s what I was trying to get across.

“I’m a patient person; if we were 0-45 then I’ll start to panic. There are 82 games, we have a very tough schedule to start, we’re a young team, and that’s not an excuse but the reality is the team we played tonight and the team we played in D.C. Wednesday night, they’ve been together a long time and know how to play together. We have to figure out a way to jell quicker and we have to understand and close our margin for error.”

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

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.