76ers

Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

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Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (5-7) return home from their three-game road trip to face a division opponent for the first time this season when the Toronto Raptors come to town on Wednesday.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Diving into the division
The Sixers are coming off a winless three-game road trip in which they lost by an average of 16.6 points. They’re also allowing a league-worst 109.9 points per game, and starting point guard Michael Carter-Williams is ailing with a bruised arch in his left foot.

Ready for the good news? The Sixers are still leading the miserable Atlantic Division.

The Atlantic is the only division in the entire NBA that doesn’t have at least one team with a .500 record. Coming into Wednesday, the Sixers are the only Atlantic team with a winning mark against other Eastern Conference opponents, at 4-3. Also, each of the five teams in the Atlantic have currently lost at least two games in a row.

While the Sixers have been reeling lately, this could be just the right time to open up division play against a Raptors team they have beaten in seven of the last nine meetings.

2. They’re free for a reason
Simply playing against other struggling teams won’t be enough for the Sixers. They will have to help themselves on the court and they can start at the free throw line.

While the Sixers are in the middle of the pack in both free throws attempted and free throw makes per game, they rank 23rd in percentage from the charity stripe at 71.1.

That number dropped during their recent road trip when they made 52 of 76 freebies (68.4 percent). A main contributor to that mark was guard Tony Wroten, who was 3 of 9 from the line in Monday’s loss to the Mavs. He is shooting just 55.3 percent on free throws this season.

“As hard as I try not to, it is in my head,” Wroten said after the loss to the Mavs. “I work so hard and they trust me to make free throws. But missing six free throws is unacceptable.”

The Sixers will need to improve their mark from the free throw line to make teams pay for fouling.

3. Watch the wings
The Sixers will have their hands full slowing down Toronto’s perimeter pair of Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan.

While the Raptors rank 20th in the league in scoring at 96.9 points per game, Gay and DeRozan are prolific putting the ball in the net individually. Gay and DeRozan are averaging 20.6 and 20.5 points per game this season, respectively.

DeRozan has especially been on a tear in recent games. The 6-foot-7 guard scored 29 points in the Raptors’ loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday after tying his career high with 37 points against a defensive-minded Chicago Bulls team last Friday.

Gay had 30 points in that loss to the Blazers and appears to have found his rhythm after being traded to the Raptors at the deadline last season.

4. Injuries
Carter-Williams (foot) is day to day. He has missed the Sixers’ last four games.

Big men Nerlens Noel (knee), Kwame Brown (hamstring), Arnett Moultrie (ankle) and guard Jason Richardson are out.

Toronto forward Quincy Acy (ankle) is day to day and listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game.

5. This and that
• Evan Turner has averaged 8.2 points on 35 percent shooting in 11 career games against the Raptors.

• The Raptors are second in the league in offensive rebounding with 14.0 a game.

• The Sixers are averaging 4.4 fourth-quarter turnovers. They are averaging 17.3 giveaways a game, 24th in the NBA.

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

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NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say forward Nikola Mirotic suffered multiple broken bones in his face as well as a concussion in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis during practice.

The team says Mirotic will likely need surgery and is out indefinitely. They say they are "evaluating disciplinary action" after Tuesday's incident.

Mirotic averaged 10.8 points over his first three seasons with Chicago. A restricted free agent, he signed a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million in September. The club holds an option on the second season.

A 2015 first-round pick, Portis has averaged 6.9 points and 5 rebounds.

The Bulls open at Toronto on Thursday. Chicago is rebuilding after trading Jimmy Butler and parting with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (see full story).

Nuggets: Jefferson reportedly agrees to deal
DENVER -- Michael Malone knows all about Richard Jefferson. Just not Tuesday, with the deal for the veteran forward still waiting on official word.

"Who's Jefferson?" the Denver Nuggets coach coyly said after practice.

Jefferson will join the Nuggets on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been disclosed by the team. ESPN first reported the deal, which it said is worth $2.3 million.

After weeks of fine-tuning his roster through training camp and the preseason, Malone suddenly has to juggle things around. Not that he minds carving out minutes for a player he can't even name just yet. Jefferson adds another leadership presence to a young, playoff-hopeful roster (see full story).

Jazz: Timeline unknown for injured Exum
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dante Exum knew he had a significant injury the moment he awkwardly hit the floor during a preseason game against the Suns on Oct. 6. The diagnosis was a separated shoulder, and the Jazz guard and the team took the next 10 days to decide what to do.

Exum saw three doctors and spoke to several more before deciding to have a surgery on Oct. 24 that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time.

"Even just walking back (to the locker room), obviously I was frustrated," Exum said. "Everything was going through my head. I remember just looking up at everybody and they were just speechless. Didn't know what to say. A lot of people within the Jazz organization know how hard I've worked to get to the point I was. To get an injury like that and the way it took place just sucked."

There were non-surgical options for Exum, but the decision was made in his long-term interest after talking to family, his agent and the organization. That, however, complicates things in the short term financially. The 2014 No. 5 overall pick was hoping to have a breakout year as a restricted free agent.

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid will be restricted to less than 20 minutes per game early in the season, that much is known (see story). How Brett Brown fills the remainder of the minutes at the center position remains to be seen.

Brown has three healthy big men he can play behind Embiid: Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Richaun Holmes, an early candidate for backup minutes, is sidelined by a fractured wrist.

“Even without Richaun, you like the depth and versatility, the variety that is available to me at the five,” Brown said Tuesday. 

Each player is unique in their skill sets and experience levels. There’s the proven veteran in Johnson, the undersized center in Saric, and the sometime-starter-sometime-reserve-sometime-DNP in Okafor. 

Let’s take a look at Brown’s options and why he may lean toward one player over another. 

Okafor
Okafor finds himself in another season of uncertainty. The third-year Sixer still doesn’t have a consistent role in the rotation. In the past, his biggest opportunity for minutes has come when Embiid is out for the entire game. Could the slimmed-down Okafor return to the starting lineup when Embiid doesn’t play? The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games of the season on Saturday. 

Brown on Okafor 
“[His role is] evolving … it’s always fluid. There are times we’ll assess Joel, say, in a back-to-back situation that might free something up. We have one in Toronto coming up. … We all respect his attitude and we respect his body. I think he’s had a good preseason.”

Johnson
The 30-year-old Johnson gives the Sixers a veteran presence and assuring presence on the court. He started in 77 of his 80 games for the Celtics last season and will be an in-game leader for younger players like Markelle Fultz in the second unit. 

Brown on Johnson
“He started for a really good team last year. He’s been in the league for a while. He’s a great pickup. Bryan (Colangelo) did a really great job of signing him. He’s good people.” 

Saric
At 6-foot-10, 223 pounds, Saric is the most unlikely candidate of the three backups. Brown has seen enough from Saric in the NBA and internationally, though, to feel confident in shifting him from the four to the five. Saric showed he can hold his own against traditional bigs when he shot 5 for 8 against the Nets in the preseason. 

Brown on Saric
“He’s stronger than you think. He’s been used to guarding behind people over in Europe on switch outs with four-five pick-and-rolls. … He gives up some weight, he gives up some height. But the trade-off might be he pulls them out and makes threes like he did against (Timofey) Mozgov. You weigh it all up. It’s a little bit unconventional but it is there in our arsenal if we choose to go there.”