76ers

Slumping Sixers miss Young in loss to Raptors

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Slumping Sixers miss Young in loss to Raptors

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As one key Sixer returned to the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night, another was noticeably absent.

With the Toronto Raptors in town for a game to determine sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, the Sixers got their rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams back after a foot injury put him on the sidelines for the last four games.

But even with Carter-Williams back, the Sixers were missing a huge piece in Thad Young, who was not with the team in the 108-98 defeat (see Instant Replay).

Young was tending to some personal issues and coach Brett Brown isn’t quite sure when the seven-year veteran will return. Without Young, the Sixers struggled on defense as the Raptors drilled 14 three-pointers. They also had difficulty hanging onto the ball, committing 20 turnovers that helped the Raptors build a 16-point lead in the second half.

Without Young, Brown had to alter his rotation and his substitution patterns. That meant Spencer Hawes was playing power forward and sometimes guarding a quicker player in Rudy Gay, and Daniel Orton got his first start of the season.

“When a guy is out of the lineup you have to be versatile and do whatever you’re called for,” said Hawes, who led the Sixers with 28 points and 10 rebounds.

However, there are some things that can’t be replaced.

Where Young was missed the most was in his leadership ability. A strong voice on and off the court is one thing. But to lead by example and on defense like Young does really resonates. With Young on the floor it would have been difficult for the Raptors to go on a 15-5 run in the final 2:15 of the third quarter to turn a six-point deficit into a 16-point debacle.

“You look at it and say, ‘Why and who was on the floor?’ You’re always challenged by not having too many of your senior players [on the bench],” Brown explained. “But there aren’t many senior players.”

The Sixers got no closer than 10 points in the fourth quarter with that run by the Raptors at the end of the third quarter deciding the game. Hawes and Evan Turner battled foul trouble during the second half and Carter-Williams was shaking off the rust.

When it came time to hold the fort at the end of the third quarter, the Sixers couldn’t pull it off.

“That period was a killer,” Brown said. “You can lose games in that period of time. My answer is that our young guys have to fix that. They have to grow or we’re going to see something similar at the end of the third period.”

The Sixers went 2 for 6 with a turnover during that fateful stretch, while Toronto went 6 for 6 with five three-pointers.

“Discipline,” Hawes said. “I see that quarter ending in a barrage of threes. Closing out quarters is always important, but especially in the second half when you work hard and fight to be in it and then you give it up in a two- or three-minute span. We have to address that.”

It’s one thing to address it and put in plans to halt a decisive run, but it’s another to have the horses to do it. Without Young, the Sixers were missing a major cog.

And add in a tough shooting night for Turner, who went 4 for 13, and six turnovers from the rookie Carter-Williams, and the result wasn’t tough to fathom.

“His rhythm was a little off and his fitness was evident where he hadn’t played basketball at that level in a while,” Brown said about Carter-Williams. “And like any young player, he gets so excited to come back and play that he tries too hard to put his imprint on the game. He tried to force things in the paint and he didn’t let the game come to him as naturally as he normally does. It was clear that Michael hadn’t played in a while.”

Carter-Williams didn't dispute the idea that he was a little excited to get back on the floor.

“I felt pretty good and my foot wasn’t bothering me,” Carter-Williams said. “I struggled a little bit just getting back into the swing of things.”

With four straight losses, the 5-8 Sixers are a half-game behind the Raptors for first place in the Atlantic Division. They will try to snap the losing skid on Friday night when the Milwaukee Bucks come to town.

Ben Simmons joins elite company with triple-double in Sixers' 1st win

Ben Simmons joins elite company with triple-double in Sixers' 1st win

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DETROIT — Sixers coach Brett Brown was well aware of the risk when he asked Ben Simmons, who played forward in high school and college, to run his team’s offense.

It was a gutsy call, at the time, that many critics scoffed and questioned.

Not anymore.

In just his fourth career NBA game, Simmons pieced together a memorable triple-double Monday night to become just the third player in history to accomplish the feat in such a time span, and more importantly, help lead the Sixers (1-3) to their first regular-season win.

“It’s awesome to have a triple-double, but at the same time, it’s even better to have that win,” Simmons said. “Especially with these guys and a young team like this.” cbdz

It wasn’t a do-or-die game for the Sixers by any stretch, but Monday night’s 97-86 win in Detroit certainly rejuvenated a fan base that may have started casting doubt as to whether the Sixers are a legit playoff-caliber team (see observations)

Moreover, it served as much-needed validation for Brown and his young, talent-packed squad, following three straight losses, including Saturday’s 34-point blowout loss in Toronto.

“I’m happy for our guys,” Brown said. “They really came into the building knowing that we needed to get a win. To get rewarded with the win, it just validates some of the work that everybody has put in.”

Particularly Simmons, who entered this season with the eyes of Philadelphia watching his every move during his first tour around the NBA after missing all of last season nursing a fractured foot. 

“We won, and, honestly, that means so much than stats for me,” said Simmons, who finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. 

Simmons doesn’t fit the mold of a prototypical point guard, but — then again — the NBA has evolved into a position-less league. Players of all shapes and sizes do everything nowadays. And Simmons — just four games into his NBA career — is among those leading the charge.

“I mean, we all see how gifted he is physically,” Brown said. “Him, with the ball, able to do the things he does, produces a lot of these mismatches and numbers. 

“We’re able to post him. He’s able to seal the pick-and-rolls. You see how gifted he is in open court. He’s got that breakaway speed that is jaw-dropping. And he’s 6-foot-10.”

Simmons, to his credit, was extremely humble when asked about his triple-double accomplishment after the game. But it’s possible the 21-year-old phenom was unaware of the elite company he joined and how rare a feat it was to put up a triple-double just four games into his career. 

When Simmons notched his 10th assist on Joel Embiid’s layup with slightly more than minute to play, he became the first player with a triple-double in his first four career games since Hambone Williams in 1967. The only other player in NBA history to do so? Oscar Robertson, in 1960. 

“I feel like this stat line, we’ve kind of seen a snapshot of it the first three games,” Brown said. “It just seems a bit more special when it’s associated with a win.”

Win or not, Simmons has made it abundantly clear Monday night that — even with Markelle Fultz in the mix — he’s the Sixers’ point guard. No ands or buts about it.

When it was made clear in April that Brown wanted the versatile rookie to play point guard, the controversial decision was met with raised eyebrows. But Brown, to his credit, hasn’t wavered. And today, by all accounts, that gamble is paying off. 

“You know, the decision to make him our point guard is challenged in some some way,” he said. “But as an organization, we stayed strong that that’s where we want to play him.”

It was a gutsy call by Brown at the time, and while the Sixers may only be four games into the season, it’s proving to be the right call.

Sixers-Pistons observations: A Simmons triple-double and Embiid stars in 1st win

Sixers-Pistons observations: A Simmons triple-double and Embiid stars in 1st win

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DETROIT — In a much-anticipated matchup Monday night featuring two elite centers, it was the Sixers’ big man Joel Embiid who stood above the rest.

Back in the starting lineup after sitting out Saturday’s blowout loss in Toronto, Embiid out-shined Detroit’s franchise player Andre Drummond to lead the Sixers to their first regular-season win — a much-needed 97-86 victory over the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit.

Embiid wasn’t alone with a stellar performance. Rookie Ben Simmons notched a triple-double to become just the third player to accomplish the feat within his first four games (Oscar Robertson in 1960 and Art “Hambone” Williams in 1967).

It was a much-needed win for the Sixers, who entered Monday winless and one game removed from a 34-point blowout loss in Toronto. 

Embiid showcased his polished shooting stroke, highlighted by a three-pointer to close out the first quarter, and put his athleticism on full display en route to a team-high 30-point performance. 

The 23-year-old center logged 28 minutes after playing 27 minutes on Friday. He took advantage of every minute, making 11 of 15 shots, grabbing nine boards and hitting 7 of 8 free throws. A second-quarter dramatic slam dunk over Drummond, who was held 14 points, capped Embiid’s impressive night. 

The Sixers took a 56-43 lead into the half, but nearly squandered a 21-point lead after the Pistons cut their lead to 81-78 with less than eight minutes to play before pulling away late.

• After falling just shy of a triple-double on Saturday, Simmons pulled it off Monday in the final minutes to become the third player in NBA history to record a triple-double within the first four career games. Simmons finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to extend his career-starting double-double streak to a fourth straight game. In doing so, he became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal to record a double-double in each of his first four career games. O'Neal's stretch lasted 11 straight games.

• Markelle Fultz was held two just two points and failed to leave a strong offensive impression for the fourth straight game. Fultz consistently managed to get into position for open looks, but appeared hesitant to pull the trigger. When he did, he struggled to make shots outside the paint, including a wide open 15-footer in the first quarter. Fultz, who is battling a sore right shoulder, was limited to 16 minutes of action — the fewest minutes he’s logged this season.

• During Monday’s morning shootaround, head coach Brett Brown stressed the need for his team to cut down on turnovers and commit fewer fouls. The Sixers struggled with turnovers, committing 21 after averaging 17 the first three games, but managed to overcome early mistakes and limit the bleeding.

• Pistons fans didn’t take kindly to their home team’s sluggish first-half performance, showering Detroit with boos after Jerryd Bayless hit a three-pointer to put the Sixers up 51-30 in the second quarter. The Pistons announced a near-sellout crowd in what was the team’s second regular-season game at their new home, Little Caesars Arena. However, dozens of empty rows and a sea of red seats were spotted throughout the game. 

• Embiid quickly made his presence felt with six points (2 of 3 shooting) in the first five minutes before being subbed by former Piston Amir Johnson. Johnson, who finished with three points, has played on four teams throughout his 13-year career, and faced all three of his former teams (Pistons, Celtics and Raptors) in the last seven days.