76ers

Sixers' turnover-filled nightmare comes with silver lining

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AP Images/ USA Today Images

Sixers' turnover-filled nightmare comes with silver lining

Brett Brown sat at the podium with a puzzled look on his face as he stared at the box score.

Sure, he’d likely already been told that the Sixers had a season-high 27 turnovers in their 106-102 Game 4 win over the Miami Heat. But it’s one thing to hear it from someone else and another to see it written down in black and white.

“The fact that you can actually win a playoff game with this volume of turnovers is mind-boggling,” Brown said.

The Sixers’ level of carelessness on Saturday was equally astonishing.

For three quarters, the Sixers resembled the regular-season version of the team we have become accustomed to seeing over the years under Brown. They had the ball stolen on dribble moves and their passes intercepted. They had passes sail out of bounds and committed offensive fouls.

Simply put, the Sixers were tripping over themselves to give the ball back to the Heat.

“The first three periods, I was shocked to look up at the scoreboard and not feel like you’re just down 15, 14, 18 given the way the game went,” Brown said.

“I’m shocked that we won this game. We really didn’t have a right to win this game. I thought that, defensively, in the first three periods, we were a C-minus. I thought that our turnovers were an F.”

While a lot of that had to do with the Sixers’ own sloppiness, the Heat’s level of desperation was certainly a factor.

“Coming into this game this afternoon, you know you’re going to get the Miami Heat’s best,” Brown said. “It’s a culture of winning. They’ve won championships. Spo’s (Erik Spoelstra) a hell of a coach. You knew they were going to be all wound up. Like I said before, you didn’t have to be a mystic to guess what this was going to look like. 

“And they jumped us and we didn’t handle it well. We had multiple turnovers. I thought in Game 3 we responded to the physicality with only 12 and we did some things fundamentally more correct. There were several times in tonight’s game that they got the better of us and this environment got the better of us a little bit.”

Not when it mattered most.

The Sixers committed just three of those 27 turnovers in the fourth quarter as they dominated another final period to finish off the comeback.

And while the Sixers know they will never reach their playoff goals if they continue giving the ball away at such a rapid rate, they were pleased the team could stop the bleeding in crunch time with the game on the line.

“I think we did a great job of coming back, staying poised and playing as a team,” Ben Simmons said. “Going through our structured plays, whatever it is, defensively and offensively.” 

“I feel that we have been trending in a way that the fourth-period execution, the fourth-period mentality — defensively driven — has been our identity,” Brown said. “Then you go to the other side and say, well, we did a pretty good job of not turning the ball over. Three turnovers, by our standards, is an A-plus.”

Why Dwyane Wade thinks Sixers are 'special'

Why Dwyane Wade thinks Sixers are 'special'

MIAMI — For the 13 first rounds Dwyane Wade has played in, the current Sixers-Heat matchup has made a strong impression.

“They’re good,” Wade said. “They’re special. They’re a good group. They put the right team together.”

Sitting at the podium, Wade spent a good amount of time during his press conference praising the team that has put the Heat on the brink of elimination. He’s been on the winning side often, including three championships, so he recognizes a unique team when he sees it. 

“This definitely is one of the best first-round series I’ve ever played in, first-round opponent,” Wade said.

The Sixers have gone up 3-1 on the Heat with a roster that is balanced both positionally and in experience. Seven players finished in double digits Saturday and only veteran JJ Redick had more than 20 points. Ben Simmons, with whom Wade already has a relationship (see story), recorded his first career playoff triple-double (17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists). He became the youngest player to do so since Wade’s former teammate LeBron James back in 2006. 

"I give a lot of credit to their point guard, their leader, Ben,” Wade said. “He does a great job of getting them settled, getting the ball to his guys, and keep feeding confidence to them.”

Wade described the Sixers as having “an edge.” They will use it to test the Heat Tuesday when the series returns to Philadelphia. Wade encourages his teammates to play with maturity and withstand the Sixers’ runs. The Heat split the first two games at the Wells Fargo Center. 

“They’re going to play with pace, play with speed, play physical,” Wade said. “Obviously they’re going to play with their crowd. It’s going to be a high energy type of game from them … All we’ve got to do is just worry about this one game and giving everything we have for that game. You walk out of that game, you gave everything you had, you can live with whatever result is there at the end.”

Wade, 36, has had vintage moments against the Sixers in this series. He led all players with 28 points off the bench in the Heat’s Game 2 win. On Sunday, he scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter alone. 

Asked about the possibility of this game against the Sixers being his last game in Miami playing for the Heat, Wade said, “I won’t answer that right now. I’ve got another game to play. I’m focused on the next game and trying to win that one.”

What he will answer is questions about his competition. 

"They’re a very good team," Wade said. "I can’t say nothing negative about them at all. So far they’ve been great opponents.” 

Ben Simmons keeps getting linked with Magic — and for good reason

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Ben Simmons keeps getting linked with Magic — and for good reason

Ben Simmons and Magic Johnson. It’s not such a crazy comparison.

With 17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists in the Sixers’ 106-102 Game 4 win Saturday, Simmons became the first rookie to record a playoff triple-double since Johnson in 1980.

It’s not the first time Simmons has been linked with Magic, nor will it be the last. At 6-10, Simmons’ elite passing ability, versatility and flair in the open court mirror the 6-9 Johnson. With 12 regular-season triple-doubles, Simmons passed Johnson for second on the all-time rookie list, behind only Oscar Robertson’s 26.

Oh, and without Joel Embiid in Game 2 of this series, the point guard Simmons jumped for the opening tip, just as Johnson famously did with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Sixers.

You can chalk up some of the early comparisons with Johnson to the natural tendency to see parallels when looking at graceful point guards in big bodies or just insane statistical coincidences, but there’s one important similarity it looks like Simmons might have with Magic — an affinity for big games.

Simmons guided the Sixers to a massive win Saturday, helping his team take a 3-1 series edge over the Heat despite a season-high 26 turnovers. Though Simmons posted seven turnovers himself, he directed the offense masterfully in the second half.

In the fourth quarter, the Sixers had just three turnovers and executed well in their half-court offense despite the extremely physical Heat defense. Simmons scored 15 of his points after halftime, including a powerful drive and dunk with 58.2 seconds left to give the Sixers a 102-99 lead after Dwyane Wade had cut the deficit to one.

As he typically does, Simmons deflected the attention away from himself after the game when asked about joining Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry Lucas and Tom Gola on the list of rookies with playoff triple-doubles.

“I think it just means I’m doing my job,” Simmons told reporters. “The stats I’ve averaged all season have been up there, so it’s not really anything new for the team or myself. As long as we’re winning, I’m happy. All those accolades will come if we’re all doing the right thing.”

Joel Embiid, however, wasn’t shy in talking up his point guard’s accomplishment.

“He was a monster,” Embiid said. “I think that’s the first time the Sixers had a triple-double [in the playoffs] since Charles Barkley, so that’s big-time.”

Embiid knows his Sixers history. Barkley was indeed the last Sixer to record a postseason triple-double. He recorded 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists on April 27, 1991, in a 116-112 OT win in Milwaukee.

JJ Redick was also impressed with Simmons, though he’s getting used to these sort of historic games.

“Ben is Ben,” Redick said. “It’s almost become expected now that he’s gotta go average a triple-double. He’s very tough physically, but he’s even tougher mentally. The last four games have been as vocal and demonstrative as I’ve seen him all season. He’s been fantastic. He’s coming out of his shell in regards to leadership, and that’s huge for us.”

Simmons is averaging 19.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists through the first four games of his playoff career. He’s not quite averaging a triple-double, but he’s about as close as you can get.

And for the record, Magic had five triple-doubles in that incredible 1980 postseason with the Lakers. With Simmons' immense talent and poise under pressure, that’s another Magic milestone within his reach.