eric gordon

Sixers' late collapse sealed by Eric Gordon buzzer-beating 3

Sixers' late collapse sealed by Eric Gordon buzzer-beating 3

BOX SCORE

If the Sixers are going to take the next step in their development, it’s going to start right before the game ends. 

The team has to figure out how to close out late in the fourth quarter. The Sixers have blown leads down the stretch in the past (a fairly common result in recent years), but their 105-104 defeat to the Rockets had a different burn to it (see observations).

“I think this is the toughest one,” T.J. McConnell said. “To work as hard as we did, I certainly think we deserved that one.”

The Sixers weren’t a lottery-bound team making a statement against a contender on Wednesday. This time around, they are a revamped and playoff-hungry squad with a chance to compete any given night. 

The Sixers took a 104-96 lead off a layup by Ben Simmons with 3:05 to play. They didn’t score again the rest of the evening. 

The Rockets closed out the game on a 9-0 run and stole the win with a deflating buzzer-beating three from Eric Gordon in the corner (see video). The Rockets earned a key basket leading up to that play when Joel Embiid toppled over James Harden while blocking a shot and was whistled for goaltending (see story). Harden went on to sink a free throw to cut the Sixers’ lead to two with 30 seconds to go. 

During that final three-minute stretch, the Sixers shot 0 for 4, including an uncharacteristic pair of three-point misses on back-to-back possessions from JJ Redick. They also committed a trio of turnovers and failed to get a shot to the rim while they were up two with six seconds remaining. 

Their last misstep led to the Rockets’ winning play. Brett Brown said he didn’t have “buyer’s remorse” for not calling a timeout to regroup before then. 

“The growth that we’re going to make to be in the game, have the chance to win a game against a really good Houston team isn’t good enough,” Brown said. “Ultimately we do have to be able to walk those games down with a little bit more authority.”

The Sixers’ crowd will have to wait another week for the team to try to deliver a ‘W’ in Philadelphia. The Sixers are 0-2 at the Wells Fargo Center and do not play at home again until next Wednesday against the Hawks. 

“The reason why it stings so much is because we’re on our home court,” Justin Anderson said. “We wanted to try to get our first win here in front of our fans.”

The Sixers are not practicing on Thursday. They will take the day off to regroup before they face the Mavericks and Rockets, again, on the road. 

While the team is not going to wallow in this loss, it won't forget the final three minutes either.

“It’s time to buckle down and get stops,” McConnell said.

Sixers-Rockets observations: Collapse on D ends with buzzer-beater

Sixers-Rockets observations: Collapse on D ends with buzzer-beater

BOX SCORE

When the buzzer sounded, all of the Sixers’ efforts leading up to the last five seconds of the game had been erased. 

The Rockets stole a 105-104 victory Wednesday off a three by Eric Gordon as time expired. The Sixers had been poised to snap their seven-game winless streak against the Rockets but blundered their lead by giving up the last nine points to Houston and going scoreless in the final 3:05.

Even though the Rockets were chipping away, the Sixers still looked on the verge of pulling off the upset. They led by five with 30.0 seconds remaining and then it all changed after a tumble at the basket.

James Harden was fouled by JJ Redick on a layup attempt. Joel Embiid was playing so aggressively that he blocked the shot and fell to the floor on top of Harden.

After an official review, Embiid was called for goaltending to count the basket. Harden nailed the free throw to cut the Sixers’ lead to two with a half minute left. 

The Sixers failed to get a shot off on the next possession, which set it up for Gordon and the Rockets to steal a win with five seconds remaining in front of a stunned Wells Fargo Center crowd. The Rockets celebrated at half court while the roar of the arena was quieted. 

• Embiid had played his last game of the previous season on Jan. 27 ... against the Rockets. He showed that injury-stricken period of his career is behind him with 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 25 minutes (see highlights). Even though Embiid looked tired at points in the third quarter, he was in the game at the end. He also put together a series of highlight moments (see below). 

• Gordon hit the game-winner but this game was not without the fingerprints of Harden on it. Harden did what he does and made another double-double look easy. The Rockets' backcourt duo of Harden and Gordon combined for 56 points.

• Ben Simmons fell one dime shy of his fifth straight double-double (14 points, seven rebounds, nine assists) (see highlights). He went 1-on-1 against Clint Capela and drove by the 6-foot-10 center like there was no one standing in his way. 

• How do you make the Wells Fargo Center erupt in cheers? Well, Embiid has mastered a few ways. First, he brought the arena to its feet with a surging dunk from T.J. McConnell. As the crowd began to chant “Trust the Process” in the third, Embiid waved while he stepped to the line. He missed the first and raised his arms again to elicit more noise from the fans. He made the second shot. And then there’s pulling up for a three over Harden and banking it in. That’s always a crowd pleaser. 

• McConnell has made an NBA career out of staying ready. He will be on the receiving end of the majority of Markelle Fultz’s minutes now that the rookie is sidelined with a sore shoulder (see story). Just as he has done in the past, McConnell is prepared to step up in the place of an injured teammate. He said a key to success in this situation is staying consistent, not changing what got him to this point … and making plays like this don’t hurt, either. 

• You know the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed …” Amir Johnson missed a driving slam in the third quarter and fell out of bounds. McConnell stole the ball seconds later and dished it to Johnson as he ran back into play. This time, a smiling Johnson made the dunk.

• Former Sixer Isaiah Canaan got a rude welcome back to Philadelphia when Johnson stuffed him at the basket during a first-quarter drive. The Rockets signed Canaan this week amid the injury to Chris Paul.

Sixers free-agent fits: Shooting guards — Waiters, DeRozan, Crabbe, more

Sixers free-agent fits: Shooting guards — Waiters, DeRozan, Crabbe, more

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. First up Monday was point guard. Today we look at shooting guards.

Sixers shooting guards for 2016-17
Nik Stauskas (guaranteed — $2,993,040)

Hollis Thompson (club option — $1,015,696)

Isaiah Canaan (restricted, qualifying — $1,215,696)

Current SG situation
As much as point guard is a huge need, the off-guard is also a concern for the Sixers.

Stauskas, the former lottery pick of the Sacramento Kings, was a major disappointment last season. Sauce Castillo was given plenty of opportunity to show that his rookie season was a fluke and just a result of the Kings' mercurial roster and coaching situation. Known as a shooter from his stellar career at Michigan, Stauskas shot 33 percent from three on 325 attempts last season. That's simply not good enough.

Thompson is a one-dimensional player. He's a shooter. A hot and cold one at that. Thompson doesn't bring enough to the table as a ball handler or a defender to be a long-term solution, but the Sixers may pick up his club option. Thompson is a career 39 percent shooter from three, but his overall field-goal percentage has gone down in each of the last three seasons.

We're calling Canaan a shooting guard simply because he is not a good enough ball handler to play point guard, the position his six-foot frame suits. Canaan is a streaky shooter that really brings nothing else to the table. I'm mostly complimentary of Sam Hinkie's tenure in Philly, but his continued love for Canaan was something I never understood.

This situation may change if the Sixers are able to sign 18-year-old draft pick Furkan Korkmaz. The Turkish sharpshooter was taken 26th overall and will need to be bought out from his club, Anadolu Efes. Korkmaz will certainly be a project but if he can shoot the basketball consistently, he might play.

Reach free agent

DeMar DeRozan (unrestricted)
DeRozan didn't disappoint in a contract year, averaging a career-high 23.5 points per game and helping lead the Toronto Raptors to the No. 2 seed in the East and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. There's still a great chance he could return to the Raptors (they can offer a year more than any team trying to sign him away from Toronto), but teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Heat, Knicks and Magic are rumored to be interested in DeRozan. Even if DeRozan were to consider the Sixers, I don't think he makes sense here. He's 26, which means the Sixers would be wasting his prime years. Plus, he's not a great shooter. This team is being built around Ben Simmons, and a shooting guard that is just a career 28 percent shooter from three doesn't seem like a fit.

Possible fits

Dion Waiters (restricted)
It seemed possible that the former No. 4 overall pick would return to the Thunder, but a draft-night trade that netted OKC athletic guard Victor Oladipo makes Waiters' future there murky. There's been speculation that the Philly native would be open to a homecoming. He's certainly had his issues, but Waiters has shown the ability to score at the NBA level. He shot a career-high 36 percent from three last season (38 percent in the playoffs). He's also only 24.

Allen Crabbe (restricted)
Crabbe, also 24 and also a former first-round pick of the Cavaliers, had his best season at the right time. The Cal product played in 81 games last season, averaging 10.3 points in 26 minutes a game for the Blazers. In my humble opinion, Crabbe would be the Sixers' best option. Again, if you're looking to build a team around Simmons, Crabbe's offensive game fits perfectly. Crabbe can shoot (39 percent from three, 87 percent from the line), he moves well without the basketball and can pull up off the dribble/on the break. He's a California native, so he may not want to leave the West Coast, but the Sixers can offer him a starter's minutes and money.

Dark-horse candidates

Bradley Beal (restricted)
Bryan Colangelo has said that he's looking for the right pieces this offseason and was more willing to give more money for fewer years while he evaluates his younger players. Beal could be an exception. The No. 3 overall pick by the Washington Wizards in 2012, Beal just turned 23 on Tuesday. He's averaged 16 points per game and shot 40 percent from three for his career. He does have an injury history, which may scare off teams from giving him a long-term deal. Beal has missed a total of 81 games in four seasons, so basically a full year's worth of time. Beal is intriguing, but I'm not sure the Sixers should give him a max deal.

Eric Gordon (unrestricted)
Going off of Colangelo's desire to sign high-money, low-term contracts, Gordon would make some sense. Gordon, 27, has also struggled with injuries throughout his career. He could be looking for a prove-it deal. The Sixers could offer him a great opportunity to make big money, play a lot of minutes and help a young team that has struggled to put the ball in the hole. Gordon has scored 16.6 points per game in his career. He shot 38 percent from three for the Pelicans last season, down from the 45 percent he shot from distance in 2014-15.