Kyle Lowry

Sixers' opponent planning Super Bowl trip

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Sixers' opponent planning Super Bowl trip

Kyle Lowry has three words when it comes to the Super Bowl.

“Fly Eagles, fly,” he said.

The Philadelphia native is pulling for his hometown team to make it to Minneapolis. Lowry, who attended Cardinal Dougherty High School and Villanova University, was proud of the Eagles’ underdog performance against the Falcons on Sunday. 

“It was like one of those wins where everyone was counting you out, your star is down, and everybody else as a team plays to another level,” Lowry said Monday prior to taking on the Sixers. “Our defense did a great job. Nick Foles had a great night, didn't do anything bad. He had a great game to me.”

Even though the Raptors play at noon in Toronto on Feb. 4, Lowry already is thinking of ways to get to the championship game that night. 

“If they make the Super Bowl, I will be there,” he said.

Lowry, 31, also showed his support for his alma mater while he was in Philadelphia for Monday’s game. He pledged to donate $1 million to Villanova for its renovation project of The Pavilion, which will now include the “Kyle Lowry Men's Basketball Locker Room."  

On Monday evening Lowry was presented with the Native Son Award by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. 

This time, Sixers avoid massive collapse

This time, Sixers avoid massive collapse

BOX SCORE

The Sixers tackled two hurdles on Monday afternoon: holding onto a substantial lead and beating a top-three team in the East. They conquered both as they held off the Raptors, 117-111, at Wells Fargo Center.

The Sixers nearly blew a 21-point edge when the Raptors cut the lead down to one with three minutes to play. The Sixers were back up by eight with 1:25 to go, but C.J. Miles made it a three-point game with under 40 seconds to play thanks to a nifty tip-in.

It wasn’t until Joel Embiid drained a pair of free throws, all while waving to the crowd at the line, that the Sixers iced the contest with 11 seconds remaining. 

The Sixers had been 0-8 against the Celtics, Raptors and Cavaliers (the top three teams in the Eastern Conference) this season, including an 0-3 mark against the Raptors. With the win, the Sixers moved back up to .500 on the season as they now sit at 20-20. 

Embiid led all players with a 34-point, 11-rebound double-double. He scored 18 points in the first half alone. Embiid and Ben Simmons combined for the Sixers’ first 20 points of the game.

The Sixers have been in need of a spark off the bench and they got it in the form of T.J. McConnell. The reserve guard posted 18 points, six rebounds, eight dimes and three steals. He contributed when the Sixers were in a pinch. Simmons played just 1:36 in the second quarter after picking up this third foul. McConnell and Jerryd Bayless clocked a combined 18 minutes off the bench. McConnell posted seven points, four assists and three rebounds in that quarter. 

JJ Redick left the game with a left leg contusion and did not return.

The Sixers held off the Raptors' backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan (24 points) and Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry (13 points). Delon Wright once again played well against the Sixers with 20 points off the bench for Toronto. 

Things got chippy between McConnell and DeRozan in the second quarter. As McConnell regained possession off a Raptors turnover, DeRozan pushed him and was called for a foul. McConnell took exception and had words for DeRozan, who then pushed him again with one hand. DeRozan was issued for a personal foul and both players were hit with techs. Sixers fans booed DeRozan for the rest of the game. 

The game didn't end without final sparks. Simmons and Lowry were both issued techs and ejected with only six seconds to play.

Markelle Fultz worked on free throws and driving drills before the game.

The Sixers are next in Boston to play the 34-10 Celtics Thursday. 

Sixers find out best things in life are free

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Sixers find out best things in life are free

It’s easy to blame things on the refs when you’re losing. And while there were a few questionable whistles in the Sixers' deflating 114-109 loss to the Raptors (see observations), a 35-14 disparity in free throws attempted can’t be explained away by one or two bad calls.

In scoring a career-high 45 points, DeMar DeRozan attempted 15 free throws (more than the entire Sixers' team), making 13. Kyle Lowry was a perfect 8 for 8 from the line.

After the loss, Brett Brown commented on the duo’s ability to get to the foul line: “I just think it’s what they are ... They bury their head, they find a spot, they bull their way into environments that are confrontational and expose that collision.”

“DeMar is gifted in so many ways. You look down and to have 45 points against what analytics would say aren’t very efficient shots and he just picks spots and jumps. He sure makes a lot. He’s been doing it a long time. I think it’s the physical nature of how they attack.”

The Sixers have allowed the most free throw attempts per game in the NBA (26.5). It’s not a surprising statistic for a young team that often makes questionable decisions, whether that be fouling jump shooters or leaping at pump fakes.

DeRozan is also an especially crafty player, visiting the line an average of 7.9 times. But the Sixers are going to have a difficult time beating any team, let alone an Eastern Conference contender like the 22-8 Raptors, when they concede a 21 free throw advantage.

With 23.3 foul shots attempted per game, the Sixers are 10th in the league, but that stat is heavily influenced by Joel Embiid. Without Embiid, who averages 8.3 free throw attempts, you’d expect the Sixers to struggle to draw shooting fouls, as was the case Thursday.

Tasked to be the main offensive catalyst in Embiid’s absence, Ben Simmons has shown none of DeRozan or Lowry’s penchant for drawing fouls. We all know Simmons is not a good free throw shooter, with the most famous example of his ineptitude the nearly successful Hack-a-Simmons move used by the Wizards on Nov. 29, when the rookie shot 12 of 24 from the line in the fourth quarter alone. Overall, Simmons is shooting 54.8 percent from the line.

One thing Thursday’s game demonstrated, which Simmons surely already knows, is being a good free throw shooter is a valuable tool for someone who can attack the paint as well as he does. At a minimum, it’s crucial for him to improve his foul shooting to the point that fans no longer are cringing when he goes to the line late in games.

The second, less obvious lesson is how important it is for Simmons to get to the line more often. Overall, Simmons is averaging 5.0 free throw attempts per game, though those numbers are skewed by the 29-attempt night against Washington. Since the game against the Wizards, Simmons is just 20 for 39 from the line in 11 games.

A player who penetrates as well as Simmons, who is third in the league with 13.59 points in the paint per game, should be taking a significantly higher number of free throws. He doesn’t have to radically change the way he plays, but he should occasionally be leaning into defenders when he’s blown past them, pump-faking off-balance opponents or bullying smaller point guards. Even if in the short term Simmons is still a subpar foul shooter, two or three more attempts each game would be a big bonus.

Of course, the disparity in free throw attempts is just one of many factors behind the Sixers’ funk. Still, it’s emblematic of many of their issues. Smart, veteran teams like the Raptors tend to shoot more free throws than their opponents.

The Sixers visit Toronto Saturday night. We’ll see if they’ve learned anything.