Sixers' 3-point shooting doesn't make trip to Milwaukee

Sixers' 3-point shooting doesn't make trip to Milwaukee


MILWAUKEE — The Sixers’ three-point shooting went M.I.A. in Milwaukee.

“Our threes were today, I don’t know, something that we forgot in Oklahoma or at home,” Dario Saric said. “It was really hard for us.”

The Sixers went 2 for 26 from long range in their 107-95 loss to the Bucks Monday at the BMO Bradley Center (see observations). They shot 7.7 percent, the second-lowest percentage by an NBA team this season.

Starters Saric (0 for 8), Robert Covington (1 for 8) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (0 for 4) accounted for the majority of attempts as the team struggled to generate extra offense in the absence of Joel Embiid, who was held out because of the back-to-back set.

“We tried to find somebody to make a three and we just couldn’t find it,” Brett Brown said. “Without Joel, if we were going to win, we needed a successful three-point night.”

The Sixers didn’t hit a three until James Young knocked one down from Ben Simmons with 3:28 to go in the third quarter.

"I think it was just our bad game," Saric said. "We were tired from the game against Oklahoma. We lost so much energy there on that game."

The Bucks countered the Sixers’ struggles with 11 treys (39.3 percent). They were sparked by the bench, which shot 8 for 15. The Bucks’ reserves carried so much of their three-point scoring, Giannis Antetokounmpo shot only 1 for 5 on his way to a game-high 31 points.

The home team Bucks locked down on the Sixers’ long-range game after the Sixers shot 10 for 25 in their Jan. 20 matchup in Philadelphia. Covington and Luwawu-Cabarrot each drained three treys in the Sixers’ win.

“We obviously defended the three-point line extremely well,” Bucks head coach Joe Prunty said. “In some cases, they put up shots that they missed, but overall the effort to go out and cover, that was really good.”

The Sixers are right in the middle of the pack in the NBA when it comes to three-point shooting, ranked 18th at 35.9 percent. They shoot 37.6 percent in wins compared to 34.3 percent in losses.

“I think if we would have hit a lot of threes,” Simmons said, “it would have been a whole different game.”

TLC helps Sixers strangle life out of Spurs

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TLC helps Sixers strangle life out of Spurs

No matter who's currently suiting up for the Spurs, it's a pretty damn rare thing to go into San Antonio and strangle the life out of them practically by the end of the first quarter. The Philadelphia 76ers set the tone last night by allowing the Spurs just 13 points through 12 minutes, building a double-digit lead that — remarkably — they never relinquished. They ended up giving up just 78 points to San Antonio on the night — tying the Pistons blowout a couple weeks ago for the lowest amount given up by a Sixers team this season and marking the third time in nine 2018 games that they held an opponent to 80 or fewer. 

Simply put, the Sixers' defense has been the best in the league recently. Their defensive rating has climbed to fourth in the league, and is second best behind only Boston for the 2018 calendar year — and in the past 10 days, it's been a league-leading 94.2. They're switching more, turning the ball over less (just nine times last night, their first time in single digits all season), and shutting off teams around the basket and at the three-point line, where opponents are shooting a paltry 30 percent against them this month. It's been a dominant defensive showing that's led to the Sixers starting January 7-2, and it's been absolutely beautiful to watch. 

Of course, you might notice a correlation between a Sixers player exiting the starting lineup and the Sixers' defense going into hyperdrive. When JJ Redick went down with a leg injury on Jan. 16, Sixers fans plotzed over the potential submarining of #SixersJanuary — understandable, given our seeming lack of depth on the wings and his being a lone exception to our team-wide inability to shoot from distance. Given how poorly the team had dealt with other injuries to starters over the course of the season, it seemed sure that the Sixers would have to struggle to end the month with their head above water.

But man, has the emergence of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot made all the difference. In four 2018 games as a starter, Luwawu-Cabarrot is averaging 15 points on 53 percent shooting, and a stunning 57 percent from deep — having made more combined triples over the past seven days (15) than he had in the 55 before that (14). But the even bigger impact has been defensive: While Redick was an invaluable offensive cog for Brett Brown, on defense he lingered as a minor liability, lacking the foot speed and lateral quickness really needed to execute Brown's perimeter-switching D at the highest level. 

TLC has been awesome on that end so far, and while the Sixers' first five with Redick has been one of the best in the league — outscoring opponents by a net rating of +16.7 per 100 possessions — with TLC it's been even more potent, posting an unthinkable +37.4. That's on a relatively small sample size (still just ~44 minutes), and is bound to come down some — but wow, has this new lineup mitigated the loss of Redick in a way Sixers fans would've considered 100 percent implausible while Luwawu-Cabarrot was struggling to contribute much of anything to the rotation. 

Hopefully, Redick returns before TLC proves himself to be too overextended — we'll still need Redick down the stretch, and as well as the team's currently playing with Luwawu-Cabarrot at the two, it's unlikely to me that Brown would consider making it a permanent lineup change. But it's good to know the option is there for the Sixers, and potentially a solid one for the future, especially since Redick is a free agent after this season. Like Dario Saric thus far, TLC might just be one of the rotation guys who needs starters' minutes to really show what he can do. 

In the meantime, the Sixers ride into a Sunday night revenge showdown against OKC with a 24-21 record — good for sixth in the East, with the conference's third-best point differential, and just a game and a half separating them and home-court advantage in the playoffs — and all the momentum you could possibly want from #SixersJanuary. Who knows what February holds for this team, but right now, they're playing like the big boys of the East and there isn't all that much that seems out of the question for them in 2018.

Sixers haven't done this in 14 years

Sixers haven't done this in 14 years


SAN ANTONIO — The season sweep is complete.

The Sixers beat the Spurs, 97-78, Friday night at the AT&T Center to go a perfect 2-0 after years of struggle. They led by as many as 25 points in the surprisingly lopsided contest.

Prior to their first win of the season on Jan. 3, the Sixers had not defeated the Spurs in 12 games dating back to 2011. The victory was the Sixers’ first in San Antonio since Jan. 3, 2004.

The Spurs improved to 24-21, while the Spurs dropped to 32-19. 

The Spurs were shorthanded again, just like their last meeting with the Sixers. Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management), Manu Ginobili (right thigh contusion) and Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis) did not play. Still, veterans LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, three rebounds), Pau Gasol (11 points, four rebounds) and Danny Green (five points) were in the starting lineup.

The Sixers were without two veterans as well. JJ Redick (left fibula) and Jerryd Bayless (sore left wrist) remained sidelined. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (10 points) got his fourth straight start in their absences.

• Joel Embiid recorded his fifth double-double in seven games. He posted 18 points and 14 rebounds in 29 minutes.

• Ben Simmons (21 points, seven assists, five rebounds) outlined the keys to getting a win prior to the game. 

“Just got to go in and play tough, be consistent, take care of the ball, and rebound,” he said. “I think we'll be fine.” 

To those points, the Sixers out-rebounded the Spurs 50-36 and committed a season-low 10 turnovers, well below their season average.

• The Spurs entered the game a league-best 20-3 at home. Brett Brown emphasized to the Sixers that the Spurs are still the Spurs, especially at the AT&T Center, regardless of who isn’t playing.

• Gregg Popovich doesn’t like to lose, regardless of who he is coaching against. But in the case of Brown, who served on Popovich’s staff for more than 11 years, Popovich is happy for his success this season.

“He deserves it, the organization, the players, the owners, everybody deserves it,” Popovich said before the game. “They've gone through hell and kept their nose to the grindstone and just kept going and going on going. Now they're enjoying some of the benefits of everything that's been done along the way. Hopefully that'll continue.”

• T.J. McConnell was back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game to attend his father-in-law’s funeral. The backup point guard posted five points, three rebounds and four assists (22 minutes).

• Justin Anderson made the most of early playing time. He scored eight points in seven first-half minutes. He finished the night with 12 points.

• The Sixers held the Spurs to 31 points in the first half, the lowest by any opponent this season. The lack of offense, including 0 for 10 from three, was out of character for the Spurs. Their 31 points was the fewest they have scored in the first half at home since Feb. 25, 2008.

• The Sixers will travel to Oklahoma City Friday night to continue their four-game road trip with Sunday’s matchup against the Thunder (6 p.m./ESPN).