76ers

5 Sixers summer league observations: Another cold-shooting night to finish pool play

5 Sixers summer league observations: Another cold-shooting night to finish pool play

After a day off, the Sixers got back to work at the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League.

The brief break didn’t do much for the team’s level of performance as the Sixers suffered an 87-75 loss to the Washington Wizards at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The Sixers turned in a dismal offensive effort by shooting 34.2 percent from the field and 24.0 percent from three-point range to fall to 0-3 in Las Vegas. They will have another short rest before taking part in the tournament portion of the event later this week.

Let’s take a look at five observations from Monday’s action:

1. Sixers assistant coach Kevin Young came to Vegas with plans on following Brett Brown’s pace-and-space motto on offense. The catch is that only works if you have both elements, and this summer league squad is clearly lacking in the space department.

This Sixers roster just doesn’t have enough shot makers to keep up with the furious style of play that is natural for every summer league game.

Look no further than the first half on Monday. The Sixers shot 8 for 38 from the field (21.1 percent) and 2 for 15 (13.3 percent) from beyond the arc. That was enough to equal a 41-27 deficit at halftime, which was too much to overcome despite a push after intermission.

“As it pertains to this particular game, we did exactly what you said, we were trying to grind our way through the game itself. Couldn’t make a shot,” Young told reporters. “And then how that pertains to this actual tournament is — I actually thought we played well tonight, and so hopefully we can carry some of that over.”

The mound of missed shots was just the latest in a string of woeful offensive showings from the Sixers in Las Vegas, particularly from three-point range. The team has now connected on just 22 of 91 from deep, which includes Furkan Korkmaz’s 8-for-14 scorcher on Friday.

2. Speaking of Korkmaz, the Turkish swingman couldn’t recapture that magic he displayed against the Boston Celtics.

He managed to score just a single point (0 of 9 shooting) in addition to four rebounds, two assists and two turnovers in 23 minutes. That comes on the heels of a four-point night against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

All NBA players have an abundance of talent that allowed them to reach that level. The difference between real contributors and guys just biding their time on a roster is consistency. Korkmaz is still searching for the ability to make an impact on a nightly basis.

3. Throughout the pre-draft process with the Sixers, first-round pick Zhaire Smith was frequently put through drills and situations in which he served as the primary playmaker. The team already knew about his immense athleticism and tough defense, but what else could he bring to the table?

Smith showed a bit of that against the Wizards. With his offense lagging (two points on 1 for 9 shooting), the Texas Tech product had to lean on setting up his teammates. And while he finished with only three assists, that had more to do with the group’s inability to finish.

Just look at these two beauties on the fast break.

If the 19-year-old plans on seeing the floor as a rookie, he’s going to have to bring more of that to the table.

4. While Smith is likely a lock to be on the team when training camp rolls around, Jonah Bolden’s future remains up in the air. The big man proclaimed he was coming overseas to join the Sixers for the upcoming season and Monday he showed more of the player the franchise would like to add to the mix.

Bolden finished with 10 points and nine boards. He made 3 of his 8 shots, including 1 of 2 from three-point range in the defeat.

The 22-year-old still needs to get a handle of NBA defense (five fouls) and take care of the ball (three turnovers), but more nights like this one will go toward his case of being in Philadelphia for the 2018-19 campaign.

5. Despite the blowout, the Sixers still somehow managed to have the game’s best highlights.

Chris McCullough absolutely destroyed a challenger at the rim on this fast-break dunk.

Meanwhile, Smith lobbed one up for a Cameron Oliver throwdown.

McCullough finished with a team-high 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes off the bench.

The No. 15 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Troy Brown Jr., scored a game-high 23 points for the Wizards on 22 shot attempts. He also added eight boards and two assists. 

Teammate Devin Robinson wasn't far behind with 22 points for the Wiz.

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Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook has become must-watch television

Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook has become must-watch television

Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook has become must-watch television.

In the national spotlight Saturday, the Sixers and Thunder put on one hell of a show at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations). Paul George’s four-point play with 5.1 seconds remaining sealed a 117-115 win for Oklahoma City.

What happened with 1:46 left in the fourth quarter was at the height of the day’s entertainment. 

Off a Sixers’ turnover, Westbrook took off in transition with Embiid waiting for him at the other end. Westbrook then lost the handle as he went up for the shot. As he was reaching to grab the ball, Embiid, who was attempting to block the shot, fell on top of Westbrook.

Westbrook was less than thrilled at the exchange.

I don’t think he just landed on me. He added a little extra to it. But it’s OK.

So everything is good between the two, right?

F--- no.

Westbrook doesn’t exactly have a warm and fuzzy relationship with the media, later telling a reporter, “Go home, bro,” when pressed further on his relationship with Embiid. Ben Simmons did a pretty good job on Westbrook, holding the perennial All-Star to 8 of 21 from the field.

Embiid, who finished with 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists, didn’t see anything wrong with the play and wasn’t really sure what Westbrook’s problem was. 

I don’t know why he was mad. I have no idea. But he’s always in his feelings, so I have no idea.

These two, of course, have a history dating back to last season.

It started on Dec. 15, 2017, during an epic triple-overtime game at the Wells Fargo Center. Embiid was able to get the better of big man Steven Adams. After Adams fouled out, Embiid waved to him as he was leaving the court — Embiid also waved after Westbrook fouled out Saturday.

After Oklahoma City got the win, Westbrook then waved to Embiid. Embiid went on to roast Westbrook postgame for shooting too much after the point guard went just 10 of 33 from the field.

In their next matchup a month later, Embiid posterized Westbrook and stared him down afterward.

The unfortunate thing for Embiid is that the Sixers just can’t seem to get the better of Westbrook. The team hasn’t beaten the Thunder in 11 years. That’s 19 straight games now.

Embiid was questionable again Saturday afternoon with a sore back. He was pretty clear as to why he wanted to play.

“Because the Sixers haven’t won against them in [11 years],” Embiid said. “That’s just ridiculous. I wanted to get the win. That’s one more reason that it pisses me off that we gave [the game] away and we had it.”

Embiid and the Sixers get another crack at Westbrook in Oklahoma City on Feb. 28. A good suggestion would be to get your popcorn ready.

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Thunder 117, Sixers 115: Sixers lose heartbreaker on national TV

Thunder 117, Sixers 115: Sixers lose heartbreaker on national TV

BOX SCORE

The Sixers put on a show on national television, but it was too little too late.

Jimmy Butler struggled offensively and the Sixers couldn't keep up with the size and athleticism of the Thunder in a 117-115 loss Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Paul George's four-point play with 5.1 seconds left sealed the win for Oklahoma City. Butler did hit a couple of big shots in the guts of the game but missed a three on the final possession.

The loss ends the Sixers' modest three-game winning streak and drops them to 19-5 at home and 30-17 overall.

Here are observations from the loss:

• The overall size and athleticism of the Thunder was a problem for the Sixers. Players like Jerami Grant and Nerlens Noel — remember them? — are really difficult to combat when you don’t have the athletes to match.

It seemed like Butler was bothered by it. He was settling for jump shots on his way to a 1 for 8 first half. Even as he got more aggressive going to the rim in the second, the shots just weren't falling. He hit a huge three to get the Sixers within one with about a minute left and coverted an and-one to reduce the Thunder's lead to one with around 30 seconds left. He went 5 of 18 overall for 18 points.

• It was clear early on that Thunder head coach Billy Donovan wanted to match up Ben Simmons with Russell Westbrook and Joel Embiid with Steven Adams. 

It was also pretty clear that Oklahoma City was targeting Embiid and his bulky back. Adams, who averaged 15.4 points coming in, had 12 in the first half. 

Embiid got off to a slow start and didn’t look right in the first quarter. As the game went on and his back loosened up, he began to look more like himself. In the second half, he looked flat out dominant. He finished with 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists (see story).

It was intriguing to watch the Simmons vs. Westbrook matchup. Simmons did a tremendous job on him defensively, holding the perennial All-Star to 21 points on 8 of 21. The Sixers took advantage of the size mismatch, posting Simmons. Against a very good team, this might've been Simmons' best game of the season. He had 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. The free throws continue to be an issue, as Simmons went 3 for 6 down the stretch and 4 of 8 overall.

• One of the guys that killed the Sixers was reserve guard Dennis Schroder. His elite quickness gave the Sixers’ guard trio of JJ Redick, T.J. McConnell and Landry Shamet fits. All three sagged off Schroder to combat that quickness, but that allowed Schroder to get his mid-range game going. Schroder had shot just 35 percent from the field over his last nine, but always seems to perform well against the Sixers. He recorded 21 points.

• Shamet may have his shortcomings defensively, but he gave the Sixers a huge offensive boost in the first half, nailing three straight threes. Give the kid credit, it wasn’t the easiest atmosphere to perform in, but he showed no hesitation in knocking those shots down. The first half score might have looked a lot different if not for those. 

With that said, this team feels like it's still — at least — one solid veteran bench player away from hanging with the NBA's elite.

• Markelle Fultz was back in the building and a team source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia that he'll be continuing his medical treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome with the team's medical staff.

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