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Give and Go: What can Brett Brown improve on for new season?

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Give and Go: What can Brett Brown improve on for new season?

Each day leading up to Sept. 21, the official start of Sixers training camp, we'll dissect the biggest storylines facing the team ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Today, Matt Haughton and Noah Levick tackle what head coach Brett Brown can improve upon for the new season.

Haughton
Brett Brown did a lot of things right in his first season with a full complement of legit NBA players. The coached pushed the right buttons last season to help the Sixers claim the No. 3 seed in the East and their first playoff series win in six years.

It’s just that it took a bit of time for Brown to find the correct buttons to put the team in gear.

If you recall, the Sixers started out 2017-18 with a starting lineup that included Jerryd Bayless with Dario Saric coming off the bench. When JJ Redick cracked a bone in his left leg, it was Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot only for him to him to disappear from the rotation later down the line. And of course there was the constant question every game of whether Richaun Holmes would see the floor or not.

It wasn’t until Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova joined the Sixers that Brown was finally able to slot every role just the way he wanted. It’s no coincidence those additions sparked the Sixers 19-3 finish to the regular season.

The better Brown is at the outset of identifying how the players mesh together and determining their roles will be key to the team getting into a rhythm much earlier.

Levick
Brown was excellent last season at accentuating his players’ strengths. He drew up creative plays to get Joel Embiid the ball in the post, made the most of JJ Redick’s ability as a screener, trusted a 6-foot-10 rookie in Ben Simmons to handle point guard duties and encouraged him to push the pace.

If the Sixers are going to take another step forward, Brown needs to be more effective at covering up his players’ weaknesses.

In the Sixers’ postseason loss to the Celtics, Brad Stevens exposed Simmons’ practically non-existent jumper, having his defense sag off the rookie. Brown countered by playing Simmons more off the ball and in the post, but Simmons still had a subpar series by his standards, finishing minus-63, the worst of any player in the series.

The Sixers’ season-long issue with blowing big leads also resurfaced against Boston in a devastating Game 2 loss in which they squandered a 22-point edge. The next day, Brown admitted having second thoughts about not calling a timeout to stop the Celtics’ second-quarter run.

Those sort of heat of the moment, in-game decisions are going to be difficult for any head coach in the NBA playoffs for the first time. But for Brown and the Sixers, who led the league with 16.5 turnovers per game, it’s a continuous struggle to find the middle ground between pushing the tempo regardless of the situation and sitting on a lead, between playing fast and free and taking care of the ball.

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Watch NBC Sports BetCast for live betting analysis during Sixers vs. Pelicans

Watch NBC Sports BetCast for live betting analysis during Sixers vs. Pelicans

Marc Farzetta, Tyrone Johnson and betting expert Brad Feinberg will host NBC Sports BetCast Friday night on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ during the Sixers' game vs. the Pelicans. 

It will be the third of 10 BetCast broadcasts this season on NBCSP+, with Marc Zumoff, Alaa Abdelnaby and Serena Winters calling the game simultaneously on NBCSP.

The BetCast broadcast will focus on real-time sports betting data and provide live analysis on the odds.

Will the total score be over or under 223 points? How many points will JJ Redick score in his return to Philadelphia? After making two three-pointers Thursday night in Boston, how many will Joel Embiid hit tonight?

Farzetta, Feinberg and Johnson will break it all down as the game unfolds Friday night.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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Sixers vs. Pelicans: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Pelicans: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

After the Sixers' win over the Celtics on Thursday night at TD Garden, they're one of two remaining undefeated teams in the NBA, along with the Heat. Miami hosts the 22-3 Lakers on Friday night.

The 19-7 Sixers can move to 14-0 at Wells Fargo Center tonight with a win over the 6-19 Pelicans.

Here are tonight’s essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia (NBC Sports BetCast on NBCSP+)
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

No Horford again 

Al Horford will miss his second consecutive game with left knee soreness and left hamstring tightness.

The regular starting lineup was briefly intact for Tuesday's win over the Nuggets in Richardson's first game back after a six-game absence because of a hamstring injury, but that didn't last long.

Mike Scott took Horford’s place Thursday and played well in his second start of the season, scoring 15 points and making 5 of 7 three-pointers.

“I just do my job,” Scott told reporters. “Catch and shoot, move the ball, play hard on defense. Same role when I come off the bench, so it's pretty easy.”

Joel Embiid, after a 38-point, 13-rebound night against the Celtics, is not listed on the NBA’s official injury report, so it looks like he’ll play in the second game of this back-to-back.

Redick is back in the building 

JJ Redick is set to play his first game against the Sixers since signing a two-year, $26.5 million with the Pelicans this summer.

Though the Sixers’ offense has missed Redick’s outside shooting, savvy screening and two-man game with Embiid, the team's three-point numbers have not taken an extreme dip. 

The Sixers are shooting 37.1 percent from three-point range, sixth in the NBA.

Redick had interesting insights on the Sixers’ post-heavy offense, Joel Embiid’s maturity and more after the Pelicans’ shootaround (see story).

The Zion-less Pelicans are struggling 

No. 1 pick Zion Williamson is with the Pelicans, but he’s sidelined as he recovers from surgery on his right knee.

Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said Friday that Williamson is on schedule and the team doesn’t want to rush his return.

New Orleans comes into Philadelphia on a 10-game losing streak and has the third-worst defensive rating in the NBA. Former Sixers Redick, Jrue Holiday and Jahlil Okafor feature for the Pelicans, while Brandon Ingram is having a career year.

The 22-year-old Ingram, who was traded from the Lakers to New Orleans this summer along with Villanova product Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball, is averaging 24.9 points per game and shooting 40.8 percent from three-point range. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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