76ers

Hawks 129, Sixers 127: Sixers fall victim to dreaded letdown game vs. plucky Hawks

Hawks 129, Sixers 127: Sixers fall victim to dreaded letdown game vs. plucky Hawks

BOX SCORE

What a letdown.

Coming off a huge win over the Celtics, the Sixers came out flat in a 129-127 loss to the feisty young Hawks at State Farm Arena Saturday night.

Rookie Trae Young buried a floater with .01 seconds left to halt the Sixers' winning streak at six.

The loss drops the Sixers to 47-26 on the season.

Here are observations from the game:

• The first half was defense optional. Atlanta shot 53 percent from the floor, including 9 of 24 (37 percent) from three. The Hawks scored 74 points, the most the Sixers have surrendered to an opponent in a half this season. Still, the Sixers trailed by only six at the break.

This was just an obvious letdown early, but give the Sixers credit for turning it up. They went on a 15-3 run to close the third quarter and tie the game at 100.

But defensive issues continued to plague the Sixers in the fourth as they allowed 29 points.

• Don’t be fooled by their record, this Hawks team is a plucky bunch.

Young has been excellent since the All-Star break, averaging 24.9 points and 8.7 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from three. Second-year forward John Collins is having a strong sophomore campaign, averaging 19.5 and 9.7 rebounds a contest.

Young did his thing in this one, recording 32 points on 11 of 20 and 11 assists. The Young-Collins pick-and-roll hurt the Sixers big time. In fact, pick-and-roll defense continues to be an issue for the Sixers in general.

• Joel Embiid has been a monster since returning to the lineup against the Pacers on March 10. In those five games, he’s averaging almost 30 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks a contest. 

After hitting 20 of 21 against the Celtics Wednesday, Embiid lived at the line yet again Saturday, going 11 of 14.

He also showed off more of his guard-like skills.

He did get a little too loose with his handle on a couple plays down the stretch that led to two poorly-timed turnovers. He finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds.

• Since putting up 32 points in Oklahoma City, Tobias Harris has been mired in a mini-slump. In his last 10 games, he’s shooting just 32 percent from three.

With that in mind, Harris made a concerted effort to get to the basket and get easier looks. He made three nice floaters in the paint in the first quarter. After starting the game 4 of 4, Harris went just 1 of his next 12. He had just 13 points.

Harris struggled defensively as well, especially when switched on to rookie Young. Mike Scott helped pick up the slack a little against his former team, going 3 of 6 from three and scoring nine points.

• It was interesting to see Jimmy Butler bring the ball up the floor on the Sixers’ first possession, but certainly not surprising. This could be a formula that works. If Ben Simmons can push the ball in transition, you run. If not, you give the ball to Butler and let him work in the half court.

It was evident early on that Kevin Huerter wasn’t physically strong enough to stick with Butler as the rookie picked up two early fouls. Butler was more assertive than usual early on with 13 first-half points.

Butler was good down the stretch, but didn't handle a double team well on the Sixers' possession before Young's game-winner. He had 25 points.

• Since the Hawks don’t have a viable rim protector or player that matches up well, this looked like a matchup Simmons could do well in. He looked to get to the basket early and often, but missed a few easy looks early on, but was better after halftime. He went 9 of 16 for 21 points.

There is a wrinkle to the Sixers’ offense with the Simmons-Embiid pairing. They run a “snug” pick-and-roll which is basically just a pick-and-roll run through the post. It’s such a difficult thing to stop with their size and skills.

Simmons continues to do an excellent job taking care of the basketball. He had nine assists to just two turnovers.

• Boban Marjanovic hit his first career three and it was a beaut from the corner.

Before tonight, Marjanovic was 0 for 3 for his career. Brett Brown told us that this could be something we saw. Marjanovic has nice touch for such a massive human.

With that said, it was another tough defensive game for Marjanovic. He was a big part of the Sixers’ porous defense, especially in the pick-and-roll.

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

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

Updated: 1:40 p.m. 

We’ve got just one more game before the real thing as the Sixers host the Washington Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center Friday.

It’s the Sixers’ fifth and final preseason game before they welcome the Boston Celtics next Wednesday in the season opener.

The good news for fans watching tonight’s game: This is NOT like the NFL preseason. If anything, this is more like a dress rehearsal.

Here’s everything you need to know.

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are a few things to watch.

Injury update

Ben Simmons (back tightness) is out for Friday night's game. The team has described his absence as precautionary. At practice Wednesday, Simmons said he was “confident” that he’ll be 100 percent by the opener.

Raul Neto (left hamstring tightness) is questionable and James Ennis is available after missing Tuesday night's game with right calf tightness.

Joel Embiid is not on the injury report and is expected to play. Brett Brown had said he expected to play the rotation he plans to use against the Celtics, though he'll obviously have to change things with the absence of Simmons. That rotation will include impressive rookie Matisse Thybulle, who has more than earned a prominent role off the Sixers’ bench.

Who backs up Simmons?

The top eight players in the rotation are set. It’ll be the five starters plus Thybulle, Ennis and Mike Scott — you’ll also see plenty of Kyle O’Quinn sprinkled in there. But the backup point guard role remains somewhat of a mystery.

GM Elton Brand brought in veterans Trey Burke and Neto to compete for minutes. Brown has been quick to point out that second-year guard Shake Milton is still in that mix. The best candidate, however, may be Josh Richardson. Brown started Richardson there against Detroit and seems to like Richardson’s capabilities in that spot. It also allows him to keep a crazy big lineup on the floor at all times.

If there is any type of roster drama in tonight’s game, this will be it.

Bradley Beal’s extension

Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal inked a two-year, $72 million max extension Thursday. With two years still left on his current deal, it will begin with the 2021-22 season and include a player option for 2022-23, per ESPN.

It’s interesting because Beal is an excellent player just entering the prime of his career at 26 and his supporting cast is not very good. When healthy, there aren’t many backcourt duos better than Beal and John Wall. The issue is Wall, whose game is predicated on his lightning speed, is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and will likely not play this season. In 2020-21, he’ll be 30 and making over $40 million.

The Wizards will lose the contract of Ian Mahinmi and perhaps have a little flexibility next offseason.

Good for Beal for showing loyalty to the team that drafted him, but it seems like he may be stuck in NBA purgatory in Washington. Then again, that contract likely wouldn’t be difficult to move, and they’d get a nice return for Beal if things do go south.

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Zhaire Smith promoting PUMA basketball with appearance in West Philly

Zhaire Smith promoting PUMA basketball with appearance in West Philly

In recent memory, PUMA has thrived as a lifestyle shoe.

But with Jay-Z as creative honcho of the team’s reinvigorated basketball division, things have changed. 

Sixers guard Zhaire Smith is one the many new faces of their basketball arm which includes DeMarcus Cousins, Terry Rozier and 2018 No.1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton, among others. In fact, Smith and Marvin Bagley III are the first two basketball players signed to PUMA since the best dunker in history signed with the brand in 1998. 

PUMA is ramping up their visibility in the sneaker community ahead of the NBA’s opening night later this month — many brands are doing the same — with athletes pumping their shoes through various appearances and interactions with fans.

You can catch Smith in West Philly this Saturday as he promotes the PUMA Clyde Hardwood shoe at the Footlocker & Puma Lab at 38 S. 52nd Street, near the corner of 52nd & Chestnut. You can challenge Smith to a game of NBA 2K and you can get a PUMA basketball with the purchase of one of the Clyde Hardwood kicks. 

Smith was one of the first to rock the Clyde Court Disrupt when they debuted last season after signing a mult-year deal with PUMA. Smith is expected to be at the 52nd street Foot Locker between 2-4 p.m. and he might be in an even better mood than normal since the Sixers picked up his option.

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