76ers

Before facing Sixers, JJ Redick gives insight on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

Before facing Sixers, JJ Redick gives insight on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

JJ Redick watched Joel Embiid’s 38-point, 13-rebound performance Thursday night in the Sixers’ win over the Celtics at TD Garden. He just didn’t have the sound on, and claims he only had a vague awareness of the criticism Embiid had received from Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal the night before.

“Saw a headline on ESPN and heard a little bit of dialogue last night,” Redick said Friday at Wells Fargo Center after a shootaround with his new team, the New Orleans Pelicans. “I had the game on mute because [Chris] Webber was doing it. I didn’t hear a lot of that.”

However, Redick said he wasn’t surprised by Embiid’s response. The 35-year-old sharpshooter departed the Sixers this summer in free agency after two seasons with the team to sign a two-year, $26.5 million deal with the Pelicans. Before leaving for New Orleans, he said he spoke with Embiid following the pain of the Sixers’ last-second Game 7 loss to the Raptors in the second round of the playoffs.

I think Joel has matured a lot. As a young player, you have to go through some struggles. You saw the emotion last year with the loss to Toronto. Him and I spoke at length this summer prior to me going to the Pelicans. But in sort of late May, early June, we had a discussion. And I know that it hurts, I know that it matters to him, I know that he cares. I know that he wants to be great. 

The Sixers’ offense has changed significantly with the subtractions of Redick and Jimmy Butler, and the additions of Josh Richardson and Al Horford. They’ve gone from having the most handoff possessions in the NBA last year to the seventh-most this year. “Bully ball” is now the team’s core identity — after having the second-most post-ups in the league in 2018-19, the Sixers already have 128 more than the Lakers, who are No. 2 in post-up possessions. 

Redick was his usual self as he prepared to face his old team and answered questions about them — insightful and, on occasion, slightly snarky. 

“Yeah, I think your offensive strategy should be based on your personnel and maximizing the talents of your best players. So, if you have Joel Embiid on your team, you should post the ball — for sure,” he said with a bit of a smirk.

He acknowledged that tonight’s game “means a little more to him,” and said he’s been following the Sixers’ 19-7 start. 

“I’m enjoying seeing what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s weird to say this, but I’m enjoying their success — I really am. I will always pull for any Brett Brown-coached team and obviously love Joel and Ben and Tobias and all those other guys that I was with for the last few years.”

One thing that Redick has especially enjoyed is watching Ben Simmons make the first two regular-season threes of his NBA career. Redick is 18th in NBA history with 1,782 made threes and pushed for Simmons to expand his game. 

“I think he’s become better defensively — he’s a problem on that end of the floor,” Redick said. “When he’s really engaged, he’s as good as there is defensively. He’s shooting the ball a little more comfortably now. I’ve been advocating for him to shoot the ball for a couple years, but it’s good to see him take those shots in a game and knock them down.” 

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Sixers sweat out a win over Knicks and end skid on road

Sixers sweat out a win over Knicks and end skid on road

BOX SCORE 

The Sixers’ six-game road losing streak is over thanks to a 90-87 win Saturday night at Madison Square Garden over the New York Knicks. It was certainly not an easy victory.

Tobias Harris’ three-pointer with 27.7 seconds left gave the Sixers the lead.

Marcus Morris’ heave from near half court at the buzzer to tie the game went off the back rim. 

The win moves the Sixers to 28-16 this season and 8-14 on the road. 

Here are observations from the game: 

The same story for Simmons 

Ben Simmons, as he’s made a habit of doing lately, started in attack mode. 

He shifted gears very well. He drew two free throws off a Furkan Korkmaz ball screen in the first quarter by picking the right occasion to drive when the Knicks hedged. In the second, he took advantage of the Knicks’ confusion to go right through the heart of their defense. 

It probably doesn’t need to be said because he has shown it so often, but Simmons always seems on the verge of a highlight in transition. 

Yet again, Simmons was much less effective on offense after halftime and especially so in the fourth quarter, when he was scoreless. He scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half and has now scored 20-plus points in four straight games. 

It’s understandable that Simmons isn’t the focal point of the Sixers’ offense in the second half, but the team needs him to be a little more of a threat to score late in games. He was too deferential in the fourth, content to run the called play and then wait for something to happen. 

Make no mistake, though: Simmons was the Sixers’ best player Saturday. He had eight assists, no turnovers and two steals. 

Furkan’s on fire 

Friday night was all about Korkmaz. He scored a career-high 24 points, made six threes and even took a charge in the fourth quarter on the Bulls’ Zach LaVine. His confidence didn’t wear off during the commute to New York.

Korkmaz had eight points in his first stint, dropping in a floater before hitting one three from the right wing and another from the left. 

He made his next shot, too, absorbing contact from Allonzo Trier and converting a four-point play early in the third quarter, and he followed that up by running a sharp two-man game with Al Horford and driving smoothly to the rim. 

Korkmaz finished with 17 points on 6 of 12 shooting. 

They’ll take it … 

This was far from the Sixers’ finest performance.

They only managed 38 second-half points, allowing the 11-32 Knicks to stay competitive. Josh Richardson was too careless with the ball, turning it over seven times. Harris shot 5 for 13. New York had 12 offensive rebounds, while the Sixers only had five. 

All that said, earning a road victory for the first time since Dec. 23 was important. Heading into Monday’s game in Brooklyn (3 p.m./NBCSP), what matters the most for the Sixers is just that they found a way to win away from Wells Fargo Center. 

Scary moment with Horford

Horford went down after being fouled by Reggie Bullock with 6:31 left in the third quarter, and he appeared to be holding his left hand as he went to the bench.

Though Horford didn’t play well in New York (four points on 2 of 9 shooting), a serious injury to the 33-year-old obviously would have been big. 

The Sixers are a massive team, but losing Horford would have tested their depth and perhaps forced Simmons to play minutes at center.  

Another start for Thybulle 

Matisse Thybulle, who started for the third straight game, still regularly makes plays that, as they unfold, are hard to believe.

The speed with which he closed out on Reggie Bullock and swatted his shot early in the third quarter was impressive.

Thybulle has a rookie-high 51 steals and 32 blocks in 36 games. 

Guaranteed entertainment 

Two-way player Norvel Pelle was back with the Sixers on Saturday night.

The 26-year-old rookie sure looks like he has NBA skills in his shot blocking and screening and rolling. It will be interesting to see how his situation shakes out. 

If nothing else, he is highly entertaining to watch. 

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Sixers at Knicks: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Knicks: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The 27-16 Sixers begin a three-game road trip Saturday night against the 11-31 New York Knicks.

Here are the essentials:

When: 7:30 ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
Where: Madison Square Garden 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Campaigning for Simmons 

Despite posting 20 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in addition to playing smothering second-half defense, Ben Simmons might have been a bit overshadowed Friday night by Furkan Korkmaz’s career-high 24 points.

Brett Brown didn’t want that to happen.

How can we not recognize Ben Simmons' defense? After the first timeout in the third period, are you serious? He was just the adult in the room defensively. He's a physical presence by a lot when you watch him play defense. I thought he changed the game. How can he not be a First Team, All-League defensive player? I don't know.

A great chance to win on the road

The Sixers are 20-2 at Wells Fargo Center and 7-14 on the road. Simmons doesn’t know why there’s such a disparity. 

“If I knew the answer I’d probably fix it on the road,” he said Friday.

A game against the Knicks presents the Sixers with a strong opportunity to win away from home for the first time since Dec. 23. The Knicks are 6-14 at Madison Square Garden.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to playing defense, locking in from the first to the fourth quarter, and keeping that mentality and not letting up,” Simmons said. “Just staying locked in to that team game and playing defense.”

The Sixers beat the Knicks in New York on Nov. 29 without Al Horford, Josh Richardson and Kyle O’Quinn, coming back from a 16-point second-quarter deficit. All three of those players should be available tonight, while Joel Embiid is set to miss his sixth straight game after having surgery last Friday for a torn ligament in the ring finger on his left hand. Knicks rookie RJ Barrett is out with a sprained right ankle. 

Not so fast … 

We all expected the Sixers to play at a quicker pace in the absence of Embiid. So far, though, that hasn’t been the case.

The team’s 95.8 pace since the Boston game last Thursday is 29th in the NBA. 

They have, however, taken better care of the ball since Embiid’s injury, turning it over only 11 times per game, tied for best in the league. 

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