76ers

Late-game stumble sends Sixers to crushing overtime loss to Blake Griffin, Pistons

Late-game stumble sends Sixers to crushing overtime loss to Blake Griffin, Pistons

BOX SCORE

Admit it: the Sixers had you fooled.

When JJ Redick absorbed a foul and still made that rainbow three-pointer to take a lead over the Detroit Pistons with 5.6 seconds remaining in overtime, you thought things would be different. For a moment, you forgot just how much the Sixers struggle to finish off close games.

And then it all came crashing down as Blake Griffin rumbled through the lane and finished through Robert Covington’s contact for the and-one. Griffin tacked on the free throw of his career-high 50-point night to hand the Sixers a thrilling, yet gut-wrenching, 133-132 loss (see observations).

“It was a great game. You think it was a fantastic game for fans to watch,” Brett Brown told reporters. “You’re going to learn a lot more when you can actually sit down and see the tape.”

What the Sixers will learn from looking at the game film is that old habits die hard as their late-game struggles creeped up yet again.

The Sixers were 4-7 in regular-season games decided by three points or less a season ago. That trend continued in the postseason when they dropped two games within that margin during their series loss to the Boston Celtics.

The Sixers almost met a similar fate their last time out against the Orlando Magic before they ultimately survived at home. But on this night, against a better opponent, the team wasn’t able to outrun one of its major flaws.

The final defensive sequence to cap Tuesday night’s breakdown consisted of several mistakes. Brown made the questionable decision of having Amir Johnson in the game at that moment. Then somehow both Johnson and Joel Embiid bit on a fake dribble handoff move from Griffin. The trifecta was complete when Covington challenged Griffin at the rim only to foul the high-flying forward.

All of this even though the Sixers knew exactly what was coming.

“The last play, when Blake scored, that’s what we knew they were going to run,” former Griffin teammate Redick said. “We just did a poor job defensively executing that. That was what we drew up in the huddle. We said this is what they’re gonna run. We’ve got to be better there.”

The Sixers have been saying for a while they need to get better in the final moments of tight games. Maybe one day their actions will follow suit.

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

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

After falling apart in the fourth quarter Wednesday night for the second time in their past four games, the 7-4 Sixers are back in action Friday.

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game against the 4-7 Oklahoma City Thunder:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

‘It’s a little bit of everything’

After starting 5-0, the Sixers have lost four of their last six games. The two wins, at home against Charlotte and Cleveland, weren’t easy, either.

What’s gone wrong, outside of the obvious issues with shooting and turnovers, and the minimal time the regular starters have played together?

“It's a little bit of everything,” Ben Simmons told reporters Wednesday night. “There's some things that we definitely need to touch up that I'm sure we'll go back to the film and watch. But it's a long season.”

This is a winnable game for the Sixers, but it’s another one they could lose if they play a couple of rungs below their top level. Oklahoma City is 4-3 at home and has a fascinating backcourt of 34-year-old Chris Paul and 21-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of the players shipped to the Thunder in the Paul George trade. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 20.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his second NBA season. 

Harris’ nasty slump 

Tobias Harris is in a terrible slump, having missed his last 23 three-point attempts. He’s now shooting 20.4 percent from three-point range this season, second-worst among all players with at least 40 long range attempts. 

Brett Brown wants Harris to shoot himself out of it (see story).

The situation is starting to resemble that of a No. 3 hitter who hasn’t picked up a hit in a week and desperately wants to just find a hole in the defense and feel what it’s like to stand on base again after making solid contact. Harris will have another chance to break out of it in Oklahoma City.

Some positive recent history 

The Sixers won the last time they were in Oklahoma City, snapping a 19-game losing streak against the Thunder on Feb. 28.

Joel Embiid was out that night, but he’s expected to return tonight after sitting Wednesday (injury management/left knee soreness). Jonah Bolden, who actually started vs. the Thunder back in February and had 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting in the Sixers’ win, is on assignment with the Delaware Blue Coats.

Harris scored 32 points in that February game, his high as a Sixer. 



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How Ben Simmons blocks out distractions to get to better mental state

How Ben Simmons blocks out distractions to get to better mental state

It seems like nowadays everyone is glued to their phone screens. It can consume your time and social media can be a major distraction.

That’s what Ben Simmons came to realize over the last year. 

“I’ll be on my phone when I need to, but if I’m with my family or friends, I’m typically not on it all the time,” Simmons said. “It’s a distraction. Phones are great but they’re also sometimes on the bad side depending on what you’re look at, whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, whatever people are saying. You got to be present, be in the moment.”

There is plenty of negativity on social media — especially for a young, All-Star player like Simmons.

What he’s found is that if he doesn’t focus on what other people are saying about him, it puts him in a better mental state ahead of games.

“Staying off your phone before games, locking in, not letting others determine how you feel mentally,” Simmons said. “Lesser distractions for me, the better I play, which I love. I love going into a game not having any worries besides my teammates or winning a game.”

In an open interview, which you can watch above, Simmons discussed how his focus has changed and how he’s not letting outside voices affect his preparation or play on the court.

NBC Sports Regional Networks has launched a multi-platform campaign on mental health and men's health, HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, for the month of November. You can find more information about the initiative here.

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