76ers

Latest blown lead leaves Sixers stewing in silence

Latest blown lead leaves Sixers stewing in silence

BOX SCORE

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Sixers’ locker room was silent. Players sat at their stalls without saying a word.

They had lost 15 games before Thursday night, but this one was another blown lead — a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, at that — that left them quiet inside the Moda Center following a 114-110 defeat (see observations).

“We’re frustrated not just in losing, but how we’re losing,” JJ Redick said. “But we’ll turn it around. We’ll turn it around.”

It’s a familiar story for the Sixers this season. They were 11 minutes away from sweeping the season series against the Damian Lillard-less Trail Blazers as the two-time All-Star missed the game with a hamstring injury. The home team then went on a 19-0 run. It was a span that included five turnovers by the Sixers, who average the most in the league and committed a total of eight in the fourth quarter. 

The Trail Blazers went up by as many as 10, scoring 42 (Shabazz Napier accounted for 15) in the deciding quarter. Instead of starting off the three-city road trip with a win, the Sixers are left searching for solutions for their next two games. 

“Stop turning the ball over,” Joel Embiid said. “Play better defense without fouling. We fouled too much. And maybe get some calls going our way too, I guess.”

The free throw disparity made just as much of an impact as the 20 points allowed off 14 turnovers. The Trail Blazers attempted 47 free throws compared to 14 by the Sixers. Only Ben Simmons went to the line in the fourth (2 for 2) for the Sixers; the Trail Blazers shot 19 for 24 in the quarter.  

“Basketball gods looking out for us,” said C.J. McCollum, who made all 14 attempts. “I think that was big. We got into the bonus early.”

Embiid thought fouls were big as well. He particularly was surprised center Jusuf Nurkic did not pick up his sixth in the fourth. Nurkic scored 10 of his 21 points in the final quarter, then took some shots at Embiid after the game (see story)

“We didn’t get any calls,” Embiid said, later adding, “Usually I don’t complain about anything, even if it doesn’t go my way. But everybody did a good job. The referees, they did a great job. They can’t see everything, so I understand everything, but we’ve just got to do a better job of holding a better lead and finishing the game.”

The Sixers’ next two games are on back to back nights in Denver and Phoenix, which means one will be without Embiid, who has yet to be cleared for consecutive games. Robert Covington’s status is to be determined after he left Thursday’s contest early with a finger injury. 

The Sixers are regrouping Friday for practice in Portland before flying out for their next stop. The focus, as it has been, will be on bouncing back and correcting these costly errors that have plagued them all season. 

“We’ve put ourselves in a position to win a lot of basketball games and we’ve had some games where we’ve held leads and we’ve had several games now where we’ve lost fourth-quarter leads,” Redick said. “And that’s frustrating.” 

Should Ben Simmons shoot right-handed? He doesn't seem to think so

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Should Ben Simmons shoot right-handed? He doesn't seem to think so

For those sharing the conspiracy theory that Ben Simmons should be shooting with his right hand, prepare to be disappointed.

The Rookie of the Year appeared to shoot down the notion on Twitter, commenting on a story suggesting the Sixers’ point guard is shooting with the wrong hand.

This story stemmed from a piece by The New York Times basketball writer Marc Stein, but questions of the 22-year-old’s handedness were first posted by Kevin O’Connor — formerly of SB Nation, now with The Ringer. O’Connor has been charting Simmons’ shots since LSU. In a feature for SB Nation back in 2016, O’Connor noted that Simmons used his right hand on 81.5 percent of his shots. That’s pretty much reverse for any lefty currently in the NBA.

Since O’Connor first presented this theory, it’s picked up some steam.

Below is a video of Simmons taking free throws right-handed during warm-ups last season.

You have to admit, it looks pretty smooth. It’s a tough angle, but his elbow looks more tucked in than when he shoots with his left. His wrist action and follow through look smoother as well. 

Let’s also not forget when Simmons was given the chance to throw the first pitch at a Phillies game earlier this season.

That’s a pretty nice right-handed strike.

His free throw shooting was an issue last season. As dominant as Simmons was at times, he shot just 56 percent from the line. In a game against the Wizards on Nov. 11, the Sixers held a big lead. Sensing the game was slipping away, Washington head coach Scott Brooks went to the hack-a-Ben strategy. Simmons took 29 free throws, hitting just 15. It allowed the Wizards to make the game a little too close for comfort.

With all that said, there have been instances where Simmons has showed promise with his left-handed shot. In the playoffs, Simmons shot 70 percent from the line.

He’s also flashed the ability to shoot in practice …

… and in games …

Would Simmons be better if he shot with his right hand? If Simmons’ reaction to that notion is any indication, we may never know.

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Sixers remain quiet as contenders make their case for Eastern Conference supremacy

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Sixers remain quiet as contenders make their case for Eastern Conference supremacy

These are truly the dog days of summer when it comes to the NBA.

Players are likely either putting in work with daily workouts or enjoying some vacation time before things get cranked back up in the fall.

However, those aren’t the only activities that are presented with that extra free time. There is also more opportunity for guys to do some boasting about what is to come. After all, they’re probably feeling good about the progress made during the offseason and the recent 2018-19 schedule release has put a jolt in their system.

Unless you’re a Sixer. They’ve remained relatively silent as members of one team after another have stated their case for the Eastern Conference crown now that LeBron James took his talents to Hollywood.

Boston swingman Jaylen Brown openly laid claim to the East during an appearance last week on Portland guard C.J. McCollum’s Pull Up podcast.

“Oh, we're getting to the Finals. No question about it,” Brown said.

And Brown made it clear that he didn’t feel that way about his Celtics just because James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, he said the C’s were going win next season regardless of whether James stayed in the Eastern Conference or not.

“I hate how everybody is like, ‘Oh, LeBron's gone in the East,’” Brown said. “I know he did have a strong hold on the East for the last seven years, but he barely got us out of there this year. And our mindset was like, ‘Man, he’s not beating us again.’”

That’s pretty bold, but the Celtics have a right to feel good about themselves. They were on the cusp of reaching the NBA Finals a year ago and are getting All-Star reinforcements back in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

New Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez was a bit more diplomatic with his expectations for next season. Still, he presented the case for his squad to become the new big dogs in the East.

“We definitely think the East is wide open,” Lopez said to Hoopshype a week ago. “It’s going to be such a fun, exciting time in the East and it’s going to be super competitive. There are a lot of teams that can do [big] things, from Toronto to Boston to Philly — you just go down the list and it’s clear that the East is as exciting as it’s been in a long time. I think we’re very confident that we can, no question, win the East.”

Even Washington Wizards guard John Wall explained why his group could be the one to rise to the top of the conference.

“I feel like we’re all equal,” Wall told Yahoo! Sports. “None of them won a championship. This is no knock on no other team. Don’t get me wrong. Boston is a hell of a team. Philly has great young talent with those guys (Joel) Embiid, (Ben) Simmons. And Toronto, losing DeMar (DeRozan), they still get Kawhi (Leonard). Y’all might have been to the Eastern Conference finals, where we haven’t been to, but none of y’all were going to the Finals. It was one guy going to the Finals. Ain’t nobody separated from nothing. I know one guy that separated himself from the Eastern Conference every year and that was LeBron James and the Cavs. Other than that … if you lose in the second round or the conference finals, you still didn’t get to your ultimate goal.”

Throughout all of the chest-puffing discussions, the Sixers haven’t made a peep. Not even the 7-foot-2 All-Star known for trash-talking anyone in sight. Embiid barely gave a response to No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton when the rookie recently decided to draw himself dunking on the Sixers’ center.

It’s a stark departure from Embiid’s normal back-and-forth nature, but it’s safe to assume that the big man and his team will wait until they step on the court to let their game do the talking.

With a healthy offseason under his belt for the first time as a professional, you can bet that Embiid — and in turn the Sixers — will have plenty to say at that time.

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