76ers

Luckily for Sixers, style points don't affect playoff seeding after win over lowly Cavs

Luckily for Sixers, style points don't affect playoff seeding after win over lowly Cavs

This was a game you looked at on the schedule and chalked up as a Sixers’ win.

The lowly Cavaliers — whose front office is more interested in possibly getting Zion Williamson than winning basketball games — were in town. They were missing their best player in Kevin Love and were coming off a big win Monday night against Toronto.

The Sixers even recalled Zhaire Smith from Delaware before the game. The rookie would’ve served as a human victory cigar had he gotten into the game for his NBA debut.

Instead, the Sixers turned the ball over 21 times and barely escaped Tuesday with a 106-99 win at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

After Sunday’s huge win over the Pacers, Brett Brown acknowledged that his players are aware that “it’s getting to be go time.”

It certainly it didn’t look like “go time” Tuesday night.

“I think it felt like that, too,” Brown said when asked if he felt his team took the Cavs for granted. “I didn’t feel it in the first period. We held them to 12 points and we started well, and then they jumped into it. Cleveland jumped into it with 35 points and I thought that Cleveland’s middle two periods, our defense was a C-minus. I thought our sandwich, our first and our fourth, was OK. But in general, I thought … we could have been more urgent for longer and we weren’t.”

The biggest culprit Brown and his players pointed to was the turnovers — and rightfully so. The Sixers held Cleveland below 40 percent from the field while shooting nearly 50 percent themselves. They outrebounded the Cavs, 60-37. 

But the Sixers lost the turnover battle, 21-7. A few of those occurred during dribble handoffs between Joel Embiid and JJ Redick, a staple of the team’s offense.

While Redick attributed some of it to Embiid not having played for a few weeks, he conceded that the Sixers know they weren’t at their best.

“We’ve lost a couple of games this year like this game,” Redick said. “In that sense, it wasn’t frustrating because we got a win, but the mood in the locker room was definitely one where we feel like we could play better. The second and third period defensively wasn’t great and the other two quarters were phenomenal so the level of consistency there wasn’t great.”

Embiid also shrugged off the issues with him and Redick in the two-man game, but was pretty forthright in his assessment of his performance tonight.

“I was trash,” Embiid said.

While you have to appreciate the candidness, it’s not entirely true. Embiid’s presence on defense was felt by the Cavs, especially in the last minute of the game. With Cleveland trailing by three with under a minute to go, big man Ante Zizic had a chance to make it a one-point game. Instead, Embiid met him at the rim and helped seal the win.

It was going to be tough to replicate that 33-point performance against Indiana. On Tuesday, you saw that Embiid is still shaking off rust on the offensive end of the floor.

But in each of the last two games, you see the huge difference the All-Star center makes on the defensive end.

“I felt like tonight, I really had to focus defensively, and that’s my job every game,” Embiid said. “They just kept getting a lot of easy baskets and I had to do my job. 

“I’m glad we got the win.”

There are no style points for playoff seeding. There will be no asterisk next to win No. 43.

Just clean it up and look for No. 44 Friday.

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Mike Scott's heel injury could be a big problem for Sixers vs. Raptors

Mike Scott's heel injury could be a big problem for Sixers vs. Raptors

CAMDEN, N.J. — Considering the depth of the Toronto Raptors, the Sixers possibly missing a key part of their bench is not ideal.

Mike Scott, who is essentially the team’s sixth man, is listed as day to day with a heel contusion and plantar fasciitis. Scott left Game 5 Tuesday against the Nets late in the second quarter and did not return. We’ll know more about his status for Game 1 when the official injury report comes out at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

When asked if he was game planning for Scott to play, Brett Brown bluntly said, “no.” Brown mentioned it would be a “blessing” if Scott were to be available.

While his veteran savvy, toughness and shot-making — especially in Game 4 — will clearly be missed, Scott’s versatility will be crucial in this series. With Boban Marjanovic, it’s hard to know what you’ll get. He was excellent in the Brooklyn series, but could be a poor matchup against Serge Ibaka, who the Raptors have been using as their backup five.

Scott offers the ability to play backup five if Marjanovic struggles. Ibaka is lethal in pick-and-pop situation with his midrange jumper. While Ibaka may be tough for Scott to deal with in the post, he’s a much better option for pick-and-roll defense.

Scouting Kawhi

Kawhi Leonard is really freaking good. That’s not breaking news, but it’s a point being drilled into the Sixers as the team is being pelted with questions about the All-Star forward.

Leonard is arguably the best two-way player in the league and has killed the Sixers this season, averaging 30.3 points a game and tormenting Ben Simmons defensively.

Brown, who was with the Spurs as an assistant when Leonard was coming up, acknowledged some of the issues Simmons and the Sixers have had against Leonard. Brown didn’t want to put too much stock into the regular season matchups, but has ideas on how to help his young point guard deal with the former Defensive Player of the Year.

“Obviously, I’m not going to tell you,” Brown said. “Maybe the knowledge I have coaching him [will help]. The history we’ve had having a little bit of success [against him], some unsuccessful that we have to do better at. We hope that we’re studied. I believe we are. He still remains an All-Star and one of the great players in the NBA for a reason.”

After having arguably the best regular season of his career, Leonard has carried it over into the postseason. He averaged 27.8 points a game in the Raptors’ first-round matchup against the Magic while shooting 56 percent from the field and a ridiculous 54 percent on 5.2 three per game.

“Kawhi is a bonafide superstar in this league,” JJ Redick said. “There’s only a handful of guys like that spread over 30 teams much less 16 teams in the playoffs.”

Does he look all the way back from the quad issues he dealt with in San Antonio?

“I think he looks better,” Redick said. “Yeah, he’s pretty damn good.”

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Sixers very well represented among NBA's most popular jerseys

Sixers very well represented among NBA's most popular jerseys

LeBron James may be king but the Sixers have an impressive triumvirate of their own when it comes to jersey sales for the year.

The NBA and its players association announced the top 15 most popular jerseys on Thursday for the 2018-19 regular season and the Sixers are well represented.

James' Los Angeles Lakers jersey comes in the top spot followed by Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kyrie Irving. Sixers big man Joel Embiid rounds out the top five. The five spot is the highest Embiid has ranked in any season in terms of jerseys sold.

And while no other NBA team has more than two players in the top 15 of sales, the Sixers have three guys in the top 10.

Ben Simmons comes in at ninth on the list behind James Harden (6), Russell Westbrook (7) and Kevin Durant (8). Simmons is followed by his newer teammate in Jimmy Butler at the 10 spot.

In terms of total team sales, the Sixers rank fourth behind only the Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics. 

Dwyane Wade, Paul George, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard and Jayson Tatum round out the top 15, respectively.

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