Nets 111, Sixers 102: Game 1 a total buzzkill at Wells Fargo Center

Nets 111, Sixers 102: Game 1 a total buzzkill at Wells Fargo Center


Well, that wasn’t the start you were looking for.

Even with Joel Embiid in the lineup and playoff Jimmy Butler activated, the Sixers dropped Game 1 to the Brooklyn Nets, 111-102, at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday.

After all the drama leading up to Saturday’s game about his status, Embiid played and just didn’t look like himself for much of the contest. Whether it was rust or pain, we didn’t see the best version of the All-Star center.

Butler’s heroics weren’t enough as the Sixers shot poorly from three and failed to contain Brooklyn’s dangerous guards. They also got next to nothing from the other three starters. The crowd booed lustily on several occasions.

The Nets took a 1-0 lead as the series will resume Monday night for Game 2 in Philadelphia.

Here are observations from the loss:

• I had a feeling the Jimmy Butler we saw in the regular season would not be the same one we saw in the playoffs. Butler was not messing around in this one.

Defensively, he had an impressive block on D’Angelo Russell and the youngster looked outmatched against him.

He was just as aggressive offensively, drawing Jarrett Allen’s third foul and lived at the line, hitting 10 of 12 in the first half. The Butler that everyone complained deferred too much was nowhere to be found as Butler poured in a game-high 23 points before halftime.

He also hit this shot to close out the first half, which looked awfully familiar.

For much of the game, it felt like Butler was the Sixers’ only reliable source of offense. He finished with 36 points.

• Embiid played, he just didn’t look right. He was just 1 of 9 from the field and played just 10 minutes in the first half. He was able to get to the line, hitting 9 of 11. “M-V-P” and “Trust the Process” chants were started for Embiid during his free throws.

He got off to a better start in the second, but ultimately couldn’t help the Sixers overcome their struggles. It’s amazing that he still managed to put up 22 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks.

• It was an encouraging start by the Sixers defensively. They defended the pick-and-roll against Brooklyn’s dangerous guards about as well as they have all season. While Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie got off to slow starts, Caris LeVert and the Nets’ red-hot three-point shooting got them out in front.

Overall, that trio didn’t shoot particularly well. Russell went 10 of 25, Dinwiddie went 6 of 14 and LeVert finished 8 of 18.

Brooklyn hit 8 of 15 from three in the first half while the Sixers missed their first 11 threes before Mike Scott hit one midway through the second. They finished just 3 of 25 from beyond.

• JJ Redick and T.J. McConnell both really struggled on the perimeter defensively. Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, much like Brad Stevens of the Celtics a year ago, is looking exploit the two smaller and not as athletic guards. Redick picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter.

It’ll be up to Brett Brown to make an adjustment in Game 2.

• While Butler was a beast and Embiid was gutting it out, the Sixers needed way more from the other three starters.

With Redick, you know what you’re getting. He’s going to struggle on defense — he eventually fouled out of this one — but he makes the offense so much better with his shot-making ability and the way he moves without the ball. Unfortunately, his shooting to close out the season didn’t carry over into Game 1.

With Tobias Harris, his cold shooting unfortunately did carry over. Since his 32-point performance — and arguably his best game as a Sixer — in Oklahoma City, Harris has struggled mightily. In 19 games to close out the regular season, Harris shot just 27 percent from three. He went 2 of 6 for four points in this one. His regular-season low was six.

With Ben Simmons, this is a troubling pattern in the playoffs. Teams just clog the paint and dare him to shoot. He was also bad from the line, hitting just 1 of 5. He elicited boos when he missed a pair in the fourth quarter.

• Boban Marjanovic got the first crack at being Embiid’s backup and the veteran big man was up for the challenge. He gave the Sixers solid minutes on both ends of the floor. It’s not surprising to see the offensive numbers (13 points on 5 of 7), but he was better than anticipated defensively. Because he’s such a massive human, he struggles to move his feet, but he was active in this one and used his size well to affect shots.

Jonathon Simmons saw the wing minutes off the bench ahead of rookie Zhaire Smith. You got what you expected out of Simmons. He was solid defensively, but hurt them offensively.

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Sixers Home School: Should Andre Iguodala have won 2006 Slam Dunk Contest?


Sixers Home School: Should Andre Iguodala have won 2006 Slam Dunk Contest?

There's a lot of home schooling going on right now, so why not use some of this time to learn more about the history of your favorite teams? In this edition of Sixers Home School, we look back at the 2006 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

No Sixers player has ever won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, but you can make a very good case that Andre Iguodala should have won back in 2006. In his second season, Iguodala squared off against Atlanta's Josh Smith, Memphis' Hakim Warrick and 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson of the Knicks. 

At the 11:00 mark of the video, you'll see Iguodala bring out Allen Iverson to assist him on one of the most incredible dunks you'll ever see. It took a couple tries to get it right, but Iverson throws the ball off the back of the backboard, and Iguodala comes running in from beyond the photographers to catch it and then soar through the air to dunk it on the other side of the rim. It earned Iguodala a 50 and it's fun to hear Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson going nuts. It's one of the most amazing dunks in the history of the contest.

After another impressive dunk at the 22:27 mark of the video, when Iguodala threw the ball up in the air, caught it on the bounce and went behind his back to dunk it, Kevin Harlan says "it's over."

But it wasn't over. At the 23:45 mark, Robinson calls out the original miniature dunker, Spud Webb, from the crowd. Robinson then jumped over Webb and threw down a fantastic dunk, getting the crowd on his side. Then at 27:15, Iguodala, needing a 45 to win, completed a between-the-legs lefty dunk that left the judges scrambling to decide what to do.

Kenny Smith and Clyde Drexler both gave the dunk an "8," and when the scores were added up, Iguodala received a 45, leading to a dunk-off with Robinson.

Ah, the dunk-off. From 29:00 to 33:30 in the video, you'll see Robinson try to complete a between-the-legs jump pass from midcourt, catch the ball of the backboard and dunk. He tries and fails 15 times before finally completing it. You'll get tired just watching him try and try again. Even though Robinson had to move closer to the three-point line to finally get the timing right, the completed dunk earned a 47 from the judges, meaning that Iguodala needed 48 for the win. 

At 34:55, you'll see Iguodala do a version of Isaiah Rider's "East Bay Funk Dunk" that won the 1994 dunk contest. But four of the five judges only gave Iguodala a 9, and his 46-point dunk gave Robinson the title by one point. At the 35:25 mark, you'll see Iverson say "We got robbed." Barkley agreed. Was Iguodala robbed? You can judge for yourself.

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Sixers assistant athletic trainer Pascual Guerrero discusses superstitious players, flying toenails

Image courtesy of Pascual Guerrero

Sixers assistant athletic trainer Pascual Guerrero discusses superstitious players, flying toenails

As National Athletic Training Month comes to a close, we got to know Sixers assistant athletic trainer and physical therapist Pascual Guerrero, who’s been with the organization since November 2016.

Guerrero received his BS/MS in athletic training and sports science from Long Island University, graduating in 2009, but started his career in the NFL as an intern for the Detroit Lions, where he spent two summers. As Guerrero saw the way that his field was evolving, he continued his education at Stony Brook University, receiving his doctorate in physical therapy.

Guerrero also went on to intern for the New York Knicks before landing a job in Major League Soccer, where he worked for two seasons.

From taping ankles to drawing ice baths to tracking practice participation and injuries, there’s no days off when you’re a part of an NBA training staff, and there’s no place he’d rather be.  

Here is our Q&A:

When someone asks you what your job entails, what do you tell them?

“So, we're not just ankle tapers … whether it’s pregame, postgame, pre and post-practice, we are working on the players’ bodies, taking them through activation exercises to get their body ready to play basketball, stretching them out as part of their cool down. It’s hydration (getting bottles of water ready), making ice bags, making ice foot baths.

“Home teams also take care of the referees, so that's another one of my duties, is checking in on the refs and making sure they are all sorted with pre and postgame needs.

“But it’s also helping out with bags and luggage on road trips. For example, waiting for our luggage truck to arrive in every city, and getting everything ready in our designated treatment room)

“There are administrative duties, too. For example, the NBA has an electronic medical record system, which we use to track things from practice participation to game participation and logging injuries. 

“We keep stock of inventory, whether it’s tape, medications, braces, rehab equipment, you name it. There is no limit to what we get for the players. I mean, anything, even earwax removal Q-tips …”

(As Guerrero and I continued our conversation, there were several other duties that started to come up, like arm sleeves. Did you know that the arm sleeves players wear during a game all have to be color-coordinated? No player can wear a different colored arm sleeve than another player. Guerrero says Tobias Harris has been the primary go-to for choosing the arm sleeve colors for particular games this season.) 

“I’ll generally have a feel for what [arm sleeve] they prefer given the jersey color. But sometimes they flip it on me, right before the pregame meeting, and it's a scramble to get them all together!”

(Image courtesy of Pascual Guerrero) 

Because you mentioned the ankle taping — how many rolls of tape do you go through?

“We go through anywhere from 24 to 28 rolls of tape in any given pregame, either at home or on the road, and that’s just of one kind of tape, not counting all of the other adjunct tapes that we use.”

And what about during the actual game? Sometimes I’ve seen you (but usually head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson) running a clipboard out to head coach Brett Brown? 

“You will see a lot of the head athletic trainers carry a little notepad with them, and they're taking notes, or you see them talk to the assistant coaches. What they are doing is keeping track of timeouts and fouls during the game. It’s kind of like another quick checks and balances system, so that when a coach asks about when the next timeout is, or how many fouls do we have, etc., we can get the information out quickly to him.

“During the game, I'm usually in the tunnel, managing the bench for whatever they need — maybe it’s a hot pack or ice pack — or if the visiting team needs something, whether it’s a doctor or assistance with getting imaging done at the arena, I’m there, ready to help.”

Favorite part about your job?

“The day-to-day interaction with the guys. We see them day in and day out, we spend so much time with them, and even with our fellow colleagues in the athlete care department. It's one big family. And the thing is, we go through things together. Obviously everyone experiences the ups and downs of the season differently, but at the end of the day, we always have to remember that we're here for those 16-17 guys on the roster.

"As long as they are taken care of, in any which way that that might be, from a nice little quick banter in the morning in the athletic training room, or when you’re rehabbing someone back from an injury, getting them over that hump. It's that connection and that interaction with the players that, for me, makes it all worth it.

“And the physical nature of it, being able to get my hands on somebody and take them through a process where they are in pain and helping them realize that they’re either able to move in a very safe way, or that you're there to comfort them and help them get through that period to assure them that everything will return back to what it was. Being able to help them through that.”

Do you have off days?

“Nope. We break days into two categories — game days and non-game days — and there’s always work to be done.”

What do you think one of the biggest misconceptions about your job is?

“I’m taking this back to my athletic training program director … we are not “trainers” — the term is certified athletic trainer. We are athletic trainers. We're not personal trainers, even though we do have knowledge in strength training and conditioning players, and we do apply that in conjunction and in collaboration with our performance staff.”

Are guys particular with how they get taped or what they do before games?

“They are. Some guys don't like a lot of tape, some guys wear braces. Certain guys like to get taped at a certain time on the clock and they are very religious about their routine, even to the point where they prefer a certain table in the athletic training room at the Wells Fargo Center, and it's understood that if they show up in the room at a certain time and their table is taken by a rookie ... let’s just say it better be cleared in a heartbeat!

“One former Sixer preferred the left side table, but he had to shift to the opposite side of the room for a particular game. Well, he had such a horrible game that he literally came in the next time and was like, ‘That is my table.’ Done deal. So, no matter what, that table was always ready for him.

“And even with this team, certain guys are very particular about which tables they use. Some guys prefer to get taped and then get treatment and vice versa. Everyone's different, and when you get a batch of new guys, whether it be via trade or signings at the start of the year, it's like learning a whole new routine.”

Do you have a favorite memory with the Sixers?

“One of the neatest ones for my family was on Sixers family day, and the first year that my parents attended, Joel [Embiid] said hello to my parents and took a picture with them. I’ll never forget, because there's this picture of my mom, and I think I took it right before she actually started to smile, but Jo has his hand on her and she has a hand on his and you literally just see her, at 4-foot-9, smiling at him.”

(Image courtesy of Pascual Guerrero)

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to do what you do?

“My biggest piece of advice is get your feet wet, getting yourself out there and just applying and getting to know people. Networking. I was fortunate enough that I was able to get an internship in the NFL early on, as an undergraduate, and just made the most of it.

“During my first internship year at the Knicks, I checked in with the visiting team — it just so happened to be the Sixers. I introduced myself to the head athletic trainer, Kevin Johnson, who, in case you didn’t know, is still here! It just so happened that my previous boss at the Detroit Lions was a good friend of KJ’s. I am thankful for those early connections, which helped pave the way to now work alongside KJ, one of the most accomplished athletic trainers in the league today.

“And volunteering. I made it a habit to take advantage of any opportunity that came my way.

“That’s the wonderful thing about this profession, is that it allows you to work across many different settings. It's not just basketball. It's not just professional sports. I’ve treated anyone from your high school kid, helping them get back to the pitch or baseball field, to your elderly grandmother who had a hip replacement or a knee replacement and just wanted to be able to walk up and down her stairs without a problem. Different motivations, but it's still the same.”

Do you have a funny story you can leave us with?

“Well, KJ cuts the players’ toenails. He started it as a safety procedure, because apparently some of the guys cut themselves pretty bad. (It's well known that people go to KJ for anything foot-related). Jo was on the taping table. KJ’s cutting his big toenail and these things are flying left and right. I'm literally talking and KJ cuts a toenail and that thing flew and hit me right here (points finger to the left side of his mouth) and Jo was laughing, dying, cracking up.”

That must’ve been a giant toenail …

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