76ers

Nets 122, Sixers 97: Sloppy, sluggish Sixers turn in worst performance of season

Nets 122, Sixers 97: Sloppy, sluggish Sixers turn in worst performance of season

BOX SCORE 

The Sixers had a sloppy, sluggish Sunday night in Brooklyn, falling to the Nets, 122-97.

With a season-high 27 turnovers, the Sixers gave the Nets too many free possessions, making things unnecessarily difficult for themselves against a team they’re capable of beating easily.

The loss drops the Sixers to 6-5. After their worst performance of the season, they’re still searching for a first road win. 

• Joel Embiid had another excellent, efficient first half, scoring 13 points on four field goal attempts, but there weren’t many other positives. While the Nets helped the Sixers hang around with a poor shooting start (5 for 28 from the field in the first quarter), the Sixers’ offense couldn’t stop coughing it up. 

The turnovers came in plenty of varieties — aimless Simmons drives to the basket without an open teammate available; moving screens by Amir Johnson; Landry Shamet darting one way while Embiid threw the ball in the other direction. 

Turnovers haven’t been nearly as prevalent a problem for the Sixers as they were last season, but Sunday night was a reminder of their penchant for shooting themselves in the foot.

• Embiid’s first half was again much better than his second; he scored just three points after halftime. He posted 16 points and 15 rebounds total, an off night by the high standards he’s set.

• The Sixers shot 4 for 20 from three-point range, their lowest number of makes this season. Johnson made one of those threes, his first of the year, with his distinct, ultra-slow-motion release. 

• After two games without seeing the court, T.J. McConnell got some garbage-time minutes. Brett Brown said pregame Friday that “Markelle Fultz is our backup point guard,” and he continues to trust Fultz’s defense when the game is in the balance.

Fultz did commit a bad foul in the first quarter, making contact with Spencer Dinwiddie on a three-pointer, but he’s clearly made some progress over the past several games reading ball screens well and being active defensively. 

However, he didn’t offer much offensively for the second straight game, with nine points on 3 for 8 shooting. He had an ugly three-point attempt early in the fourth quarter from the left wing that barely grazed the lower part of the backboard.

• One bright spot for the Sixers was Ben Simmons’ attacking mentality. Simmons scored 20 points on 8 for 11 shooting and took advantage of any opportunity to impose his will in the open floor. 

That said, his five first-half turnovers set the tone for the game and he couldn’t do much to spark the Sixers’ offense, with a season-low three assists.  

• Mike Muscala and Johnson struggled when switched onto Nets guards D’Angelo Russell, Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. The Sixers have asked their big men to switch more frequently this season, which has put Muscala and Johnson in difficult positions and exposed their lack of quickness.

• Wilson Chandler, who made his Sixers debut Saturday, got the night off against the Nets as he works his way back from the hamstring injury he suffered in the first preseason game. 

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Joel Embiid's injury a blow, but lofty goals remain when he returns

Joel Embiid's injury a blow, but lofty goals remain when he returns

The news of a Joel Embiid injury is not what Sixers fans wanted coming out of the All-Star break.

While the All-Star center’s left knee soreness may seem alarming, his head coach downplayed it at the team’s practice facility Wednesday, referring to it as tendonitis (see story).

Brett Brown mentioned that Embiid had been dealing with a knee issue “for a few weeks” and that his playing in the All-Star game did not affect the injury.

“It’s a natural dot connector and it shouldn’t be to think that had anything to do with it,” Brown said at the team’s practice facility. “The bottom line is nobody needs to read into anything here. This is an NBA athlete that has some soreness in a knee, he’s had an MRI and we all should move on. 

“We’ll miss him obviously, playing wise, but it’s not anything that isn’t completely pointed toward keeping him ready and especially ready when it matters most at the end of the year.”

But with Embiid being out for at least a week, Brown and company have to move on without him.

What that initially means is more minutes for fan favorite Boban Marjanovic. Marjanovic certainly brings something to the table with his massive frame, efficient play around the basket and his abilities to screen and roll. Defense will be the issue when he’s asked to cover more fleet-footed fives.

That’s where rookie Jonah Bolden could come in. Bolden lost the backup center role through no fault of his own. He’d been playing well, providing rim protection with quick feet on defense and also hitting the occasional three. 

“You’d think Jonah’s got a chance to reclaim some of his court time that he had prior to the trade,” Brown said. “That is in my mindset, I had him on my second team today. It’ll be good to see him again.”

Other than missing a MVP-caliber player, the biggest disappointment is that the Sixers won’t get to further develop the chemistry of their new starting five. With the playoffs looming, getting that unit to play at its peak is more important than wins and losses.

There are loftier goals that lie ahead of the next last 24 regular season games.

“I’ve been on different teams where the goal is to get into the playoffs,” Tobias Harris said. “Here the goal is to win in the playoffs and to win big. I think we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we just said, 'Let’s get out of the first round.' We’re trying to go for a championship here.”

It’ll be up to Harris and the other starters to carry more of that scoring load in Embiid’s absence. The player that may bear more of that burden is Jimmy Butler.

Butler can score on all three levels and create his own shot better than any player on the Sixers with Embiid out. Butler put up back-to-back 38-point performances back in early December. One of those games was with Embiid struggling mightily in Toronto and the other was with Embiid sidelined in Detroit.

While he won’t alter his approach with Embiid out, he knows what’s at stake in general.

“I’m going about it the same way,” Butler said. “It’s time to pick it up a little bit. This is the final stretch. I’m ready, man. My mind, my body. I’m relaxed, calm and collected, ready to win some games.”

Once Embiid's body is ready, the Sixers will look to take another step toward their championship goals.

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Joel Embiid out at least a week

Joel Embiid out at least a week

Updated: 3:24 p.m.

The Sixers’ new, much-hyped starting five will be down a key member coming out of the All-Star break. 

Joel Embiid will be out at least a week with left knee soreness, the team announced Wednesday.

He had an MRI that revealed no structural damage and will undergo treatment involving load management and physical therapy before being re-evaluated. Brett Brown described the injury as tendonitis to reporters after practice and said Embiid has been dealing with the injury for a couple weeks.

Embiid, who started his second straight All-Star game, is averaging 27.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Head coach Brett Brown still considers him the Sixers' "crown jewel."

With the playoffs in mind, you can understand the team's caution with Embiid.

The Sixers’ first game after the All-Star break is Thursday vs. the Heat, with four games scheduled over the next eight days.

There were two other notable inclusions on the Sixers’ medical report:

Furkan Korkmaz suffered a tear of the meniscus in his right knee during the Sixers’ game against the Celtics on Feb. 12. He is currently being assessed and there is no timetable for his return yet.

Rookie Zhaire Smith was a partial participant in the Sixers’ practice Wednesday. He’ll return Thursday to practice with the Blue Coats as he continues to rehab following a Jones fracture in his left foot in August and subsequent medical complications stemming from an allergic reaction. General manager Elton Brand has said he expects Smith to return to play this season. 

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