76ers

Sixers 123, Nets 110: In possible playoff preview, Sixers have bounce-back performance vs. Nets

Sixers 123, Nets 110: In possible playoff preview, Sixers have bounce-back performance vs. Nets

BOX SCORE

The Sixers suffered two disappointing losses on the road in Atlanta and Orlando.

This didn't even look like the same team.

In a potential first-round playoff preview, the Sixers took it to the Nets early and never let up in a 123-110 win at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

The victory improves the Sixers to 48-27 on the season and keeps them in the driver's seat for the East's third seed. They split the four-game season series with Brooklyn.

Here are observations from the win:

• Joel Embiid got off to a fantastic start. He hit 5 of his first 7 shots, including three threes, for 14 points in his first stint in the first quarter. He finished the half with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.

We saw a little more of his guard-like skills as he grabbed the ball off the rim, dribbled it up the floor and nailed a three from the top of the key. He followed that up by putting a beautiful spin move on Joe Harris for a bucket and then drove past D’Angelo Russell and drew a foul.

Early on, he did a great job defending the pick-and-roll with Russell and Jarrett Allen. On one possession, he made a tremendous play stripping Allen after a nice pocket pass from Russell.

Unfortunately, he also picked up three fouls in the first half. One of those was obvious as he extended his arm to the face of Chester native Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on a drive. The other two were questionable. After Embiid was called for a foul on Spencer Dinwiddie with minimal contact, Jimmy Butler picked up a technical for defending his big man. Embiid was then hit with a technical of his own after a dubious call on him against Hollis-Jefferson.

Embiid got the last laugh on Hollis-Jefferson and the Nets, finishing with 39 points (12 of 20), 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block. As has been stated, he won't win the MVP, but he has been so damn good.

• Boban Marjanovic hit another three and the crowd went expectedly wild. With that said, Marjanovic got exploited on defense in the first half. When he checked into the game, the Sixers held a 48-28 lead. By the time he checked out, that lead was cut in half.

Kenny Atkinson went small, using Hollis-Jefferson at the five. It was puzzling that Brett Brown didn’t adjust when it was clear Hollis-Jefferson was getting the better of the matchup. To Marjanovic's — and really Brown's for sticking with it — credit, he did a much better job in the second half, punishing the smaller Hollis-Jefferson offensively. Marjanovic recorded 16 points on 6 of 8.

• This was really the first time in the four games they've played the Nets that Russell and fellow guard Dinwiddie didn't torch the Sixers. They did a particularly good job on Russell, who finished just 6 of 9 for 13 points. Dinwiddie was just OK with 13 points on 4 of 9. The Sixers were much more disciplined in the pick-and-roll and their perimeter defenders did a much better job fighting through screens.

• Ben Simmons looked healthy after missing Monday’s matchup in Orlando with an illness. He put a ton of pressure on the Nets, pushing the ball every chance he got and making Brooklyn’s smaller defenders pay at the rim.

The one thing that stood out in this one is the budding chemistry with Simmons and Embiid. For the early part of their careers together, Brown would always try to stagger their minutes on the floor since both players do most of their damage in the paint. Recently, Brown has been playing them together and the results have been impressive.

Simmons hit Embiid for this pretty alley-oop.

Earlier in the game, Embiid hit Simmons for an impressive one-handed alley-oop. In the second half, Embiid found a diving Simmons out of a double team for a layup. They’re starting to look for and find each other more and more. If this duo continues to develop, they could be awfully dangerous.

Simmons had 16 points and eight assists, but fouled out with 3:11 left in the game. Simmons was also given a technical as he walked off the floor. The officials called this one tight.

• And what set those lobs up? Both players running an action with JJ Redick.

Redick was hot in this one, hitting 6 of 12 from the field and 4 of 9 from three for 18 points. The Sixers as a team shot a sizzling 48 percent from three (12 of 25). Redick’s value is at its highest when he’s hitting shots, but he still opens up the floor so much as other teams scramble to account for him.

The biggest concern with Redick has to be his defense. He got beat by Harris for a couple backdoor layups early. He did have one nice defensive possession on Russell that ended in a strip, but Redick’s defense is something to monitor.

• Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris were both quiet in this one. The duo finished a combined 6 of 18 for 15 points.

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Reebok is dialing up the nostalgia in latest release with Allen Iverson

Reebok is dialing up the nostalgia in latest release with Allen Iverson

I’m the question and the answer like Iverson.  — Jay-Z

Not many athletes evoke the immediate vibe and aura that comes to mind when you hear the name Allen Iverson. Reebok is hoping Bubba Chuck induces all the feels for consumers to cop the latest release in his signature shoe line, the Question 4 Mid "Double Cross."

The sneaker will be released exclusively through Foot Locker and all of its entities but debuted in a limited roll out Oct. 11 at two select locations in New York City.  

The kicks drop nationwide and online to coincide with the start of the NBA season on Oct. 23.

What’s special about this shoe? Reebok is dialing up the nostalgia by mixing the red and blue-toe colorways that A.I. rocked on the Question Mid’s during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1996-97. The “Double Cross” name stems from Iverson’s legendary ability to “cross up basketball culture with the style and sounds of his life off court."

The shoes will set you back $150 with a few dope accents like a "96" on the left blue sock liner and a "97" on the red liner for the right shoe.

For more details on the shoe, check out the video above with Sixers guard and Allen Iverson mentee Trey Burke unboxing the Question 4 Mid Double Cross. Thanks to Foot Locker for providing the footwear. 

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Will Joel Embiid live in the paint? How Brett Brown wants to help his ‘unicorn’ build a legacy

Will Joel Embiid live in the paint? How Brett Brown wants to help his ‘unicorn’ build a legacy

Two days before the Sixers’ regular-season opener vs. the Boston Celtics, Brett Brown was thinking big.

The Sixers' head coach reflected after practice Monday afternoon on his “huge” team, his All-Star big man, Joel Embiid, and the big picture of Embiid’s career.

I think he’s going to have a year that puts us in a position to win a championship. … I feel a tremendous responsibility to help him define his legacy. And legacies start with championships. And I didn’t take an ‘s’ off that word on purpose — it’s championships.

“I feel a role and a responsibility to help him. Him owning the paint is as good a place to start as any. It’s where my mind has been centered all summer. It’s the messaging that we’ve discussed as a team and with him. We’ve admitted we’re huge; what does that look like? What can we do to exploit our team? And with Joel especially, I think he’s going to have a fantastic season. … I’m really excited to help him improve and grow.

Brown has spoken on both Embiid’s legacy and the desire for him to “live in the paint” more this season multiple times over the past few weeks. He’s determined to get more out of Embiid beyond the fundamental tenets of conditioning and health

Embiid was second in the NBA with 8.1 post ups per game last season, per NBA.com/Stats, and it sounds like Brown wants that number to increase. 

For his part, Embiid has said he wants to be the “greatest to ever do it.” And he was clear during training camp that his preference is to be stationed more down low and less outside of the three-point line. 

“Like I’ve always said before, I don’t like shooting threes,” Embiid said on Oct. 4. “But this year since we’re going to have Ben [Simmons] willing to take those threes, maybe it’s going to put my game more inside. I’m hoping that he will shoot them, so I do my job, what I do inside.”

Brown had no doubt Monday when asked if Embiid will be more of a low-post force this season.

I don’t think it, I know it. When you look at him, he is a unicorn. When we say who is Joel Embiid like, or who is like Joel Embiid — Joel can score in a variety of ways. Is he [Shaquille O’Neal]? He’s got a little bit of that in him. Is he Arvydas Sabonis? That was a pretty multi-dimensional player. Is he Hakeem [Olajuwon]? [Tim] Duncan was a good low-post player and could step out at the elbow or foul line and make a jump shot. 

“When you start trying to put him in a box and say, ‘This is all you are,’ it’s a huge, naïve mistake. It’s a really naïve mistake. Where is he at his best? We get where it is, and we have to center our gravity more in that area of where it is. I think it’s going to equal free throws and kick outs and all of that. But to think that’s the only floor spot where he lives is really recklessly naïve. You go Shaq, Shaq, Shaq — it’s deeper than that. It’s on me as his coach, and on him, to better understand how do I best impact the game, help this team win championships, take off like I want to take off at the start of the year.

Sabonis, Olajuwon and O’Neal are all enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Duncan, who Brown knows well from his time as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, will surely be inducted in 2020. Brown told NBC Sports Philadelphia last March that the Sixers’ post offense around Embiid “replicates what we did with Duncan for 12 years in San Antonio.” 

While assistant coach Kevin Young said at Brown’s coaches clinic on Sept. 23 that the Sixers plan to run more “Explosion” this season, the free-flowing, improvisational movement off a player in the post that often enabled Simmons to find cutters in 2018-19, the emphasis with Embiid has generally been on having players set at specific starting spots, surrounding the 25-year-old with outlets. 

Embiid said at media day that decision-making out of double teams was one of his focuses during the offseason. He did improve in that area last year, turning the ball over on 13.1 percent of his post-up possessions, the lowest rate of his career. 

Brown and Embiid’s larger ambitions of championships, legacies and the like might sound outlandish to some in isolation. In context, though, there are tangible steps they can take toward those goals.

Both Brown and his big man hope many take place in the paint.

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