76ers

Sixers 131, Knicks 109: Back home, Sixers come alive

Sixers 131, Knicks 109: Back home, Sixers come alive

BOX SCORE 

It would’ve been less than ideal for the Sixers to enter their upcoming tests against the Raptors and Celtics having lost four of their past five games. 

Wednesday’s 131-109 win over the Knicks ensures the Sixers enter those games with a bit of positive momentum. 

Ben Simmons had his fourth triple-double of the season, with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Joel Embiid had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Jimmy Butler posted 20 points in a comfortable win that puts the Sixers at 21-12.

• Heading into Wednesday night, here were Joel Embiid’s stats in the first and second halves of games:

First halves: 15.2 PPG/51.9 FG%/35.5 3P%/plus-15.4 net rating
Second halves: 10.9 PPG/42.1 FG%/21.3 3P%/minus-2.8 net rating

If second halves didn’t exist, Embiid would be the clear frontrunner for MVP.

True to form, Embiid had 16 points on 7 for 9 shooting and five rebounds in the first half Wednesday.

At the start of the second half, the Knicks briefly got back into the game in part because Embiid settled for contested jump shots and didn’t play with nearly the same level of energy as he did in the first half. He had eight points on 3 for 8 shooting after halftime. 

• In response to Embiid’s early dominance, the Knicks began sending aggressive double-teams at him late in the first quarter. Credit the Sixers’ big man for quickly identifying the open man and hitting him, as he did on Furkan Korkmaz’s four-point play with 1.1 seconds left in the first quarter.

• Unlike Embiid, Simmons didn’t settle for anything in the third quarter. He came out after halftime with a no-nonsense mentality. 

Simmons picked up a technical foul with 8:15 left in the third for arguing a no-call in which Noah Vonleh appeared to hit Simmons on the arm as he went up for a shot, but that didn’t deter him from driving hard to the rim.

• Butler started out strong offensively, which was a welcome change for the Sixers. Butler didn’t score in the first quarter against either the Cavs on Sunday or the Spurs on Monday, but he was in attack mode early vs. the Knicks. Butler made his first four shots and had eight points in the opening period.

• JJ Redick reached 10,000 career points in the second quarter with a jumper from the left wing. 

He’s only been a Sixer for a year-plus, but Redick is a core part of the team. His perpetual off-ball movement, three-point shooting and lethal two-man game with Embiid are all key components of the Sixers’ offensive identity. Redick has also served as a mentor to rookie Landry Shamet, who head coach Brett Brown has called a “mini-JJ.

• Shamet had a very impressive game on both ends of the floor. The rookie had a career-high 17 points on 6 for 10 shooting, and this was the best defensive game from him in recent memory. He had a nice block on fellow rookie Kevin Knox in the first quarter and competed well when switched onto bigger post players. 

• The Sixers’ collective rebounding effort was stellar. Enes Kanter’s offensive rebounding was featured in the pregame scouting video playing in the Sixers locker room, and the focus on keeping him off the glass was evident. Kanter, who had five offensive rebounds in the Knicks’ loss to the Sixers on Nov. 28, had none on Wednesday. Overall, the Sixers outrebounded the Knicks by a 51-35 margin.

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Sixers at Cavaliers: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Cavaliers: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (7-5) will look to get back into the win column in Cleveland when they take on the Cavaliers (4-7) this afternoon.

Here are the essentials for today’s game:

When: 3 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+ 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

Time to get right

There’s no such thing as a good loss, but man, the Sixers’ losses have been particularly brutal. On Friday night, they held a nine-point lead with 7:20 to go but gave up a 12-2 run and eventually lost in overtime to the Thunder.

The Sixers have glaring issues — especially in their starting five — but Brett Brown feels like he knows what they are.

“If you're sick and you don't know why, that's a problem,” Brown said. “We are in a tough spot right now, but it's a long year. I think that it doesn't take much for me to understand where we have to get better. And it's really that simple. If you're scratching your head, sort of confused, then I think we got some problems and that's not what I'm doing. I think the guys understand the areas that matter most that can best impact changing the way things are going and get back on the winning side.”

We'll see.

Taking care of business

This Cavs team isn’t as bad as perhaps we all thought coming into this season. They start two extremely young guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, but they’re still flanked by veteran bigs Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.

Cleveland also gave the Sixers all they could handle earlier this week — especially veteran guard Jordan Clarkson (20 points). The Sixers were able to sneak out of the Wells Fargo Center with a 98-97 win. Then again, when is the last time this team played a game that wasn’t close?

While the Cavs are maybe better than anticipated, this is a team the Sixers should be able to get well against. On Tuesday, they held Cleveland scoreless for over three minutes to close out the game. They need to bring that for 48 minutes and get right with a win over a team they’re clearly more talented than. 

Sorting out the bench

Furkan Korkmaz was scorching hot for a six-game stretch. He shot 50.9 percent from three and averaged 13.8 points in mostly bench minutes. In his last three games, he’s just 4 of 16 from distance. The issue with Korkmaz is if he’s not hitting shots, he doesn’t bring much else to the table. You saw Oklahoma City pick on him in overtime after Tobias Harris fouled out.

Korkmaz has been getting the most minutes off Brown’s bench recently. Should he be? Rookie Matisse Thybulle got off to a roaring start, but has looked overmatched offensively. With that said, he’s just so special defensively, Brown should deal with the growing pains on the other end. In games Thybulle has played at least 12 minutes, the Sixers are 6-1.

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There are positive signs, but still glaring issues with Sixers

There are positive signs, but still glaring issues with Sixers

After dropping their second straight game in overtime Friday night in Oklahoma City (see observations), the Sixers at times sounded like a team looking for answers.

More of that is likely struggling to answer questions coming off another brutal loss. They have an idea why they’ve lost five of their last seven after starting their season 5-0. A large part of it is a group with a bunch of new faces that are still figuring each other out. On Friday, fouls were an issue as they allowed the Thunder to attempt 41 free throws.

For a team that has championship aspirations and got off to such a hot start, this isn’t where they expected to be 12 games into the season.

“Obviously we're frustrated,” Tobias Harris said to reporters postgame. “7-5 is not where we want to be. It's early in the season and right now we're going to progress and get better and figure out ways that we can help each other and help our team and go from there. This game is over. Tomorrow, we'll watch film on it, we'll find out which ways that we can better ourselves and be ready for the next game. [We’re] 7-5 right now but ... we'll just go into the next game and be ready to get that win and go from there.”

There are reasons for optimism — with Harris being arguably the biggest.

After missing 23 straight threes and looking lost recently, Harris splashed his first trey of the game and looked like a totally different player. He finished with 21 points on 8 of 16 from the field and 3 of 4 from three. He was much more aggressive and decisive than he’d been in the previous two games.

Josh Richardson, returning to his native Oklahoma, has continued to show signs of improvement. He poured in 28 points, his highest total as a Sixer. More importantly, he’s looked much more comfortable in the offense as he figures out his role.

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both had their moments. Embiid had a game-high 31 points and Simmons broke out after a quiet first half to play the entire second half.

One of the team’s biggest issues is figuring out the pairing of Embiid and Al Horford. The reality is Horford has never played with a center like Embiid who demands the ball and attention offensively. It’s been an obvious adjustment for Horford, who shot just 5 of 12 Friday and has done most of his damage with Embiid off the floor.

The uncomfortable offensive fit for the entire starting five has been a big reason the Sixers have been involved in so many close games. A familiar theme emerged Friday, as the Sixers held a nine-point advantage with 7:20 to go in the game. Instead of hitting the gas and putting the Thunder away, they gave up a 12-2 run and saw their lead evaporate.

These are talented players that have won in different places. They’re still learning how to win together.

“I was just telling Al about that,” Harris said, “and really it's just I think a matter of right now we are yet to be up like eight points and push that to 15 and really push what we're doing and move forward with that, and really imposing our will and dominating. And that's something that we have to get to and that's something I think we're still learning — how we can do that and how we can make those type of runs. That's something we definitely got to get better at.”

The good news is you see the talent and recognize some of the issues.

And Brett Brown has 70 games to figure it out.

“If you're sick and you don't know why, that's a problem,” Brown said. “We are in a tough spot right now, but it's a long year. I think that it doesn't take much for me to understand where we have to get better. And it's really that simple. If you're scratching your head, sort of confused, then I think we got some problems and that's not what I'm doing. I think the guys understand the areas that matter most that can best impact changing the way things are going and get back on the winning side.”

They know the problems, now they just have to answer the questions.

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