Sixers-Cavaliers observations: No match for kings of the East

Sixers-Cavaliers observations: No match for kings of the East


LeBron James took the steam out of any anticipation of a matchup between him and Ben Simmons in a matter of minutes in the Cavaliers’ 113-91 win over the Sixers on Monday.

Simmons began the night defending James and ended it leaving the game late in the fourth with a right ankle sprain. Postgame X-rays came back negative and Simmons will be reevaluated Tuesday morning.

James scored 15 — yes, 15 — points in the first seven minutes of the game. He drove the basket early on and set the tone that he was going to attack often. 

James has a good relationship with Simmons, who considers James like an older brother through being represented by the same agency. However, there was no way he was going to go easy on the rookie. 

James made 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists look easy in 31 minutes. 

Simmons, who attempted just 11 shots, had a quiet night with 10 points, eight rebounds and only two rebounds (see story). He entered the game averaging nearly eight dimes. Simmons did not get to the free throw line and went scoreless in the third. 

The loss snapped the Sixers’ win streak at three and dropped their record to 11-8. Meanwhile, the streaking Cavs (13-7) ran their win streak to eight straight.

• The Sixers didn’t do themselves any favors with their long-range woes: 3 for 28 (10.7 percent). They shot 0 for 11 from three in the first half and did not drain a trey until over four minutes into the third quarter. Robert Covington, who entered the game shooting 46.2 percent from long range, went 0 for 9 (more on why here).

• In a flashback to their days with the Heat, James (22) and Dwyane Wade (12) combined for 34 of the Cavs’ 53 points in the first half. No one else on the Cavs had more than six points through that point. 

• Joel Embiid said my turn in the third. He exploded for 16 points in 11 minutes after scoring 12 total in the first half. Embiid was an efficient 5 for 6 from the field and much more aggressive getting to the line (6 for 7) during the quarter. He matched James’ scoring total with 30 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes (see highlights).

• The game got out of the Sixers’ control in the fourth. They trailed by just three, 72-69, with 3:06 to play in the third. Fast-forward to the final quarter and they were down by as many as 29 points. 

• The Sixers had reached 100-plus points in their previous 14 games. The last time they scored in double digits was Oct. 23 against the Pistons, their fourth game of the season. 

• The Cavs’ bench outscored the Sixers’ bench, 57-30. Wade (15), Jeff Green (14) and Channing Frye (12) led Cleveland's reserves. 

• Injury update: Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) did not play for the Sixers. Derrick Rose (left ankle), Isaiah Thomas (right hip) and Tristan Thompson (left calf) were sidelined for the Cavs. 

• Eagles LeGarrette Blount and Malcolm Jenkins rang the ceremonial bell pregame. Blount sat courtside across from the Cavs’ bench where Thomas, dressed in an Allen Iverson shirt, watched the game. Before they were on the Eagles and Cavs, Blount and Thomas were friends from their time with the Patriots and Celtics. 

Sixers rookie Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Sixers rookie Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Finally, some good health news, Sixers fans.

While Zhaire Smith continues an unfortunate trend of Sixers’ rookies suffering injuries, two other 2018 draft picks are progressing.

First-round pick Landry Shamet (sprained right ankle) and second-round pick Shake Milton (stress fracture in his back) are both asymptomatic, the team said Monday.

Shamet has been cleared for “light basketball activities” while Milton can “resume limited basketball activities.”

Shamet, a guard out of Wichita State, got banged up in the first half of the Sixers’ first summer league game against the Celtics. Shamet logged just 12 minutes before suffering the ankle sprain. He hit 2 of 5 from three for six points during the stint.

Milton never got the opportunity to play in summer league having suffered his injury during the pre-draft process. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward out of SMU is on a two-way contract with the Sixers, meaning he’ll spend the majority of his season with the Delaware Blue Coats and can spend no more 45 days with the big club.

Smith, the 16th overall pick acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and underwent successful surgery last week. There’s been no timetable for his return.

Both Shamet and Milton offer something the Sixers covet: shooting. Shamet shot 44 percent on 5.1 threes a game in 71 games. Milton was also proficient, shooting 43 percent on 5.1 attempts from distance in 87 games.

The Sixers’ rotation should be a tough one to crack this season, but being healthy for camp would be a fine start for Shamet and Milton.

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

Despite coming up empty in their goal of star hunting this summer, the Sixers are still currently one of the more desirable franchises in the NBA.

They reached the second round of the playoffs last season behind two up-and-coming stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Plus, the organization has a respected head coach in Brett Brown, state-of-the-art training complex, an intense fan base and much more to offer.

At least that’s how free-agent scorer Jamal Crawford views things.

“I like their city. I like how into it they are about basketball. I like their knowledge of basketball, how passionate they are,” Crawford said of Philadelphia last week to Brandon Robinson on Scoop B Radio. “I’ve always loved coach Brett Brown. I’ve been on record. I’ve been a fan of his for years. He just needed talent, and now he has that. He added Ben Simmons, I love his game. I love Jo-Jo. They’re both among my favorite players in the league to watch. Markelle (Fultz) is like a little brother to me. Obviously, he went to the University of Washington, and we talk every other day. JJ Redick is like a brother to me. We’ve been through wars together, so there’s so many things to love about Philadelphia for sure.”

That’s high praise from a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner. High enough to the point that he would want to suit up for the Sixers?

“I think for me, especially being out there as a free agent, something could work out,” Crawford said. “I would be honored to play there, but things obviously have to take its course and I kind of got to sit back, but who wouldn’t want to play there?”

Well, that cleared things up. 

Now the Sixers, in a new position with players openly offering their services to them, have to be clear too: Crawford isn’t the answer.

No, not “The Answer” although Crawford does have some legendary crossover moves of his own. The 18-year veteran simply isn’t the right fit for this Sixers squad.

For all of Crawford’s accomplishments over nearly two decades in the NBA, the 38-year-old has been on a steady decline. His scoring has dropped in each of the past five years until he posted 10.3 points a night last season with Minnesota, his lowest mark since he averaged 10.7 a night way back in 2002-03.

While Crawford attributed his struggles with the Timberwolves to limited minutes, that doesn’t have anything to do with his efficiency or lack thereof. Crawford shot 41.5 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from three-point range in 2017-18. Those numbers aren’t outliers either as he has career averages of 41.0 percent field goal shooting and 34.9 percent three-point shooting.

And it’s not just the scoring itself. It’s also how Crawford scores the ball. Even though he received only 20.7 minutes per game with the T-Wolves, Crawford was 13th in the entire league in isolation frequency with 19.8 percent of his possessions coming in a one-on-one setting. For comparison, Simmons was the highest Sixer in isolation frequency at 9.0 percent (87th in the NBA).

It’s understandable the Sixers might be still be looking to replace the veteran scoring off the bench lost by the departures of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, but Crawford’s game doesn’t exactly scream the pace-and-space mantra preached by the club.

That just shows how Crawford isn’t an ideal fit offensively. We won’t even get into the defensive end of the court (*cough* Crawford had a defensive rating of 112.9 last season, which means opponents averaged that many points per 100 possessions he was on the floor, good enough for 490th out of 523 total players *cough*).

Crawford does still have a place in the league. He’s a volume scorer that can potentially get hot on any given night and pour in 30 points. He’s also great in the locker room, a reason he took home Teammate of the Year award in '17-18.

But with the above signs of decline as well as T.J. McConnell and a rejuvenated Markelle Fultz penciled in as the Sixers’ reserve backcourt, there might not be the opportunity in Philadelphia that Crawford is seeking out.

Part of the Sixers now being desired is having the power in their hands. This might be a perfect time to use that to their advantage and ignore Crawford’s interest.

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