76ers

Sixers take out frustrations on Cavaliers in blowout win

Sixers take out frustrations on Cavaliers in blowout win

BOX SCORE

If ever a team needed a laugher, it was the Sixers.

After dropping five straight road games, they took their frustrations out on the Cavaliers in a 114-95 win at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Sunday.

It’s the Sixers’ first victory away from home since their thrilling win in Portland on Nov. 2. They improve to 8-5 on the young season. They’re back at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday to take on the Knicks (7 p.m./NBCSP)

Here are observations from the win.

That’s how you get right

The first few possessions were not great for the Sixers defensively. It looked like another game that could be doomed by poor pick-and-roll defense and turnovers — a familiar theme throughout the young season. 

Boy, did that change in a hurry. 

The Sixers got a nice defensive boost from James Ennis, ending the first quarter on a 17-4 run and assisting on 12 of their first 15 makes. They played smothering defense and turned that into easy offense.

It was by far the Sixers’ best half of the season as they shot 68.3 percent from the field, committed just five turnovers and outscored the Cavs, 68-44. 

The most encouraging thing is that they didn’t let up. They kept their foot on the gas and never let Cleveland back in the game.

This is what it was supposed to look like

The Sixers had lost five of their last seven, which exacerbated the issues of the starting five. On Sunday, they looked like a well-oiled machine. We saw the “bully ball” offense out in full force. With their size, the Sixers are going to have mismatches pretty much every night. It was a clear emphasis against the Cavs. 

You saw Ben Simmons find Josh Richardson for a wide open three out of the post. Tobias Harris got doubled in the post and found Joel Embiid for an easy bucket. Al Horford ran the pick-and-pop with Simmons for a short jumper. 

No, Cleveland is not a defensive juggernaut, but this was the most encouraging offensive showing by the starters this season. At times, their ball movement was unreal. Now it’s about taking this performance into their next game.

It’s worth noting that Harris appears to be off the schneid as he stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high 27 points (12 of 14), five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

When Jo and Ben are at their best …

For those screaming that Embiid needs to be in the post, this had to be refreshing. There’s no secret to it. Brett Brown didn’t make any crazy adjustments. It boils down to Embiid running rim to rim instead of three-point line to three-point line. He got down the floor and got early position for easy post ups. He screened and rolled hard to the rim as well, which makes a huge difference. He was his dominant self Sunday, but more importantly, he played just a little over 22 minutes.

Though as mentioned it was against the Cavs, it’s always encouraging to see both Embiid and Simmons get going in the same game. Cedi Osman was no match for Simmons. Simmons took him off the dribble and punished him in the post. Simmons also continues to be strong defensively. He looks more engaged this season and well on his way to earning some type of All-Defensive Team honors. 

He finished with 10 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal in just under 26 minutes.

Boost from the bench

The Sixers got just 11 points from their bench Friday in Oklahoma City. The reserves had 20 at the half Sunday.

Ennis was a huge part of that. He hit a trio of corner threes and was active defensively and on the glass throughout. Ennis has given the Sixers solid run his last three games. He had a season-high 14 points.

It’s clear that Furkan Korkmaz has cooled from his torrid pace, but it was good to see the Turkish wing put the ball on the floor and make a couple plays for 13 points. Rookie Matisse Thybulle was good in his first-half run, hitting a three and finishing on a rare drive. Trey Burke got the backup point guard minutes over Raul Neto.

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Brett Brown previews competitions for spots in Sixers' rotation

Brett Brown previews competitions for spots in Sixers' rotation

Al Horford has played in 13 NBA seasons. He’s now embarking on something close to a 14th.

“It felt like a new season, absolutely,” Horford said Sunday in a video conference call before the Sixers’ second practice at Disney World. “This feels completely new. … Coach is teaching everything, he’s putting us through things and we’re learning everything all over again.”

Horford and Furkan Korkmaz both felt positively about the Sixers’ practice Saturday in Orlando, which Brett Brown described as a competitive, fast-paced affair with 5-on-5 action. 

“As a team, I think we were flying,” Korkmaz said of the team's first practice since March 10. “I was not expecting that practice was going to look like that. … Everybody was trying to do everything, everything had the same desire. After four, five months, I didn’t think we were going to have a good practice, but it was a really, really good practice, so I was impressed.’

Brown sounded confident that the Sixers have returned at a satisfactory fitness base, something he’d prioritized during the NBA’s hiatus. He said Joel Embiid “especially stood out.”

On a strategic front, Brown previewed the jostling for rotation spots he anticipates over the next few weeks, and perhaps during some of the Sixers’ seeding games as well. Health permitting, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris will clearly be in the starting lineup. Otherwise, the composition of the rotation appears to largely be up in the air.

My mindset is I want to look at a set of 10,” he said. “I hope, as we lead up to this, to play 10 people. I think it’s going to shrink to nine at some point — for sure in the playoffs. My bandwidth, my net is wider right now because I really do want to see. I haven’t seen these guys for four months. You get into people like Glenn Robinson and Alec Burks and Mike Scott … and Matisse (Thybulle) and Furkan, and what are we going to do with Al? 

“There needs to be some decisions, and something’s gotta give. You’re not going to play everybody. But initially I hope to play 10 people. It could be you give X player the 10th spot today and you sit somebody — I don’t want to piecemeal minutes — and really give somebody a true opportunity.

Given Brown reiterated that he’s not “worrying too much” about seeding and potential playoff matchups, it wouldn’t be surprising to see playoff rotation minutes be at stake in some form for many of the team’s eight seeding contests. 

‘You’ve got a passport to what you remember’ 

For good reason, questions about whether the NBA’s endeavor to resume the season is wise and can be accomplished safely remain prominent. In the background of all the discussion about fitness and rotations and upcoming scrimmages is the awareness that the objective of playing sports indoors over several months during a pandemic may very well be rather tenuous, regardless of what precautions are taken. 

“We all worry about the virus, in some capacity, sneaking in,” Brown said.

And yet, one can imagine, the ability to enjoy the sport you love, away from all the worries and problems in the world, must provide relief. Brown captured that element well. 

“The freedom of a gymnasium is priceless,” he said. “You take off your mask and you’ve got a basketball in your hands, you’ve got a passport to what you remember and what you feel like brings you to a level of normality that none of us had.” 

The jersey discussion 

His framing of the issue was more diplomatic, but Horford thinks Mike Scott has a valid opinion on the NBA deciding to give players a pre-approved list of social justice messages they can include on the back of their jerseys. 

Horford said he went “back and forth” but will not be using one of the messages. LeBron James told reporters on Saturday he’s made the same choice.

“I kind of understand and share Mike Scott’s sentiment a little bit,” Horford said. “Even though this is a great platform for us to promote things, I think having the ability to kind of say what you want to say and leave it like that ... at the end of the day, everybody makes their own decision — whatever they feel is right, whatever they want to do.”

Scott had criticized the league for not allowing players to have input on the jersey idea.

“I’m all about just doing,” he said Monday, “instead of just saying or posting or putting something on the back of your jersey. I don’t think that’s going to stop anything."

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2020 NBA restart: What Sixers experienced in quarantine at Disney World

2020 NBA restart: What Sixers experienced in quarantine at Disney World

After the Sixers boarded the plane on Thursday afternoon to head to Orlando, Florida, to enter "the bubble" for the NBA’s restart, Tobias Harris got on the speaker before takeoff.

“Welcome back, y’all. Welcome back!”

The laughs echoed through the rows of empty seats (as mandated by the NBA’s health and safety handbook) on the Sixers' chartered plane.

Upon arrival to the Walt Disney World Campus, the entire traveling party was immediately tested for the coronavirus, both with a saliva test and two nose swabs. (These nose swabs are a much less invasive testing option, in comparison to the deep nasal swabbing that was originally used to test for the virus.) All players and staffers were then given a green wristband to indicate that they were officially in quarantine, which was in effect until Saturday morning, until both coronavirus tests came back negative. A green wristband indicates that a resident cannot leave their room, and security is in place to ensure all residents abide by the league's protocols. 

After testing on Thursday night, the traveling party made its way through socially distanced stations, like the "Health supplies station," to pick up items like Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer, before making it to their rooms, where they would reside for at least the next 36 hours.

Meals were provided three times per day and dropped off at each resident's door in compostable containers.

Multiple sources described the meals as "suspect."

An Instagram story from Joel Embiid showed beef ribs, chicken breast, mashed potatoes, pasta, two salads, pretzels, berries, a cheese and nuts plate, and a sandwich as one of the meal options.

Every member of the traveling party was provided with a daily health checklist, which includes taking a “symptom questionnaire” in the MyHealth app, and taking temperature and blood oxygen levels with the provided thermometer and fingertip pulse oximeter.

For the next 36 hours, players found different ways to occupy their time.

For Josh Richardson, quarantine meant watching Netflix, listening to music, and rearranging his room.

For others, like Ben Simmons and Mike Scott, it was spent playing video games (Richardson said on an Instagram Live that he could hear Scott on his gaming headset across the hall).

For rookie Matisse Thybulle, he started perfecting his videography skills in a video he put together documenting Day 1 in the "bubble."  

For Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic provided him entertainment from his balcony.

And for most, they just couldn’t wait to get the “OK” to get out of their room on Saturday morning.

“I've been looking out my window just trying to peep and see the other teams that are here,” Glenn Robinson III told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I’m just happy to get out of the room!

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