76ers

Sixers’ Game 1 loss to Nets should serve as a wake-up call

Sixers’ Game 1 loss to Nets should serve as a wake-up call

Theoretically, Saturday could’ve gone worse for the Sixers, but it’s hard to imagine how.

Joel Embiid played, and while he was brilliant at times, you could tell he wasn’t himself. The Sixers got next to nothing out of three of their five starters. Amir Johnson got caught checking his phone while the team was down double digits in the fourth quarter. Ben Simmons was not thrilled with the crowd booing and didn’t hide it.

And the worst part? The Sixers, who’ve supposedly embraced their lofty expectations, fell behind 1-0 in their first round playoff series after a 111-102 loss to the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center.

Not a banner day in South Philly.

But therein might lay the silver lining. The Sixers aren’t likely going to panic, but a loss in the first game of a series they're heavily favored to win was surely a wake-up call.

“It’s an eye-opener, if that’s what you [want to] call it,” Jimmy Butler said. “I’m telling you, we’re going to be fine. We’ve got practice, we’ve got a day to recoup, then we’ll be back on this same floor come Monday.”

Even for the most level-headed and optimistic, it’s fair to be a little concerned. The team’s issues from the regular season crept back up at times.

The chief concern is still the health of Embiid. Embiid gave it a go, but didn’t look right. He tried a knee brace during his pregame warm-up, but decided against wearing it during the game, saying it caused pain in his calf.

While pain management is the biggest thing facing Embiid, there is definitely still an issue of fitness level. Embiid hadn’t played in a week and missed 14 of the last 24 games of the regular season. Because of that fatigue, he often settled for jumpers instead of continuing to get to the line like he did to start the game.

If Embiid can get remotely close to the player he’s been for most of the season, he can carry this team.

“Hopefully, I’ll feel better and gain a couple more of my athletic abilities so I can be more down on the block,” Embiid said. “Jimmy did a great job [Saturday] attacking. We couldn’t back him up so Monday we’ve got to do a better job.”

With JJ Redick, you just kind of have to take the good with the bad. What he does on offense with his shot-making and movement away from the ball opens everything up for his teammates. Defensively, his lack of size and athleticism make him a liability.

Tobias Harris’ struggles are troubling. He slumped into the playoffs, shooting just 27 percent from three over his final 19 games. He played a team-high 41 minutes, but wound up with just four points. His season-low was six. Still, Harris has proven he can get hot and carry this team offensively. He just needs to get out of his own head.

The biggest concern is the disturbing pattern we’ve seen with Simmons. Brad Stevens gave the rest of the league the blueprint to stop Simmons and Kenny Atkinson followed it in Game 1. Simmons’ lack of shot is hurting him, but so too is his lack of aggressiveness in looking for his own shot.

“I do know that he completely cares,” Brett Brown said of Simmons. “His experience from the playoffs last year -- you want to improve from that and you want to show all the fans all the work he definitely has put in. Tonight, you would’ve have seen that. He will be back and maybe there is some truth to what you just said, where he’s over thinking it and trying to overanalyze stuff. That could be true, but I will tell this room, I would be shocked if you don’t see a different Ben Simmons in Game 2.”

The fans are hoping to see a different Sixers team in Game 2.

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Kobe Bryant's 7 best NBA moments in Philly

Kobe Bryant's 7 best NBA moments in Philly

We are paying tribute to a legend. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia will re-broadcast three of Kobe Bryant's landmark games Monday night — the 2008 Olympic gold medal game at 6 p.m., followed by Bryant's final game in Philadelphia at 8 p.m. and the 2012 Olympic gold medal game at 10:30 p.m. 

Bryant honed his Hall of Fame talents at Lower Merion High School and sharpened his skills and competitiveness in the Sonny Hill League and on playgrounds across the Delaware Valley. 

Bryant had his share of highs and lows as a professional in his hometown. 

He played 17 regular-season games in Philadelphia, finishing with a 7-10 record and a 22.8 scoring average. More importantly, he had a perfect 3-0 record in postseason games in Philadelphia, with all three wins coming in the Lakers' 4-1 series victory over the 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals. Bryant averaged 25.7 points in those three games and captured the second of his five career NBA championships. 

Here's a look back at some of Bryant's most memorable moments in Philly. 

First NBA game in Philadelphia — Nov. 26, 1996
Bryant played his first professional game in his hometown as an 18-year old reserve, scoring 12 points in 21 minutes in a 100-88 Lakers win. He shot 4 of 10 from the field, 2 of 5 from three-point range and made both of his free throw attempts.  

Bryant's rookie counterpart Allen Iverson finished with 16 points on 6 of 27 shooting and 10 assists. Former Temple star Eddie Jones and Shaquille O'Neal each had a game-high 23 points for the Lakers. 

Bryant came off the bench in 65 of the 71 games he played as a rookie, averaging 7.6 points in 15.5 minutes per game. 

NBA Finals — June 2001
The Lakers and Sixers arrived in Philadelphia for Games 3, 4, 5 of the 2001 NBA Finals with the series even at one game apiece. The 22-year old Bryant famously proclaimed that he was coming to Philly to "cut their hearts out."

The Lakers went on to win the next three games in Philadelphia to secure their second straight NBA championship. 

Game 3 was the closest of the three games — the Lakers won 96-91 behind Bryant's 32 points. He had 19 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in a 14-point win in Game 4 before closing out the series with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in a 12-point win in Game 5. 

2002 All-Star Game MVP — Feb. 10, 2002
Bryant's "cut their hearts out" comment was still fresh in the minds of Sixers fans eight months later when the 2002 All-Star game was played in Philadelphia. Bryant was booed throughout the night, but he fed off the negative energy to score a game-high 31 points and win the first of his four career All-Star Game MVP awards. 

He was subsequently booed during the All-Star MVP presentation and admitted that his feelings were hurt by the frosty reception from his hometown crowd.  

Bryant averaged 25.2 points during that 2001-2002 season and led the Lakers to a third straight NBA championship. 

44-point outburst — Dec. 20, 2002 
Bryant's best game in Philadelphia came 10 months after that 2002 All-Star Game, when he posted 44 points and 10 assists in a 107-104 loss to the Sixers. He shot 16 of 35 from the field, 2 of 5 from three-point range and made all 10 of his free throw attempts. 

Iverson led the Sixers to victory with 32 points, nine steals and five assists. Keith Van Horn had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. 

The 2003 Lakers came up short in their quest for a fourth straight NBA title, losing to the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.

Snapping the streak — Dec. 21, 2007
Bryant and the Lakers got their first regular-season win in Philadelphia in nearly eight years, beating the Sixers 106-101 to snap a six-game losing streak at the formerly named Wachovia Center.

Bryant had 19 points in the win, but Andrew Bynum stole the show with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Andre Miller led the Sixers with 21 points and eight assists. 

The 2007-2008 season marked the first of three straight trips to the NBA Finals for Bryant and the Lakers. They would lose the 2008 Finals to the Celtics before beating the Magic in 2009 and winning a rematch with Boston in 2010. 

Last great performance in Philadelphia — Dec. 16, 2012
This was Bryant's last vintage performance in his hometown. The 34-year old Bryant had 34 points and six assists in a 111-98 win over the Sixers. Nick Young led the Sixers with 30 points, while Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes each scored 16 points. 

Bryant's 2012-2013 campaign ended with a torn Achilles tendon late in the 80th game of the regular season. The Kobe-less Lakers were swept by the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. 

This turned out to be Bryant's last great season. He averaged 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds to earn First Team All-NBA honors in his 17th NBA season. 

Final game in Philadelphia — Dec. 1, 2015
Bryant's last game in Philadelphia came nearly 14 years after he was booed during the 2002 All-Star Game. That proved to be plenty of time for old wounds to heal. He was showered with applause and tributes in his Philly farewell, and for a while it looked like he would deliver one final great performance in his hometown. 

Bryant opened the game by hitting 3 of his first 4 three-point attempts, whipping the Wells Fargo Center into a frenzy. But at 37 years old, Bryant eventually ran out of gas and finished 7 of 26 from the field in a 103-91 loss to a Sixers team that entered the game with an 0-18 record. 

Bryant scored 20 points and finished his 20th and final NBA season with a 17.6 scoring average.

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Sixers Talk podcast: Will Sixers have a chip on their shoulder if playoffs happen?

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NBCSP/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: Will Sixers have a chip on their shoulder if playoffs happen?

On this edition, Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss:

(2:12) — Questioning Joel Embiid's fitness is like beating a dead horse; will the Sixers have a chip on their shoulder?
(13:22) — Charles Barkley calls Moses Malone trade a disaster to his career.
(20:20) — Would the season being cancelled be worse than watching our most hated rival winning the Finals?

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