76ers

Sixers do the improbable to cap off homestand

Sixers do the improbable to cap off homestand

BOX SCORE

The game started off as another example of the trials and tribulations the Sixers face without Joel Embiid. It ended with a massive comeback victory, 104-102, over the Heat. 

The Heat dominated the Sixers, leading, 62-39, at halftime Wednesday. The Sixers looked out of sync without Embiid (right ankle soreness), who didn’t play for only the second time in 20 games. 

That’s why there are four quarters, though. The Sixers began to take back control in the third, thanks in part to a 12-0 run that cut a 24-point deficit in half and put the game back within reach.

The Sixers came all the way back in the fourth quarter and were up five points with 13 seconds to play … but not so fast. Tyler Johnson hit a trey and the Heat regained possession after Ben Simmons committed an out-of-bounds turnover while passing. The Heat had one last chance to steal back the win. Dwyane Wade, who has knocked down key shots countless times over his career, missed what would have been a game-winning three as time expired. 

• The Sixers extended their winning streak at the Wells Fargo Center to 11 games. They have not lost in Philadelphia since Dec. 21.

• This was an important game for the Sixers because of potential playoff implications. The Sixers entered the night half a game ahead of the Heat in the seventh spot. After this matchup, the Sixers improved to 30-25, while the Heat dropped to 30-28.  

• Marco Belinelli showed why the Sixers pursued him, and vice versa, in his debut. He gave the first glimpse into the spark he can provide off the bench. Belinelli scored 17 points (7 for 12 from the field, 3 for 5 from three) in 28 minutes, including key buckets in the Sixers’ comeback run (see highlights).

• Another night, another triple-double for a Sixers’ point guard. Following up on T.J. McConnell’s performance, Ben Simmons posted his sixth triple-double of the season: 18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals. He ranks third in the NBA behind Russell Westbrook and LeBron James in triple-doubles. 

• Richaun Holmes clocked 28 minutes after barely seeing the court lately. He contributed a high-energy 11 points and nine rebounds. Trevor Booker neared a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Dario Saric once again had a solid offensive night (team-high 19 points). 

• The Sixers were whistled for three technical fouls (McConnell, Saric, JJ Redick) in the second quarter alone. 

• It remains to be seen how many events Embiid will participate in All-Star weekend. In addition to starting in the All-Star Game, he was selected for the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game and the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

“In regards to a definitive, ‘This is what he's going to do,’ that has not been established,” Brett Brown said before the game (see story).

Report: Sixers trade No. 39 pick to Lakers for 2019 2nd-rounder, cash

Report: Sixers trade No. 39 pick to Lakers for 2019 2nd-rounder, cash

The Sixers didn’t wait until draft night to start their wheeling and dealing.

According to a report Wednesday by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sixers have traded the No. 39 pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for a 2019 second-round pick (via the Chicago Bulls) and cash.

With the Sixers previously holding six total selections in Thursday’s 2018 NBA draft and 11 players already under contract for next season, the team was never going to be able to use all of its picks.

The Sixers now enter the draft with picks Nos. 10 and 26 in the first round and Nos. 38, 56 and 60 in the second round.

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NBA draft profile: Villanova G Jalen Brunson

NBA draft profile: Villanova G Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson

Position: Guard

Height: 6-2

Weight: 198

School: Villanova

As Mikal Bridges cements his status as a consensus lottery pick and Donte DiVincenzo’s name becomes hot enough to reportedly receive an invite to the green room of the draft, their Villanova teammate who was the consensus national player of the year has seen his stock remain static.

Jalen Brunson was the leading scorer on Villanova’s national title team last season, pouring in 18.9 points per game while dishing out 4.6 assists. Bunson, a three-year starter and two-time national champ, was also highly-efficient, shooting 52.1 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from deep and 80.2 percent from the free throw line. And as a result of his remarkable junior season, the Villanova point guard took home a ton of hardware in sweeping the major national player of the year awards.

But, Brunson isn’t considered a surefire first-round pick.

Two of the main reasons for this? His position and age. The point guard position has the greatest depth in the NBA so lead guards don’t tend be high draft picks unless they have All-Star upside. If Bridges was five inches shorter, he wouldn’t have the same kind of value. Teams are starving for rotation three-and-D wings and not so much for high-floor/low-ceiling point guards. 

With Brunson set to turn 22 years old in August, he doesn’t possess the tantalizing upside of the top point guards in this draft like Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Even so, there's still a place for Brunson in the NBA.

Strengths
As a three-level scorer, Brunson can fill it up in a variety of ways. He has a smooth jumper that extends beyond the three-point line. In the mid-range area, he makes up for his lack of quickness with crafty moves to create separation for pull-ups. On drives, Brunson can initiate contact to draw fouls, contort his body to avoid contests and has good touch around the rim. And believe it or not, the 6-2 guard utilizes his craftiness to be an effective post player as well. 

When Brunson has the ball in his hands, he carries a calming force with him. He plays at his own pace and just always seems in control, rarely committing egregious turnovers or taking bad shots. He's also a willing, talented passer who will make the unselfish extra pass and can also fit the ball into a tight window to a cutter/roller.

Weaknesses
Brunson’s weaknesses have less to do with his skills and more with his physical traits and tools. He’s not an explosive athlete with crazy bounce and doesn’t possess game-changing speed or quickness. So will he be able to create enough space against more athletic wing defenders to penetrate to the rim or get off his pull-up jumper? 

Defensively, Brunson works hard and isn't way undersized as a point guard. But he doesn't have the size to switch across multiple positions and the one position he will defend is deep with high-level talent. He can survive against backups, but how will he fare against quality starters and stars?

NBA comparison
Lefties tend to get compared to other lefties, but I'm passing on the Derek Fisher comp and going with fellow Big 5 alum Jameer Nelson. The St. Joe’s product is shorter and had a little more quickness during his prime, but was a solid starter capable of scoring at all three levels despite some physical limitations. Brunson projects more as a backup but has the ceiling of a player like Nelson.

How’d he fit with the Sixers
Let’s look at the Sixers’ current guards beyond Ben Simmons. Markelle Fultz is an unknown. T.J. McConnell is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. And the only others under contract are Jerryd Bayless, Timothe Luwawu-Caborrot and Furkan Korkmaz.

This team needs guard depth, specifically ball handlers and shot creators/makers. While it may not come at an elite level, Brunson could fill both of those needs. And because of his shooting ability, he could also play off the ball as a spot-up shooter and secondary creator alongside Simmons and Fultz.

Draft projection 
A fringe first-rounder, Brunson's range will start right around the Sixers’ second pick at No. 26. If they pass on him there, they shouldn’t count on him still being on the board at their next pick at 38.

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