76ers

Sixers use monster 4th quarter to rally past Knicks

Sixers use monster 4th quarter to rally past Knicks

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NEW YORK — The Sixers were on the verge of being the reason why the Knicks snapped a dismal eight-game losing streak. Instead, they ramped up their efforts in the fourth quarter to extend the Knicks’ skid.

After trailing by 13 points and down eight after three, the Sixers outscored the Knicks 35-19 in the final 12 minutes to pull off a 118-110 comeback Thursday.

The Sixers still need to clamp down as they approach the playoffs. While they have acknowledged no team can be overlooked, they have to take advantage of matchups against struggling teams to move up in the closely-matched standings. The Knicks now have lost 17 of their last 18 games.

“Some of that I give them [credit]. Some of it, I think, we can't play like that,” Brett Brown said. “There needs to be more of a sense of urgency to trend in the way we want to trend as the exciting part of the season comes closer.”

The Sixers moved up to 37-30 while the Knicks dropped to 24-45. 

• Joel Embiid always was listed as available to play, but tape on his left wrist during shootaround and pregame warmups raised questions about his health. Brown did not know the reason for the tape and Embiid did not address the media prior to the game.

Embiid showed he was more than OK to play. He kicked off the night with 13 points in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 29. He added 10 rebounds and four assists for his 35th double-double of the season. 

• Ben Simmons notched his eighth triple-double: 13 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He passed Magic Johnson for sole place of second for triple-doubles by a rookie. Oscar Robertson holds the record with 26 in 1960-61.

“To be with those names, it's surreal,” Simmons said. “Knowing the games been's played for a long time, so many greats have been through.”

Simmons proved he can be a high-caliber point guard in the NBA, but Brown isn’t locked in on him playing the point his entire career. Brown said before the game he believes Simmons could play some power forward in his career. Simmons' reaction? “Definitely a one, not four,” he said. 

• Robert Covington came up big beyond the arc. All 15 of his points were off threes. 

• This was a stat-stuffing night: five players (Embiid, Dario Saric, Michael Beasley, Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn) recorded double-doubles while Simmons had the triple-double. 

• Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Furkan Korkmaz (left foot) remained out. They went through pregame drills seen here: 

• Madison Square Garden is a loud arena and Knicks fans are prideful, but that didn’t stop Philadelphia fans from breaking out into a roaring “E-A-G-L-E-S” chant during the game. And, as always, they also yelled “Trust the Process.” 

If they face Celtics again in playoffs, how can Sixers beat Boston?

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USA Today Images

If they face Celtics again in playoffs, how can Sixers beat Boston?

The Sixers have 24 games left, and each one of them matters with playoff seeding at stake. But their March 20 matchup vs. the Celtics might matter a little more than the others as the Sixers will aim to avoid a season sweep against Boston.

Today, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick discuss how the Sixers can beat the Celtics if the two teams meet again in the playoffs.

Monday, they looked at who should be part of the Sixers' playoff rotation (see story).

Wednesday, they'll review their expectations for the rest of the season.

Hudrick 

While the new-look Sixers will likely be a better team the next time they see the Celtics, there’s plenty to take from the previous matchups.

Some teams are a tough matchup for Joel Embiid and others for Ben Simmons. Boston is the rare team that gives both All-Stars problems. Al Horford is the rarest of players that can guard both. 

Most NBA fives are susceptible to Embiid’s pump fakes or they can’t keep up with his footwork, often leading to fouls. That’s not the case with Horford, who has the discipline, strength and quickness to hang with Embiid. It’s a matter of Embiid making better and quicker decisions — especially against double teams.

With Simmons, it’s just about valuing the basketball and picking his spots to be aggressive. Boston is excellent at getting back in transition, where Simmons normally excels. Simmons is often better when he’s attacking, but against the Celtics he may be better off letting the game come to him, like he did last Tuesday.

The other thought, knowing how much Embiid and Simmons have struggled vs. Boston, is to run the offense more around Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. 

Butler was the best player on the floor against the Celtics last week. We’ve briefly seen the Butler experiment at point guard. I’d be interested in seeing it more against Boston. It could allow Butler to be in control of the offense and allow Simmons to play a traditional four spot.

Harris struggled in the loss last week, but had good looks. He’s been with the team for less than two weeks, so Brown and his teammates are still figuring Harris out and how he fits in the offense. They have 24 games to find the best way to get Harris more involved. Doing so could come in handy if they face the Celtics again in the playoffs.

Levick 

I think there are three keys to the Sixers beating the Celtics: 

1. Make Joel Embiid’s life easier
We know Al Horford defends Embiid very well. Embiid just can’t draw fouls or score inside with ease against Horford the same way he does against other big men. That’s fine.

The Sixers can help Embiid by spacing the floor properly when he gets the ball, making the occasional, smart split cut off him, and recognizing that he’s not always going to be their best offensive option. Sometimes Tobias Harris or Jimmy Butler are going to be the right player to turn to down the stretch.

2. Play to Ben Simmons’ strengths
The current reality is Simmons, without a reliable jump shot, likely won’t be as effective offensively vs. the Celtics as he is against others teams. Boston does a great job neutralizing the athletic advantage Simmons usually possesses. Again, that doesn’t have to kill the Sixers.

I’ve mentioned it a bunch in the past, but it bears repeating — Simmons has gone from a poor post player (21 for 70, or 30 percent last season) to one of the better post-up players in the NBA this season (50 for 99, or 50.5 percent).

It would make sense for the Sixers to use Simmons more at the power forward spot than normal vs. Boston in lineups with Jimmy Butler or T.J. McConnell at the point. 

3. Prioritize defense
As we saw last season, Boston is masterful at exposing defensive liabilities. Players like Furkan Korkmaz can’t see the floor against the Celtics. JJ Redick’s minutes might need to go down. McConnell, though he’s been very good recently against the Celtics, will probably only be playable if he’s asked to defend smaller guards like Terry Rozier. 

In all likelihood, Brett Brown will need to ride his best defensive players — Butler, Embiid, Simmons and Harris. The Sixers have the talent to beat Boston, but Brown has a challenging task navigating the matchup troubles which the Celtics present. 

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Sixers' new starting five is on Sports Illustrated cover

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@SINow

Sixers' new starting five is on Sports Illustrated cover

If you're a Sixers fan, you better hope the Sports Illustrated cover jinx is not a real thing.

The Sixers' new, formidable starting five is on this week's cover of SI, posing around the words "Process This." You'd imagine Sam Hinkie is reading with pride. 

Interesting to note how all five guys have a hint of a smile besides Joel Embiid. His competitive side sometimes gets overshadowed, but Embiid definitely looks like he means business on the cover with that cold stare into the camera.

Tobias Harris wishes his teammates had gone all-in on the smile.

In the issue, The Crossover staff at SI re-previews the highly competitive Eastern Conference, taking stock of where the Sixers, Celtics, Bucks and Raptors stand after an eventful trade deadline.

So did Philly just build the most talented team in the East — or a very expensive runner-up? Whatever the answer, the experiment seems an appropriate extension of the Process," Andrew Sharp writes. "You don’t have to love every move, but you can’t help but admire the ambition.

Fair enough. 

Eleven years ago, Elton Brand was on the cover.

The question then was, "How far can Elton Brand take the Sixers?" It's still a relevant question, although at this point, the Sixers' fate falls largely on the team Brand has helped assemble. But there's no doubt Brand is again a big part of the Sixers' return to the national spotlight.

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