Sixers-Lakers observations: Another stinging home loss

Sixers-Lakers observations: Another stinging home loss


The Sixers’ struggles against sub.-500 teams continued as they dropped their second straight game Thursday against the Lakers, 107-104.

Instead of bouncing back from Monday’s loss to the Suns, the Sixers were forced to scramble back from a deficit all night long. 

They were able to tie the game on several occasions in the final minute, but Brandon Ingram’s three-pointer with 0.8 remaining proved to be the difference. Richaun Holmes missed a long three off the inbounds pass from Ben Simmons.

• The Sixers would not have been in that last-second situation if they had played stronger from the start. They trailed by 13 points in the first quarter, a time when they should have been making a statement on their home court.

• The Sixers did make an impressive run in the fourth to tie the game after falling behind by 15. They had an opportunity to steal the game after Lonzo Ball missed a three with 29 seconds to go. However, with the game knotted at 104-104, Joel Embiid missed a layup with 12 seconds on the clock, Ball grabbed the rebound and found Ingram for the clinching trey.

• Holmes scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and sparked a high-energy push, but the Lakers never allowed the Sixers to surge in front. The backup big played alongside Embiid to give the Sixers the frontcourt punch they needed. Embiid spaced the floor (2 of 3 from three-point range) while Holmes raced the floor to get up for dunks and battle into and-one situations. This matchup was a fit for Holmes, who plays best in uptempo games.

• Embiid expected to be double-teamed. He still found way to be effective, leading all players with 33 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five blocks (see highlights).

• Simmons recorded his third triple-double: 12 points, 13 boards and a massive 15 assists (see highlights). The last rookie to post three triple-doubles was Lamar Odom in the 1999-00 season.

• Fans booed Ball every time he touched the ball. The No. 2 pick scored 10 points (5 for 11 from the field), with eight rebounds, eight assists and four blocks. 

• The Sixers’ bench was scoreless aside from Holmes. Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson combined for 32 points off the Lakers’ bench while Ingram (21 points) led the team. 

• Taking care of home game is a must-do for the Sixers in their playoff hunt. Their next three games are on the road: a back-to-back set in Cleveland and New Orleans followed by a game Tuesday in Minnesota. Their schedule doesn't get easier when they come back to host the Thunder next Friday night. 

• Injury/inactive update: Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Dario Saric (eye) were out for the Sixers. 

• There was a loud rise from one particular section of the crowd in the fourth quarter. What was going on? After scanning the stands … it was LaVar Ball standing up and waving his hands at booing Sixers fans.

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.

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.

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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