Familiar themes haunt Sixers in crushing loss to Pacers

Familiar themes haunt Sixers in crushing loss to Pacers


Three-point shooting. Late-game miscues. Struggles on the road.

These three things have been themes for the Sixers this season and they all played a part Monday in a 101-95 loss to the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

For the second straight game, the Sixers held a nine-point lead at halftime but couldn't build on it in the third quarter.

Their sixth straight road loss drops them to 7-14 away from the Wells Fargo Center and 25-16 overall. They return home Wednesday to host the Brooklyn Nets.

Here are observations from the loss:

Another uneven effort from Simmons

After an impressive first half on both ends in Dallas Saturday, Simmons disappeared in the second, going scoreless as the Mavericks steamrolled the Sixers.

It was a similar issue Monday. 

He was nearly unstoppable in the first half, driving by the likes of Malcolm Brogdon and finishing physically at the rim.

This drive could very well have been the most impressive one of Simmons’ career.

He had a game-high 20 points (9 of 11) at halftime. He was getting anywhere he wanted on the floor.

And of course, what would a Sixers game be this year without a mention of Simmons’ defense? The NBA leader in steals came up with this one late in the first half. Jeremy Lamb made a business decision on the other end.

He went just 1 of 4 for four points in the third, though this drive was a beaut.

Simmons failed to score in the fourth, finishing with 24 points, 14 rebounds and three assists.

Better late than never for J-Rich

After being named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week earlier in the afternoon, Josh Richardson just couldn’t quite get it going through the first three quarters. He was just 2 of 10 from the field and 0 of 5 from three.

With the Sixers locked in a tight one, Richardson came up with a few huge buckets down the stretch. He had 17 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, including this ridiculous three with the shot clock winding down.

It appears Brown has found something using Richardson in the pick-and-roll. He continues to also excel in the midrange. Unfortunately for the Sixers, they couldn’t get good looks when the Pacers keyed in on Richardson in the guts of the game.

Defense shows up

The first was one of the better defensive halves the Sixers have played this season. They held the Pacers to 34.1 percent from the field and made everything difficult on Indiana.

Al Horford was especially good in the pick-and-roll. They’ve changed up their coverage when Horford plays the five. When Embiid plays, he’ll drop in coverage on pick-and-rolls. Brett Brown has made an adjustment with Horford, allowing the veteran big to come up and corral. It’s led to much better results.

Their help and rotations were sharp. They rebounded well. It was a strong effort for most of the game.

The second half wasn’t as strong, but just like in Dallas, the Sixers didn’t take advantage of their opportunities to bust the game open on the offensive end and that seemed to leak over into their defense.

More struggles from three

The Sixers went just 9 of 37 from three against the Mavericks and it took a hot shooting fourth quarter just to get there. Those shooting woes continued in Indiana.

They went just 3 of 16 in the first half and 4 of 26 through three quarters. They finished 6 of 33. It felt like they had plenty of opportunities to hit dagger threes to extend several leads but failed to do so.

The Sixers need shooting. The trade deadline is Feb. 6.

Peculiar rotation

James Ennis didn’t get off the bench Monday night. He wasn’t listed on the injury report and there was no word at the time of this post. It was a little peculiar to see Ennis out of the rotation.

Rookie Matisse Thybulle was probably the Sixers' most effective reserve. He’d been 0 for 11 since returning from his right knee injury. He broke that with a nice a lob from Simmons, but was just 1 of 5 from three. He had four rebounds, a steal and a block.

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Sixers at Knicks: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Knicks: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The 27-16 Sixers begin a three-game road trip Saturday night against the 11-31 New York Knicks.

Here are the essentials:

When: 7:30 ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
Where: Madison Square Garden 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Campaigning for Simmons 

Despite posting 20 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in addition to playing smothering second-half defense, Ben Simmons might have been a bit overshadowed Friday night by Furkan Korkmaz’s career-high 24 points.

Brett Brown didn’t want that to happen.

How can we not recognize Ben Simmons' defense? After the first timeout in the third period, are you serious? He was just the adult in the room defensively. He's a physical presence by a lot when you watch him play defense. I thought he changed the game. How can he not be a First Team, All-League defensive player? I don't know.

A great chance to win on the road

The Sixers are 20-2 at Wells Fargo Center and 7-14 on the road. Simmons doesn’t know why there’s such a disparity. 

“If I knew the answer I’d probably fix it on the road,” he said Friday.

A game against the Knicks presents the Sixers with a strong opportunity to win away from home for the first time since Dec. 23. The Knicks are 6-14 at Madison Square Garden.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to playing defense, locking in from the first to the fourth quarter, and keeping that mentality and not letting up,” Simmons said. “Just staying locked in to that team game and playing defense.”

The Sixers beat the Knicks in New York on Nov. 29 without Al Horford, Josh Richardson and Kyle O’Quinn, coming back from a 16-point second-quarter deficit. All three of those players should be available tonight, while Joel Embiid is set to miss his sixth straight game after having surgery last Friday for a torn ligament in the ring finger on his left hand. Knicks rookie RJ Barrett is out with a sprained right ankle. 

Not so fast … 

We all expected the Sixers to play at a quicker pace in the absence of Embiid. So far, though, that hasn’t been the case.

The team’s 95.8 pace since the Boston game last Thursday is 29th in the NBA. 

They have, however, taken better care of the ball since Embiid’s injury, turning it over only 11 times per game, tied for best in the league. 

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Furkan Korkmaz sparks sudden blaze, then leaps over logic

Furkan Korkmaz sparks sudden blaze, then leaps over logic

There came a point Friday night during Furkan Korkmaz’s career-best 24-point performance when everyone at Wells Fargo Center seemed to collectively shrug and say, “Sure. Why not?”

Korkmaz had already flashed his trademark skill, hitting four three-pointers in under two minutes during a sudden blaze at the end of the third quarter.

With a little less than seven minutes to go in the Sixers’ 100-89 win, he stared down Bulls center Cristiano Felicio. The 22-year-old then crossed Felicio over, blew past him, dunked and let out an exultant scream. 

“At that time of the game, I was really feeling it,” Korkmaz said. “I got that confidence. When I saw the open lane, I just took off. I was also not expecting that, but I just dunked it. That was a good moment.”

Korkmaz wasn’t done, though. He missed a well-earned heat check on the Sixers’ next possession, but dropped in a floater shortly after. And, just to confirm that it was indeed his night, he took a charge on Bulls star Zach LaVine. 

Which play did he enjoy more?

“It’s a tough question, but I think I would say the dunk,” Korkmaz said honestly.

This isn’t the first time Korkmaz has changed a game this season with his shotmaking. He had nine key fourth-quarter points Wednesday vs. Brooklyn, blew up the Bucks’ zone in the third quarter on Christmas and made the game-winning three on Nov. 2 in Portland.

The Sixers declined Korkmaz’s third-year option last year, then let him sit on the free-agent market until July 25. Though they billed him as a young, promising player, their actions suggested Korkmaz was not a prominent part of their plans. He appeared to be on the fringe of the rotation.

Brett Brown hasn’t passed up many chances to laud Korkmaz, and he had a great opportunity Friday.

It’s really quite a — to say it's incredible would be too dramatic — but it's a heck of a story, isn't it? Just where he was and where he is. For us to see him — and he's young, can't forget his birth certificate — for us to see him come in and do JJ [Redick]-like stuff and have that type of a bomber, that was different. … We ran probably, I don't know, five plays in a row going to him. 

“I had flashbacks of JJ. We jumped into JJ's package and he changed the game. He gave us a spark and whether it was a three ball — I don't remember JJ dunking like that … but the long shot and just like bam, bam, bam — quick points, buckets — fueled our defense.

While Korkmaz deserves credit for translating his hypothetical value as a shooter into real contributions this year — he’s made 71 threes, tied with Tobias Harris for most on the team, and converted 39 percent — he will probably not maintain Friday's euphoric high. 

He’s devoted time and energy to improving his defense, but the question of whether he’ll be able to hold his own in the playoffs remains open and valid. If he’s not sinking shots, his impact tends to not be positive. Any moves the Sixers make before the Feb. 6 trade deadline could shift his role, too.

But, for the time being, he is playing with an apparently limitless self-belief.

“As a player you just need to get that confidence,” he said. “When you start to feel good on the court and also your teammates see that, your coaching staff sees that — I think today everybody saw that I was feeling it — and I knew that I had to shoot those looks. I just take the open shots, that’s all I do.”

Brown is clearly relishing in Korkmaz’s success.

“He's quality people,” Brown said. “He's a genuine person and you're proud of that, too. Good things happen to good people ... He's put in the time and to his credit, he came in and changed the landscape of an NBA game. And he did it quite emphatically. It wasn't like it was swept under the carpet. He did it where ESPN and all of us and his teammates, probably more importantly, felt his success.”

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