Sixers ready to embrace Heat's increased physicality on defense

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Sixers ready to embrace Heat's increased physicality on defense

The Heat’s physicality in Game 2 didn’t bother every Sixers player.

“I think this is the first time where it’s been let go a little bit more, which has been good. I enjoy it,” said Ben Simmons, who recorded 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the Sixers’ 113-103 loss. “I love competing against guys like that, who you know want to hit each other and knock each other down, which is good.”

When you’re a 6-10, 230-pound bruising version of a point guard, that type of play would definitely appear to fit your style. 

Chalk Simmons up as the exception and not the rule for the Sixers, although the entire team knew the Heat were going to punch back after a lopsided Game 1.

“Obviously, they were very physical,” Markelle Fultz said after Tuesday’s practice. “I don’t think that was like something we were shocked by. We knew they were going to come out more physical. That was one of the emphasis they had coming in.”

“Honestly, it was what we expected them to do,” JJ Redick said. “We didn’t expect things to be as easy as that second half was in Game 1. They’re a championship organization with a lot of pride. That was expected. So we have to kind of move on and go under the assumption that that’s how it’s going to be the rest of the series.”

If that’s the case, this Sixers team with limited playoff experience outside of a few veterans better get adjusted in a hurry.

The Sixers were clearly affected by Miami’s increased defensive intensity on Monday night. They shot just 41.7 percent from the field (19.4 percent from three-point range) and committed 15 turnovers. More importantly, they allowed the Heat to knock their entire offense out of rhythm.

“I think, too, it wasn’t just about physicality,” Redick said. “I think a byproduct of that, and probably part of their strategy, was if you’re physical you’re going to foul. The game becomes choppy and the game is played at their pace. We have to figure out a way to play the game at our pace.”

The Sixers know getting the game on their terms means being stronger with the ball, setting better screens and cutting harder to the basket. However, perhaps the best way to counter the Heat’s extra physicality is by simply embracing the defensive pressure.

“Honestly, I think it can help us a lot because with team pressure we can just be able to attack,” Fultz said. “If we get to the rim, we have great athletes and we have great shooters. So get to the rim.”

Spurs 123, Sixers 96: Sixers sleepwalk through uninspiring loss to Spurs

Spurs 123, Sixers 96: Sixers sleepwalk through uninspiring loss to Spurs


Going from Cleveland to San Antonio doesn’t seem like an ideal road trip.

The Sixers likely agree after sleepwalking their way through an uninspiring 123-96 loss to the Spurs at the AT&T Center Monday.

The loss drops them to 6-10 on the road and 20-12 overall.

Here are observations from the drubbing.

• Feels like we’re a broken record but the bench is just killing this team.

T.J. McConnell hurt them defensively early on. The Spurs were using their point guards to screen for DeMar DeRozan, forcing McConnell to switch onto the All-Star guard. It went predictably bad. 

Landry Shamet continues to struggle against dribble penetration and the physicality of the NBA. Mike Muscala got roasted when matched up against LaMarcus Aldridge. 

Credit to Gregg Popovich. He saw these mismatches and the Spurs exposed them. But Elton Brand is going to have to make a move to improve this bench.

• While the reserves were certainly a crucial factor in the Sixers losing an early lead, the starters came out in the second half and did nothing to eat into the Spurs’ lead. Fatigue is no doubt a factor, but this was a brutal effort.

The most telling stat is free throws. The Sixers are among the league’s best in getting to the line, but took just seven free throws.

• Ben Simmons continued his aggressive ways. He was once again looking for his shot when driving to the basket and it led to 16 points (7 of 10 shooting), six rebounds and six assists in just 29 minutes.

He continues to do some nifty work in the post as well.

Simmons looked like the one player that was locked in and engaged all night.

• Joel Embiid dominated early on yet again.

But unlike other coaches that have waited until the second half — for some reason — Popovich started doubling Embiid as soon as he got going. Embiid took just one shot in the second half and was 0 for 6 from three. 

He finished with just 13 points, his third-lowest point total this season, on 6 of 17 shooting.

• Jimmy Butler had a brutal shooting night. In his second game back from a groin strain, Butler finished just 3 of 13 for six points.

He did have this nice alley-oop.

• DeRozan continues to kill the Sixers. In four games against them last season, he averaged 32 points per contest. Tonight, he recorded 20 points in 29 minutes. DeRozan is a perfect example of a player that always hurts the Sixers. He can score in isolation and is deadly in the midrange. 

Aldridge, who also finished with 20 points, also proved to be a tough guard for the Sixers. He’s one center that can pull Embiid away from the basket with his ability to hit midrange jumpers. As mentioned, he cooked Muscala in the post. 

• Rudy Gay is having a productive season for the Spurs as he dropped a game-high 21 points. He’s an accomplished veteran that can create and make shots. He also appears to be playing with a little more purpose on the defensive end than earlier in his career.

It’s only mentioned here because he’s the kind of player the Sixers sure could use. The Spurs are on the outside looking in at the playoffs, though it is early. If San Antonio is looking to possibly get an asset for Gay at some point if they fall out of contention, Elton Brand should place a call.

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

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

The Sixers (20-11) are looking to go home with back-to-back wins on the road as they face the San Antonio Spurs (15-15) at the AT&T Center. After starting out their six-game home stretch with four consecutive wins against the Lakers, Jazz, Suns and Clippers, the Spurs dropped their last game to Chicago.

• When: 8:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 8 p.m.
• Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

Here are three storylines to watch.

Turnovers? What turnovers?

The most impressive part about Ben Simmons’ triple-double stat line the other night was committing zero turnovers. Over the first 30 games of the season, Simmons was averaging 3.5 turnovers to 7.7 assists per game, and if you look at the Sixers' wins this season, a lower turnover count for Simmons has also been a contributing factor. The Spurs have not been a team to force turnovers this season, so I’ll have my eye on that turnover column for Simmons. Hopefully, it will be another goose egg by the end of the night.

Jimmy Butler vs. DeMar DeRozan

The last time Jimmy Butler saw DeMar DeRozan, it was in a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey for the Spurs' season opener. I’ve got a feeling that Butler remembers the eventual winning shot in the final minute that DeRozan banked in driving hard to the basket and pulling up from 12 feet. It’ll be fun to watch these two duel it out again tonight.

Random stat

The Spurs and three-pointers, far from two things that go together, and that’s because they shoot the least amount of threes in the league (24.0 per game). But, making them has been another story this year. The Spurs are tied with the Warriors for the best percentage in the league at 38.9 percent, and that’s because they’ve got five players on their roster shooting over 40 percent from three this season — Pau Gasol (57.1 percent), Dante Cunningham (51.0 percent), Rudy Gay (47.8 percent), Davis Bertrans (44.7 percent) and Bryn Forbes (41.5 percent). Oh, and Patty Mills just missed the cut at 39.5 percent. Three-point defense is probably not the first thing on the Sixers' mind tonight, but if you see a Spur go up for a three, you better close out.

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