76ers

Sixers return home with win over Hornets

Sixers return home with win over Hornets

BOX SCORE

Well, it wasn’t always pretty, but the Sixers broke their three-game losing streak in their return home.

They took care of business, beating the Hornets, 114-106, at the Wells Fargo Center Sunday night.

If you take away a horrendous second quarter, the Sixers outplayed Charlotte just about the entire night to improve their record to 6-3 on the young season.

They did so without All-Star point guard Ben Simmons (AC joint sprain), who missed his second straight game.

Here are observations from the win.

• The Sixers started this one off like they were going to roll. They had assists on 11 of their first 13 baskets. They were making threes. They were using their size to disrupt Charlotte’s offense.

Then in the second quarter, they fell apart. They were outscored 34-20 in large part because of turnovers and undisciplined defense. It elicited boos from the crowd. After being up by as many as 14, they trailed 58-53 going into the half. When the Hornets went to a zone late in the second, the Sixers didn’t have an answer.

The Sixers restored order in the third thanks in large part to the play of Al Horford and a much better defensive effort.

Embiid looks like Embiid ...

After two rough outings in Utah and Denver, Joel Embiid was much more active Sunday. Brown said pregame that Embiid didn’t look like himself during the road trip and that one of his biggest disappointments was Embiid not rolling hard to the basket. There was a noticeable difference in the way he was rolling against the Hornets.

Charlotte likely switched to a zone because Embiid was having his way on the block. He had 15 points (5 of 7 shooting) in 15 first-half minutes.

He handled double teams better than he had in the last two contests. He committed just two turnovers and had three assists — including a beauty of a cross-court pass for a Josh Richardson corner three to start the second half. Embiid finished with 18 points (6 of 10), nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 25 minutes.

... and Horford looks like Horford

Lost in Embiid struggling out West was Horford looking a little tired as well. The 33-year-old looked rejuvenated back on his home floor. 

He was much more active on both ends and took advantage of rookie first-rounder P.J. Washington, repeatedly playing bully ball in the post.

He looked awfully spry on this beautiful spin move and reverse layup for an and-one.

He had 15 points (7 of 9), seven rebounds and five assists.

A viable bench?

Both point guards continue to play well in the absence of Simmons. Raul Neto’s pick-and-roll defense has been a pleasant surprise — though he had a few tough moments in the second quarter — and he continues to shoot the basketball at a high rate.

While the Sixers do lose something defensively with him in the game, Trey Burke has also acquitted himself pretty darn well. Known more as an isolation player, Burke has done well running the offense and has hit his open looks for the most part. 

Furkan Korkmaz continues to shoot the ball with confidence. In addition to hitting threes (3 of 8, 17 points), he also made a pair of really nice floaters. This doesn’t even look like the same guy that we saw last season — or even early in this season, for that matter.

Brown admitted that he wished he’d given Kyle O’Quinn second-half minutes against the Nuggets after he was so effective in the first half. With Embiid and Horford healthy, O’Quinn still got time Sunday. It didn’t look like that would be the case to start the season, but O’Quinn has played well and Brown has expanded his rotation to get the veteran big minutes.

Don’t look now, but the Sixers actually appear to have some depth.

Looking like the real J-Rich

Richardson was quietly solid Sunday night. He hit his most threes on the season (3 of 6) and stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds, six assists and and a steal. He continues to be the Sixers’ most consistent defender. Perhaps not having to handle backup point guard duties has lightened the load for Richardson a bit. This is more of the player we saw in Miami.

Tobias Harris also a solid night with 14 points (6 of 9), seven rebounds and five assists.

 

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2 NBA players tested positive for COVID-19 in Orlando; Richaun Holmes breaches 'bubble'

2 NBA players tested positive for COVID-19 in Orlando; Richaun Holmes breaches 'bubble'

Former Sixer Richaun Holmes breached the NBA’s health and safety regulations by picking up a food delivery, he said Monday afternoon. 

Holmes will now have to quarantine for eight additional days. 

Earlier Monday, ESPN reported that the Rockets’ Bruno Caboclo unintentionally broke quarantine. 

Shortly after Holmes released his statement, the NBA and NBPA announced that two players of the 322 tested in Orlando since July 7 were positive for the coronavirus. Those players never cleared quarantine, according to the joint statement. 

All-Star Rockets guard Russell Westbrook announced Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19 before Houston’s departure and is quarantined. New Sixer Ryan Broekhoff said Sunday he didn’t travel with the Sixers to Orlando so that he could focus on his family after his wife tested positive.

Joel Embiid was skeptical last week that all players would follow the league’s protocols.

“Some guys like to go out and some guys like to do stuff, (there are) some guys that like adventure,” he said. “So that’s the way I’m thinking. I know myself. I know I’m not going to put everybody else at risk, but the question is, is everybody else going to do the same? And just being around this business, I surely don’t think so.”

A second-round pick of the Sixers in 2015, Holmes played the first three seasons of his career in Philadelphia as an athletic, high-energy backup big man. He’s had the best season of his career with the Kings, posting 12.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this year. 

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Why now is the right time for Ben Simmons to change positions

Why now is the right time for Ben Simmons to change positions

When the Sixers drafted Ben Simmons first overall in 2016, Brett Brown told the assembled media that night that asking the Australian to play point guard with no previous experience was “borderline cruel.”

Brown didn’t rule it out but wasn’t 100 percent sure where Simmons would play. We ultimately know what happened. Simmons has been a two-time All-Star as a point guard but has limitations in the half court.

As the team continues its training camp at Disney World, the ultimate solution for Brown and the Sixers may be to take the ball out of Simmons’ hands.

The last few days I played him exclusively as a four man,” Brown said in a video conference with reporters Monday. “He’s so dynamic. … Let’s just talk about running: There’s nobody faster in the NBA. And so to always have Ben have to have the ball and dribble it up against five guys … I think dilutes some of his potent weapons.

The decision for Brown is multi-faceted. The “clunky” fit of Al Horford and the emergence of second-year guard Shake Milton — who Joel Embiid revealed has been running the point with the starters — were factors. 

But the main purpose is to make the most out of Simmons’ skill set. His unwillingness to shoot is well documented, but there is little Simmons can’t do outside of that. We’ve seen Brown deploy Simmons as a screen and roller plenty this season. Though the results have been mixed from an analytics standpoint, Simmons’ physical traits lend themselves to that role.

Brown at one point compared Simmons to Blake Griffin, one of the more dangerous rollers in the league in his prime. It’s not hard to imagine Simmons playing that role in the half court while still being elite in transition with the ball in his hands.

So, why did it take Brown so long into Simmons’ career to make the change? The answer is simple: Necessity. Brown made Simmons the Sixers’ point guard initially because he was best suited for the role at the time.

With a player like Milton emerging and Simmons’ limitations continuing to be exposed, now is the right time to make this move.

We were young and really not that good so it was my decision, ‘You take the ball. We’re going to make you the point guard,’” Brown said. “It’s not like he came in and there was an established point guard that you had to bump out. And so there are zero regrets on doing that.

“But it’s important to understand the segue into where he was and where he is. And so now you fast forward it and it’s not like you’re looking over your shoulder and there’s Damian Lillard or Chris Paul. That isn’t true, that’s not where I’m going, but you realize the value that he has in many other areas.

The other way Simmons can be utilized in the half court is by putting him in a “snug” pick-and-roll in the post with Joel Embiid. While the action hasn’t always produced great results, Brown has continued to use it. The best example Brown has pointed to is the home win against the Clippers before the All-Star break.

It’s an action that both players have needed time to get a feel for, but if they can execute it, the duo’s combination of size and skill could be difficult to defend.

I feel like this role is actually going to be even better than being the starting point guard,” Embiid said, “because he’s so great defensively, and offensively, when he has a chance, he’s probably one of the fastest guys in the league, so just getting the rebound and pushing it in transition and find the shooters. And then in half-court play, we can use him in a lot of ways. He can roll or he and me, we can play out of that pick-and-roll out of the post. So I think we’re going to be great.

While it might be the end of Simmons as a point guard, you won’t hear the soon-to-be 24-year-old sulk about it. Simmons said last week that he’s comfortable in any role and that he “love(s)” playing in the pick-and-roll.

After all, this move isn’t just right for the Sixers and their chances to go on a deep playoff run. It’s also about the evolution of Simmons and the best way to use his dynamic skill set going forward.

Watching him fly up the floor, watching Joel and him play off each other has been a really good look. I think they’ve been fantastic together,” Brown said. “And most importantly, how has he responded to [not being the point guard]? Like a star. Just a mature, whatever it’s going to take to get this team to be the best that it can be with the pieces that we have that can be designed into a smooth thing, something that’s not clunky. That is one of the pieces he has to offer, and I think he’s been great at accepting that and really killing it in practice in the environment that I just said.

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