76ers

Sixers rush past Bucks into playoffs with NBA record in hand

Sixers rush past Bucks into playoffs with NBA record in hand

BOX SCORE

The regular season is over and the Sixers are heading into the playoffs as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. 

They reached 16 straight wins with a 130-95 victory, which is the longest streak by a team heading into the postseason. The Sixers finished the regular season with a 52-30 record and will face the Miami Heat in the first round (see story).

Markelle Fultz exploded off the bench for a 13-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple-double. He came full circle in a rookie year that was hampered by injuries, clearly earning his place in the postseason rotation. 

• The Sixers were in control the whole time. They were up 46-18 at the end of the first quarter. Their massive 80-44 halftime lead was the most first-half points scored by the team since Feb. 11, 1992, against the Heat. 

• The Sixers took care of business easily with a quiet night from Ben Simmons. He shot just 1 for 6 from the field and finished with four points, six boards and seven assists. Simmons fell into foul trouble early in the game. 

• Fultz and T.J. McConnell paired up to fill in with the backcourt production. T.J. McConnell turned into “3.J.” McConnell with a pair of treys. He had not hit a three since Feb. 27. McConnell scored 16 points with six rebounds and seven assists. The Sixers leaned on the pairing as JJ Redick sat out the regular-season finale.

• Brett Brown said he was not concerned with strategically game planning in case the Sixers were matched up with the Bucks in the first round. His focus was on winning and securing the third seed.

• Dario Saric returned to the lineup after leaving Tuesday’s game because of a chipped tooth and lacerated lip. He found the rhythm he had been looking for since suffering from cellulitis in his right below. Saric scored a team-high 24 points. 

• Joel Embiid joined the Sixers on the bench, standing out in a bright orange jacket. The big man said it is “unlikely” he would be ready to play in Game 1 of the playoffs (see story)

• The usually-dominating Giannis Antetokounmpo posted just 10 points (5 for 15 from the field). He pulled down 10 rebounds. 

• Justin Anderson turned up the heat on his former college teammate Malcolm Brogdon. Anderson scored 25 points off the bench, topping Brogdon’s 13. Brogdon, who beat both Embiid and Saric last season for Rookie of the Year, was booed by Sixers fans when he touched the ball. Anderson has a way of stepping up in the regular season finale. Last season, he scored a career-high 26 points against the Knicks. 

• Eagles head coach Doug Pederson rang the ceremonial pregame bell:

Sixers officially bring back Amir Johnson on 1-year contract

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Sixers officially bring back Amir Johnson on 1-year contract

The band is back together.

The Sixers are still making their offseason moves official, which is what happened on Monday when the team officially announced a one-year deal to bring back Amir Johnson. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is reportedly worth the veteran’s minimum, which would be $2.39 million for the center.

“Our experience with Amir last year confirms to us, on so many levels, that he is a perfect fit for our young and developing team,” Brett Brown said in a statement. “His work ethic, leadership and buy-in to team-first basketball all comes to mind when I think of his value to our ball club and his acceptance of a backup role to All-Star Joel Embiid is priceless. We are thrilled to have Amir and his family back in our program and I know this feeling is a shared by all of his teammates.”

Johnson, the last player drafted into the NBA straight from high school, spent his 13th professional season with the Sixers in 2017-18. The 31-year-old averaged 4.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 15.8 minutes a night.

However, it was the little things Johnson did that really added up for the Sixers. The big man had the highest aggregate hustle score, which measures screen assists, deflections, loose balls recovered, charges drawn and contested shots per contest, to win the league’s second-ever Hustle Award. 

“This is definitely an honor,” Johnson said after receiving the award. “I pride myself on doing the little things on the court and I just want to say thank you to my teammates and coaches. This award means a lot.”

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Sixers' summer league run fizzles out with loss to Grizzlies

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Sixers' summer league run fizzles out with loss to Grizzlies

The Sixers’ summer league campaign fizzled out Sunday night with an 82-73 loss to the Memphis Grizzles at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. 

After an 0-3 start, the Sixers made a surprising run to the quarterfinals, but the Grizzlies ended any hope of a championship run.

As they have throughout summer league play, the Sixers started slow, falling behind 26-11 early, and the Grizzles stayed in command for most of the night.

Here are five observations from the loss: 

1. Furkan Korkmaz became the face of the summer league Sixers, and he seemed to embrace that responsibility Sunday. Korkmaz appears comfortable with a constant green light on offense, which bodes well for him possibly taking on some of Marco Belinelli’s “instant offense” role off the bench. That’s not to say Korkmaz will singlehandedly replace Belinelli, but if his aggressive mindset and scoring ability could translate off the bench, it would be a big boost for the Sixers.

Along with his three-point shooting (4 for 9 from long range), Korkmaz also showed a soft touch on a couple first-quarter floaters. 

After a 19-point effort Saturday against the Bucks, Korkmaz posted 18 points, five rebounds and three assists. Outside of clunkers in the Sixers’ second and third games, when he shot a combined 1 for 18 from the floor, Korkmaz had a stellar summer league. 

2. We’ve already talked a lot about the ways Zhaire Smith can refine his game as he works on becoming an NBA wing after playing at power forward in college. One of the areas where Smith can improve is his finishing around the rim. He has the explosiveness to get into great positions, but he doesn’t have much variety or touch near the basket. On one play in the middle of the first quarter, Smith took the ball into a crowd of defenders, twisted into the air and flipped up a shot more in hope than anything else. His first instinct is to dunk the ball, which is certainly not a bad thing, but a little nuance would help him in the NBA, as would a dependable floater. 

Smith continues to show good vision and feel for the game, like when he found Isaiah Miles inside with this no-look dish.

Smith had five points on 2 for 8 shooting, four rebounds and four assists. His only field goals were a late breakaway dunk and a patented putback slam. 

3. Jonah Bolden admitted Saturday night he hasn’t been satisfied with his summer league performances, citing his inconsistency. After his best showing of this summer league campaign on Saturday, with 13 points and eight rebounds, Bolden was disappointing against the Grizzlies.  

In 24 minutes, Bolden had five points and four rebounds and was a minus-22. His tendency to disappear for extended stretches is somewhat concerning, since, along with his shooting ability and defensive versatility, you’d want Bolden to provide energy off the bench in the NBA. 

4. At just 18 years old, Jaren Jackson Jr. is seriously impressive. The No. 4 pick in the draft immediately took control of the game, with seven points, three rebounds and a block in the first three-plus minutes, helping the Grizzlies take an 11-2 lead. In that stretch, he made a three-pointer from the right wing, blocked a seemingly wide-open Bolden at the rim and finished inside with his left hand. Jackson posted 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.

He has a promising future, but Jackson has the versatile, modern game to make a significant immediate impact.

5. Another Jackson, the Sixers’ Demetrius, has quietly been solid throughout summer league. He hasn’t done anything that screams NBA player, and at 6-foot-1 it’s a struggle for him to find space inside, but Jackson, who entered Sunday night’s game averaging 7.6 points, 5.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds per contest, has been a dependable playmaker in his third summer league campaign. He had 11 points on Sunday night. 

For Jackson, what might hold him back from carving out an NBA role is his size and lack of a standout skill. As a two-way player, Jackson appeared in three games late last season for the Sixers. He’s also had brief NBA stints with the Celtics and Rockets. 

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