76ers

Sixers-Suns observations: A real letdown at home

Sixers-Suns observations: A real letdown at home

BOX SCORE

The Sixers haven’t had an outing like this in a while, a letdown game, especially on their home court. 

The Suns came into the Wells Fargo Center and took this one, 115-101, on Monday night. The last time the Sixers lost to a sub-.500 team was nearly a month ago to the Kings. 

But there is more to the Suns’ rocky record: there is Devin Booker. The Suns’ high-scoring guard dropped a season-high 46 points in their ninth win of the season. Booker, coming off a 38-point performance against the Celtics, started off 2 for 11 in the first quarter and then exploded after finding a rhythm. 

• Ben Simmons played through the flu. He didn’t think he would be able to play, staying in bed until noon with a 7 p.m. tipoff. Still, Brett Brown started Simmons and the rookie ended up performing better than most of the Sixers. Simmons had 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals in 36 minutes. 

"Honestly, not great," Simmons said of how he felt. "But I played, so if I didn't play then you'd know something's wrong."

• JJ Redick (25 points) tried to shoot the Sixers back into the game. After going 0 for 5 from long range through three quarters, he dropped 13 points in the fourth. The Sixers cut the deficit to five with 4:49 to go, but the Suns stepped on the gas to close it out with a 16-3 run. 

• Joel Embiid demolished two of Alex Len’s shot attempts with a pair of massive blocks. He had yet another double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes. 

• Robert Covington is back in a shooting skid. He went 2 for 10 from three-point range in 34 minutes. 

• The Suns entered the game 8-16, last in points allowed (115.8), tied for third-highest opponent three-point shooting percentage (38.4), and fifth highest in opponent field goal percentage (47.1). The Sixers shot just 23.3 percent from three. 

• Josh Jackson had been in the mix of draft prospects when the Sixers had the third pick (pre-Celtics trade). The Suns ended up selecting Jackson fourth overall. The rookie showed his athleticism and speed. He isn’t putting up massive numbers off the bench (seven points, three rebounds), but played with high energy and feistiness trying to pick off steals. 

• The Sixers shot a perfect 16 for 16 from the line but gave up 22 points off 14 turnovers. 

• Injury/inactive update: T.J. McConnell (left shoulder), Justin Anderson (left leg) and Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) were out. Jahlil Okafor was inactive, as was Furkan Korkmaz who is on a G League assignment. Brandon Knight (left ACL), Davon Reed (left meniscus) and Alan Williams (right meniscus) were sidelined for the Suns.

• Amir Johnson and Tyson Chandler battled like it was 2006. The bigs have been in the league since 2005 and 2001, respectively. 

• Allen Iverson and former Eagle Brian Westbrook were at the game. Westbrook spoke to the Sixers during training camp as well. 

Sixers vs. Pelicans: 3 storylines to watch

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Sixers vs. Pelicans: 3 storylines to watch

The Sixers look to extend their undefeated start to the regular season at Wells Fargo Center to nine games tonight with the Pelicans (10-7) in town.

Despite standing at just seventh in the Western Conference, the Pelicans are just two games out of first place, behind the first-place Trail Blazers (12-5).

The Pelicans also come into tonight's game averaging the second-most points per game and assists in the league to couple with their 48.6 field-goal percentage.

Markelle Fultz is out as he awaits a consultation with a shoulder specialist, scheduled for this upcoming Monday. Below are three storylines to watch tonight.

Anthony Davis vs. Joel Embiid 

There are only two players in the NBA this season averaging 27.5 points and 12.5 rebounds, and they're Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis. The comparisons are endless.

Embiid is first among centers in points per game (27.9) and Davis is right behind him (27.6). Davis is second in assists per game and Embiid is two spots behind him. Davis is tied for fourth in second-chance points and third in points in the paint and Embiid is eighth.

Tonight is going to be a battle of the centers, with these two taking center stage, and I can’t wait to see how Embiid responds to the challenge.

Davis said at shootaround this morning that containing Embiid is all about communicating and helping each other on defense.

Davis to hit 10,000

As if he needed any more, Davis may have extra motivation heading into tonight’s game. Davis is just six points shy of joining the 10,000 career points club, becoming the eighth youngest to reach that milestone. I’d expect Davis to get that milestone out of the way, so I expect him to come out of the gates swinging. 

Jrue Holiday vs. Ben Simmons

Embiid vs. Davis isn’t the only matchup we’ve got our eye on tonight.

Holiday is one of the top two-way players in the game and second only to Kyle Lowry in assists this season. Simmons is averaging 7.8 assists, good for fifth in the Association, and has certainly shown flashes of his elite defensive potential.

Brett Brown’s challenge to Simmons this year is to feature on an All-Defensive Team. While Jimmy Butler will likely see most of his minutes in front of Holiday, which is going to be a fun matchup in itself, I’m curious to see if Simmons kicks his defense into another gear when one of the top two-way players in the NBA is also out on the floor.

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Markelle Fultz's disjointed support structure isn't helping him or the Sixers

Markelle Fultz's disjointed support structure isn't helping him or the Sixers

CAMDEN, N.J. — At this point, after all the confusion; the diagnoses; the shaky cell phone video of ugly after-practice jumpers; the hundreds of thousands of shots of remedial work; the deleted tweet from a trainer; the pump-fake free throw; and, most recently, the upcoming consultation with an outside specialist, the notion that there is some sort of unified team supporting Markelle Fultz is ludicrous.

There are countless parties trying to help Fultz, the No. 1 overall draft in the 2017 draft. As a result, Fultz and the Sixers find themselves in a bizarre, perplexing position.

Yet after Tuesday’s news that Fultz will be sidelined until his appointment with a shoulder specialist in New York on Monday, as recommended by his agent Raymond Brothers, head coach Brett Brown insisted that Fultz has a cohesive support system.

“I think that there has been, for the most part, a linear, consistent messaging that his sort of Team Markelle, from family to agent to coach to GM, that we’ve all tried to collaborate and point it to an end game, a clear sort of objective, a clear path,” Brown said. “For the most part, I think we’ve done this.”

All the evidence points to Brown’s assertion being false. Both Brown and general manager Elton Brand admitted they were caught off guard by Brothers’ recommendation that Fultz see a specialist.

On Nov. 6, after a deleted tweet from trainer Drew Hanlen that indicated Fultz still wasn’t healthy, Brown said, "To the best of my knowledge, he’s healthy enough to go do what he’s been doing. He’s been playing basketball and doing well. He’s fine."

Something either changed drastically with Fultz’s health in the last two weeks, or the “bumps and bruises” Fultz was dealing with, which Brown thought were typical for one of his players, were more serious than first thought. Brand also said he talked “a little about on-court stuff” with Brothers, though he didn’t want to speculate about whether the timing of the consultation was related to T.J. McConnell taking Fultz’s backup point guard minutes in Monday night’s game.

Either way, Brothers, Fultz, and the Sixers organization were not on the same page. As Brand conceded, Brothers’ interests are not the same as the Sixers', even if the ideal outcome for both parties is Fultz eventually figuring out what’s going on with his shoulder and shot, and becoming the special player everybody thought he could be when he left the University of Washington.

“This was brought to me by Markelle’s agent [Monday] morning,” Brand said. “We’ve been aligned. We’ve allowed Markelle to see many specialists per Raymond, his agent’s, recommendation. And Raymond’s job is different than my job; Raymond’s job is to do what he thinks is best for his client. My job is to continue our positive trend and trying to get deeper in the playoffs. At the end of the day, we all want to support Markelle, and we want what’s best for Markelle.”

If you’re looking at things generously, Team Markelle exists. There are indeed plenty of people who genuinely want the best for Fultz. But even if you believe there’s a Team Markelle out there, it’s obviously fractured in a million pieces.

Team Markelle is currently comprised of the Sixers medical staff; outside specialists; outside trainers; Brown; Brand; Brothers; Sixers legends; NBA veterans; and Fultz’s teammates, ex-teammates, family and friends.

In the middle of that crowd of supposed well-wishers is a 20-year-old with 33 games of NBA experience.

It’s still very possible that Fultz thrives in the NBA — perhaps his latest consultation will result in a new diagnosis, which will lead to a clear, effective treatment plan, which will help Fultz fully rehabilitate his shot. Or maybe the consultation will reveal he’s healthy, and Fultz will return to the lineup, earn back his minutes as the second-unit point guard, and start taking and making long-range shots again.

Neither of those scenarios appears likely at the moment. While Fultz’s first year-plus in the NBA has been as unpredictable and mysterious as any player’s in history, one thing is clear: The chaotic, disparate environment of Team Markelle is not conducive to his success.

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