76ers

Sixers take ugly turn for the worse

Sixers take ugly turn for the worse

BOX SCORE

For three quarters, it looked like Monday night was going to be all about Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Then the Grizzlies stormed back to beat the Sixers, 105-101, rendering Luwawu-Cabarrot’s season-high 20 points worthless.

The Sixers led for most of the game and were up by as many as 15 points, 83-68, with 59 seconds left in the third quarter. Then the Grizzlies went on a 35-15 run, fueled by their stars, Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans, and by the Sixers’ sloppy play.

The loss to the 17-29 Grizzlies puts the Sixers at 22-21 on the season and snaps a three-game winning streak.

Memphis nearly gifted the Sixers the victory with several key mistakes of its own. With the Grizzlies leading, 103-100, Ben Simmons took a charge on Jarell Martin. Joel Embiid then drew a foul with 15.8 seconds left, and made one of two free throws.

After Embiid made the second free throw, Evans dribbled into a trap and Robert Covington forced a steal. With the Sixers out of timeouts, Covington made an ill-advised decision to take a quick, contested three-pointer, which he air-balled. Mario Chalmers made two free throws to ice it for the Grizzlies.

• For someone who entered the game shooting just 31.9 percent from long range, Luwawu-Cabarrot had an incredible night. He hit a three from the right corner on the game’s first possession, then swished one from the left corner a couple minutes later. Though Luwawu-Cabarrot picked up two early fouls, Sixers coach Brett Brown rode the hot hand and turned back to the Frenchman late in the first quarter to spell Simmons. He rewarded the decision with his third three-pointer, this one from the top of the key, to put the Sixers up 20-11.

• Dario Saric also had a good offensive night, with 22 points on 7 of 11 shooting, though he had a couple costly late turnovers. More on that later …

• Luwawu-Cabarrot started for the second straight game because Jerryd Bayless remained out with left wrist soreness. Bayless was supposed to be the starter at shooting guard in JJ Redick’s absence, but Luwawu-Cabarrot has played better than anyone could have expected as the third-choice starter.

• Trailing 36-22 early in the second quarter, the Grizzlies got back into the game, trimming the Sixers' lead down to 52-49 thanks to Gasol’s offense and a couple careless Sixers turnovers that led to easy transition buckets.

• Simmons was guarded by fellow rookie Dillon Brooks. At 6-6, 220 pounds, Brooks is bigger and more physical than many of the point guards who have defended Simmons. When Brooks was out, the Sixers looked to post Simmons up against Chalmers, Wayne Selden and the Grizzlies’ backup guards. Simmons had a quiet offensive night, with six points on 3 for 8 shooting from the field.

• Selden was ejected under unusual circumstances with 4:27 left in the third period. Selden tried to throw down a vicious dunk on Justin Anderson, and Anderson fouled him. The Grizzlies' guard then started talking trash to Anderson, and the officials called Selden for his second technical foul of the game, which results in an automatic ejection. Though Anderson’s foul looked pretty tame, he was whistled for a Flagrant One foul after video review.

• With Mike Conley (left Achilles heel), JaMychal Green (right ankle) and Chandler Parsons (right knee/abdominal injuries) all sidelined, the Grizzlies' offense revolved around Gasol and Evans during the game-defining run. Evans’ three tied the game at 91-91, and his free throw on the ensuing trip gave Memphis its first lead. After the teams traded the lead for the next few minutes, Gasol nailed a three from the left wing to give the Grizzlies a 98-95 edge, and Evans hit a step-back jumper to extend the lead to 100-95.

• Embiid had a rare off night after being named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week Monday for the period between Jan. 15-21. The big man was forced to sit most of the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul. Embiid and the three-time All-Star Gasol went head-to-head multiple times in the final minutes. Embiid ended up with 15 points and 14 rebounds on 5 for 13 shooting from the field and 5 of 9 shooting from the free throw line, while Gasol had 19 points and six rebounds.

• Turnovers hurt the Sixers again, especially in crunch time, and were a big reason why the Grizzlies got back into the game. It’s hard to win a game with a 24-12 turnover disadvantage. 

• Though he was available to play, Richaun Holmes stayed on the bench for the second straight game. Holmes was out last Monday against Toronto and Thursday versus Boston with gastroenteritis.

• The Sixers return home to play the Bulls on Wednesday. Chicago won, 117-115, on Dec. 18 the last time the two teams met, despite a season-high 27 points from Saric.

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: JJ Redick

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: JJ Redick

JJ Redick

Position: Shooting guard

Status for 2018-19: Unrestricted free agent

Redick in 2017-18
It’s OK to admit it now. When you first heard how much the Sixers were giving Redick on the free-agent market last summer, you were a bit alarmed. 

Sure, Redick was always going to be a valuable addition, and the fact that a big-time player chose to join the Sixers was a huge feather in their cap. But paying him $23 million — the sixth-highest mark among NBA two guards in 2017-18 and the 25th-largest sum in the entire league — is a huge investment, even if it was for only one season.

However, the Sixers made it clear that they were finally ready to contend, and getting the best possible fit in free agency was a top priority. In Redick’s case, his game meshed with the Sixers like a glove.

The 33-year-old had arguably his best season as a pro. Redick scored a career-high 17.1 points per game on 46.0 percent shooting from the field and 42.0 percent from three. He also contributed 3.0 assists a night and a personal-best 2.5 boards.

Redick, an up-and-down playoff performer to this point in his career, made the most of his postseason stint with the Sixers. He upped his scoring average to 18.2 points a contest and topped the 20-point plateau in five of the team’s 10 playoff games.

Of course Redick’s defensive deficiencies showed at times throughout the season, but his dead-eye shooting from long range and veteran leadership more than made up for those issues.

Signature game
Redick had plenty of highlights to choose from this past season. In just his eighth game with the team, he went bonkers from beyond the arc late in a 121-110 win over the Indiana Pacers. Redick finished that night with 31 points (eight three-pointers), six assists and three rebounds.

The marksman also contributed another eight-trey performance in a 130-111 victory over his former team, the Orlando Magic, on Nov. 25.

Still, Redick’s best showing of the season came when it mattered most. With the Sixers threatening to advance in the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, he took things into his own hands as he scored a game-high 27 in the team’s series-sealing win over the Miami Heat in Game 5. Not to be denied, the typical jump shooter got to the free throw line 10 times and made each of them to propel the Sixers into the next round.

Looking ahead
You know the situation by now. Redick has stated several times that he wants to be back in Philadelphia, but it’s much more complicated than a simple desire.

First, the Sixers plan to go superstar-hunting in the offseason with the main target being LeBron James. That would almost certainly mean Redick would be shown the door. To his credit, Redick admitted that if a team has the chance to land James, it has to take that opportunity (see story).

Secondly, even if the Sixers swing and miss on James, the numbers to get Redick back in a Sixers uniform could be tricky. He will certainly be looking for a multi-year deal and his numbers suggest he deserves one, but how many years and how many millions is the franchise willing to give a shooting guard who will be 34 when next season tips off?

On Redick
“I don’t want to offend any of the other places I’ve been or teams I’ve been on, but this was probably my favorite year of my career. Playing in Philly is its own experience. Our fans, the city, the buzz about sports and about this team was amazing. I think I said this on media day, it’s the first time I’ll ever play in a real sports town. That definitely lived up to those thoughts. It was awesome to play in Philly.”

- Redick on his experience playing in Philadelphia

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: T.J. McConnell

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: T.J. McConnell

T.J. McConnell

Position: Point guard/shooting guard

Status for 2018-19: Team option will be exercised for $1,600,520

McConnell in 2017-18
Improbably, the undrafted McConnell has become an integral part of "The Process." He was certainly here in the dark days, sharing minutes with Kendall Marshall and Ish Smith and suffering through seemingly endless losing streaks — McConnell, Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes are the only survivors from the 10-win 2015-16 Sixers. This season, the fan-favorite guard was spearheading playoff victories.

McConnell’s “spark,” the unmatched passion and energy he brings every night, is what he’s all about. It’s why so many people love him. But his value lies beyond raw hustle and intensity — McConnell is the best Sixer off the bench at hounding opposing guards and probing the paint. He forces you to play him.

This season, he also forced opponents to respect his shot. After making just 20 percent of his three-point attempts in 2016-17, McConnell worked on his jumper in the summer and saw results, shooting 43.5 percent from long range.

When Markelle Fultz made his surprise return to the lineup on March 26, McConnell nearly dropped out of the rotation — he played just 14.5 minutes per game in the final 10 regular-season games. Still, McConnell has always been supportive of Fultz, and he didn’t get discouraged — when you’ve had to live through one of the worst seasons in NBA history, it takes something bigger than diminished playing time to get you down.

When his moment came, McConnell was ready …

Signature game
If any Sixer had a signature game this season, it was McConnell’s insane Game 4 against the Celtics.

McConnell took Covington’s spot in the starting lineup, and he made Brett Brown look like a genius. With a career-high 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists along with stellar defense on Terry Rozier, McConnell helped the Sixers keep their season alive.

Game 4 wasn’t a total fluke for McConnell. In the series against the Celtics, he shot 19 for 26. When McConnell was on the court, the Sixers were plus-41, the best of any player from either team.

Prior to Game 4, McConnell had a couple other decent contenders for his signature game. In his only start of the regular season on Nov. 25 vs. Orlando, with Ben Simmons sidelined with a left elbow injury, McConnell posted 15 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds.

And on Feb. 12, McConnell notched his first career triple-double, recording 10 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds against the Knicks. He became the first Sixer in franchise history with a triple-double off the bench.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
At his end-of-season press conference, Bryan Colangelo confirmed the Sixers will exercise McConnell’s team option.

Since we know McConnell will be back, the biggest question is, how Brown will find minutes for him? If McConnell is playing at a high level and Fultz isn’t early in the season, Brown will be in a pretty awkward situation.

Even if Fultz has a slow start, you’d assume that the No. 1 overall pick, who’s set to make more than five times as much as McConnell, would take a significant number of his minutes.

After next season, McConnell becomes an unrestricted free agent. Given how he’s proved himself on the big stage, he should be in for a nice payday.

On McConnell
“It’s tough. T.J. is the type of guy that you have to play him. He proved that this series against Boston. Without him in Game 4, I don’t think we win that game. He’s proven to you that you have to play him. He’s going to do his best, he’s going to play hard, he’s going to press full court. He’s going to do his job offensively, that’s to share the ball, and if he’s open, he’s going to shoot it. But we got a great coaching staff. Coach Brown was amazing all year. The assistant coaches … all those guys were amazing. So they’re going to figure it out. But I’m excited. It’s going to be fun.”

- Joel Embiid on Fultz possibly taking away from McConnell’s playing time next season