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Will Sixers' preseason trip to China have impact on start to regular season?

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Will Sixers' preseason trip to China have impact on start to regular season?

All of the particulars are falling into place for the Sixers’ 2018-19 season.

Their full preseason schedule was officially released Thursday. The team will open at the Wells Fargo Center on Sept. 28 against Australian professional team Melbourne United of the NBL, before a date with the Orlando Magic on Oct. 1. Then the Sixers will travel more than 7,400 miles for two games against the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 5 and Oct. 8 as part of the NBA China Games to close out exhibition play.

“We pride ourselves on the unique, international culture we have created here in Philadelphia. It is something that we pay close attention to and it resonates throughout our roster, front office and staff,” head coach and interim general manager Brett Brown said when the Sixers’ participation in the China Games was announced in April. “We are excited to bring our team to China in the fall and connect with the truly great fans of a basketball-rich country.”

“Getting a chance to play all over the world has always been a dream of mine and I’m excited to play in China in October,” Ben Simmons said. “I know the fans there are passionate about basketball and I’m really looking forward to the trip to Shanghai and Shenzhen.”

That initial reaction was to be expected by the Sixers. Two games in China will provide the franchise with a great cultural experience and a massive boost in exposure.

The journey will also come at a cost, mainly in the form of rest. Between the games, practices, meet-and-greets, photo ops and more, there will be minimal time for members of the organization to get a break with the real deal getting started a little over one week later on Oct. 16 in Boston.

Just ask last season’s participants.

“It’s a huge problem,” Golden State’s Draymond Green told reporters last year, per USA Today, about the potential risks on the trip as the Warriors played two games against the Minnesota Timberwolves in China. “You kind of take training camp and break it up. It’s not the norm, so I think it’s a humongous problem.

“You start to risk injury and all of those things, so we have a pretty professional team. Guys get their work in, but it’s still nothing like actual practicing and that tempo. It’s more a risk of injury than the season. We’ll figure it out over the season.”

That sentiment wasn’t limited to the players.

“It’s a great trip, a great experience, but this is not the way to prepare for the season,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “But that’s alright. We’ll have about a week when we get back (before opening against Houston on Oct. 17), and I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

Of course, the Warriors were indeed fine as they won their third championship in four years. But their 2017-18 season didn’t start without a couple of hiccups. After the trip overseas, Golden State returned to the United States and opened the campaign by dropping two of their first three regular-season games.

The Timberwolves stumbled a bit out of the gate as well with three losses in their first five games.

“That’s kind of getting the jet lag out of your body, to really get to move,” T-Wolves All-Star Jimmy Butler said, via Zone Coverage, of the squad’s plan to refresh after the long-distance trip. “We weren’t going very fast at all. It was all about moving around, sweating a little bit and waking the body up.”

With four of their first eight regular-season games on the road, including a pair of back-to-back sets, the Sixers will have to wake up quickly following their excursion to China.

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Sixers take out frustrations on Cavaliers in blowout win

Sixers take out frustrations on Cavaliers in blowout win

BOX SCORE

If ever a team needed a laugher, it was the Sixers.

After dropping five straight road games, they took their frustrations out on the Cavaliers in a 114-95 win at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Sunday.

It’s the Sixers’ first victory away from home since their thrilling win in Portland on Nov. 2. They improve to 8-5 on the young season. They’re back at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday to take on the Knicks (7 p.m./NBCSP)

Here are observations from the win.

That’s how you get right

The first few possessions were not great for the Sixers defensively. It looked like another game that could be doomed by poor pick-and-roll defense and turnovers — a familiar theme throughout the young season. 

Boy, did that change in a hurry. 

The Sixers got a nice defensive boost from James Ennis, ending the first quarter on a 17-4 run and assisting on 12 of their first 15 makes. They played smothering defense and turned that into easy offense.

It was by far the Sixers’ best half of the season as they shot 68.3 percent from the field, committed just five turnovers and outscored the Cavs, 68-44. 

The most encouraging thing is that they didn’t let up. They kept their foot on the gas and never let Cleveland back in the game.

This is what it was supposed to look like

The Sixers had lost five of their last seven, which exacerbated the issues of the starting five. On Sunday, they looked like a well-oiled machine. We saw the “bully ball” offense out in full force. With their size, the Sixers are going to have mismatches pretty much every night. It was a clear emphasis against the Cavs. 

You saw Ben Simmons find Josh Richardson for a wide open three out of the post. Tobias Harris got doubled in the post and found Joel Embiid for an easy bucket. Al Horford ran the pick-and-pop with Simmons for a short jumper. 

No, Cleveland is not a defensive juggernaut, but this was the most encouraging offensive showing by the starters this season. At times, their ball movement was unreal. Now it’s about taking this performance into their next game.

It’s worth noting that Harris appears to be off the schneid as he stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high 27 points (12 of 14), five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

When Jo and Ben are at their best …

For those screaming that Embiid needs to be in the post, this had to be refreshing. There’s no secret to it. Brett Brown didn’t make any crazy adjustments. It boils down to Embiid running rim to rim instead of three-point line to three-point line. He got down the floor and got early position for easy post ups. He screened and rolled hard to the rim as well, which makes a huge difference. He was his dominant self Sunday, but more importantly, he played just a little over 22 minutes.

Though as mentioned it was against the Cavs, it’s always encouraging to see both Embiid and Simmons get going in the same game. Cedi Osman was no match for Simmons. Simmons took him off the dribble and punished him in the post. Simmons also continues to be strong defensively. He looks more engaged this season and well on his way to earning some type of All-Defensive Team honors. 

He finished with 10 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal in just under 26 minutes.

Boost from the bench

The Sixers got just 11 points from their bench Friday in Oklahoma City. The reserves had 20 at the half Sunday.

Ennis was a huge part of that. He hit a trio of corner threes and was active defensively and on the glass throughout. Ennis has given the Sixers solid run his last three games. He had a season-high 14 points.

It’s clear that Furkan Korkmaz has cooled from his torrid pace, but it was good to see the Turkish wing put the ball on the floor and make a couple plays for 13 points. Rookie Matisse Thybulle was good in his first-half run, hitting a three and finishing on a rare drive. Trey Burke got the backup point guard minutes over Raul Neto.

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

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

The Sixers (7-5) will look to get back into the win column in Cleveland when they take on the Cavaliers (4-7) this afternoon.

Here are the essentials for today’s game:

When: 3 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+ 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

Time to get right

There’s no such thing as a good loss, but man, the Sixers’ losses have been particularly brutal. On Friday night, they held a nine-point lead with 7:20 to go but gave up a 12-2 run and eventually lost in overtime to the Thunder.

The Sixers have glaring issues — especially in their starting five — but Brett Brown feels like he knows what they are.

“If you're sick and you don't know why, that's a problem,” Brown said. “We are in a tough spot right now, but it's a long year. I think that it doesn't take much for me to understand where we have to get better. And it's really that simple. If you're scratching your head, sort of confused, then I think we got some problems and that's not what I'm doing. I think the guys understand the areas that matter most that can best impact changing the way things are going and get back on the winning side.”

We'll see.

Taking care of business

This Cavs team isn’t as bad as perhaps we all thought coming into this season. They start two extremely young guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, but they’re still flanked by veteran bigs Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.

Cleveland also gave the Sixers all they could handle earlier this week — especially veteran guard Jordan Clarkson (20 points). The Sixers were able to sneak out of the Wells Fargo Center with a 98-97 win. Then again, when is the last time this team played a game that wasn’t close?

While the Cavs are maybe better than anticipated, this is a team the Sixers should be able to get well against. On Tuesday, they held Cleveland scoreless for over three minutes to close out the game. They need to bring that for 48 minutes and get right with a win over a team they’re clearly more talented than. 

Sorting out the bench

Furkan Korkmaz was scorching hot for a six-game stretch. He shot 50.9 percent from three and averaged 13.8 points in mostly bench minutes. In his last three games, he’s just 4 of 16 from distance. The issue with Korkmaz is if he’s not hitting shots, he doesn’t bring much else to the table. You saw Oklahoma City pick on him in overtime after Tobias Harris fouled out.

Korkmaz has been getting the most minutes off Brown’s bench recently. Should he be? Rookie Matisse Thybulle got off to a roaring start, but has looked overmatched offensively. With that said, he’s just so special defensively, Brown should deal with the growing pains on the other end. In games Thybulle has played at least 12 minutes, the Sixers are 6-1.

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