76ers

With Wilson Chandler's return imminent, Sixers have no plan to rest Dario Saric

With Wilson Chandler's return imminent, Sixers have no plan to rest Dario Saric

CAMDEN, N.J. — Dario Saric has gotten off to a slow start for the Sixers, to put it mildly. 

After a 1-for-9 effort Thursday night against the Clippers, he’s shooting 33 percent from the floor, 24 percent from three-point range.

Wilson Chandler hasn’t gotten off to any sort of start. He strained his left hamstring in the first preseason game and has yet to make his regular-season debut. But Chandler was a full participant in Friday’s practice and is questionable for Saturday’s game vs. the Pistons. 

With Chandler’s return imminent, it appears there could be an opportunity to rest Saric, who has admitted he’s been negatively affected by playing for Croatia in the summer (see story)

Brett Brown isn’t buying into the idea.

I think it’s overrated. I really do. If you just look at our schedule, because I live it, I feel it probably more than I should, we’ve had time off. There has been time off. I’m more inclined to do what I did last night — I decided to go with Mike Muscala [at the end of the game]. It wasn’t for foul reasons, it was because Dario was down and I felt Mike was going to give us a better chance to win. That’s the nature of any game and the judgment of any coach. 

I feel like if he came to me and said, ‘You know what, I need some time,’ and we talked about it, I would listen. But I feel like historically with Dario, getting through some stuff isn’t terrible. I don’t feel like I’m force-feeding anything, I don’t feel like I’m hurting him. In fact, I feel like I’m helping him. But what I really feel like is we have alternatives in the event that decision is wrong.

As Brown noted, Muscala played down the stretch for the Sixers in Saric’s place. While Muscala has been playing mostly as a power forward, Brown said Chandler “also has a chance as we grow him to learn some of the four spot.” That’s one of the “alternatives” Brown alluded to should Saric’s struggles continue.

The obvious answer for Saric’s poor start is the fatigue from international play. It’s an easy explanation for his rough first six games last season as well (33.3 percent from the field).

Still, there’s clearly a mental side to deal with too. JJ Redick is familiar with all the advice players tend to hear when they’re going through a shooting slump. 

“Some days you want someone, some days you want people to just leave you alone," Redick said. “I think I’m always sensitive to that. The last four games I haven’t shot the ball well and people will tell you, keep shooting, and you’re like, ‘Yeah, no s---, I’m going to keep shooting, that’s not the problem.’ Sometimes the silent treatment is the best treatment.

“I’ve talked to Dario a couple times, he’ll be fine. I’m not worried about him. I actually said to him the other day, ‘You probably don’t even remember this, but you got off to a pretty slow start last year and then you had an unbelievable season.’ I think there’s a law of averages. Sometimes all you need is one breakthrough game where you have a really efficient shooting night … and then all of a sudden you remember how that feels and take off from there.” 

For the time being, Saric shows no signs of wanting a rest — as usual, he worked after practice on his long-range shot.  

Since it doesn’t sound like rest will be the answer, Saric, Brown and the Sixers are hoping that one breakthrough night is. 

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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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