76ers

Young Sixers learn crucial lessons from 2 losses to NBA elite Warriors

Young Sixers learn crucial lessons from 2 losses to NBA elite Warriors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers received a crash course in top-caliber NBA basketball from the Warriors with two games in eight nights against the defending champions. 

Both were winnable games for the Sixers in the first half. Both were blown open by the Warriors in the third quarter. Both resulted in a Sixers loss.

This time, it was a 124-116 loss Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

Instead of taking silver linings and pats on the back, the Sixers are absorbing lessons, tried-and-true experience-based lessons from competing against the best in the league and watching it slip away. 

“They didn’t flip a switch,” Joel Embiid said Saturday. “We were just bad in the third quarter. But you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They were aggressive and they were physical with us, especially in the second half. They did what they had to do, and they got a win.”

Protect the third quarter
On Saturday, the Sixers scored a scorching 47 points in the first quarter and led the Warriors 74-52 at halftime. That edge far surpassed their one-point deficit in last weekend’s game and put them on a commanding path at home.

The Warriors quickly dashed any hopes of an upset by outscoring the Sixers, 47-15, in the third. Steph Curry scored 20 of those points. That quarter set the tone for a Warriors' comeback win. Similarly, the Warriors outscored the Sixers by 15 points in the third during their 135-114 victory on Nov. 11.

“After coming out of halftime, we knew what we were getting into,” Embiid said. “We knew that the first game, we knew that tonight, that needed to stay locked in. We didn’t do a good job the first time and then the second time we definitely didn’t do a good job.”

Play aggressive and smart at same time
The Sixers committed seven of their 12 turnovers in the third, which led to 14 of the Warriors’ 47 points. Ben Simmons echoed Embiid’s opinion of needing to be more focused. The rookie point guard also noted the Sixers should have been better with defensive assignments and played more aggressively. The Sixers shot 1 for 7 from long-range and didn’t get to the foul line once in the third.

Simmons only attempted one field goal in the quarter. Brett Brown noted he played Simmons the entire second quarter and the first eight minutes in the third. The combination of a shorthanded eight-man rotation and the effects of coming off a West Coast road trip factored in. 

The Warriors, meanwhile, stayed cool and collected in the face of a 22-point halftime deficit. They bounced back to shoot 62.2 percent from the field in the second half. The Sixers noticed the Warriors’ unwavering self-assurance even as they fell further and further behind in the first half.

“There’s a confidence that they have in what they do and who they are that over the course of a full game," JJ Redick said, "if they play the right way, they’re going to have a chance to win."

Breaking the double team
The Warriors stifled Embiid in their first matchup (12 points). After watching his 46-point performance against the Lakers, which head coach Steve Kerr deemed “terrifying,” the Warriors knew they had to be extra cognizant of the big man, especially on his home court.

They once again swarmed Embiid with a double team, a defensive look he’s still adjusting to. Embiid felt the pressure. He committed three turnovers in the game-changing third quarter (five on the night). 

“I’m more impressed by what they do defensively,” Embiid said. “Especially for me, they really had me guessing. They double-teamed me the whole night, from the top, from the baseline, from the post fader. They really had me guessing.”

Remember what caused the loss
The Sixers had chances to hand the Warriors a loss, both at home and on the road. When they plan for the rest of the season, the months and months ahead, they can point to what they did right and just as importantly what went wrong in competing against a team as dangerous as the Warriors. 

"We feel good about how we played for large majorities of the game and then you just blink and you get hit in the mouth," Brown said. "The repetition of playing the NBA champs and feeling like you're there and then all of a sudden to zoom in and say why aren't we? Why weren't we? Where did the game change? And understand that better and try to fix it, try to arrest it. That's the benefit to playing them in close proximity."

We finally have footage of Markelle Fultz's rebuilt jump shot

theplayerstribune_facebookwatch_markelle_fultz.png
The Players Triune/Facebook Watch

We finally have footage of Markelle Fultz's rebuilt jump shot

No more cryptic Instagram posts. No more Zapruder-type videos.

On Thursday, Markelle Fultz gave us a glimpse of his much-anticipated jumper via an interview with the Denver Nuggets’ Isaiah Thomas for The Player’s Tribune.

The biggest takeaway? What a huge improvement from anything we saw last season.

It’s certainly encouraging, but there are still things we need to see. All of those shots were set shots off the catch. We still need to see him shooting off the dribble, at the free throw line and in game situations.

During an almost 20-minutes conversation with I.T., Fultz talked about the injury that affected his shot. He dealt with a scapular muscle imbalance, which was finally diagnosed in late October after a weird start to the season.

The biggest question involving Fultz is whether the shot change caused the injury or the change occurred because of the injury. Fultz gave a clear answer.

“There was a lot of things going about changing shots and all this, but there was an injury there,” Fultz said. “For me, I’m a hooper so I was like ‘this ain’t going to stop me.’ Once I realized I really couldn’t do stuff to my full capacity, I was like ‘it really is something’ so I had to find out what it was and we did that throughout the season.

“It took a long time, which people really didn’t understand. They thought I was just being soft but it was really an injury. And now I got a chance to just sit down and pick apart all these doctors – we figured it out and I’ve been back to work this summer and everything’s even better than what it was.”

Fultz was the No. 1 overall pick in 2017 and for good reason. He had a stellar one-and-done season with Washington. The Sixers traded up to acquire the rights to select Fultz, primarily because of his fit with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Part of that fit centered around Fultz’s jumper.

When Fultz got hurt, all of that changed. He played in just 14 games and struggled in his limited playoff action. The team won 52 games and a playoff series with him mostly as a spectator.

Now fully healthy, Fultz has spent the summer in L.A. working with training guru Drew Hanlen, who’s worked with Embiid and Jayson Tatum, among others. The work appears to be paying off.

“Sixers fans are gonna get somebody that’s going to come in and play hard,” Fultz said. “I think I’m going to be that guy that’s going to be able to create shots for himself and his teammates. That guy at the end of the game when you need a bucket – you don’t really have to call a play. I’m going to get out there on defense. Most people don’t know I like to block shots so I’m going to be a big point guard out there.”

You can check out the full video here.

More on the Sixers

Get to know Serena Winters, NBC Sports Philadelphia's new Sixers reporter

serenabasketball.jpg
NBC Sports

Get to know Serena Winters, NBC Sports Philadelphia's new Sixers reporter

Please give a warm welcome to Serena Winters, NBC Sports Philadelphia's new multiplatform Sixers reporter. Serena will join Marc Zumoff and Alaa Abdelnaby on all Sixers telecasts, and she will cover the team across all of NBC Sports Philadelphia's digital platforms. You can follow her on Twitter @SerenaWinters, and you can hear from her in her own words below!

***

When I was in high school, my mom and I were in the car talking about colleges, and my mom asked the typical question: "Have you thought about what you want to do with your career, honey?"

At the time, I was a three-sport athlete, playing basketball, golf and track and field. Basketball was always my first love. I remember being the only girl on a boys team at the Boys & Girls Club in my elementary school days and thinking, "I’m going to be the first woman in the NBA!"

Fast forward to that car ride with my mom, and I knew deep down I wasn’t going to make it as a professional athlete. I loved basketball, but I wasn’t getting recognized by any D-1 schools. I loved golf, but I knew my bogey talents were more suited for Sundays with friends. And despite being pretty darn speedy on those 200M curves, I’m pretty sure I peaked as a freshman. 

So there we sat. I was coming back from a Model United Nations conference (similar to a debate team), and I was getting pretty good at the whole public speaking thing. I loved it actually. 

And my mom said, "Well, have you thought about sports broadcasting?"

Have you ever had that *light bulb just went on* in your head moment? I’ve only had one, and that was it for me.

I attended UC Santa Barbara, volunteering for the sports radio station before I even took my first class, and interning for the Lakers by my senior year. After graduation, it was a mix of valeting cars to pay the bills and a lot of working for free (I really put that college degree to use right off the bat). 

Then came Lakers Nation, and a few years later I joined the Lakers' TV network as a reporter. Earlier this year, I left the Lakers to join the NBC Sports family at NBC Sports Northwest, hosting my own show. From covering the Trail Blazers to riding in IndyCars, it’s an experience I will never forget.

This summer, NBC Sports Philadelphia came calling, and the opportunity to be back working in the sport I grew up loving, with a team that I’ve watched and admired over the past several years, was something I couldn’t help but smile about. I visited the Philadelphia 76ers headquarters. I met with Brett Brown, and I stood out on the second floor overlooking the practice gym. It was then that I got that gut feeling that you always hope for when making a big decision. That gut feeling said this is where I’m supposed to be, working for all of you, the fans, and bringing you the very best coverage of your favorite basketball team, in the best damn sports city in the world. 

All I ask of you is to give me the chance to make you proud to say that you have the best coverage of any NBA team in the Association. This is your team, and I want to cover your team in the best possible way. I can’t wait to get to work, and if you see me around, please say hi!