76ers

Brett Brown: 'Jahlil Okafor's situation is transparent'

Brett Brown: 'Jahlil Okafor's situation is transparent'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Brett Brown is taking what could be an uncomfortable situation and trying to make it easier for Jahlil Okafor by keeping lines of communication open.

Okafor is not with the Sixers in Charlotte and did not play Saturday night because of trade talks.

“Jahlil Okafor’s situation is transparent,” Brown said after shootaround Monday. “He’s in the middle of being discussed in trade scenarios. So I felt that it complicates things to play him the last game, and now clearly this is continuing on. That’s the reason he isn’t here.”

The Sixers are acknowledging the limbo Okafor is in right now. They are not requiring him to follow a regimented training schedule at their practice complex while they are on the road.

“It isn’t completely structured,” Brown said. “His life is right now up in the air a little bit. We’re mindful of that, we’re respectful of that. We’ll progress as it unfolds.”

Of course there is always a chance a trade doesn’t happen. It is not uncommon for talks to heat up and then fall through. If that is the case, Brown is prepared to bring Okafor back into the mix.

“He’ll come back in and he will be welcomed with open arms with teammates that like him and respect him,” Brown said. “They are friends. He’ll come back into a coaching staff that likes him and respects him because we care for him. He still is ours until somebody tells us he isn’t.”

No Embiid
Okafor was not the only member of the Sixers missing from Charlotte. Joel Embiid, who has missed the last nine games (knee), did not travel. Brown does not expect Embiid to be in Boston for Wednesday’s game against the Celtics either as he works his way back from the injury.

Hawks 129, Sixers 127: Sixers fall victim to dreaded letdown game vs. plucky Hawks

Hawks 129, Sixers 127: Sixers fall victim to dreaded letdown game vs. plucky Hawks

BOX SCORE

What a letdown.

Coming off a huge win over the Celtics, the Sixers came out flat in a 129-127 loss to the feisty young Hawks at State Farm Arena Saturday night.

Rookie Trae Young buried a floater with .01 seconds left to halt the Sixers' winning streak at six.

The loss drops the Sixers to 47-26 on the season.

Here are observations from the game:

• The first half was defense optional. Atlanta shot 53 percent from the floor, including 9 of 24 (37 percent) from three. The Hawks scored 74 points, the most the Sixers have surrendered to an opponent in a half this season. Still, the Sixers trailed by only six at the break.

This was just an obvious letdown early, but give the Sixers credit for turning it up. They went on a 15-3 run to close the third quarter and tie the game at 100.

But defensive issues continued to plague the Sixers in the fourth as they allowed 29 points.

• Don’t be fooled by their record, this Hawks team is a plucky bunch.

Young has been excellent since the All-Star break, averaging 24.9 points and 8.7 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from three. Second-year forward John Collins is having a strong sophomore campaign, averaging 19.5 and 9.7 rebounds a contest.

Young did his thing in this one, recording 32 points on 11 of 20 and 11 assists. The Young-Collins pick-and-roll hurt the Sixers big time. In fact, pick-and-roll defense continues to be an issue for the Sixers in general.

• Joel Embiid has been a monster since returning to the lineup against the Pacers on March 10. In those five games, he’s averaging almost 30 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks a contest. 

After hitting 20 of 21 against the Celtics Wednesday, Embiid lived at the line yet again Saturday, going 11 of 14.

He also showed off more of his guard-like skills.

He did get a little too loose with his handle on a couple plays down the stretch that led to two poorly-timed turnovers. He finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds.

• Since putting up 32 points in Oklahoma City, Tobias Harris has been mired in a mini-slump. In his last 10 games, he’s shooting just 32 percent from three.

With that in mind, Harris made a concerted effort to get to the basket and get easier looks. He made three nice floaters in the paint in the first quarter. After starting the game 4 of 4, Harris went just 1 of his next 12. He had just 13 points.

Harris struggled defensively as well, especially when switched on to rookie Young. Mike Scott helped pick up the slack a little against his former team, going 3 of 6 from three and scoring nine points.

• It was interesting to see Jimmy Butler bring the ball up the floor on the Sixers’ first possession, but certainly not surprising. This could be a formula that works. If Ben Simmons can push the ball in transition, you run. If not, you give the ball to Butler and let him work in the half court.

It was evident early on that Kevin Huerter wasn’t physically strong enough to stick with Butler as the rookie picked up two early fouls. Butler was more assertive than usual early on with 13 first-half points.

Butler was good down the stretch, but didn't handle a double team well on the Sixers' possession before Young's game-winner. He had 25 points.

• Since the Hawks don’t have a viable rim protector or player that matches up well, this looked like a matchup Simmons could do well in. He looked to get to the basket early and often, but missed a few easy looks early on, but was better after halftime. He went 9 of 16 for 21 points.

There is a wrinkle to the Sixers’ offense with the Simmons-Embiid pairing. They run a “snug” pick-and-roll which is basically just a pick-and-roll run through the post. It’s such a difficult thing to stop with their size and skills.

Simmons continues to do an excellent job taking care of the basketball. He had nine assists to just two turnovers.

• Boban Marjanovic hit his first career three and it was a beaut from the corner.

Before tonight, Marjanovic was 0 for 3 for his career. Brett Brown told us that this could be something we saw. Marjanovic has nice touch for such a massive human.

With that said, it was another tough defensive game for Marjanovic. He was a big part of the Sixers’ porous defense, especially in the pick-and-roll.

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

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

With a 10-game countdown to the playoffs, the Sixers (47-25) are in Atlanta taking on the Hawks (25-48) at State Farm Arena. The Hawks have been eliminated from the playoff race, but they’ve been putting up solid numbers since the All-Star break. They're tied for first in the NBA in points per game, total points, second in three-point field goals made, and third in rebounds per game. 

Here are the essentials for tonight's game:

•  When: 7:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
•  Where: State Farm Arena
•  Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
•  Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC MyTeams app

Here are three storylines to watch.

Joel Embiid debut

Up until tonight, whether because of injuries or load management, Embiid has actually missed every game at State Farm Arena since he’s been in the league. Embiid’s numbers over the past two games have been ridiculous (77 points, 37 rebounds, 10 assists), making him the first player with those stats since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1972.

That starting lineup though!

The Sixers are now 7-1 with the Ben Simmons-JJ Redick-Tobias Harris-Jimmy Butler-Embiid starting lineup. Their numbers in that span: 17.7 net rating, 119.3 offensive rating, 101.7 defensive rating, and opponents are shooting 44.1 percent. It’s really felt like players have started to buy into and figure out their roles the past few games.

JJ on fiiiiire

Redick has hit at least four threes in his past five games, the longest stretch of his career (Allen Iverson and Willie Burton are the only Sixers with such a streak). If he keeps the threes draining tonight, Redick will set a record for the longest such streak in franchise history.

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