76ers

Loss to Spurs moves Sixers closer to NBA record

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Loss to Spurs moves Sixers closer to NBA record

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SAN ANTONIO – The Sixers and rookie coach Brett Brown have tried to use this season as a learning experience. The San Antonio Spurs delivered a whopper of a lesson on Monday night.

San Antonio used outstanding ball movement to make seldom-used Austin Daye look like a star, helping the Spurs win their 14th straight with a 113-91 victory over the Sixers (see Instant Replay).

“It felt like they were running 100 miles per hour out there,” Sixers forward Thaddeus Young said.

“You take one thing and they pick you apart with something else. You just have to pick your poison with a team like this. They have so many guys who can do different things and so many guys that can make plays.”

The loss was the Sixers' 25th straight, putting them on the brink of NBA infamy.

The Sixers next play Thursday in Houston, where a loss would match the NBA record for consecutive losses set by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010-11.

Avoiding that dubious mark won’t be easy.

The Rockets have won four straight, rolling to a 100-89 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night.

“Obviously, it's a rough season for them,” Spurs veteran Tim Duncan said. “It's a rebuilding season for them. [Brown] knows that, they know that. They have a lot of young guys. He's just trying to get the system in place that has them playing the way he wants them playing. It's a process. He knows that.”

Yet, the Sixers can take hope from what San Antonio was able to accomplish.

Daye, who was averaging 2.3 minutes while playing in only four games since being acquired from Toronto on Feb. 20, finished with a season-high 22 points. The 6-foot-11 forward finished 6 for 10 on three-pointers and had six rebounds in 29 minutes.

Brown, who spent seven seasons as an assistant under Popovich prior to being named Sixers head coach, said Daye’s breakout performance was a byproduct of San Antonio’s system.

“He’s lucky -- and I’ve seen this over so many years -- people can come into that system and shine,” Brown said. “This system creates opportunities for everybody, and he took advantage of those. The attention you have to give others and the movement that they have in their structure allowed him to get freed up a lot. He reaped the benefit of playing in that system.”

Even with starters Tony Parker, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter all sitting out, the Spurs still managed to dish out 31 assists and shot 44 from 79 from the field. San Antonio had nine players score at least five points.

“In my opinion, that’s how you play the game,” Brown said. “So what you see is a system born out of many, many years of corporate knowledge where the winks and the blinks and the wrinkles and subtle nuances [allow them to] understand each other’s tendencies, and the offense shines. It’s not just a byproduct of good players or a great coach. It’s a decade worth of corporate knowledge. That’s what you aspire to get to.”

In comparison, the Sixers only had seven of 10 players score and six of those were in double figures.

“We run the completely same offense,” Young said. “But they do all the ins and outs and we don't. That's the biggest thing. They ran a play that we knew, but they ran it a completely different way than we ran it. And that's because they knew we were going to pick apart the first side and second side, so they came from a whole different angle and ran the play. We were all mind-boggled about how they all knew ins and outs.”

Duncan added 19 points in 23 minutes and Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills scored 15 points each for the league-best Spurs (54-16).

Young and Michael Carter-Williams each scored 19 points to lead the Sixers (15-56). Byron Mullens added 15, Elliot Williams had 14 and James Anderson and Henry Sims each had 10.

The Sixers had 22 assists while shooting 40.9 percent from the field and made only 11 of 33 three-point attempts.

The youthful Sixers had a solid start, with Carter-Williams attacking the basket and Hollis Thompson hitting a pair of threes. Williams’ dunk with 3:44 left in the first quarter tied the game at 19, but it was downhill from there.

Following a timeout, the Spurs outscored the Sixers 26-5, capped by a 19-0 run to bridge the first and second quarters.

The Sixers went scoreless for 6½ minutes before Mullens hit a three-pointer that cut San Antonio’s lead to 45-27 with 6:35 left in the first half.

The Spurs never trailed by less than 10 points the remainder of the game, however, allowing them to rest veterans Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw.

San Antonio looked at the victory as just another chance to improve in hopes of capturing its fifth NBA title.

“Pop is still not satisfied, obviously, with what we're doing,” Duncan said. “We want to stay healthy. We want to stay moving in the right direction.”

The Sixers’ reaction to the loss was telling in that the players preached a similar message. While they did not even qualify for the postseason, they are on a quest to get better.

“I'm not really worried about the streak and what people talk about it,” Carter-Williams said. “We're just worried about getting better each and every day. Of course we want to go out there and win a ballgame. But we just have to keep getting better and hopefully a win will come.”

Let's just watch that sick Joel Embiid Euro step over and over

Let's just watch that sick Joel Embiid Euro step over and over

Thursday night's Sixers win in South Philadelphia had all the highs and lows of their season to date.

Brett Brown's boys came out with guns blazing, torching the Nets out of the gate and looking like the world beaters we know they can be. Then Al Horford took the court and the Sixers flipped the switch in the wrong direction -- whatever you do, don't look at the stats in this tweet. The Nets' 40-8 run in the first half was truly astounding. How does a championship contender allow that to happen?

This 76ers team is nothing if not inconsistent.

There's plenty to still worry about with this team. But Thursday night showed that Joel Embiid can absolutely dominate and takeover a game, carrying the rest of his teammates to victory. Coach Brown has talked about Embiid's ability to bully this team to victory, but it's still a pleasure to watch when it actually happens.

Embiid has been talking about having fun and we all know the cure for that problem: winning.

Which got me thinking. Is there a player in any sport in Philadelphia whose mood dictates the mood of the entire city more than Joel Embiid's? 

When Embiid blocked Wilson Chandler as the clock expired in regulation to send the game to overtime, you could feel the electric energy in the entire arena. And fans at home on their couches across the Philly area felt it too.

It felt good to see Embiid having fun, team on his back and all.

But it's the Euro step that really got the fans out of their seats. It was beautiful.

The lowkey best part about it may have been after Embiid made the bucket and was heading back on defense and he showed off the footwork again. Big dude's just having fun out there.

You love to see it.

Alec Burks stands out to Brett Brown in Sixers' bench competition with performance vs. Nets

Alec Burks stands out to Brett Brown in Sixers' bench competition with performance vs. Nets

The 12-44 Golden State Warriors have not been the most compelling viewing this season for an East Coast audience. 

Alec Burks, after scoring 19 points Thursday night in the Sixers’ 112-104 overtime win over the Nets, seemed to acknowledge that reality. 

“Just playing my game, man,” he said. “I know I played on the West Coast. I don’t know if y’all watch the West Coast, but that’s how I play. It’s just playing my game, just trying to feel it out, because it’s only my second game — I’ve only been here a couple days. Hopefully it will get better and better as the season goes on.”

Before the Sixers acquired him and Glenn Robinson III from Golden State, Burks had been averaging a career-best 15.8 points per game. His offensive contributions were timely against Brooklyn as he scored every one of his points after the Nets took a 50-30 lead. 

Brett Brown had said pregame that he wants to have a nine-man playoff rotation but that he doesn’t yet know every one of its members. 

“I think there’s a period of time, especially when you’re talking about the last two, say, spots, where it has to be competitive, and it will be,” he said.

After a bizarre game in which the Nets had a 46-10 run and the Sixers made a season-low 4 three-pointers on 22 attempts while shooting 32 of 35 at the foul line, it would have been fair for Brown to say he couldn’t pass much judgement on that competition. Instead, he identified Burks as a standout, especially in the context of the Sixers’ playing without Ben Simmons (lower back tightness) and searching for solutions at backup point guard.

We’d all have to walk out of here being pretty impressed with Alec Burks,” he said. “He provided a scoring punch. He really was a dynamic scorer. And I think the more I’m seeing him, his ability to pass out of a pick-and-roll is elite. … We’re always wondering what’s going to go on with the backup point guard when [Simmons] is healthy, and I tried [Furkan Korkmaz] a little bit there, I tried [Josh Richardson] a little bit there, Shake [Milton] came out of left field in the second half because I wasn’t entirely thrilled with how I was rotating the group and what I was seeing. 

“And so you’re wondering, might Alec have something to do with being a primary ball carrier, because he’s a really good pick-and-roll player and passer? He stood out tonight. The other guys I thought were solid, but as far as standing out, he did to me.

With the Warriors, Burks was above league average efficiency on pick-and-rolls, isolations and dribble handoffs this season, per NBA.com/Stats. He was well suited for ball handling responsibilities with the Sixers on paper, and Thursday was the first extended look at those skills on the court. Burks had sat out the Sixers’ Feb. 9 game vs. the Bulls as he adjusted to a new time zone, city and team, and he’d only played 14 minutes against the Clippers in the Sixers’ final pre-All-Star break game, scoring two points.

Brown tossed out a bunch of lineup combinations, looking for a group that could bring order to a chaotic game. Though Burks air balled an open three with 1:07 left that would have given the Sixers the lead, he was a clear inclusion for Brown in overtime. He scored five of the Sixers’ nine points in the extra session. 

“He was big for us,” Tobias Harris said. “He gives us another guy that can handle the ball and create his own shot. He has a really good mid-range jumper, he’s got great speed going downhill. He was able to make some huge plays for us, especially in the fourth quarter. We just fed off his energy tonight, and it was good to see him get going. … I think he’s going to be great for us.”

Outside of Burks, it likely wouldn’t make sense to take much away from the play of the Sixers’ bench players. Simmons was out, Raul Neto started and Brown was constantly grasping for someone or something that could have a positive impact.

Burks emerged. 

“Since we got him, I felt like that was another guy that could create his own shot — just come off the screen and pull up behind the three-point line,” Joel Embiid said after his 39-point, 16-rebound night. “And he’s not afraid to take that shot. We need that. We haven’t really had that the last couple years, so it’s a good sight to see. A great job by [general manager Elton Brand] for making it happen.”

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