He said he was a little tired. He said they were all a little tired -- physically and mentally. That’s what happens after you come back from a surprisingly productive five-game road trip and you’re forced to play back-to-back games.
Before the Sixers faced the Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday evening, Thaddeus Young was asked what went wrong in the previous two games. He could have spent less time talking about what didn’t go wrong. The Sixers got smacked by the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves at home on Monday. Then they went to Cleveland and got smacked by the Cavaliers on the road on Tuesday. There was a lot of smacking earlier in the week, none of which was done by the Sixers.
They were tired. Or, rather, fatigued. That’s how Young put it. It was understandable.
What happened on Friday was less understandable. It had nothing to do with fatigue. The Sixers were fully rested -- and yet the smacking continued. This time, the Pistons handed out the beating, defeating the Sixers, 114-104, at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday (see Instant Replay).
It was the Sixers' third straight defeat. It was also their fifth loss in the last six meetings against the Pistons. Meanwhile, the win snapped a six-game losing streak for Detroit.
On the surface, losing by 10 doesn’t look so bad. Except the Sixers scored 63 points in the first half -- the second-most points in the first two quarters that they mustered all season. They also had a 16-point lead during the proceedings. So what happened?
“The difference in the game was rebounding,” said Young, who tied for a game-high 22 points to go with four rebounds, two assists and two steals. “That and when Brandon Jennings got warmed up. I think he had three or four threes. That was the changing point in the game.”
Jennings made four of his six three-point attempts for the Pistons and finished with 19 points and six assists. The Pistons, who aren’t a good three-point shooting group -- they entered the game hitting 6.1 threes per game (27th in the NBA) -- made 11 of 30 attempts from distance. It wasn’t surprising. The Sixers have had trouble defending the perimeter all season. They allow the most threes per game in the NBA.
Josh Smith also had a monster game for the Pistons, posting 22 points (including two three-pointers), 13 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and four steals. Only two other players in NBA history have had a line like that -- Kareem Abdul Jabbar in 1978 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1992. And neither of them hit a three-pointer.
All of that certainly helped Detroit’s comeback. But it was what Young first singled out that mattered most for the Pistons: the rebounds. The Pistons beat the Sixers 62-42 overall on the glass and 25-13 on the offensive boards.
“I think their length bothered us the whole game,” Brett Brown said. “They had 25 offensive rebounds. We go into the game and you know that’s a problem. It’s going to be a problem. And it ended up a huge problem ... if you look at their offensive rebounds and their blocked shots, we struggled.”
That they did. In addition to getting beaten on the boards, the Pistons rejected the Sixers regularly whenever they dared to enter the paint. Detroit had an eye-popping 14 blocks. Six of those came courtesy of center Andre Drummond, who also had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
For the Sixers, Michael Carter-Williams made 9 of 20 shots for 21 points and four assists, while Evan Turner added 19 points, five rebounds and four assists.
But all of that felt almost incidental. The rebounds. The blocks. That’s where the Pistons excelled and the Sixers didn’t. That’s why the Pistons won and the Sixers didn’t.
“At the end of the day,” Brown admitted, “those are the two stats that stick out the most to me.”
To him and everyone else.
The Sixers are not quite done making moves this offseason.
The team on Friday sent big man Richaun Holmes to the Suns for cash considerations. The Sixers also signed 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden to a four-year deal, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.
Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the trade and Bolden's signing.
With these moves, the Sixers’ roster remains at 15 players, but that could change if the team finds a way to rid themselves of Jerryd Bayless’ contract — say, in a trade with Cleveland (see story).
The writing has been on the wall for Holmes. Now entering his fourth year, the 2015 second-round pick struggled to find a role in Brett Brown’s rotation last season with a healthy Joel Embiid and veteran Amir Johnson in the fold. While he offered energy, athleticism and weakside rim protection off the bench, Holmes lacked discipline defensively, something Brown hasn’t tolerated during his tenure.
Bolden will essentially take Holmes’ spot on the roster as a developmental big. With quicker feet defensively, Bolden has more versatility to guard fours. While his summer league performance was underwhelming offensively, Bolden did impress defensively, especially against No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton. It’s important to note that the third and fourth years of Bolden’s deal are not guaranteed, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic.
Drafted by the Sixers out of Bowling Green State, Holmes flashed at times but was only able to get into 48 games this season, averaging 15.5 minutes a contest. He averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 156 career games with the Sixers.
A native Australian, Bolden attended UCLA for one year before heading overseas to play for FMP Beograd of the Adriatic League. As a draft and stash this past season, Bolden played for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and tested his skills in the EuroLeague. He averaged 7.2 points and six rebounds in 20.8 minutes a game. He’s shown flashes of a jump shot but shot just 31 percent from three this season abroad and 24 percent in summer league action.
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The Sixers have been searching for a way to end their partnership with Jerryd Bayless for some time now. And while a resolution may finally be coming into shape, it’s far from a sure thing.
The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey first reported Thursday that the Sixers have had discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers about a trade involving Bayless and Kyle Korver.
However, The New York Times’ Marc Stein added Friday that while a potential deal involving the two sides is “possible” it’s also “far from certain.”
Bayless has one year remaining on his contract at $8.57 million.
Korver has two years left on his deal for $7.56 million in 2018-19 and $7.5 million the following season. Of that 2019-20 salary, only $3.44 million is guaranteed if Korver remains on the team after July 7, 2019. The money becomes fully guaranteed after that point.
Any deal for the Cavaliers to take on Bayless would likely also involve a draft pick going back to Cleveland. The Sixers currently have control of most of their own assets, including six total second-round selections in the next two drafts.
Korver, who spent the first four-plus years of his career with the Sixers, is still getting it done in the NBA at 37 years old. The veteran sharpshooter played in 73 games regular-season games last season for the Cavs and averaged 9.2 points a night on 43.6 percent three-point shooting (sixth-best in the NBA).
Meanwhile, Bayless fell out of the rotation in Year 2 of his three-year, $27 million contract with the Sixers. The 29-year-old guard was a DNP-CD for 39 of the Sixers’ final 40 games, including playoffs, with the lone appearance being a showing for 1:44 in the team’s Game 1 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In all, Bayless played in just 39 contests and averaged 7.9 points (41.6 percent shooting from the field and 37.0 percent shooting from three-point range).
“It wasn’t easy,” Bayless said during exit interviews of his diminished role as the season went on. “This whole year from an individual standpoint wasn’t the easiest. But, at the same time, when you’re around a group of guys that we had and the success that we had, it made it easier.
“I’m really grateful that I was able to be a part of this organization this year. We’ll see what happens moving forward.”
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