Larry Millson

Embiid's return not a magic pill for Sixers

Embiid's return not a magic pill for Sixers


TORONTO — Though Joel Embiid returned Saturday night from a three-game absence in the Sixers’ loss in Toronto, he alone couldn’t solve their persistent turnover problems.

The center did made a difference early, reeling off the Sixers’ first eight points after being listed as questionable with tightness in his back.

Yet the Sixers ultimately lost to the Raptors for the second time in three days, 102-86 (see observations)

They turned the ball over 23 times Saturday, leading to 28 points. The Sixers’ 24 turnovers Thursday led to 32 points in their 114-109 loss to Toronto. 

The Sixers have lost a season-high five in a row and have dropped nine of their past 10. Amir Johnson, a former Raptor who had 12 points Saturday, said the Sixers need to cut down on turnovers to end the drought.

“Take care of the ball,” he said. “I think that’s when we’ll start winning. I think it really is just our turnovers. It’s tough when you are in transition or in mid-play, throw lob passes and then we’re scrambling back in transition. We do play at a fast pace, but we just have to take care of the ball. We don’t win anything if we don’t care of the ball.”

“You just have to make it a point of emphasis, or you just have to do it,” said Ben Simmons, who had 10 points, five rebounds and six assists. “You can’t talk about it, you just have to go out there and take care of the ball and focus, and make the right decision.”

While Sixers coach Brett Brown was pleased with his team’s improvement in some areas, he was still disappointed with the turnover problems. 

“I thought we did a better job of not blatantly hacking them, fouling them like we did at home,” Brown said. “We did a little bit better job of offensive rebounding. I think the turnovers, especially in the first half, continue to hurt us. I leave mostly thinking that this is a really good team. I think they’ve lost one game at home (12-1), I think they’ve won 12 out of the past 13 games (overall), and we feel every bit of that.” 

If turnovers are an aspect that does not seem to change during this process, nor do losses to the Raptors, as the Sixers are 1-18 against Toronto since 2013-14.

Embiid wanted to help end that trend. He said his back did not feel much better Saturday, but he wanted to play. He had 14 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes.

He appeared to grow frustrated as the game wore on.

“I think because he wants to do so much more and he can’t,” Brown said. “He just hasn’t practiced or recently played, and so it didn’t really surprise me that what I thought was good form at the start of the game, he had his legs underneath him, his conditioning obviously at the start wasn’t challenged but as the game wore on, I think none of us should expect less.

“It’s going to take him some time to feel the game and play basketball again. You don’t just click your heels and jump into an NBA game and do what he did at the start consistently, and he got frustrated. It’s just part of really what makes him quite unique, he wants it and he wants everything now and sometimes you just can’t have that.” 

Sixers give away too many gifts as losses pile up

Sixers give away too many gifts as losses pile up


TORONTO —  The Sixers stayed within striking distance, but by the time the third quarter was over Saturday night, a familiar story was unfolding against the Toronto Raptors. 

The Sixers crept to within four points during the quarter, but then the Raptors took control and led by 18 points entering the fourth quarter.

DeMar DeRozan, who had a career-best 45 points against the Sixers on Thursday, came back with 29 Saturday in Toronto’s 102-86 victory.

The Raptors are 18-1 against the Sixers since the 2013-2014 season, with two of the wins coming this week.

Toronto has won six in a row and 12 of their last 13, while the Sixers have lost five in a row and nine of 10.

 Joel Embiid, who had a fast start, returned the Sixers' lineup, finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 17 points.   

• Embiid (back tightness) started after being listed as questionable up until game time and was loose enough to score the team’s first eight points of the game, including a three-pointer. He also missed one of two free throws, had three rebounds and a blocked shot during his opening six-minute spree. After Embiid took the Sixers' first six shots, Ben Simmons took the next two, hitting one.

• JJ Redick (right hamstring tightness) missed his second consecutive game Saturday.

• Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot closed out the first-quarter scoring with a three-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 27 apiece.  

• Neither team had a second-chance point in the first quarter. The Sixers did not even have a second-chance opportunity, while the Raptors were 0 for 3 on their second-chance efforts.

• Sixers coach Brett Brown was tabbed with a technical foul with 4:21 to play in the first half and DeMar DeRozan converted from the foul line to give Toronto a 44-38 lead.

• The process is a road littered with turnovers, it seems. The Sixers, entering the game with a league-leading average of 18 turnovers, had 14 in the first half, leading to 21 Toronto points. The Sixers finished with 23 turnovers.

• The Raptors led by 13 early in the third quarter, but the Sixers whittled that deficit to four with 6:15 left in the quarter on a free throw by Dario Saric. Then the Raptors got busy, with DeRozan hitting a couple of three-pointers. Delon Wright making a driving layup and by the time the surge was over, Toronto led 81-63 after three quarters.

• Toronto’s Serge Ibaka made an impressive dunk late in the game to give the Raptors a 16-point lead, and a parade of reserves came on. It was game over. The Sixers, however, did outscore Toronto 23-21 in the fourth quarter.

• The Sixers will visit the Knicks on Monday, a noon start on Christmas Day.

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors


TORONTO — Ben Simmons' double-double feat aside, the Sixers have had little to enjoy about the start to the season.

They were outclassed Saturday night, 128-94, by the Toronto Raptors and have lost their first three games (see observations).

As has been their custom for back-to-back games, center Joel Embiid did not play Saturday after playing Friday in the loss to the Boston Celtics to protect his left knee.

Head coach Brett Brown said he did not expect things to go this way.

“I didn’t,” he said. “I knew the first three games were going to be difficult. I knew coming into this building after a back-to-back was going to be difficult, but you are certainly not expecting it to be that margin of a deficit. I give Toronto credit.

“We have a lot of work to do; we look forward to getting Joel (Embiid) back in this and continuing to learn how to play the group.”

After trailing by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, the Sixers whittled the lead to eight when Jerryd Bayless hit a couple of free throws with 2:22 left in the first half.

Toronto led 62-49 at the half and blitzed the Sixers to open the third quarter with Serge Ibaka scoring eight of their first 10 points of the second half. With 3:12 left in the third, the Raptors led by 29.

“They jumped us, especially at the start of the third, certainly portions of the first period but especially the start of the third and you’re just playing catch up pretty much for the rest of the game after that first almost minute, minute and a half,” Brown said.

“You’re just trying to find some type of order and purpose to end the game with that in mind.”

It was a subdued atmosphere in the dressing room after the game.

The edge surely was removed from another double-double by Simmons.

He had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Simmons joins Oscar Robertson as the only NBA players to average 10-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in their first three career games.

“It looks great, but I’d rather have a win,” he said. “I’d rather we had three wins than three double-doubles.”

Simmons said he is looking forward to Embiid returning to the lineup Monday against the Detroit Pistons.

He said he could feel the game slipping away Saturday.

“Toward the third, coming out we just didn’t click, didn’t have it together,” Simmons said. “It’s tough without Joel (Embiid), obviously there’s chemistry and then you switch it up, so that comes into it, but we need to learn to play without him, with those back-to-backs.

“We have to stay together as a team, talk it out, get through it, communicate on the court and hold each other accountable. … We have to sit down and look at what we did wrong, that’s with every game, you have to fix your mistakes and come out ready for the next one. It’s a long season.”

It could seem even longer if there aren't signs of improvement.

“Coach Brown has talked since Day 1 of camp about our goal; to build every day, to take something positive every day and I think for tonight, we were unable to do that,” guard J.J. Redick said. “I was just saying if it’s a six-minute stretch where we are doing things well, cutting into their lead, that’s something to build on. I don’t think we did that before but that’s what I was trying to get across.

“I’m a patient person; if we were 0-45 then I’ll start to panic. There are 82 games, we have a very tough schedule to start, we’re a young team, and that’s not an excuse but the reality is the team we played tonight and the team we played in D.C. Wednesday night, they’ve been together a long time and know how to play together. We have to figure out a way to jell quicker and we have to understand and close our margin for error.”