The news of the Sixers’ trade for Jimmy Butler ruled the day. But the Sixers still had a basketball game to play Saturday night. And for the second straight night, they played five extra minutes.
With just nine active players, the Sixers fought hard but fell in overtime to the Grizzlies in Memphis, 112-106, to drop to 8-6.
Garrett Temple hit a game-tying three-pointer with 38.9 seconds left in regulation, and Joel Embiid missed an open three on the ensuing possession. Mike Conley led the way for Memphis with 32 points. Embiid had an off night, with 14 points on 4 for 15 shooting.
• The Sixers are shorthanded until Butler debuts Wednesday against the Magic, which means Brett Brown needs to employ some creative lineups. He started ultra-small Saturday, with a starting five of Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, JJ Redick, Landry Shamet and Embiid.
• Several players who’d mostly been resigned to the sidelines recently got major minutes, including T.J. McConnell and Furkan Korkmaz.
McConnell was excellent in the clutch, driving hard to the rim for the basket that gave the Sixers a 100-98 lead with two minutes remaining.
He also played strong defense on Mike Conley on the Grizzlies’ final possession of regulation.
McConnell had a season-high 16 points on 7 for 8 shooting and seven assists. Every time he’s called upon, you can count on him for quality minutes.
Korkmaz had a nice stretch early in the second quarter, knocking down a couple threes and not looking overwhelmed defensively, an issue for him in his limited minutes earlier this season. One decent game doesn’t erase the fact that he’s generally been a defensive liability, but Saturday night was a reminder of Korkmaz’s shooting ability.
He had a career-high 12 points on 4 for 8 shooting.
Considering the three-point shooting the Sixers lost in Covington and Saric, Korkmaz could have a role off the bench in the short term, despite him reportedly desiring a trade after the Sixers didn’t pick up his third-year option.
• Before Saturday night, the Sixers’ tendency to start poorly in the second half was a footnote, since it hadn’t cost them any games. Now, it’s a significant storyline.
They know it’s a problem, as does anyone watching them. It’s still early, and this team will obviously have an entirely different personality once Butler arrives, but it’s a little worrying they haven’t figured out how to start second halves better. After reestablishing the lead, the Sixers faltered in the fourth quarter, and with just nine players on the second night of a back-to-back, they didn’t have any of Friday night’s late-game spark to save them.
• Twenty-three turnovers killed the Sixers, a recurring theme in their losses.
• Wilson Chandler sat after playing 15 minutes in Friday night’s win, as the Sixers continue to ease him back slowly from the left hamstring strain he suffered in the team’s first preseason game. Looking ahead, Chandler’s years of experience as a small-ball power forward could come in handy once Butler is in the mix.
There are plenty of other permutations Brown could use, including starting Mike Muscala at the four once he returns from the fractured nose and facial laceration he suffered at practice Tuesday, employing Simmons more in the frontcourt, or removing Fultz from the starting lineup and going with Simmons, Redick, Butler, Chandler and Embiid.
It’s not just as easy as plugging in a third star to the lineup — Brown has to find out how to replace two valuable players in Dario Saric and Robert Covington, how Butler fits, and what personnel and sets best suit his newest stars. That will, of course, be a process.
• It was great to see Fultz attack the rim and finish ferociously.
And it wasn’t just that one highlight dunk — he consistently drove hard to the basket.
It was not so great to see a substantial hitch present in Fultz’s free-throw form, as it was Friday night. That remains something worth monitoring moving forward.
Fultz had 14 points on 7 for 9 shooting, his best shooting performance of the season.
• Given his track record, there was never any serious cause for concern with JJ Redick. Still, he alleviated any possible worries about a prolonged shooting slump Saturday night, going 8 for 12. In the last eight games, Redick had shot 34.3 percent, 28.1 percent from three-point territory.
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