5 observations from Sixers-Spurs

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5 observations from Sixers-Spurs

With a second straight loss, this one a 109-85 defeat to the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers fell back to an even .500 (see Instant Replay).

Hey, it had to happen sooner or later.

Regardless, the veteran-laden Spurs showed no sign of slowing down, improving to 7-1 this season for the second-best record in the NBA. The 4-4 Sixers will look to bounce back on Wednesday when Houston comes to town.

Here are a few things that popped out at is during Monday night’s game.

1. The Spurs are good
It’s one thing for a team to execute and to run a crisp offense with a ton of ball movement. But it’s another to play as hard as the Spurs. Mix the execution with the tenacity and it’s a pretty lethal mix.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Spurs have committed the third-fewest turnovers in the league and have the fifth-best shooting percentage in the West.

More telling is the Spurs ripped the Knicks by 31 points on Sunday afternoon and played without future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan against the Sixers on Monday, and didn’t miss a beat.

It’s not going to last forever. Eventually Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, etc. will retire and move on. But for now there are few teams that get after it like the Spurs. Enjoy it while it lasts.

2. Turner creeping out
The Sixers’ leading scorer poured in 20 more points against the Spurs on Monday night and was one of the few players that had any production worth mentioning in the loss to the Spurs. And though Turner’s scoring is up slightly over the last two games, his efficiency has dipped.

Turner scored a career-high 31 points on 9 for 23 shooting in the double-OT loss on Saturday with 13 shots from deeper than 15 feet. Against the Spurs, Turner chucked up eight more from beyond 15 feet.

The result: 5 for 21 on shots 15 feet or longer. On shots from 14 feet and closer, Turner was 13 for 23.

3. Hawes posting numbers
It’s a contract year for Sixers center Spencer Hawes and, as expected, his stat lines have been consistently good. On Monday, Hawes notched his fifth double-double (17 points, 13 boards) and got there in record time.

Hawes grabbed his 10th rebound with 10:49 left in the third quarter after sitting on nine for more than half of the second quarter.

4. MCW vs. Tony Parker
This one didn’t go very well for the rookie. In 32 minutes, Michael Carter-Williams went 2 for 11 for eight points, with four assists and two turnovers. Both of Carter-Williams’ field goals came on layups and he went 2 for 6 on shots in the paint.

The veteran Parker logged just 29 minutes, but shot 7 for 12 for 14 points with nine assists. Conversely, Parker went 5 for 5 on shots in the paint.

Parker played just 26 minutes in the blowout victory over the Knicks on Sunday, hitting 8 for 12 from the field.

5. Orton sits out again
With Duncan taking a rest, big man Daniel Orton figured to log some minutes against the Spurs. Instead, the center sat out for the third straight game with a sore knee.

Best of NBA: Cavs ride Big 3 to huge win over Knicks at MSG

Best of NBA: Cavs ride Big 3 to huge win over Knicks at MSG

NEW YORK -- LeBron James scored 25 points, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love also surpassed 20, and the Cleveland Cavaliers crushed the New York Knicks 126-94 on Wednesday night.

James had nothing to say Wednesday morning about Knicks President Phil Jackson and not much more about his decision to not stay with the team in a Donald Trump-branded hotel, but he and the Cavs made a loud statement at Madison Square Garden.

It was their second straight win after a three-game skid, and they did it easily in handing the Knicks their worst loss of the season. Irving led Cleveland with 28 points and Love scored 21, 16 in the first quarter.

Brandon Jennings scored 16 points for the Knicks, who had their four-game winning streak snapped and lost for the just the third time in 10 games. He started for Derrick Rose, who missed his first game of the season with lower back pain.

Tristan Thompson grabbed 20 rebounds for the Cavs. They played without guard J.R. Smith, who returned to Cleveland for additional testing after hyperextending his left knee Monday in Toronto (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo drops triple-double in Bucks’ win
MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo got his second triple-double of the season to lead the Milwaukee Bucks over the Portland Trail Blazers 115-107 on Wednesday night.

Antetokounmpo had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his seventh career triple-double -- second-most in franchise history -- and is the only NBA player averaging at least 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals this season.

Jabari Parker added 27 points for Milwaukee, which rebounded from a one-point home loss to San Antonio on Monday to win for the fifth time in six games.

The Bucks entered holding opponents to a NBA-best .311 shooting percentage from 3-point range, but Portland drill a season-high 17 of them.

Damian Lillard made five of them and scored a team-high 30 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists.

C.J. McCollum added 23 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Blazers continued a nine-game stretch of playing eight times on the road (see full recap).

Streaking Rockets roll over Lakers
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon made a career-high eight 3-points and scored 26 points to help the Houston Rockets cruise to a 134-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

James Harden added 25 points in three quarters for the Rockets. They scored a season high and extended their winning streak to a season-best four games.

The Rockets were up by 12 in the third quarter, then had a 22-6 run to make it 96-68 and put the game out of reach with about 3 minutes left in the quarter. Houston made four 3-pointers and got a nifty one-handed dunk from Clint Capela in that run to pad the lead.

Gordon already had four 3-pointers seven minutes into the first quarter after making each of his first four attempts. It was his seventh straight game with at least four 3-pointers, which is a franchise record.

Houston's winning streak is its longest since taking five straight in January.

Lou Williams led the Lakers with 24 points. They have lost four in a row, their longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Brett Brown wants Sixers to focus on turnovers, transition defense in next 10 games

Brett Brown wants Sixers to focus on turnovers, transition defense in next 10 games

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers take a pause after each set of 10 games over the course of the 82-game season to identify areas they want to improve in the next increment.
 
They are now 22 games into the season and two into the current grouping. Brett Brown has targeted two aspects, one on each end of the floor, to hone in on: turnovers and transition defense.
 
“Our turnovers continue to haunt us and we can’t let it go,” Brown said earlier this week. 
 
Turnover problems are nothing new to the Sixers. As a young team, they struggled heavily last season and ranked 29th with 16.4 per game. This season the number is higher. The Sixers currently are at the bottom of the NBA with 17.3 turnovers per game.*
 
They are running into problems late in games. The Sixers average 3.6 turnovers in the first quarter (tied for 22nd with the Clippers) compared to 5.0 in the fourth (also 30th in the NBA for that quarter). 
 
Brown frequently highlights points allowed off turnovers when assessing a loss. The Sixers are tied with the Timberwolves for 25th with 18.2 points in that category.

Rather than just looking at turnovers as a whole, Brown is delving into the who’s and why’s of the problem. Joel Embiid leads the team with 3.7 turnovers per game. The Sixers look to him as the focal point of the offense. As a rookie, he is adjusting to NBA defenses, especially double teams, while being the go-to at the basket. 

Sergio Rodriguez is behind Embiid with 2.7, not counting Jerryd Bayless (3.0) who only has played three games. Rodriguez has said he “takes risks” at the point but is trying to be more secure with the ball in his hand (see story)

“We’ve got repetitive examples of people either too much in a crowd,” Brown said. “Examples of people not handling pick and rolls when they come out and hedge. Post players dribbling too much and not reacting to double teams and to pass outs.”
 
On the opposite end of the court, the Sixers are last in the league with 18.5 fast break points scored by opponents. Their defense fluctuates when Embiid is on the sideline, based on his 28-minute restriction. However Brown does not want the rest of the team to lapse without their big man. Brown has been emphasizing the need for pace and has been stressing all season the importance of career-best fitness to get up and down the floor.

“We still don’t get back the way I want to in transition defense,” Brown said. “We do see differences in our defense dramatically when Joel is in the game or not. But it still doesn’t camouflage the fact that we have to get back on defense.”

The Sixers will have to tackle these issues in a 10-game period in which they are shorthanded with a slew of injuries and illnesses. 

"The good thing is, we’ve selected two things that have hurt us and we need to claim them again," Brown said. 

*All stats according to NBA.com