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.

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.