6 observations from Sixers-Suns

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6 observations from Sixers-Suns

BOX SCORE

Though the weather outside has dipped to sub-arctic temperatures, the Phoenix Suns had little difficulty heating up at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.

The Suns hit their first six shots and were hitting at a torrid 77 percent clip after a quarter. That was enough to help Phoenix hold off the Sixers, 124-113 (see Instant Replay).

The loss was the Sixers’ third in a row as they fell to 14-31, 8½ games off the pace in the Atlantic Division.

Here are a few observations from Monday’s game:

1. Comin’ out gunnin’
The Suns shot 77 percent (17 for 22) during the first quarter in part because they got wide-open shots close to the basket. Of the 22 shots in the opening frame, Phoenix took 13 of them in the paint. The Suns also went 3 for 4 from three-point land in the quarter and were 8 for 9 on shots outside of the paint.

Meanwhile, the Sixers struggled despite getting plenty of shots from up close. Through the first quarter, the Sixers went 6 for 18 from the paint and were 12 for 32 in the paint during the first half.

2. Men in the middle
The Suns had a big advantage in the paint with four players 6-foot-11 or taller positioned in the frontcourt. Most active for Phoenix was second-year center Miles Plumlee, who got eight of his 14 points and six of his 13 rebounds in the opening quarter.

Plumlee wasn’t nearly as effective when Sixers coach Brett Brown made the adjustments and the Suns’ looks in the paint dried up, but by that point the damage was done.

3. Watch your mouth …
The Sixers picked up a season-high four technical fouls on Monday night, with Brown, Evan Turner and Thad Young each getting hit for one, while the team got charged one as well. For Turner, it was his third of the season and Young has a career-high two T’s this year.

Perhaps the Sixers were feeling a little hot under the collar early on. After all, Brown called a timeout just 25 seconds into the game when P.J. Tucker scored an easy, wide-open layup in a half-court set.

Can’t say we fault Brown for getting a little peeved over such an easy basket.

4. Men in the middle, part 2
The Suns set a building record with eight blocked shots during the first half. With 12 blocks in the game, the Suns have 23 blocks in two games against the Sixers. The Suns came into the game ranked 17th in the NBA in blocked shots, but the Sixers lead the NBA in having shots blocked and have had at least 10 shots blocked in 12 games this season.

And though they play only twice in a season, the Suns have recorded 9.6 percent of their blocked shots in games against the Sixers.

5. Pick your poison
While the Sixers were able to shore up the defense in the paint, holding the Suns to 7 for 20 in the paint during the second and third quarters, the Sixers had no remedy for guards Gerald Green or Goran Dragic.

The pair combined to shoot 19 for 25, including 7 for 9 on three-pointers for 54 points. Green led all scorers with 30 points.

6. If they’re free …
The Sixers took only 13 shots during the third quarter, but went 14 for 15 from the foul line. The team shot a season-best 25 for 26 in the game, including 7 for 7 from Michael Carter-Williams and 6 for 6 from Turner.

Of course the Suns went 14 for 16 from the line in the third quarter and 28 for 33 in the game. That pretty much nullified the Sixers’ good showing.

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley is jumping on the Sixers bandwagon.

"I think the Sixers gonna get really good, really quickly, but it all depends on (Joel) Embiid," Barkley said. "They're not gonna win a championship the next couple years, but I think they can really become a perrenial playoff team in the next three years."

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. There are a lot of "ifs" according to Barkley. 

Most of those "ifs" ride on the health of center Joel Embiid. If the big man gets healthy, and the Sixers can resolve the "glutton of big guys," Barkley likes the Sixers chances.

"I think the most important thing they need to figure out is if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. ... I like (Jahlil) Okafor and I like (Nerlens) Noel, but they gotta figure out if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. 

"I like Ben Simmons, but that team's got a long way to go," Barkley said.

To hear more of Barkley's thoughts on the Sixers' future, watch the full video above. 

 

 

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

The Spurs have been one of the most consistent NBA teams for nearly 20 years. They have made 19 consecutive postseason trips and won five championships during that span. 

The Sixers, on the other hand, are entering a phase of building a new foundation with a group of young players. They are working to improve upon a 10-win season, let alone making the playoffs.

Yet four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili saw more than records when weighing his options in free agency. The veteran point guard looked to the Sixers sidelines and was intrigued.

Head coach Brett Brown previously worked in the Spurs basketball operations department and on the coaching staff under Gregg Popovich. He was part of four championship teams in San Antonio. When the Sixers approached Ginobili this offseason, he gave them consideration before returning to the Spurs, where he has spent his entire 14-year career.

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical on Thursday. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

The Sixers reportedly offered Ginobili, 38, a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal worth around $30 million. The Spurs first offered him a one-year, $3 million contract. Ginobili ended up re-signing with the Spurs for one-year, $14 million. 

“It was not my main option. I never wanted to leave San Antonio,” Ginobili said. “But I had to listen to all the options that are there.”

Ginobili averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes coming off the bench last season. The Sixers are adding veteran leadership, and Ginobili is one of the most experienced in the game. In addition to his reliability at the position, he could have been a mentor to the entire team and worked with Ben Simmons to help hone his point guard skills as the rookie big man plays point-forward. His years of international competition would have gelled with incoming players such as Dario Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Sergio Rodriguez. 

The Sixers signed point guards Jerryd Bayless (three years, $27 million) and Rodriguez (one year, $8 million) this summer. T.J. McConnell and Kendall Marshall still are under contract. Last season's starting point guard Ish Smith signed with the Pistons at the start of free agency.