Brand knows Sixers, Philly not the tanking type

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Brand knows Sixers, Philly not the tanking type

Not even two years ago, the Sixers appeared to be three minutes from escaping the Boston Garden with a victory over the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and moving on to face the Miami Heat for a chance to go to the NBA Finals.

Instead, Rajon Rondo took over the last few minutes after Paul Pierce had fouled out and the Sixers were sent packing.

Make that literally and figuratively.

A couple of months after that loss in Boston, the Sixers reconfigured the roster. Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic and Mo Harkless were traded. Lou Williams was allowed to move on via free agency and Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson were acquired for a run at the Heat.

The move that enabled much of those transactions to occur came in July of that year when the Sixers exercised the amnesty clause on the veteran and team’s heart and soul, Elton Brand.

Like Bynum, Brand was acquired with the hope of returning the Sixers to their former glory. Unlike Bynum, Brand left it all out on the floor for the Sixers, playing with broken hands, pulled muscles and separated shoulders.

“I understood why they broke that team up. I get it,” Brand said from the Atlanta Hawks’ locker room prior to Friday night’s game against the Sixers. “At the same time, we had a great run and we had some talent.”

Still, Brand admits to being a bit surprised at how quickly the Sixers fell into a complete overhaul. The Sixers haven’t been back to the playoffs since that game in Boston and it doesn’t appear as if a second-half run to sneak in this year is going to occur.

The Sixers were so close, but now so far away.

“It’s kind of surprising. I root for the guys and I still have friends on this team. It’s surprising that it got so bad so fast,” Brand said. “On another note, they swung for the fences. Sometimes when you swing for the fences you whiff.”

The Sixers whiffed with Bynum. But rather than take another swing for the fences, the Sixers are rebuilding from scratch.

Some call it tanking, but Brand -- like the Sixers’ players -- doesn't look at it that way.

“I say to those guys, ‘I know you’re not trying to tank,’” Brand said. “Because they aren’t tank kind of guys and this isn’t a tank kind of city. They’re just losing tough, close games. I played with those guys and I know them. As players you try to win every single game.”

With the Hawks, his second team since leaving the Sixers two seasons ago, Brand is settling into a new role. He’s still the veteran leader on the team, only these days his leadership comes with a lot less playing time.

“It’s an adjustment, but you still have to be prepared,” Brand said. “I was thinking a couple of months ago about what a great luxury we had. We have Paul Millsap, who is an All-Star and Al Horford and he’s an All-Star and then Al Horford goes down. So I’m thinking I can be a veteran leader and play where I need to, and then Al goes down and I have to change my outlook.”

Brand says he’s ready for anything asked of him from Hawks rookie coach, Mike Budenholzer.

“My best ability right now is availability,” Brand said.

Best of NBA: Magic overcome Wall's 52 points to beat Wizards

Best of NBA: Magic overcome Wall's 52 points to beat Wizards

WASHINGTON -- Elfrid Payton scored 22 of his season-high 25 points in the first half and the Orlando Magic overcame John Wall's 52-point performance to beat the Washington Wizards, 124-116 on Tuesday night.

Wall had the highest-scoring game of his career and kept Washington in it with 33 points in the second half as the Wizards cut the lead below 10 in the fourth quarter. The guard made 18 of 31 from the field and added eight assists.

Payton went 8 for 8 from the field and 3 for 3 from the line off the bench in that first half, nearly matching his previous season best of 23 points in the first two quarters alone. Payton finished 9 for 12 and handed out nine assists.

Orlando won its third straight game and its 124 points were a season high (see full recap).

Spurs trounce Timberwolves to reach 13-0 on the road
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and the San Antonio Spurs improved to 13-0 on the road this season with a 105-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

Leonard hit 11 of 15 shots after not scoring at all in the first quarter and Patty Mills scored 15 points off the bench for the Spurs (18-4), who played without Tony Parker after he bruised his left knee against Milwaukee on Wednesday night. San Antonio overcame a slow start to shoot 52.7 percent.

The Spurs moved past the 1969-70 New York Knicks to take sole possession of the second-best road start to begin a season in NBA history. The Golden State Warriors started 14-0 last year.

Zach LaVine scored 25 points for the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns had 11 points and 14 rebounds, but shot just 3 of 16 (see full recap).

Anthony, Knicks blow past depleted Heat
MIAMI -- Carmelo Anthony matched a season high with 35 points, and the New York Knicks beat the injury-ravaged Miami Heat 114-103 on Tuesday night.

Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points and 12 rebounds for New York, which is three games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2012-13 season. The Knicks lost Derrick Rose to back spasms in the third quarter.

Goran Dragic scored 29 points and Hassan Whiteside finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Heat, who fell to 2-8 at home.

The teams were tied at 68 late in the third quarter, when the Knicks went on a 27-13 run over the next eight minutes to take control. Anthony finished 13 for 27 from the field, and Porzingis and Joakim Noah combined for 22 rebounds (see full recap).

Sixers' gutsy effort not enough in tight loss to Grizzlies

Sixers' gutsy effort not enough in tight loss to Grizzlies

BOX SCORE

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The ice bucket where his feet were chilling, the ice bags on both knees, the tired, almost resigned look on his face — and the very full stat line — were proof positive that Ersan Ilyasova gave it everything he had, and then some, Tuesday night for the Sixers.

Yet in the end — again — it was not enough to keep Memphis' All-Star bigs, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, from pummeling their way to a ninth straight win over the Sixers, 96-91, before 13,521 at FedEx Forum (see Instant Replay).

Both teams were in the second game of back-to-backs. Both benches were severely depleted by injuries and illness. Randolph had not played since a double-overtime win in Philadelphia Nov. 23, just hours before his mother suddenly died. Star point guard Mike Conley is out with two fractured vertebra, leaving the point to a pair of rookies.

On the Sixers’ side, rookie star Joel Embiid was tethered to the bench for mandatory rest in the second game of a back-to-back. Jahlil Okafor (illness), Nerlens Noel (knee), Jerryd Bayless (wrist) and, of course, Ben Simmons (foot) were all out.

The Sixers had lost seven straight since that first meeting with the Grizzlies this season at the Wells Fargo Center.

Ilyasova did his part that night with season highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds. Thin up front on Tuesday, Brown relied on Ilyasova’s tenacity inside along with the ability of the veteran and Dario Saric to hit the three and drive to the hoop. Ilyasova, a pending free agent from Turkey, stepped up again with 23 points, including four threes, 17 boards, four assists and two blocks.

“That’s the only way we’re going to win,” Ilyasova said. “Come out with more energy and give it 110 percent. That, and play smart.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown said, “There is a toughness to him. He’s an acquired assassin. He goes about his business. He does it without emotion.”

Saric added 17 points, including the trey that helped give the Sixers a 77-76 lead after three quarters and the bucket that put them up, 91-89, with less than two minutes to play.

Gasol, coming off a triple-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds and as many assists in a double-OT win at New Orlenas Monday, had 26 points and 12 boards. Randolph struggled until the fourth quarter. He parked down low for eight of his 12 points in the frame. Randolph also finished with 14 rebounds and had a loving crowd wanting to give him a giant bear hug.

“He rebounds in his sleep,” Brown said of Z-Bo. “Any 50-50 balls that are close to the rim … he’s done that his whole life. … Zach and Marc are obviously NBA veterans very capable of closing out games.”

The Sixers, who stayed in the game by hitting 14 of 41 three-point tries, had two of their 16 turnovers in the final 1:06. They also hit just 13 of 26 free throws, were outrebounded, 53-45, and outscored in the paint, 52-34.

“We’ve got to play smarter and take care of little things like free throws and the glass,” Ilyasova said.

Still, Randolph left the door open. With the Grizzlies up 94-91, he missed two free throws with nine seconds left. The Sixers set up Nik Stauskas (12 points) for a left-wing three. But he missed the shot and was 1 of 8 from distance on the night.

“I got a really good look, it just didn’t fall,” Stauskas said. “That’s been the theme the last two years. We fight, we fight and things just don’t go our way. We make a few mistakes and teams capitalize.”

The Grizzlies came through again in “clutch time” and are now 11-0 in games decided by five points or less or that reached overtime. 

The Sixers are 4-18 for the season and losers of eight straight going into Thursday’s game at New Orleans.

Brown said he told his team after the loss that the group “showed tremendous character. Fourth game in five nights. We came down with nine guys, are playing a tough, playoff, hard Memphis team. We had a chance to win the game and I was proud of their effort.”

Still, Stauskas said effort without results “gets old. It really gets old.”