Brown sees good starting point for Sixers

slideshow-sixers-morris-brown-ap.jpg

Brown sees good starting point for Sixers

The Sixers left Spain on Sunday with a two-point victory over Bilbao Basket and headed to Manchester, England for a second preseason game.

Critics will say a two-point win over a team that is not the equivalent of NBA talent is hardly impressive. However, Brett Brown saw the victory as a good starting point for his young group.

“We aren’t beating our chest because we have all this talent. We don’t,” Brown said via the Sixers’ web site. “We have good players who are trying to get better. We have some good veteran players, but we understand the monumental task we have of competing in the NBA. We need that kind of team chemistry to extract whatever we can from this year’s group.”

The task gets tougher for the Sixers on Tuesday when they take on Oklahoma City, one of six NBA teams participating in this year’s NBA Global Games.

One area of concern Brown sees heading into a matchup against the Western Conference power is on the backboard.

“Rebounding,” Brown said when asked what he would like the Sixers to improve on from Sunday. “Some of that is born out of us being so small and our big guys aren’t really that physical. Our guards are going to have to board. It is going to have to be a gang effort, a gang mentality.

“It is the physical design of our team, but that’s life and we just really have to understand how this team was built and what we need to do to fix it.”

The Sixers were outrebounded by Bilbao, 45-39. The team’s leading rebounder was guard James Anderson, who hauled in seven boards, including six at the defensive end.

Brown was impressed with Anderson’s consistent play on both ends of the floor (see story).

“James Anderson was really good,” Brown said. “I had James in San Antonio, so I knew what we were getting. But he is coming along, getting older. His time is now to claim his stake in the NBA. I liked his six defensive rebounds. He was 6 of 8 from the floor. I thought he played a solid all-around game.”

Evan Turner led the Sixers with 25 points. Turner knows it is a rebuilding year for the franchise, but he liked what his teammates brought to the table against their Spanish foe.

“Bring the same energy,” Turner said. “We made some mistakes in Spain but we competed. It is OK to make mistakes but it is not OK not to play hard all the time. So hopefully we do that and keep executing and carrying over stuff we learned today in practice.”

Turner is hoping the crowd in England will be as enthusiastic as the fans in Bilbao. Sunday’s crowd made sure the atmosphere was energetic and Brown knew it would be that way. Before the game, the coach shared with his players just how much Spain enjoys basketball and how the game has become a viable product worldwide.

“Commissioner (David) Stern and the NBA are very smart about how they built this brand over the years,” Brown said. “Having coached overseas for 17 years and travelled all over the world because of those experiences, I have had a chance to see the NBA logo and what it means to fans. It is a very powerful logo, so this process has been going on for many, many years.”

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers vs. Trail Blazers
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off of an impressive win over the Raptors Wednesday, the Sixers (14-26) welcome the Trail Blazers (18-26) to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night for the first game of a back-to-back. 

Here’s what to watch for the matchup:

1.  Streaking Sixers
What a new year it’s been for the Sixers.

Winning seven of their last nine games has Joel Embiid thinking playoffs. The Sixers are 5½ games out of the eighth seed in the East, and should get even better if (or when) Ben Simmons makes his debut.

With five teams ahead of them, it seems unlikely the Sixers get in, but why not enjoy the streak while it lasts and give Embiid and the youngsters a taste of their first success in the NBA?

2. Heating up
Speaking of enjoying the streak while it lasts, the schedule gets tougher from here on out.

With five sets of back-to-backs over the next two weeks, the team will be forced to play at least five games without Embiid. And the difference with "The Process" on the floor and off is staggering. The Sixers are 12-17 with Embiid, but a putrid 2-9 without the rookie sensation. Much of that can be attributed to Embiid’s stellar defense and Jahlil Okafor’s um, less than stellar, whatever he calls what he does on the defensive end.

3. Super Dario
Dario Saric’s improved play has been another catalyst for the hot streak. Saric has elevated his game during the 7-2 run, raising his numbers in points and rebounds, giving the Sixers a solid second unit. In fact, Saric is second (behind Embiid) among rookies in points (9.7) and rebounds (5.9) per game. 

“If Joel Embiid weren’t in the league, you’d have to talk about him in consideration for Rookie of the Year,” head coach Brett Brown said after Wednesday’s win.

4. Another one
After slowing the Raptors' All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry on Wednesday, the Sixers face another dynamic backcourt in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The duo averages a combined 49.5 points per game, nearly half (46 percent) of the Blazers' total points per game.

Luckily for the Sixers, the Blazers are an abysmal 7-17 on the road this year, including 5-10 vs. the Eastern Conference. 

5. This and that
• The Blazers have given up an average of 114 points over their three-game losing streak. The Sixers have scored 114 or more points in five of their 30 games this season. 

• The Sixers are 3-4 in the first game of back-to-backs and 1-6 in the second leg. The Sixers face the Hawks Saturday.

• After signing a four-year, $70 million contract with the Blazers in the offseason, former Sixer Evan Turner is averaging 9.4 points, 3.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, all down from his four-year average while with the Sixers. 

• Nearly every Sixer received a player vote for the All-Star Game: Embiid (43), Sergio Rodriguez (8), T.J. McConnell (4), Okafor (4), Simmons (3), Jerryd Bayless (2), Robert Covington (2), Nerlens Noel (2), Gerald Henderson (1), Ersan Ilyasova (1), Richaun Holmes (1), Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot (1), Saric (1).

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).