Cold-shooting Sixers have win streak snapped by Bobcats

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Cold-shooting Sixers have win streak snapped by Bobcats

BOX SCORE

CHARLOTTE -- The Sixers kept thinking that eventually the shots would fall.

One by one their attempts rattled off the rim on Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, but they still believed at some point the ball would go through the net enough times.

Not enough times to keep their momentum going, as the Sixers were handed an 88-83 loss by the Bobcats (see Instant Replay). The defeat snapped the Sixers’ three-game win streak and dropped their record to 30-44.

The Sixers shot just 35.1 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range for the game. Jrue Holiday was the biggest culprit on the night, shooting an abysmal 2 of 24 for a meager five points.

“I think it was just an off night,” Holiday said. “They had really good defense around the basket, but a lot of my shots were in and out. I just never got in a rhythm.”

Holiday kept firing away because recent history suggested he would shake out of his slump.

In last Saturday’s home win over the Bobcats, Holiday went just 1 of 9 through the first three quarters before draining 5 of 8 attempts in the fourth to finish with 14 points.

“Coach is a guy who as a player was a shooter and a lot of the shots I took, especially in the fourth, rimmed in and out,” Holiday said. “I thought those were going in, but there is nothing I can really do about that. In the fourth quarter I know I want to make that play, but unfortunately tonight I didn’t make it.”

Despite the Sixers’ offensive struggles, they still found themselves in the hunt for a win late in the game.

Holiday was able to corral one of his many misses and put in a layup with 1:15 remaining on the clock to tie the game at 82. Dorell Wright followed that up with a steal before Damien Wilkins was fouled on a shot attempt. Wilkins made the first of his two free throws to give the Sixers a one-point lead.

The Sixers tried to clamp down on defense, but former Episcopal Academy standout Gerald Henderson was able to shake free to drain a jumper to put the Bobcats back on top.

On the ensuing possession, Evan Turner had his inbounds pass stolen by Henderson, who soared in for a dunk to give him a game-high 24 points and the Bobcats a cushion to secure the win.

“You have to use a fake. You can’t just put the ball over your head,” Sixers head coach Doug Collins said of Turner’s crucial turnover. “You have to fake a guy out. We also had a timeout.

“These are all situations where we are learning and have to do a better job at, but that is why I am still teaching and telling this group the importance of finishing these games off. Even though this is a game where we probably are not going to make the playoffs, you have to learn to make the right plays whether you are playing Charlotte or Game 6 against Chicago in the playoffs.”

That wasn’t the only pass the Sixers weren’t able to execute. The team showed an uncharacteristic lack of ball movement against the Bobcats, evidenced by their 16 assists on 33 made shots.

“We stopped moving the ball,” Collins said. “All you have to look is at 16 assists. That is the barometer for our team. We got off to a great start. We were up 16 and then scored 10 points the last 10 minutes of the quarter. We tried to do too much on our own and when we don’t move the ball we get against the clock.”

Once the Sixers found themselves pressed up against the clock on possession after possession, they were forced to make one-on-one plays and take tough shots. That led to them being outscored by 10 in fastbreak points and 14 turnovers on the night. All an equation that played right into the Bobcats’ hands.

“We know the way they want to play. They want to push the ball, throw it ahead to the guards and attack, get to the free throw line and get to the rim,” Collins said. “We were in a good rhythm, but once we got out of rhythm we never got back in and yet we had a chance to seal the game.”

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.