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.”

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

ATLANTA – The final score was a little lopsided and the game was sloppy at times, but after beating Philadelphia, 110-93, Saturday night, the Hawks said they see promise in the rising young Sixers.

The Sixers didn’t have the legs on the tail end of back-to-back games to keep up with another hot team, and Joel Embiid did not play, as Atlanta (26-18) won for the 11th time in 13 games to move within a half game of Boston for the No. 3 spot in the East.

Yet if not for the Sixers' 21 turnovers and a second quarter where Atlanta seemed to make every shot, the Sixers (15-27) looked enough like the team that had won eight of 10 games before arriving in Philips Arena that the Hawks see differences.

The biggest change in the Sixers between Saturday and the first two meetings of the season between these two teams — one played with Embiid and one without — is T.J. McConnell starting at point guard rather than Sergio Rodriguez.

McConnell had a game-high 11 assists against the Hawks in addition to his eight points, and the Sixers had 27 assists on a night where they hit 12 of 29 three-pointers.

“They have an identity,” said Atlanta forward Kent Bazemore, who scored 16. “McConnell is playing really well, putting pressure on the defense and their floor spacing is very good. Very disciplined group.

“Guys are in the right spots, if a guy drives, they have a plethora of options: a guy in the corner, a guy on the jumper, a guy on the wing. They kept us honest for a chunk of the game.”

Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points on 15 shots and Robert Covington added 15 points and 10 rebounds, but the Sixers were gassed in the second quarter, as the Hawks hit 16 of 23 shots in a 37-point period.

Atlanta stretched a 62-54 halftime lead to 18 points late in the third quarter, but the Sixers cut the deficit to 94-87 with 6:46 left in the game on a pair of free throws by rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

The Sixers whipped the Hawks, 20-11, in fast break points.

“They were getting some threes in transition,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, who was on the Spurs' staff for years with Sixers head coach Brett Brown. “Right now, they’re pushing the pace.

“T.J. McConnell does a great job of getting outlets, getting up the court and finding shooters quickly and they’re letting it fly. Covington and Ilyasova and those guys are collapsing us early and shooting early threes.”

The Sixers had problems on the boards in Atlanta, where Dwight Howard grabbed 15 and Paul Millsap added 10 as the Hawks built a 48-38 rebounding edge. Those numbers were every bit as important as Millsap’s 21 points and the 13 added by Howard.

That disparity on the boards and the Sixers' collective loose handle did in the visitors. Atlanta scored 17 points off the Sixers’ 21 turnovers.

Embiid was scheduled to rest Saturday anyway. It’s unclear whether he’ll play Tuesday against the Clippers, who will be without guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin, or Wednesday at Milwaukee.

Embiid suffered a knee contusion in Friday night’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers and Brown said he’d be further evaluated Sunday.

Get him back in the mix, and The Sixers have a shot at starting another winning streak.

“We did a good shot of holding them to one shot,” Howard said after the Hawks outscored the Sixers, 14-0, in second-chance points. “They play really hard. They play aggressive. They play good team basketball. They share the ball and find the open man. They have a good group of young guys.

“It wasn’t as easy as people expect out of Philly teams. You have to respect them.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich blasts President Trump

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich blasts President Trump

CLEVELAND — Gregg Popovich would bench President Donald Trump.

San Antonio's longtime coach, who has been highly critical of Trump in the past, went on a lengthy rant about the new president on Saturday night, calling him a bully and saying he hopes he can change while in office.

While meeting with reporters before the Spurs played the NBA champion Cavaliers, Popovich didn't hold back in offering his disdain for Trump and members of his administration.

Popovich initially was asked about his views on the women's marches in Washington and around the world before he unloaded on Trump.

"Their message is obvious," the five-time champion coach said of the protesters. "Our president comes in with the lowest (approval) rating of anybody whoever came into the office. And there's a majority of people out there, since Hillary (Clinton) won the popular vote, that don't buy his act. And I just wish that he was more -- had the ability to be more -- mature enough to do something that really is inclusive rather than just talking and saying, `I'm going to include everybody.'

"He could talk to the groups that he disrespected and maligned during the primary and really make somebody believe it. But so far, we've got (to) a point where you really can't believe anything that comes out of his mouth. You really can't."

As he said following Trump's election in November, Popovich wants Trump to succeed but believes he will do so only if he changes.

Popovich pointed out that Trump visited CIA headquarters on his first official day in office, but used the occasion to talk about himself.

"Instead of honoring the 117 people behind him where he was speaking, he talked about the size of the crowd," Popovich said. "That's worrisome. I'd just feel better if somebody was in that position that showed the maturity and psychological and emotional level of somebody that was his age. It's dangerous and it doesn't do us any good. I hope he does a great job, but there's a difference between respecting the office of the presidency and who occupies it.

"And that respect has to be earned."

Popovich was also critical of those who don't hold Trump accountable for his words.

"It's hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids and we're watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist and make fun of handicapped people. And what really bothers me are the people around him: the Sean Spicers, the Kellyanne Conways, the Reince Priebuses that know who he is and actually have the cynical approach and disingenuous attitude to really defend him and try to make it look like he didn't say what he said.

"And so when he's mad at the media for them reporting what he said, that just boggles my mind."

Popovich said others would have been punished for some of the things Trump has said in the past, including when he mocked a reporter with a disability.

"If our children would've said it, we would have grounded him for six months," he said. "Without a doubt. But we ignore all that because, because why? That says something about all of us and that's what's dangerous, or that's what scares the hell out of me to this day. It makes me uneasy."

Popovich concluded his rant about Trump by decrying his inability to handle media criticism.

"It does boggle the mind how somebody can be so thin skinned," he said. "It's all obvious, it's about him. If anything affects him, if it's `Saturday Night Live' or `Hamilton,' or she got 3 more million votes than you. `They're illegal.' It doesn't matter what it is, there's a pattern there. And that's dangerous. I'd like to have someone with gravitas, but he got there through the electoral college, which is part of our system, and I hope he does some good things.

"There was a young lady on today who said, `I just wished he had gone up there and said something like, and I know I said certain things, or you know I would really like to bring the people who don't feel, or I know some of you are scared.' But he can't do that because bullies don't do that. That's why."