Give and Go: Surprises, victories and coaching

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Give and Go: Surprises, victories and coaching

Each week we'll ask three questions about the Sixers to our resident basketball junkies and see what they have to say.

Running the Give and Go this week are CSNPhilly.com Sixers insider Dei Lynam, CSNPhilly.com reporter John Finger and CSN anchor Amy Fadool.

Let's get started:

Which Sixer has been the biggest surprise so far?
Lynam: The biggest surprise for me has been Spencer Hawes. I expected Hawes to be solid, but he is delivering at a rate far greater than that. Hawes is averaging 17.2 points per game, more than six better than his career-best mark of 11.4 during his second season in the league. He is also shooting 57.6 percent from the field and averaging 11 rebounds per game, which ranks ninth in the NBA. Those numbers have made Hawes one of only 13 players to start the season averaging a double-double with points and rebounds.

People don’t think of Hawes as a credible starting center, but I would challenge them to say the big man’s numbers so far support that argument.

Finger: I'd like to say Evan Turner because he has finally embraced a style of offense in which he drives to the basket for short shots and chances at the foul line. Turner's scoring is no fluke. He could have been this type of scoring threat if he had been convinced to become a slasher rather than a jump shooter.

However, there has been nothing from the past to indicate that Michael Carter-Williams would be this good. His shooting statistics in college, his play in the summer league and in the exhibition games gave no glimmer that Carter-Williams was this good. In fact, Carter-Williams has done things in his first five games in the NBA that his predecessor, Jrue Holiday, never pulled off.

Fadool: I think many people are going to say Carter-Williams, and rightly so. But I’m going to say Turner. While it’s still early in the season, Turner has showed consistency in his scoring, something we haven’t seen from E.T. over the course of a season. So far, Turner has scored 26, 23, 20, 18 and 24 points, respectively, in the Sixers' first five games. If those numbers continue, I expect that Turner will get quite the payday during the offseason, especially after the Sixers declined to extend his contract.

Which win was the most impressive?
Lynam: The most impressive win for the Sixers of the three they have to start the season is definitely opening night over Miami. For starters, the 19-0 run to open the game over the defending champion Heat was unthinkable. Add in the fact that the inexperienced Sixers lost the lead and regained it in the fourth quarter before holding on to win was simply remarkable. A year ago, the Sixers were 4-47 when trailing heading into the fourth. They already have two such wins to start 2013-14.

Finger: On paper, the opening night win over the two-time defending champion Heat stands out. However, to come back from a 20-point deficit on the second night of a back-to-back against the Chicago Bulls is clearly the most impressive. Though it looked like a horrible matchup for the Sixers because of Chicago's size inside and Derrick Rose's and Luol Deng's skills on the perimeter, they wore down the Bulls in the second half. It was almost as if the Sixers pulled off a rope-a-dope against the Bulls in the way they wore them down.

Fadool: I think the obvious answer for most impressive win is the one over the Heat. It’s the two-time defending champs and included the Sixers withstanding a 45-point third quarter. It was impressive because the Sixers hung on to win, and closing out wins when leading was an issue last season. Coming back against the Bulls was good, but I was most impressed with the win over the Heat. It was flat-out fun to watch.

Biggest difference between Brown and Collins?
Lynam: The biggest difference between Brett Brown and Doug Collins is that Brown is in his first season with a fresh voice and Collins finished in his third season, one of great expectation that fell far short because of things far beyond his control. From a philosophy standpoint, the Sixers will shoot more three-pointers. Under Collins a year ago, they ranked 25th in threes attempted. This season, that number per game is up by more than four and the team ranks 14th in that category.

Finger: They are apples and oranges. Where Brown has allowed the offense to flow freely, Collins was a master at drawing up plays on the fly. Under Collins, the Sixers ran a structured offense that flowed around Holiday and the pick-and-roll. Brown's offense just is ... whatever it is. Brown also doesn't have a player over the age of 25, so the urgency from game to game isn't there.

It would be interesting to see Collins in a rebuilding situation with the young roster Brown has. If Collins could coax 34 wins out of the roster the Sixers put together last year ...

Similarly, it will be interesting to see Brown with the Sixers as they grow and how the structure of the offense and defense changes.

Fadool: Brown has a much different coaching style, and practicing style, too. He’s really focused on conditioning and I think and it’s shown in the early season. We’ll see if that continues, as the 82-game schedule wears on the players, but I think it’s working well so far. However, I think the biggest difference in coaching style between Brown and Collins can be seen in the play of Turner. E.T. was notoriously and continuously in Collins’ doghouse. I think Collins demanded a lot from Turner and in turn, the swingman wasn’t enjoying the game and letting it come to him. Alternatively, I think whatever methods Brown is using with Turner are working. He’s enjoying himself and playing his game, and it’s showing in his numbers.

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.”