Hawes' clutch three helps Sixers beat Bucks in OT

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Hawes' clutch three helps Sixers beat Bucks in OT

BOX SCORE

Spencer Hawes remembered the last time a coach drew up a play for him to shoot a three-pointer in the waning seconds in attempt to tie a game. That time he wasn’t sure if the coach knew what he was doing.

“I was in college,” Hawes said. “I thought he screwed something up. ‘Wrong guy, coach.’”

In the Sixers’ dramatic 115-107 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), Hawes was the right guy. With 1.7 seconds left in regulation, Hawes got open for an in-bounds pass from Evan Turner and hit a 25-footer from the corner while jumping off the wrong foot to send the game to overtime.

It was the exact play that head coach Brett Brown drew up and was reminiscent of a play the Celtics used to draw up for Larry Bird to get him open for a corner three-pointer. Brown called it a “Rashard Lewis play” and thanked former Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy for drawing it up.

“That was the play,” Brown said. “The Rashard Lewis play. Yeah, that was the play. And I would like to thank Coach Van Gundy and I’m kind of serious because that is his play.”

Hawes’ three-pointer was his third in the final 1:21 of regulation and helped the Sixers overcome a 10-point deficit with 2:10 to go in the fourth quarter. The three three-pointers down the stretch gave Hawes 25 points to go with 12 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season. He also has hit a three-pointer in every game this season and leads the team with 26 threes.

Not bad for the team’s only seven-footer.

“Spencer is the three-point killer around here,” Evan Turner said. “He’ll be in the three-point contest at the All-Star Game and we’ll take it from there.”

Hitting an off-balance three in the final seconds to force overtime wasn’t the only fallout from Hawes’ shot. The Sixers’ big man also helped erase the damage from a season-worst 26 turnovers, which led to 28 points for the Bucks.

In fact, the Sixers also shot a season-best 57 percent from the field, out-rebounded the Bucks by a 50-32 margin, scored 52 points in the paint and built a 15-point lead in the second quarter.

The Sixers did this against a team riding a six-game losing streak with two starters out because of injuries and nearly lost the game under a hail of bad passes and shoddy ball handling.

The Sixers lost sixth man Tony Wroten after 11 minutes of action to a back strain and rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams fouled out in the fourth quarter just two rebounds shy of a triple-double.

“It’s kind of a gift and a curse of a young team that you can forget things easily,” Hawes said. “But you do stupid things that get you in those situations in the first place. We have a resilient group and we have a lot of competitors. I think in any situation you always take that over the opposite even if it comes with some more of the aggressive mistakes.”

Despite the turnovers, the Sixers hung around long enough for Hawes to give them a second chance in overtime. When the Sixers got second life, Turner wasn’t going to let them lose it.

Turner scored eight of his team-high 27 points in overtime and got to the foul line eight times during the second half with some aggressive play. In shooting 10 for 18 from the field, Turner got 10 shots in the paint.

“We were very lucky,” Brown said. “At the end, Spencer got us to where we needed to go and Evan brought us home. Evan grabbed the overtime and made sure we were not going to lose.”

Before the overtime period began, Turner said he was told by his teammates to take over. That’s all he really needed to hear.

“My teammates just pretty much told me to take over the game and lead us, and that’s what I tried to do,” Turner said.

Turner also made the pass to Hawes on the last-second play to tie the game in regulation. Hawes said the pass set up the shot nicely.

“We knew they were going to switch [on defense], so we had to do something to combat that,” Hawes said. “Evan did a great job on the pass by holding it a little longer than it was designed to allow me to get a little bit more space to get one up from the corner.

“I didn’t intend on shooting it off one foot. That was not how I saw it going down.”

It doesn’t matter how it looks, so Hawes will take it. Next, the Sixers return to action Saturday night when they travel to Indiana to play the 11-1 Pacers.

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.