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.

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”