Heat haven't forgotten early-season loss to Sixers


Heat haven't forgotten early-season loss to Sixers

Which of Sixers' 13 victories has been the most impressive this season?

It's a question we frequently debate on Sixers Pregame Live and there are two games that repeatedly come up: The season opener at home over Miami and the one on the road over Portland.

The Portland win capped off a five-game West Coast swing. The Sixers were 3-1 on the road trip heading into that matchup, and the Trail Blazers had the best record in the NBA at that time.

The Sixers came up with a defensive stop on the Blazers' final possession to secure the 101-99 victory on Jan. 4 and a season-high four-game win streak.

The win over Miami happened back on Oct. 30. The Sixers jumped out to a 19-0 lead and the Heat needed nearly five minutes to score their first basket. Despite a 45-point third quarter by the the Heat, the Sixers were able to pull off the 114-110 upset.

Knocking off the two-time defending world champions trumps holding the highest-scoring team in the league 10 points below its season average. After all, we are talking LeBron James and the Heat.

Miami returns to Wells Fargo Center on Friday night for the second of three meetings against the Sixers this season. And if you think James and company have forgotten about that letdown against the Sixers at the beginning of the season, think again.

“They blitzed us to start the game, I remember that,” James said after the Heat practiced at Temple's Liacouras Center on Thursday. “It was like 20-2 or 20-1, something like that. They came with a lot of energy and for the most part they controlled the game. Obviously we got back into it in the third quarter, but they played pretty well.”

The Heat have dropped three straight games, with their most recent loss coming on Wednesday to the Washington Wizards. Like the Sixers, the Wizards were able to jump on the Heat early. They held a 43-18 lead after the first quarter.

“It was very similar to last night just in terms of a lack of real collective energy and focus and commitment to do all the things necessary in a game,” Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra said. “Particularly against a young team like that, that plays with great youth, speed and athleticism up and down the court. They won’t let you play at a pace or half speed. We tried to get away with that the first game and it cost us.”

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

CAMDEN, N.J. — Jahlil Okafor has been patient with his right knee. He was disciplined with restrictions and recovery during the preseason, recognizing the goal of being ready for opening night. 

At the same time, once he got back on the court he wanted more. Okafor played eight minutes Friday against the Heat, his first game since Feb. 28 before undergoing surgery to repair a right meniscus tear. 

“I don’t think I’m going to do eight again,” Okafor said Sunday. “They kind of heard me complain about that a lot. I think it’ll definitely be more than eight, but it won’t be much more.” 

Okafor has been limited since aggravating his knee during the final day of training camp. He practiced “to tolerance” on Sunday, according to the Sixers. Okafor did not participate in the team scrimmage and worked out individually with assistant coach/head of strength and conditioning Todd Wright. 

The second-year big man did not feel soreness on Saturday following the game. On Sunday, he felt “kind of stiff” during practice. Brett Brown has been watching Okafor’s movement closely. While Okafor considered it to be “good,” Brown was a tougher critic. 

“I think he looked OK,” Brown said. “He didn’t look great to me today. I’ll give him a B-minus … It’s always how do you move? East, west, north, south, how do you move?” 

Okafor scored four points and had one rebound, one assist, one block and one turnover in Miami. He focused on his defense during the game. When he subbed out, he checked in with Elton Brand on the bench to receive feedback from the now-retired veteran. Okafor plans to continue to tap into him for advice throughout the season. 

With opening night three days away, Okafor still plans to be on the floor for it.

“I am optimistic about it,” he said. “I should be ready to go.” 

Robert Covington sprained his right ankle in Friday’s game and did not practice Sunday. Brown anticipates Covington, who has been starting at small forward, also will be ready to go Wednesday. 

“I do (expect him to play),” Brown said. “But we won’t know that for sure yet.” 

Sixers waive retired Elton Brand
The Sixers waived Brand on Sunday, making his retirement official. Brand announced his intentions to walk away from the game Thursday. The Sixers' request of waivers was a procedural step. The roster currently stands at 19. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said last week (see story). “But it’s definitely time now.” 

Brand celebrated his career with his teammates at Komodo in Miami on Thursday night ahead of their preseason finale against the Heat. 

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.