Instant Replay: Timberwolves 106, Sixers 99

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Instant Replay: Timberwolves 106, Sixers 99

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Sixers’ road losing streak has to end at some point.

Entering Wednesday, it had been 32 days since the Sixers won a game away from the Wells Fargo Center. Now it will be at least 34 days before they get another chance to snap the skid.

The Sixers allowed a huge lead to get away from them in a 106-99 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. The Sixers led by as many as 19 points in the game and 13 at halftime.

The loss dropped the Sixers’ overall record to 7-16 and just 1-9 on the road.

The Sixers can pinpoint to two categories where the game got away from them -- turnovers and the free throw line. The Sixers committed 26 turnovers to the Timberwolves’ 13, while they also made 12 free throws compared to the Minnesota’s 25.

Michael Carter-Williams missed his fourth straight game with a sore right knee. He is listed as day to day.

Turning point
With 8:27 to play in the game, Robbie Hummel hit a corner three to give the Timberwolves their first lead of the night at 87-86.

The Timberwolves built a five-point lead with a 13-3 run in four and a half minutes to start the fourth quarter and went on to secure the win.

Follow the leader
Kevin Love played as advertised. The NBA’s sixth-leading scorer and top rebounder finished the game with 26 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.

Ricky Rubio was more of a scorer and less of a facilitator against the Sixers with 21 points and seven assists. Center Nikola Petrovic had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Sixers veteran three came with their “A” game at the offensive end. In the first half, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes shot a combined 16 of 27 for 36 of the Sixers’ 61 points.

Hawes finished with 20 points, while Young added 16.

Turner shot just 6 of 16 for the game and finished with 13 points. He also had nine of the Sixers’ turnovers.

Stat-egic
The Sixers made 17 of 22 first-quarter field goal attempts (77.2 percent) and led, 39-20. Fifteen of their points came on the fast break.

Turner made 5 of 6 from the field for a 10-point first quarter, and defensively the Sixers held Minnesota to 30.8 shooting.

That stellar combination of offense and defense in the first quarter was one of the Sixers’ best starts to a game this season.

Take a bow
James Anderson earned the Sixers’ starting two-guard spot with his preseason play. He stayed in that role for 17 games before head coach Brett Brown made a switch and replaced Anderson with Hollis Thompson.

Coming into Wednesday, Anderson was shooting 19 percent from behind the arc over his last nine games, compared to 39 percent in his first 13 outings.

Anderson was 2 of 3 from long distance against the Timberwolves. He finished the game with 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

What’s next?
The Sixers play the Raptors in Toronto Friday in the second of four meeting between the two teams this season.

The Raptors beat the Sixers, 108-98, at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 20. The Sixers were without Young in that game while he was away from the team for personal reasons. Hawes picked up the slack by scoring 28 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

The Raptors were led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan, who scored 33 points.

Up from 217 to 250, Ben Simmons also stronger mentally from work with LeBron

Up from 217 to 250, Ben Simmons also stronger mentally from work with LeBron

CAMDEN, N.J. — It appears Ben Simmons took the saying about having the weight of the world on your shoulders a tad literally.

The Sixers' No. 1 overall pick walked into the team's sparkling new training complex for media day sporting a much bigger frame than when his name was called on draft night.

"I'm a lot stronger. When I started getting ready for the draft I was about 217 [pounds] and now I'm around 250," Simmons said Monday.

When you're expected to be the centerpiece of an organization that managed just 10 wins a season ago, it helps to have that extra bulk to carry those expectations. 

But Simmons isn’t just being looked at as a key to help change the franchise’s fortunes. He’s also being viewed as perhaps a once-in-a-generation talent after drawing several comparisons to LeBron James, who Simmons shares an agent with in Klutch Sports Group.

So how did the incoming rookie deal with being likened to four-time MVP and three-time NBA champion James? He went to work like someone trying to achieve those same goals.

“Just being around him and learning from his habits and what he does has just helped me overall,” Simmons said of working out with James and other NBA stars during the summer. “He’ll be one of the first guys in the gym every day. It doesn’t matter what day it is. He’s one of those guys who gets the work in and enjoys the rest of his day. Just learning from him I think I can take a lot from what he’s done. ... He’s done a lot for me. He’s helped me experience things I need to learn.

“They get in the gym and work. It’s one of those things where they don’t play around. They get straight to it. Obviously in the weight room too. LeBron loves the VersaClimber and they also brought two more in here. I’m starting to learn from what these guys do, D-Wade (Dwyane Wade) also. They’re all doing the same thing, working out every day and getting ready.”

That type of work ethic will go a long way toward Simmons' earning the respect of his Sixers teammates. The group was already eager to get on the floor with him for training camp at Stockton University and get a firsthand look at the versatile forward, especially his prowess as a passer.

“The most exciting thing that I’ve seen was his passing ability,” Jahlil Okafor said of Simmons. “That’s going to help me out a lot. He’s selfless. Being with the summer league guys he was always about the team. I’ve always considered myself a good teammate and he’s a great one as well. I’m excited to work with him.”

“I think for anybody who likes to shoot or likes to score, whenever you can have a big man who is a really good ball handler, can make good decisions, has great vision, it’s always a great thing,” Gerald Henderson said. “If you can be aggressive on the offensive end you don’t always have to have the basketball to be able to be right there and score. You have somebody that can find you and really is thinking pass-first. I think it’ll be great, not only for us but just our offense in general.”

Considering the Sixers finished 29th in scoring a season ago, Simmons knows they will need him to be more than just a facilitator. The team needs consistent scoring from everyone on the court. And while the LSU product’s jump shot was questioned during his lone year in college, he believes he has worked hard to silence those doubts.

“I usually try to take what they give me. Obviously I’ve been working on my shot a lot with all the coaches,” Simmons said. “I can shoot the ball. I’m not really worried about that. Coming into training camp, it’s one of the things I’ve been working on since LSU.”

Simmons made it clear several times that he is confident in his offensive game and that the Sixers’ logjam in the frontcourt will work itself out on the floor. One thing he’s not so sure about: that he’s even in this position.

Despite dreaming about being in the NBA since he was a kid in Australia and being groomed to be the No. 1 overall pick for years, Simmons said it’s still a bit of a surprise to be at this point.

“I think it’s still surreal for me,” he said. “I think it’ll finally hit me once I step on the court matched up against OKC the first game.”

Unlike 2 years ago, Dario Saric feels ready for the NBA

Unlike 2 years ago, Dario Saric feels ready for the NBA

Dario Saric wanted to come to the NBA. He just didn’t feel ready when he was drafted in 2014.

Saric spent the past two years furthering his basketball career in Europe after being selected 12th by the Magic and traded to the Sixers. Now 22, he is confident in his decision to start his NBA career in Philadelphia. 

“I grew up like a person first. After that, I grew up like a player to play against the best players in the world,” Saric said Monday at Sixers media day. “I think now I feel I’m ready. I feel I can give something to this team.”

Basketball itself wasn’t the issue — Saric has been playing professionally since the age of 15. He has competed against top European competition, won numerous accolades, and was a member of the Croatian Olympic team this summer. 

Saric knew he could play in the NBA, but there is so much more involved in it for him. Joining the Sixers meant leaving Europe, moving to a new place to play in a new league, all at the young age of 20. 

“After NBA draft, I wasn’t ready to come here,” the forward said. “Not like a basketball player, like a man. I wasn’t ready because to take a big step, to go out of the family, to go to another country. For me it was so hard. ... I decide[d] during last season I would come here, I would try to play with the best players in the world.”

From season to season, the anticipation of Saric’s arrival grew. The Sixers' front office and staff kept in frequent contact. Saric often was in communication with head coach Brett Brown, former general manager Sam Hinkie and current president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo. Assistant director of player development Chris Babcock also made trips to Istanbul to spend time with Saric.

All the while, Sixers fans eagerly awaited his decision. When he agreed to sign in July, he was taken aback by the reception. 

“I was surprised, I didn’t expect it to be something like that,” Saric said. “I know people waited for me like two years to come here. I know there’s, I can say, some kind of pressure on me.” 

With that pressure, Saric hopes to bring a winning mentality from his successes overseas. Colangelo has been impressed by the sampling he has observed of Saric during informal preseason team scrimmages. He grouped Saric with 6-foot-10 rookie Ben Simmons when discussing the Sixers’ bigs with diverse skillsets.

“What I see is a versatile player, a skilled big man that can do a number of things,” Colangelo said. “When you’re talking about 6-9, 6-10 and 6-11 players that are skilled and adept at ball handling, passing, driving, kicking out, thinking team-first — it seems both players — I think that’s a tremendous asset to have.” 

Saric understands, though, there will be a transition period as he adapts to the NBA. In the short time he has been around the Sixers, he has already noticed differences in the style of play. 

“What I can see is faster,” he said. “Everybody said the first couple of months will be like that. After that you will catch that rhythm, or that speed for your eyes and you will be faster. That’s the first thing I recognized, that I saw.”

Saric also noted the difference in format of the seasons, pointing out the tightly-packed 82-game NBA schedule. With so many adjustments, he plans to lean on his network of European players in the league, past and present. This summer, he received advice from former Sixer Toni Kukoc when he worked on the Croation National Team coaching staff. Even the smallest suggestion like stretching after practice is resonating with Saric.

“Toni, he told me for sure it will be hard for you when you come, but you must try to keep work[ing] day-by-day,” Saric said. 

For the player who once didn't feel ready for the NBA, Saric quickly has been pleased with his decision to play for the Sixers this season. 

“Everything is better than what I expect,” he said.