Instant Replay: Timberwolves 125, Sixers 102

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Instant Replay: Timberwolves 125, Sixers 102

BOX SCORE

The Sixers hosted their seventh and final dress rehearsal on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, a 125-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They finished the preseason with a 2-5 record.

The Sixers’ defense was severely lacking in this one. They allowed 30 points in the first quarter, 34 in the second and 32 in the third.

They did hold the Timberwolves to 43.6 percent shooting from the floor, but watched them nail 51.7 percent from long range.

The Sixers shot just 35 percent from the field and 24 percent from three-point range in the defeat.

Turning point
The Sixers cut the Timberwolves’ lead to nine points with 3:23 to play in the third quarter at 83-74. However, they allowed the T-wolves to pick up steam again and trailed by 24 with 8:47 remaining in the game.

The Sixers can ill afford to give up large scoring spurts because they just do not have the depth to erase double-digit deficits.

That can be controlled with sharper defense, which is something the Sixers can control on a nightly basis.

Follow the leader
Starting shooting guard James Anderson led all scorers with 23 points. He was 9 of 13 from the field, including 4 of 8 from behind the arc. He also grabbed six rebounds.

Anderson is entering his fourth NBA season, but this year will be the first that he sees significant minutes in a starting role.

Timberwolves backup point guard J.J. Barea scored 22 points in 17 minutes. He shot 7 of 11 from the field, including a trio of three-pointers.

Kevin Love was equally efficient, scoring 19 points in 16 minutes and four made threes.

Stat-egic
Both teams attempted 29 three-pointers. The difference was the Timberwolves connected on 15 of their attempts, while the Sixers only made seven.

Take a bow
Royce White played 17 minutes in the game. He scored five points and grabbed six rebounds with his highlight play coming on a transition dunk.

White will make the Sixers’ 15-man roster. He certainly seems to be embracing the chance to play for the first time in the NBA and has also been able to handle his anxiety disorder with two airplane trips during the preseason.

What’s next?
The Sixers will open the regular season against the two-time defending world champion Miami Heat in exactly one week.

The Heat are the frontrunners to win the title again this season, while the Sixers are on the opposite end of the spectrum and will likely struggle to win 20 games.

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."

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.”