Instant Replay: Timberwolves 94, Sixers 87

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Instant Replay: Timberwolves 94, Sixers 87

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Sixers’ defense was still on the All-Star break when the team took on the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday.

Despite finally clamping down in the fourth quarter and making a rally, the Sixers were still handed a 94-87 loss by the Timberwolves. The loss was the Sixers’ seventh straight on the road and dropped their record to 22-30.

Thaddeus Young missed his fifth straight game with a hamstring injury. He did make the trip and went through a pregame warm-up.

Young is expected to return as early as Sunday in New York, though Sixers head coach Doug Collins seemed more comfortable erring on the side of caution and expects the forward back on Tuesday when the Sixers host the Magic.

Turning point
Down four points with 1:03 to play, Spencer Hawes drove the lane and tried a layup over Nikola Pekovic, who dominated the paint at both ends of the floor all night. Hawes’ shot only connected with the backboard and the Timberwolves grabbed the rebound.

Hawes finished the night 3 of 9 from the floor for nine points to go with his eight rebounds.

Follow the leader
The 6-foot-11, 280-pound Pekovic controlled the action all night. He was too much for the Sixers to handle and finished the game with a season-high 27 points and 18 rebounds. It was Pekovic’s 20th double-double of the season.

Pekovic’s frontcourt mates also played well. Derrick Williams had 17 points and Andrei Kirilenko scored 15.

Evan Turner led the way for the Sixers with 17 points and Damien Wilkins chipped in with 13 off the bench.

Fresh off his first All-Star appearance, Jrue Holiday scored 16 points and had four assists.

Stat-egic
The Sixers have the sixth-lowest free throw percentage in the NBA at 72 percent. They make an average of 12 shots per game from the charity stripe, which is an NBA low.

The Sixers did manage to get to shoot 32 free throws on Wednesday but missed 11 of those attempts.

The Timberwolves were 33 of 44 at the foul line.

Take a bow
Turner had just two points in the first half in 15 minutes. He sat on the bench more than usual because he commited three personal fouls.

Turner got himself going in the second half with 14 points in the third quarter on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and 4 of 4 from at the line.

What’s next?
The Sixers will have two days off before they play the best the Eastern Conference has to offer in the Miami Heat.

LeBron James is third in the league in scoring at 27.3 points per game.

The Heat average 103.2 points per game, fifth-best in the NBA and their field goal percentage is the highest in the league at 49.3 percent.

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.