Like offense, hate defense? Sixers are your team

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Like offense, hate defense? Sixers are your team

Well, you can’t pretend like he didn’t tell you. He told you. He told all of us.

When the Sixers hired Brett Brown, the new head coach was asked about his coaching philosophy. He said he wanted to play fast. But how might that impact the defensive effort, someone wondered?

“We’re not going to sacrifice scoring because we want to play good defense,” Brown said in August (see story). “I think it’s one of the great mistakes when people talk about defense. It doesn’t mean that you are going to be a low-possession team. We want to go. We want to get out in the open court and we want to run.”

They want to get out in the open court. And they do. They want to run. And they do. They don’t want to sacrifice scoring in the service of defense. And they don’t.

Man, was that a prophetic quote. Carnac the Magnificent couldn’t have seen the future any better.

The Sixers’ defense isn’t quite as funny as a Johnny Carson bit, though. At least not intentionally.

The Phoenix Suns beat the Sixers, 124-113, at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday evening (see story). The Sixers have lost 10 of their last 12 at home. They’ve also lost four in a row at home for the first time since the final games of the 2011-12 season.

The reason is simple enough. Just like Carnac, you know the answer before the question is even asked.

Answer: Stop ball.

Question: Name two four-letter words the Sixers would never use.

As someone remarked to Brown, “It didn’t seem like the team was committed to defend.”

“That’s because we weren’t,” Brown replied.

The Sixers entered Monday giving up 109.5 points per game. That’s 30th in the NBA. There are 30 teams in the NBA. That, as you’ve already figured out, is not good.

Even as poor (or no) Sixers defensive efforts go, the performance against Phoenix was particularly glaring. The Suns scored 40 points on 77.3 percent shooting in the first quarter (see 6 observations). They had 62 points on 61.5 percent shooting at the half. They had 95 points on 55 percent shooting by the third quarter. See where this is going? In the end, Phoenix scored 124 points on 53.8 percent shooting. You almost needed an abacus to count up all the oversized numbers.

“We didn’t come out the way we intended,” Brown said. “We want to end this middle third [of the season] being a better defensive team. We talk about it. We drill it. We show it. We’ve got to find a better way to get that done. We are improving. The numbers say that. Forget my opinion. To start the way we started the game at home is disappointing. That’s the bottom line.”

Brown seemed frustrated. He had a right to be. Most teams on most nights would have to try hard to not try that hard on defense. Not the Sixers. What happened on Monday wasn’t all that unusual for them.

Counting Monday, opponents have scored 100 or more points against the Sixers in 40 of 45 games this season. That includes 21 of the last 23 games and seven straight. The Sixers have given up 110 or more points 19 times. And they’ve surrendered 120 or more points nine times.

The last time the Sixers gave up 120 or more points on eight or more occasions was 17 years ago. They did it 12 times in the 1996-97 season.

But wait. There’s more. Like offense and hate defense? Fantastic. Sixers operators are standing by to take your order.

The Sixers have given up 130 or more points three times this season. They haven’t done that in two decades. Hooray history.

Best of NBA: Heat stun Warriors on Dion Waiters' 3 with 0.6 seconds left

Best of NBA: Heat stun Warriors on Dion Waiters' 3 with 0.6 seconds left

MIAMI -- Dion Waiters' 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left capped his 33-point effort, and the Miami Heat beat Golden State 105-102 on Monday night to end the Warriors' seven-game winning streak.

The Heat wasted a 10-point lead in the final 4 minutes, and Kevin Durant tied the game on a dunk with 11.7 seconds left. With no timeouts, Waiters walked the ball up the court and drilled what became the game-winner over Klay Thompson.

Stephen Curry missed a 3-pointer as time expired for the Warriors (see full recap).

Rivers, Crawford lead Clippers past Hawks
ATLANTA -- Austin Rivers scored 27 points and Jamal Crawford broke out of a shooting slump with 19, helping the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Atlanta Hawks 115-105 on Monday night.

Crawford had eight points in the fourth quarter, including a driving basket after Atlanta cut the Clippers' lead from 24 to five points.

Kent Bazemore led the Hawks with 25 points. Dennis Schroder had 21, and Dwight Howard added 16 points and 12 rebounds (see full recap).

Wizards beat Hornets behind Wall’s 24
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- John Wall firmly believes the Washington Wizards are a good team with plenty of playoff potential.

The key, he said, "is we just got to believe it every time we step on the court."

Wall had 24 points and seven assists, and the Wizards looked plenty confident as they continued their run up the Eastern Conference standings with a 109-99 win against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night (see full recap).

Kings snap skid with win over Pistons
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- DeMarcus Cousins had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Sacramento Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with a 109-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

Ty Lawson added 19 points and helped Sacramento turn the game around with a strong second quarter. Lawson scored nine points in the second, and the Kings outscored the Pistons 37-24 in the period to take a 65-62 lead into halftime.

A 3-pointer by Lawson put Sacramento up 101-90 in the fourth, and the Kings held on from there to stop Detroit's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Jones, Holiday lead Pelicans past Cavs
NEW ORLEANS -- Terrence Jones filled in brilliantly for injured All-Star Anthony Davis, scoring a season-high 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking LeBron James' dunk attempt in the fourth quarter, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-122 on Monday night.

Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans, and Langston Galloway capped a 12-point night with a clean steal on James' drive in the final minute, preventing the Cavs from erasing a deficit they had trimmed from 22 late in the first half to three with 1:32 left in the game.

Kyrie Irving scoring 35 of his 49 points in the second half, but the Cleveland fell to its fifth loss in seven games. James had 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have been challenged by playing without Joel Embiid in one of two games in a back-to-back series all season. Now they will have to do it in at least the next two straight games. 

“We’re going to be without him tomorrow (against the Clippers) and in Milwaukee and we’ll go from there,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. 

Embiid, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, suffered a left knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. He did not travel with the team to Atlanta on Saturday for the back-to-back series. 

Brown called the decision “precautionary.” Embiid did not practice Monday but took some light shots after. He was pre-scheduled to sit out Wednesday against the Bucks in accordance with his limitations for consecutive games. Embiid is reportedly expected to return Friday against the Rockets.

The standout rookie leaves a glaring hole on the court when he misses games. The Sixers are 2-10 when he does not play. For all the ways Embiid dominates at the basket (22.4 points over the last 10 games), there is an obvious difference on the defensive end without him. 

“It’s still about our defense, it’s still about running, it’s still about sharing the ball,” Brown said. “I think you go with Jahlil (Okafor) and Nerlens (Noel) and challenge them in relation to rim protection and what Joel provides us. The group around them also has got to perform at a higher level when you don’t have Joel. I think that second group that we have been playing, led by Nerlens, really can take on a far greater defensive identity than it has recently, and Nerlens will be the captain of that.”

This is a time when the Sixers’ logjam at the five-spot actually helps them. Brown still has three true centers to turn to, in addition to power forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric, whom he could slide into the position if they go small. Brown sees a silver lining for his bigs in the uphill battle of playing without Embiid. 

“It definitely hurts the team, how can we spin it any other way?” Brown said. “But like anything, you’re going to now look at Nerlens and Jahlil. This is fantastic for those two. It could prove, based on some things, Richaun (Holmes) sees daylight a little bit. 

“There aren’t many teams, I would suspect, that have the ability to roll out three young guys when somebody like Joel goes down and look forward to watching them develop more, look forward to giving them the opportunity to play NBA minutes.”

Okafor has been receiving the start when Embiid is out. (He has been out of the rotation when Embiid does play.) Okafor, though, is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up. He is listed as probable against the Clippers.

“It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going, it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period, it got kind of sore on me again,” Okafor explained. “Today they were trying to make sure I could get back to being 100 percent because they knew that my knee was bothering me. They haven’t really told me what the plan was for tomorrow. Today was really focused on getting me back to being healthy.”

The Clippers are shorthanded, as well. Blake Griffin has been sidelined since Dec. 18 because of a right knee procedure and Chris Paul had surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. Griffin could make his return against the Sixers.

Embiid's honor
Embiid's Player of the Week honor is rare for a rookie. He's only the third Sixers rookie ever to win it, joining Allen Iverson and Michael Carter-Williams.

The last Sixer before Embiid to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week was Thaddeus Young in January 2014.

The Sixers won all three games Embiid played last week. He averaged 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.