Sixers blasted by Collins after loss to Magic

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Sixers blasted by Collins after loss to Magic

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Maybe the part about the 98-84 defeat that bothered Sixers coach Doug Collins the most was the seeming lack of effort from his players (see Instant Replay). Collins explained, when he was a player for the 76ers, he played until he was physically unable to do so.

But for the life of him, Collins can’t figure out why his players don’t see the season slipping away, and he let everyone know about it after the game (see story).

“I wish I knew. I really do. I gotta tell you. I'm sitting there,” Collins said after the loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. “I gave my body to this franchise. I was never booed as a player. Never. I ran through my sneakers.”

Collins’s team was booed off the floor after the only thing the Sixers left out there were a ton of bricked shots and lots of opportunities to score for the opposition.

He said that it didn’t appear that his players were ready to go from the jump. Considering that the Sixers are still fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the lack of effort is almost unfathomable.

“I looked out there to start the game and three guys weren't even sweating when we started the game. They're going to ease themselves into the game,” Collins said. “You’ve gotta get sweaty, you've gotta get ready to go.”

So at 22-33 with six straight losses and no cupcakes looming on the schedule, what can Collins do to get the team back on the correct path? Obviously it would help if center Andrew Bynum were able to play, but after 55 games and apparently just one practice session, the All-Star still hasn’t spoken to the media (see story) about when he plans to make his debut.

That is if a debut is even out there. One has to imagine that just the sight of Bynum at practice or on the bench (though he wasn’t on the bench for Tuesday’s game) has to be nothing more than a big tease for the Sixers’ players.

“You know guys, it's been hard,” Collins said. “I think there's a part of this group wondering, ‘Are you gonna play? Aren't you gonna play?’ And it's been a tough year.”

No, the Sixers have not seen their complete team out there this year, but then again, they haven’t performed too well lately. Collins was quick to point out after the defeat to the Magic that the Sixers dealt away All-Star Andre Iguodala, and their last two top draft picks in Nik Vucevic and Moe Harkless and do not have anyone they received in the deal playing for them.

But if the team doesn’t give an effort, it almost doesn’t matter who is out there. At one point during the third quarter of Tuesday’s loss, Collins went to his bench to sub in four different players.

What other choice did he have?

“Hey, you know what? They weren't getting it done,” Collins said. “What were we down, 17? We went from seven to 17. And I go back to [coach Hank Iba], that voice I always hear, ‘Hey, son, if you don't want to play, your substitute does. Give somebody else a chance.’ We did and we cut it to five. It wasn't anything other than getting some stops, push the ball, play with some aggression. Basketball is a simple sport. The game is usually going to go to the aggressor. That's just the way it is.”

As it turned out, a couple of former Sixers were quite aggressive. Vucevic scored 12 points and pulled down 19 rebounds, while Harkless scored 10 points on four shots and got the rest from the foul line. Boy, could the Sixers use a rebounder and someone with the ability to get to the foul line.

In other words, the Sixers dealt away three good players and got back nothing … at least nothing yet.

“We made a huge deal and we have nobody playing a part of that deal,” Collins said. “How many teams can give up Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic and have nothing in return playing? That’s tough to overcome. That’s just the facts. I’m not looking for any outs. That’s a fact. Nik Vucevic had 19 rebounds tonight. Spencer [Hawes] had one, I think Lavoy [Allen] had two.”

Still, as Collins likes to point out, there is no player or team out there that will feel sorry for the Sixers. Right now, the Sixers are ripe for the picking and the Bulls, Warriors and Wizards are looking for an easy W.

The scouting tape won’t be difficult to decipher. The Sixers are at their most vulnerable at the start of quarters. Though trailing by five points at the half, the Sixers gave the Magic an 11-0 run to start the second half that morphed into a 14-2 streak. Later, the Magic made eight straight shots from the field to close out the third quarter and start the fourth.

The Sixers trailed by seven points to start the final quarter and were down by 21 points in a little more than four minutes.

What, if anything, can the coach do about that?

“Can I tell you something? If everybody looked inside themselves as much as I did, this world would be a CAT scan. OK?” Collins said. “I mean, believe me, there's not two days go by that I don't go to [team president] Rod [Thorn], I don't go to [general manager] Tony [DiLeo] -- 'what can I do? Can I do anything different? How can I be a better coach? How can I be a better leader? How can I help these guys?' Sometimes you've gotta help yourself. You know? Sometimes you’ve gotta help yourself. Youth is a very blaming thing.”

The loss didn’t sit well with veteran Thad Young, either. The longest tenured Sixer, Young has weathered a few rough seasons along the way and is just as disappointed as Collins with how the season has progressed.

Tuesday night, Young agreed with Collins in that the Sixers didn’t have much energy.

“I’m frustrated,” Young said. “I’m always frustrated when we lose games because my whole life I’ve been a winner. There’s been a time when I did lose games and that made me frustrated, too. That was when we were 27 and 50-something and I don’t ever want to be a part of that anymore. I want to win games and I’m going to put each and every bit of energy I have into the game.”

For now, Collins is hoping the loss to the Magic is as low as it gets. With the Bulls, Warriors, Wizards and Celtics looming on the schedule, it’s not going to get any easier.

“I sure hope it can’t get any worse than this, but I mean, if you look at our schedule, 12 of our last 14 are on the road and look at the home games we’re playing: Atlanta, Golden State. Every one of them is a playoff team,” Collins said. “I’ve always said, ‘Beat the team you’re supposed to beat and let’s see where you are against the others.’ And it seems like for us we’ve laid some eggs in here against some teams we’ve had a chance to beat and then we’ve played pretty well -- San Antonio, Memphis, Miami -- played well, but they were still better than us and beat us and that’s what you can’t do.”

NBA Playoffs: Westbrook, Thunder push Warriors to brink of elimination

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NBA Playoffs: Westbrook, Thunder push Warriors to brink of elimination

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Suddenly, these Golden State Warriors who have been compared all season to the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s are on the brink of elimination.

Russell Westbrook had 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Warriors 118-94 on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. Golden State, which won a league record 73 games in the regular season, lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

The Warriors must win Game 5 on Thursday in Oakland to keep their season alive.

"We all have to bounce back," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "The good news is, we go home. Obviously we play well at home. The idea now is to go home and get one win. Do that, and we put some pressure on them and we'll see what happens."

Klay Thompson led Golden State with 26 points, but two-time league MVP Stephen Curry was limited to 19 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Curry's shooting performance was so uncharacteristic that reporters asked if he was hurt.

"He's not injured," Kerr said. "He's coming back from the knee, but he's not injured. He just had a lousy night. It happens, even to the best players in the world."

The Warriors lost consecutive playoff games by at least 20 points for the first time since Games 2 and 3 of the 1972 Western Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks. Golden State's Draymond Green, who was fined for kicking Steven Adams in the groin in Game 3, finished with six points, 11 rebounds and six turnovers.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City got a boost from an unlikely source. Andre Roberson, a player the Warriors have ignored at times during the series, scored a career-high 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Kevin Durant added 26 points and 11 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and seven rebounds.

As for Westbrook, it was his first triple-double of the playoffs after posting 18 in the regular season. It was his fifth career playoff triple-double.

"I play every game like it's my last, regardless of who's in front of me," he said. "That's my job, and my job is to worry about my team, and that's all I do."

The Thunder know they have to close. Nine teams have rallied from 3-1 deficits to win.

"I think we're in a good place, but like I said, this game is over," Westbrook said. "We've got to move on to the next game. Every game is different."

The Thunder led 30-26 at the end of the first quarter, then gained control in the second. In the most unlikely of connections, Adams threw a bullet pass to Roberson near the basket for a dunk that gave the Thunder a 56-43 lead with just over four minutes left in the first half.

Oklahoma City finished with a flurry and led 72-53 at halftime. The Thunder matched the most points they have scored in a first half in franchise playoff history, a mark they set the previous game against the Warriors. It also matched the most points Golden State has allowed in a half this season for the second straight game.

Westbrook had 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds in the first half, and Durant had 18 points and six boards.

Thompson tried to keep the Warriors in it, scoring 19 points in just over seven minutes to start the third quarter. But the Thunder maintained their composure, led 94-82 at the end of the period and remained in control in the fourth.

"This is a tough situation to be in, but the series isn't over," Curry said.

Quotable
Kerr, on the pressure of trying to win a title after setting the regular-season wins record: "We had a tremendous regular season, our guys competed every single night and did something no one has ever done and they're proud of that. But in the playoffs, everybody starts 0-0. So there's no extra pressure, whether you're talking about defending our title or trying to back up the regular season."

Stat lines
According to Thunder Public Relations, the last team to score 72 or more points in the first half of two straight playoff games was the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers.

Tip-ins
Warriors: Curry went 1 for 7 in the first quarter, and made just 1 of 4 3-point attempts. ... Thompson committed his third foul with 7:55 left in the second quarter, and C Andrew Bogut committed his third about two minutes later. ... Curry made a 3-pointer for his 48th consecutive playoff game, extending his NBA record. ... The Warriors were 12-0 this season the game after a loss.

Thunder: Westbrook had five points, six assists and three rebounds in the first quarter. ... Oklahoma City forced 13 turnovers in the first half. ... The Thunder improved to 19-0 this season when Westbrook gets a triple-double. ... The Thunder outrebounded the Warriors 56-40 and outscored them 31-19 from the free throw line.

Report: Sixers attend New York workout for Ingram, Murray, Maker

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Report: Sixers attend New York workout for Ingram, Murray, Maker

The Sixers are taking their talent evaluation on the road.

On Tuesday, members of the front office attended a workout for Excel Sports Management in New York, which included Brandon Ingram, the projected No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Jamal Murray, a projected lottery pick, and Thon Maker, according to the Inquirer.

The Sixers have held two workouts at their own facility, and it is common for teams to attend organized workouts for higher-rated prospects. Head coach Brett Brown, managing owner Josh Harris and vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley traveled to the session, but president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo was in Toronto for his son's high school graduation, according to the report.

The Sixers hold the first, 24th and 26th picks in the upcoming draft. The decision between one and two is widely considered to be between Ingram and Ben Simmons (see story). The Sixers have the assets on their roster to move up from Nos. 24 and 26 through a trade, which makes scouting prospects outside of the top two an integral part to their evaluation.

The team has worked out 12 players in Philadelphia and will continue to do so up until the draft on June 23. 

NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

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NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

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TORONTO -- A series that once looked lopsided is now even.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points, including a driving layup in the final minute, and DeMar DeRozan had 32 as the Toronto Raptors evened the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-99 in Game 4 on Monday night.

DeMarre Carroll scored 11 points and Bismack Biyombo had 14 rebounds as Toronto improved to 8-2 at home this postseason and got back on level terms after big losses in Games 1 and 2.

"We've been counted out, and we like that challenge," DeRozan said.

The next challenge for Toronto? Game 5 on Wednesday night in Cleveland, where the Raptors are 0-3 this season, losing by a combined 72 points.

"We have to continue to make sure that when they punch, we punch back," Lowry said. "And if they punch three times, we punch four times."

The Raptors are 2-6 on the road in the playoffs.

After a 10-0 start to these playoffs, the Cavaliers are counting on home court advantage to help them reach their second straight Finals.

"Going back home we have to play a lot better and I think we will," LeBron James said.

Cleveland lost consecutive playoff games to an Eastern Conference opponent for the first time since dropping the final three games of the conference semifinals to Boston in 2010.

"We had a few defensive breakdowns that you can't have down the stretch of a game, especially in the playoffs," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "They executed every time we made a mistake."

James scored 29 points and Kyrie Irving had 26 for the Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 18 points. Channing Frye scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Lowry scored nine in the fourth and DeRozan had 12, connecting on five of six shots.

"It's a cakewalk for me when (Lowry) gets going," DeRozan said. "It opens up everything."

The Raptors led 78-69 to begin the fourth but Frye made consecutive 3-pointers as Cleveland opened the final quarter with an 8-0 run, cutting it to 78-77. The Cavaliers made their first 11 shots of the fourth quarter.

"It wasn't enough because we got off to a horrible first half once again in this building and you're playing catch up the whole game," James said.

Frye's errant 3-point attempt at 4:12 was Cleveland's first miss of the fourth. DeRozan made two free throws at the other end and, after another miss by Frye, Carroll made one of two to put Toronto up 99-96 with 3:23 to go.

A long 3 by Irving made it 101-99 with 2:00 left, but DeRozan answered with a driving bank shot at 1:33. Toronto got the ball back after Biyombo blocked J.R. Smith's 3, and Biyombo kept the offensive possession alive by rebounding Lowry's missed shot. After a timeout, Lowry let the shot clock wind down before driving for the decisive layup, making it 105-99 with 22 seconds to go.

Toronto jumped out to a 13-5 lead as Cleveland missed eight of its first 10 shots. Following a timeout, the Cavs made five of their next six to cut the deficit but the Raptors led 27-24 after one quarter.

Lowry scored 15 points in the second, making three of Toronto's four 3-pointers, as the Raptors opened a 57-41 halftime lead despite not shooting a single free throw in the first two quarters. It marked the first time a team led by 15 or more at halftime in a conference finals game without shooting a free throw since Game 2 of the 2001 East Finals between Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The Bucks made two of six from the line, the fewest ever made in an NBA playoff game at the time.

DeRozan shot Toronto's first free throws at 6:13 of the third after being tackled by Smith on a drive. The foul drought came after Raptors coach Dwane Casey was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officials following Toronto's Game 3 win.

Fans cheered derisively when Matthew Dellavedova was called for Cleveland's first foul of the game at 8:56 of the second.

Not much to Love
After shooting 3 for 19 in Game 3, Kevin Love shot 4 for 14 in Game 4. He finished with 10 points. Love did not play in the fourth after appearing to injure his left ankle when he stepped on referee David Guthrie late in the third. "It didn't feel too great," Love said. Lue said Love's health was "no concern."

Fair and foul
Cleveland didn't shoot any free throws in the third quarter and had just two in the fourth. Twelve of Toronto's 19 free throws came in the fourth.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James and Irving each had six assists. ... Cleveland shot 3 for 23 from 3-point range in the first half. The finished 13 for 41. . Cleveland's Dahntay Jones served a one-game suspension for hitting Biyombo in the groin in Game 3.

Raptors: Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas was active but did not play. He's been out since spraining his right ankle in the third quarter of Game 3 against Miami on May 7. ... Toronto is 10-1 in the playoffs when holding opponents below 100 points.