Sixers-Bobcats: 5 things you need to know

sixers-bobcats-matchup.png

Sixers-Bobcats: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (12-25) get back at it for the first time since losing to the New York Knicks at the Wells Fargo Center last Saturday.

In that one, the Sixers were playing the second game of a back-to-back while the Knicks had a day off after beating the Miami Heat at home.

This time it’s the Sixers who are rested while the Charlotte Bobcats arrive in Philadelphia after beating the Knicks at home on Tuesday night.

So with that in mind, here are a few things to look out for in Wednesday night’s game:

1. Beware of the back-to-back
It’s no shocker that the Sixers are just 3-8 in the second game of back-to-backs. However, the Sixers also are not very good against teams playing in the second game of a back-to-back.

With Charlotte coming in after snapping the Knicks’ five-game winning streak on Tuesday night, it’s worth noting that the Sixers are 2-8 in games against teams playing the second game of a back-to-back. One of those wins was the opening night stunner against the Miami Heat. The other was the 126-125 double-overtime victory over the Magic in November.

2. MCW’s production

If there is such a thing as hitting the so-called rookie wall, Michael Carter-Williams is doing a pretty good job at heading it off.

Though he is shooting just 41.4 percent from the floor this month, Carter-Williams is 25 for 51 from the field with 65 points in his last three games. Though the point guard’s assists are down a touch since handing out 12 of them on Dec. 21, the rookie is still averaging 5.4 assists per game in his last nine.

Only one other rookie (Trey Burke of Utah) is averaging more than 3.5 assists per game this season.

3. So big
When Spencer Hawes got into foul trouble last Saturday against the Knicks, the Sixers were in big trouble. Lavoy Allen was on the bench with an injury and center Daniel Orton had been waived the day before. That opened it up for veteran big man Amar’e Stoudemire to score 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

But for Wednesday night’s game, the Sixers seem to have had a growth spurt. The team added center Dewayne Dedmon from the D-League on Tuesday. The 7-foot Dedmon appeared in four games for the Golden State Warriors this year and was averaging 15 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 15 games for the D-League's Santa Cruz Warriors.

The Sixers will, however, be without big men Lavoy Allen and Arnett Moultrie (see story).

4. He shoots ... and misses
Evan Turner is in a slump. After scoring 23 points in the Jan. 2 victory in Portland, Turner is shooting 17 for 47 from the field in his last four games, including a 2-for-13 performance in a loss at Cleveland. He also has gotten away from attacking the paint, which was the impetus to Turner’s high-scoring, fast start to the season.

Instead, Turner has settled for more long two-pointers and threes. On shots longer than 15-feet, Turner is shooting 76 for 210 (36.2 percent).

5. Injuries
Lavoy Allen (calf) is out.

Nerlens Noel (knee) and Jason Richardson (knee) are out indefinitely.

For Charlotte, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (broken hand) returned from a 19-game absence to log 30 minutes on Tuesday against the Knicks.

Second-year forward Jeff Taylor is out for the remainder of the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”