Sixers dominated by Clippers to start four-game road trip

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Sixers dominated by Clippers to start four-game road trip

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LOS ANGELES -- The fact that the Sixers were tied with the Los Angeles Clippers after one quarter on Wednesday night was slightly deceiving.

The Clippers lost in Sacramento 24 hours earlier and appeared to be stuck in the same malaise that plagued them against the Kings.

Then came the second quarter in which the Clippers made 60 percent of their shots and the Sixers could not buy a basket. The Sixers followed that with a third quarter that saw them commit seven of their 19 turnovers in the game.

It all equaled up to a 101-72 loss for the Sixers, their 41st of the season (see Instant Replay).

“Their defense was tremendous tonight,” Sixers head coach Doug Collins said of the Clippers. “They really did a good job. They do a great job trapping Jrue (Holiday). They are not going to let him get any shot opportunities and they try and get the ball out of his hands.

“We did some good things for a while and then turnovers just killed us. They had 24 points off turnovers and they had 13 steals.”

“I feel like that is what they do,” Holiday said. “They are very hard to stop in transition. They have so many high flyers and obviously from the past weeks you start to think a little more about jumping with those guys, but they definitely take advantage of turnovers.”

Holiday finished with a season-low two points on a dismal 1-for-8 shooting. It was just the sixth time in 63 games this year that Holiday failed to reach double-figure points.

The Clippers held the Sixers to just 36.7 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent from three-point range. They also limited Holiday to four assists.

By taking the ball out of Holiday’s hands, the Sixers’ big men were forced to do more of the team’s decision making. Spencer Hawes took on that duty, recording seven assists to go with 16 points and seven rebounds as the lone bright spot for the team.

“They swarm,” Holiday said. “They obviously made our big (Hawes) make some point-guard decisions and I think he did a great job. I mean we did really well in the first half. Second half we let it get away from us.”

“They got us turning it over and got some easy baskets,” Hawes said. “I thought we defended them well when we weren't turning it over early, when we were in the halfcourt. When they get out in transition, they're as dangerous as any team in the league.”

Things started to unravel after intermission mainly because of the play of Chris Paul.

Paul had 10 points and two assists in the decisive third quarter. The All-Star point guard finished with a game-high 19 points, nine assists, six rebounds and five steals before watching nearly the entire fourth quarter from the Clippers’ bench.

“Chris Paul just impacts the game in every possible way. He is an amazing player, Collins said. “We were hanging around for a while, but the turnovers were the deciding factor.”

“He’s tough. He’s a dog. He runs the team, he does everything,” Holiday added. “He scores when he has to or wants to. He obviously gets everyone else off as well, and at the same time that’s a very deep team. They can go to their bench and get so much out of that.”

The Clippers’ bench outscored the Sixers’ reserves, 42-25. Even former Sixer and Villanova standout Maalik Wayns joined in on the act, scoring nine points on 3-of-6 shooting in the Clippers’ win.

The Sixers will play at Denver on Thursday. The Nuggets are 30-3 at home this season and are currently riding a 13-game winning streak.

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

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Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”