Sixers don't want leaky defense to impact offense

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Sixers don't want leaky defense to impact offense

The Sixers continue to allow the most points in the NBA at an astronomical 110.9 per game.

The problem during their current four-game losing streak has been that their poor defense has impacted the other end of the court as well. The Sixers have failed to reach 100 points in three of those four defeats.

"When we have good ball movement I think it is contagious and we play better defense," Michael Carter-Williams said. "The first quarter I thought we did a great job moving the ball but, in that second quarter it got stagnant and we didn't get as many stops. We are better when we share the ball."

Carter-Williams was referring to the Sixers' 102-92 loss to the Knicks on Saturday in which they built a 28-20 lead after one quarter and then produced just 12 points in the second quarter while allowing 32.

After resting Sunday, the Sixers got back to work Monday at PCOM. Brett Brown's message to the team was pretty clear: Defense, defense and more defense.

"We have young guys who can get through it. They need to get through it and get some level of toughness," Brown said. "We need to play better defense. We can say all this stuff but we have to play better defense. It stops and starts there and it always will."

Carter-Williams is one of those young guys Brown was talking about. The leading Rookie of the Year candidate had 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the Sixers' loss to the Knicks. However, MCW only took six shots in the game, a far cry from the 15.5 attempts he averages a night.

"Look at how many shots Michael got, six, and two of them were not good and one was an airball," Brown said. "They want to please, they want to do the right thing and they are trying. I hope I am giving them good advice.

"I know it is a team game. I know they must share the ball, but it can’t get misconstrued. It is always born out of attack. You have to attack and feel good about yourself. You have to force the defense and then kick it."

There's a delicate balance between trusting your teammates and trying to do things on your own that young players must learn. The Sixers do in fact share the ball quite well. They average 22.9 assists per game, which ranks ninth in the NBA. However, they still have moments when they fall behind and they take turns trying to dent the deficit with one-on-one play.

Carter-Williams knows the Sixers' ability to consistently swing the ball starts with him and the point guard believes he is getting closer to making that happen.

"I think I have become a better leader out there," Carter-Williams said. "I think I am pretty consistent at the defensive end and I am just trying to figure things out on offense and adjust because defenses are starting to change, so I am working on that."

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”