Sixers get taste of rebuilding in loss to Nets

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Sixers get taste of rebuilding in loss to Nets

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For a team in a rebuilding mode, there will be times of great growing pains and the Sixers are not hiding from this fact. It’s going to get rough during the 2013-14 season for the youthful and inexperienced Sixers.

How rough? The Brooklyn Nets gave the Sixers a little taste of what they can expect at times during the season with a 127-97 victory at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night (see Instant Replay).

“I feel like it was born out of a reality check,” head coach Brett Brown said.

The good part is that it’s still the exhibition season and the games don’t count in the standings yet. But the bad part is that the game showed just how much work the Sixers have to do to reach the elite level in the NBA.

That’s the part that worried Brown because he noticed some of his young players drop their heads when the Nets built a lead to 35 points in front of a crowd of 6,315. But that also presented a chance for Brown to teach a few lessons to his players.

Brown believes it won’t be the last time he gets a chance to do some teaching, either.

“You can’t let your energies and your emotion be dictated by our inability to score and the fact that they just kept going,” Brown said. “I thought that there was an emotional letdown that you see in young teams and I think the veterans continued to battle. But I felt like some heads dropped and it’s something that we’re going to have to deal with throughout the course of the year.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day, of course. And if the Sixers’ brass is looking for some reassurance, they need to look no further than the Nets. Two years ago, they finished in last place in the Atlantic Division. With a revamped roster and a new coach, the Nets are looking to challenge the Heat in the Eastern Conference.

They might be able to do it, too. The Nets smoked the Sixers even with All-Stars Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko sitting out. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett played just 15 minutes and no starter played more than 26 minutes in the rout.

Apparently, that was enough. The Nets shot 54 percent from the floor and 52 percent from three-point range. They also scored 32 fast-break points, easily beating the Sixers at their own strong suit.

Reality check.

“Guys compete, but it’s about executing,” said Evan Turner, who led all scorers with 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting. “I don’t think there is anyone slacking on this team, it’s just executing and getting things together. Sometimes we’re there, we just have to go to finish off the play.”

Then again, the Nets and Sixers are teams headed in different directions. The Sixers blew it up in the offseason and are putting it back together from scratch. The Nets added veterans with championship rings and are the favorite to win the Atlantic Division.

“Obviously, that’s a great team over there,” Turner said.

The Nets were able to get out and run because of their rebounding advantage. With former Sixer Reggie Evans pulling down 10 boards in 16 minutes, the Nets outrebounded the Sixers, 54-31. The Nets also grabbed 18 offensive boards to the Sixers’ 18 defensive rebounds.

That means every shot the Nets took was essentially a 50-50 ball.

Talk about a reality check.

Nevertheless, the game film of the loss to the Nets will be a treasure trove for Brown to decipher before the team plays again on Thursday. The Sixers learned a hard lesson, but it won’t be so bad if they can take something from it.

At least that’s the tact Brown is taking.

“I get a lot of stuff out of this because I think this is reality,” Brown said. “You go and see the level of talent and you look at the level of experience and the physical stature of their players. I get stuff out of this. It’s clear that our physical stature is not going to change. We better spend a lot of time in box-out drills or trying to run is not going to pay the dividends we need it to pay.”

The Sixers return to action on Thursday when they go to Charlotte to play the Bobcats. Following that game, the Sixers play the Cleveland Cavaliers at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver. 

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

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Rewind 24 hours.

The Sixers were walking off the court Friday night after a dismal blowout loss to the Magic that left Brett Brown reflecting on Saturday, “Here in Philadelphia, at home, that’s not good enough.”

The Sixers had lacked fire and grit, especially with Joel Embiid on the floor against a sub-.500 Magic team that had played the night before in Memphis. 

They had a day to turn it around. A playoff contending Celtics squad was coming to town and Embiid wasn’t available because of his back-to-back limitations. The shorthanded Sixers (see below) had a tall task ahead of them. 

The Sixers reacted by jumping out early and kept the Celtics at bay in the first half. Even when the Celtics cut their lead to three midway through the second quarter, the Sixers responded with an 8-0 burst to go up by a game-high 11 points. 

The Celtics exposed the Sixers' defensive void in the paint without Embiid in the third. With the Sixers up 65-58, Isaiah Thomas drew a foul against Jahlil Okafor. That play sparked a 9-0 Celtics run over the next two minutes, in which Thomas scored six of those points (including four at the line). The Celtics took back the lead during that stretch and forced the Sixers to play catchup.

The Sixers cut the Celtics lead to one in the fourth with a three from Dario Saric, who played one of his most aggressive games of his short NBA career. After the Celtics jumped back up by seven, the Sixers kept fighting and tied the game 100 apiece. The Celtics were able to pull away and finished with a one-point win, 107-106, after Ersan Ilyasova drained a three at the buzzer. 

Inside the stats
Thomas exploded for 37 points (11 for 19 from the field, 2 for 3 from three, 13 for 15 from the line), four rebounds, and seven assists.

Saric recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, both tying career-highs. 

Ersan Ilyasova dropped 18 points, including three treys, and six rebounds.

Okafor and Sergio Rodriguez scored 15 apiece, with Rodriguez adding eight assists. 

Avery Bradley dropped 20 points and nine rebounds. 

Stauskas starts in place of Covington
Brown turned to shooting guard Nik Stauskas to slide over to the three spot in place of the injured Robert Covington (see below). 

“Boston’s perimeter defense is as good as it is in the NBA,” Brown explained. “I think you need to have more ball handlers, people who can make a play, on the perimeter … I feel that Nik has that ability to put it to the floor and disrupt that aggressive pressure that the Celtics backcourt can put on you.”

Broken ankles
Saric came up with the Sixers' highlight play of the game when he did this to Jonas Jerebko in the third quarter for an instant highlight reel moment. 

Always a student
Not playing, still learning. Embiid has been praised for being an eager student of the game. During warmups he sat courtside to watch film on a laptop even though he wasn’t suiting up. 

Injury updates
Joel Embiid is not playing in back-to-back games and sat out the back end of this home-home series for rest … Robert Covington sat out with a sprained left knee he suffered on Friday after colliding with T.J. McConnell chasing a ball out of bounds … Jerryd Bayless missed his fourth straight game with left wrist soreness. 

Up next
The Sixers host the Nuggets on Monday night.