Sixers get taste of rebuilding in loss to Nets

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Sixers get taste of rebuilding in loss to Nets

BOX SCORE

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-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

The Sixers (4-15) continue their homestand against the Boston Celtics (11-8) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night (7:30 p.m./CSN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. A green giant-sized challenge
Just crumple it up and move on.

That's about the only thing the Sixers can do after getting ran out of the gym by the Orlando Magic on Friday. Instead of looking like a team that hadn't played since Monday, the Sixers appeared flat in a 105-88 loss.

Outside of Joel Embiid's first 20-point, 10-rebound game (he had 25 points and 10 boards) and a strong effort from Jahlil Okafor (16 points and 13 rebounds), not much else went right for the Sixers.

Now Embiid will sit the second game of a back-to-back set and Okafor will be thrust into the starting lineup, as the Sixers try to deal with Boston big man Al Horford. 

Horford, the Celtics' prized free-agent acquisition, is coming off his best game so far for his new team. He recorded 26 points, eight rebounds and six blocks in the Celtics' 97-92 win over the Kings on Friday.

2. Little big man
Even with Horford coming off a productive performance, the Sixers' game plan against the Celtics has to focus on slowing down Isaiah Thomas.

The 5-foot-9 guard continues to put up big numbers in the scoring department. Despite his shooting percentages taking a dip this season, Thomas still ranks ninth in the NBA with a career-high 25.7 points per game. 

And even though he is a willing passer (averaging a career-high-tying 6.3 assists), expect Thomas to try and score early and often against the Sixers. After all, the reserve-turned-All-Star has put up 21.5 points per game against the Sixers during his career, his highest mark against any opponent.

3. Dial up the long-distance defense
The Sixers need to be aware of Thomas and just about all of his teammates when they toe that three-point line.

The Celtics rank fifth in the league in three-pointers attempted (31.1), three-pointers made (11.3) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.3) per game.

The C's have four players shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc, and perhaps a bit surprising, three of them are big men. Jonas Jerebko (46.4 percent), Horford (42.4 percent) and Amir Johnson (40.0 percent) have all been on target from long range.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are both questionable. Embiid (rest), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

The Celtics have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost five games in a row overall and eight straight to the Celtics.

• The Celtics rank 25th in rebounding with 42.2 a night.

• Dario Saric had two points Friday against the Magic and has failed to reach double digits in scoring five of his last six games.

Sixers, Magic get glimpse into future with young talent on full display

Sixers, Magic get glimpse into future with young talent on full display

The Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic on Friday was not the game to watch for those looking for competitive basketball, as the Magic needed just three quarters to put the game out of reach (see Instant Replay).

What the game did have was some of the NBA’s top young talent.

Friday night featured six first-round picks from the 2014 NBA draft. Joel Embiid (No. 3), Aaron Gordon (No. 4), Nik Stauskas (No. 8), Elfrid Payton (No. 10) and Dario Saric (No. 12) were all lottery selections in 2014.

Add in Sixers center Jahlil Okafor and Magic guard Mario Hezonja, who were both top-five picks in 2015, and that’s seven top-12 picks from the last three draft classes, not even counting the injured Ben Simmons.

“Basketball’s a small world, you grow up playing these guys," Gordon said of the Sixers. "Those guys are talented. They have a young group of guys that are going to get better and better each time they play.”

Though he played only 27 minutes, Embiid finished the game with 25 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four assists for the Sixers (see story). Okafor had a double-double of his own, adding 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Gordon, who is averaging 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, led the Magic with 20 points and also added two rebounds.

“He did pretty good,” Embiid said of Gordon. “He shot the ball pretty well tonight.”

The other four lottery selections struggled a bit. Payton played 24 minutes and finished with two points and four assists, while Hezonja missed both of his shot attempts in just three minutes of playing time.

Stauskas went scoreless, going 0 for 6 from the floor, finishing with five assists and three turnovers, while Saric went 1 for 5 from the field and turned the ball over twice

“It’s just about being patient, really,” Stauskas said. “We know our time will come eventually. It’s just about being patient and continuing to work hard, whether it’s next year or the year after, eventually things are going to click and this team is going to become a legit playoff team in the East, it’s just a matter of time before it happens.”

Even with a plethora of top-round talent, the Magic have struggled over the past two seasons, much like the Sixers. Orlando hadn't won more than 25 games in a season since 2012-13 before going 35-47 last year.

Despite the abundance of talent, both teams are waiting for their players to develop. Both the Sixers and Magic entered Friday’s game among the bottom four teams in the Eastern Conference. If their draft choices pan out, it wouldn't be surprising to see the two teams closer to the top of the conference and right in the thick of the playoff race in a few years. 

“Eventually they’re going to get there,” Magic center Bismack Biyombo said of the Sixers. “Like all young teams, you go through struggles before you face success. That’s just how life is. They have to learn the hard way. We’ve all been through the process like that but you always have to stay patient and see a great future ahead. Obviously they have a lot of talented kids that sooner or later, they’ll know more about the league and establish themselves.”