Sixers head into All-Star break with loss to Bucks


Sixers head into All-Star break with loss to Bucks


MILWAUKEE -- When April 17 rolls around, the Sixers may likely look back at Wednesday’s 94-92 loss to Milwaukee as the game that took away their hopes of reaching the postseason for a third straight time since Doug Collins took over as head coach.

The Bucks erased a 10-point, first-quarter deficit by scoring 16 points off 15 Sixers’ turnovers and holding the Sixers to 6 of 23 shooting in the fourth quarter (see Instant Replay).

“Turnovers, even at the start, were hurting us,” said Spencer Hawes, who scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds. “I mean they scored 16 points off turnovers. It is hard to win when you give away that many easy ones.”

“I told our guys against this team turnovers really hurt you,” Collins said after the Sixers’ record dropped to 22-29. “We did fight. We had some dry spells. We still don’t do a good job of recognizing when teams are trapping Jrue [Holiday]. We are going too fast.”

“It is on all five, not just the guy being trapped,” Hawes added. “We have to present ourselves earlier and get in the right spots and we have to get off the ball quick. But then we have to make a play when we get on the back end. You can’t run away from the ball and an opportunity to make a play 4-on-3.”

The Sixers were up 50-43 at halftime, and had held the Bucks to 35 percent shooting. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis were kept in check as they combined for 17 points in the first half.

However, Jennings hit the Sixers with 12 points in the third quarter before finishing with 21. Ellis finished with 27 points.

Scoring became easier as the night went on for Milwaukee’s backcourt. The same could not be said for the Sixers.

Nick Young made his first four shots and had 12 points at the end of the first quarter. He was just 0 for 2 from the field the rest of the game and 2 of 2 at the foul line to finish with 14 points.

Picking up two personal fouls in the first eight minutes of the game didn’t help Young’s cause to stay in an early rhythm.

“I think his foul trouble kind of got him out of rhythm.” Hawes said of Young. “He is a guy when he is rolling you have to keep him going. That is on all of us. We have to get him shots, we need him to score. It is on all of us when he is not getting attempts. It is on him to make them, but we have to help him get them up.”

Despite their struggles to score in the fourth quarter, the Sixers had a great look at a tying basket from Jrue Holiday who, pulled up for a 12-footer that clanked off the rim with seven seconds remaining.

“I really thought that shot was going in,” Holiday said. “Unfortunately, situations happen and we really didn’t get another chance to tie up the game. Very disappointed, but we have to move on from it.”

Holiday’s was aggressive on the rebound of his miss and tied up Luc Mbah a Moute for a jump ball. Holiday won the tap with the ball ending up in Royal Ivey’s hands with five seconds to play.

“I got up on that,” Holiday said. “I tipped it to (Ivey), and then I think he tried to get it back to me but Luc tipped it. I thought, honestly, it was going out of bounds, but he made a smart play tipping it to the backcourt, running out the time.”

The Sixers had two timeouts before that crucial jump ball but elected not to use them.

“Before the jump ball you are supposed to think about it,” Young said. “It is one of those situations you wish you could have back, but you never know what you are going to do in the heat of the moment.”

The Sixers’ loss was the third this season to the Bucks and they now sit four games behind Milwaukee for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Sixers have 31 games remaining when they return from the All-Star break. Thaddeus Young is recovering from a hamstring strain and Andrew Bynum is still working his way onto the court for the first time this season.

If the Sixers’ postseason picture becomes any bleaker than it currently is, those reinforcements may be even slower to get back on the hardwood.

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."

Joel Embiid ends preseason on impressive note, has Sixers excited

Joel Embiid ends preseason on impressive note, has Sixers excited

MIAMI — It’s a cautious optimism to be sure — there can be no other type for the Sixers right now given their history of injuries — but you can tell the team is starting to get excited about Joel Embiid.

In Friday’s 113-110 exhibition finale win over the Miami Heat (see game story), Embiid scored 18 points in 18 minutes before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

The 7-0 center, who missed his first two NBA seasons because of foot surgeries, made 8 of 16 shots and 2 of 2 on free throws, adding a game-high nine rebounds.

“I’ve always felt like I’m a complete player — that’s what I do,” Embiid said. “I’m starting to get easy points.

“I just got better every game [in the preseason], defensively, offensively.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown said he is still learning how to best use Embiid.

Brown added that the rust is apparent in Embiid’s game. But …

“He is as self-taught as any player I’ve ever been around,” Brown said. “He grew up in Cameroon and hasn’t played a lot (because of injuries). But he studies, he looks at stuff. He pays attention. He’s instinctively curious.

“There’s a lot of stuff in his head that he thinks through. His mind is quicker than his feet. At times, his core, his balance and his decision-making are off because his mind is working faster than his body.”

Embiid scored most of his buckets on Friday at close range — a finger roll, a tip-in, a couple of put-back dunks, an alley-oop dunk and a fast-break layup. But he did make a 10-foot jumper and took — but missed — a three-point try.

“He does stuff in a game that makes you step back and say, ‘Wow,’” Brown said. “He will trail and hit a three. He will have a pound, pound drop-step, dunk.

“Like a traditional post, he will turn his face and make a bank shot. He has that up-and-under stuff.

“But he’s raw. His preseason has been highlighted by those few things that you notice, all under the umbrella of, ‘He really has a chance to be very, very good.’"

Brown was asked to summarize the Sixers' 2-5 preseason, and he called it a “completely erratic” exhibition season because of injuries.

“Jahlil [Okafor] hasn’t practiced,” Brown said. “Joel has been steady and incremental. I think we all see that Dario Saric has got a lot to offer. I think the pairing of Joel and Dario was solid.

“We’ve seen Jerami [Grant] have a really good preseason. Richaun Holmes has taken his opportunity to play big minutes. Those type of things come to my mind.”