Sixers head into All-Star break with loss to Bucks

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Sixers head into All-Star break with loss to Bucks

BOX SCORE

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.

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."