Sixers hurt by three-pointers in loss to Wizards

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Sixers hurt by three-pointers in loss to Wizards

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New Sixers coach Brett Brown says he expects some growing pains on offense with his youthful and inexperienced team. That’s the reason why he calls so few plays and will live with the mistakes, the coach says.

But the defense is another issue. In the Sixers’ 116-102 loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), Brown says the plan was to protect the paint and gamble on the outside shots.

Looks like the Sixers came up with snake eyes.

For the second straight game the Sixers were battered by the three-point shot. This time the Wizards tied a Wells Fargo Center record by hitting 18 threes, hitting them at a 54.5 percent clip. Six different players hit a long ball with John Wall burying five and Martell Webster coming off the bench to nail four of them.

This comes after Andre Iguodala hit a career-high seven three-pointers and the Golden State Warriors hit 15 threes in a 20-point victory on Monday.

“If you look at those numbers they look deflating,” Brown said. “But I said from the start that we want to guard the paint. We had a 29 percent three-point shooter come in and had a helluva game. Last game Andre Iguodala came in and went bananas. We’ve chosen a way to play. We’ve chosen to protect the paint with a young team. We’ve hedged our bets and it’s hurt us.”

Wednesday was the third time this season the Sixers allowed 15 or more three-pointers in a game. Let’s put that in a bit of perspective -- the Sixers allowed 15 three-pointers in a game just twice in the last three seasons combined.

The NBA record for most times allowing 15 or more three-pointers in a game is five. At the rate the Sixers are going, they could shatter that mark by next week.

“When you come in you have to decide which sword you’re going to die on,” Brown said. “We’ve said we want to get back and guard the paint and then we’ll go out and defend the three-pointers. And when a 29 percent three-point shooter like John Wall comes in and does what he did, it’s easy to step back and second guess that.”

One has to imagine that Brown will alter the game plan. After all, the Sixers dominated the glass against the bigger Wizards, scored 42 points in the paint and shot a higher percentage from the field (47 percent to 43.9 percent).

But when a team trades two-pointers against threes, the math isn’t going to add up. That’s especially the case when the Wizards squeezed off 98 shots with 33 of them coming from long range.

Is there a way the Sixers can adjust? Is it possible to come out and contest the three-pointers instead of concentrating on protecting the paint?

Not really, says Brown. Not when many of the three-pointers are coming in transition.

“I think when you go back and look at the tape you’ll see some correlation to half-court defensive schemes, but you’ll see a lot of correlation to turnovers,” Brown said. “It’s easy to see the three-point shot and wonder what you’re doing in the half-court defense, but I think you’re going to see a lot of them coming on scrambles for the ball and turnovers instead of us rotating here or rotating there.”

In that case, chalk it up to a vicious cycle. Because the Sixers want to run and push the pace on offense, they are prone to committing turnovers. And when they commit turnovers, the Sixers are out of position to stop the three-point shot.

Again, pick your poison, Brown said.

Or, the Sixers could just stop committing turnovers. In Wednesday’s loss they gave it away 20 times. That comes after a season-high 24 turnovers in the loss to the Warriors.

Five games into the season, the 3-2 Sixers average 19.2 turnovers per game.

“I have no drills on how not to turn the ball over,” Brown said. “I don’t know what no-turnovers drills we can do. We have to be smarter in transition. We’re always trying to run and when you look at our turnovers, I think a lot of them come when we try to initiate the break.”

The Sixers play the Cavaliers on Friday and Saturday, a team that went into Wednesday’s action with just 17 three-pointers on 26.6 percent shooting for the season. Expect the Sixers to pack it in and gamble on the long shot again.

“We just have to trust him,” said Evan Turner, who led the Sixers with 24 points. “When guys are hitting threes, they’re hitting threes. When they hit them you just tip your hat to them. That’s coach’s philosophy and you have to trust it and take it from there.”

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

CAMDEN, N.J. — Two bigs back, one big out.

Nerlens Noel will make his regular-season debut Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Noel has been out since the preseason after undergoing elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October.

Jahlil Okafor also will return following a bout of gastroenteritis, which sidelined him for the last three games. Neither Noel nor Okafor will have minute restrictions. 

Joel Embiid, on the other hand, will not play Sunday. He will miss the game because of minor inflammation in his right elbow, which he suffered in Thursday’s game against the Pelicans. The decision also is in conjunction with the load management plan the Sixers have mapped out for him. Embiid did not practice Saturday and will not travel to Detroit. 

“It’s very minor and we expect him back soon. Not much concern at all,” Brett Brown said of Embiid, adding, “I think it’s far more precautionary than anything people should get nervous about.”

With Embiid out, the addition of Noel will help the Sixers when they battle the Pistons and big man Andre Drummond, who is averaging a dominating 15.0 points, 13.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks this season. Noel will come off the bench as he gets reacclimated to the team and the flow of the game. 

“I felt great [to be cleared to play],” Noel said. “I was anticipating it so I got my mind right and this is what I’ve been working for throughout the whole rehab process. I’m feeling good and looking forward to it.” 

The Sixers are mindful of the fact Noel has not played in a regular season game since the finale last April. He has been working on getting his wind back up, and the Sixers will watch it closely in-game when determining his playing time. Noel said he has a “good starting foundation” with his conditioning. 

“You can do as much as you want on a treadmill,” Brown said. “You can do as much as you want one-on-zero … but there is nothing that’s like an NBA game. Everything goes faster, everything goes quicker, you have emotions involved which can also drown how fast and how long you can go. Those things are just part of him coming back into it, and we’ll manage him accordingly.”

Noel’s debut is the first step for him, regardless of how many plays. His athleticism will give another look to the lineup. Brown foresees having Noel back will allow the Sixers to play faster and protect the rim with a greater “bounce.” 

“We miss playing with Nerlens, just his presence,” Okafor said. “He’s an athlete. Obviously we miss him on the defensive side. We miss him as a leader vocally. It’s just going to be great having him back on the floor.”

The Sixers could counter the Pistons with the combination of Noel and Okafor, a duo they struggled to utilize together last season. Brown’s decision will be based on matchups. He pointed out a situation in which Drummond and Jon Leuer are on the court would be more favorable than one in which Tobias Harris is playing power forward. 

“You just try to pick your moments where you can maybe pair those guys up,” Brown said. “I think it will be a more genuine conversation as Nerlens starts playing more with us. He’s just really come back into it. But we come back and you play Toronto and you have all three bigs available, then it becomes another level of a conversation. I do look forward to it when we have an opportunity to intelligently match up with other people and we’ll play it out like that.”

The Sixers' next game after Sunday is Wednesday against the Raptors, when they expect to have their bigs ready to go.