Sixers hurt by three-pointers in loss to Wizards

slideshow-sixers-michael-carter-williams-ap.jpg

Sixers hurt by three-pointers in loss to Wizards

BOX SCORE

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.”

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.