Sixers lose season-worst 8th straight game

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Sixers lose season-worst 8th straight game

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Sixers did not get demolished. That was an accomplishment in itself.

Still, they did suffer a 105-100 loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night in their final game before the all-star break to close out a three-game road trip (see Instant Replay). The defeat was a season-worst eighth in a row for the Sixers.

 While people are not in this business for moral victories, Sixers head coach Brett Brown was pleased to see his team resemble the group he has come to know this season.

“We got down 14 and I brought the starters back in earlier than I normally do, and we tied it up,” Brown said. “To be humbled the last few games as we had been and to be down points on the road in a loud building, I am proud of what we did.”

The Sixers lost their previous two games to the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors by a combined 88 points. It would have been easy for the Sixers to fold up in the last game before the extended break.

Instead, the Sixers had all five starters score in double figures. Evan Turner scored 21 points. Thaddeus Young and Michael Carter-Williams each had 19 points. Spencer Hawes had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. James Anderson added 15.

All that offense put the Sixers in position to tie the game up at 91 apiece when Carter-Williams got a tough layup and a foul with 2:10 remaining.

The Sixers' threat didn't last long, as Jazz reserve Alec Burks went on a personal 9-0 run over the next minute and a half to give them a nice-sized cushion.

Anderson drilled a trio of three-pointers in the final 18 seconds, but it wasn't enough to get the Sixers over the hump.

“It came late. I wish it would have come a little earlier,” Anderson said. “I made two but I missed another two. But it did feel good to be in a rhythm like that. I actually had my legs under me tonight. Anytime I can get my legs under me and prepare for the shot, it helps.”

The Sixers entered the game shooting 31.3 percent from three this season. That number has fallen off a cliff over the past two games, as the Sixers connected on a dismal 5 of 45 attempts from long range.

Hawes helped change the team’s three-point fortunes by hitting two long balls early in the third quarter to help prevent the game from getting out of hand.

“If that’s what the game tells you is open, then you are going to have to have some people who have the ability to make those types of shots,” Brown said. “They give such a crowd to our team in general that Spencer stepping back out of that and making bigs have to find him. That is a weapon.”

Utah had its own weapons starting with its bench. The Jazz reserves outscored the Sixers' bench, 56-10 on Wednesday. Burks did most of that damage, finishing with a game-high 26 points.

The Jazz also were plus-10 points at the foul line and plus-10 in second-chance points in the game.

The Sixers have 28 games remaining after the extended break, starting with a matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 18th at the Wells Fargo Center.

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.