Sixers' Moultrie inches closer to season debut

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Sixers' Moultrie inches closer to season debut

Prior to the Sixers’ loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday, Brett Brown’s team had been outrebounded 173-120 in its previous three games.

The Knicks won the rebounding battle, 39-38, on their way to a 102-92 victory in the game.

Brown knows rebounding has been an issue for the Sixers lately and insists help is on the way.

“We are always looking at players and try to figure ways to fix it and identifying people and making it work,” Brown said after Monday’s practice at PCOM. “Inevitably, I am going to need some help, whether it is Arnett [Moultrie] getting back or Lavoy [Allen] getting healthy or filling Daniel’s [Orton] spot. We look at all those things.”

Moultrie may be the option for Brown. The second-year big man had left ankle surgery on Sept. 26. He finally received a clean bill of health and continues to ramp up his conditioning for a return to game action.

“My ankle is fully healed,” Moultrie said after playing five-on-five Tuesday. “I did a hop test today, which I passed, and I felt good today in practice and now it is up to me to get the offense and defensive schemes down and all the different calls.

“Whatever coach wants me to do, that is what I am going to do. Right now it is all in his hands. When he feels like I am ready I understand he is going to throw me right in the fire, so I am patiently waiting for that.”

A year ago, Moultrie appeared in in 47 games for the Sixers. The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder scored in double figures five times and had one double-double.

Moultrie, 23, says he will be ready on Wednesday when the Sixers host Charlotte. However, Brown wasn’t ready to declare that the big man would play against Bobcats.

“He is starting to get in game type of shape and get his weight down and I thought he looked good today. But he is still a far ways off,” Brown said.

Moultrie may not return Wednesday night, but when he does there will be no restrictions from the head.

“It is ready, fire, aim,” Brown said. “Just get in there and go. We will figure it out as we move along because, yes, we do need some big bodies. As you start playing NBA games, especially the big NBA games, you feel very small very often.”

While Moultrie is looking good, Allen remains on the sideline with a right calf strain. Allen has missed the last two games because of the injury and did not participate in Tuesday’s practice.

“He is not ready to return and I don’t know when he will be able to,” Brown said. “Personally, I have learned over the years that you take a wrong path and get too aggressive you could set him back past All-Star break not a problem. You have to be smart with a calf injury.”

Allen played in the first 35 games of the season, averaging 5.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.5 minutes a game.

Sixers-Nuggets 5 things: Defense needs to improve to stop skid

Sixers-Nuggets 5 things: Defense needs to improve to stop skid

The Sixers (4-16) close out their four-game homestand against the Denver Nuggets (7-13) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night (7 p.m./CSN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Missing the stop sign
Apparently, tis the season for giving up points.

The Sixers' defense folded again in their latest loss, a 107-106 defeat to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. The Sixers have allowed 107.8 points per game this season (25th in the NBA) and 109.1 during their six-game losing skid.

The Sixers let All-Star Isaiah Thomas do the damage on Saturday as he scored 37 points to become the fifth point guard to reach the 30-point plateau against them this season.

On the other side, the Nuggets' defense has actually been even worse. They rank 27th in the league with 109.5 points allowed per game.

2. Hello again
With Joel Embiid also making his debut this season, Dario Saric was always going to play second fiddle when it came to rookies on the Sixers' roster. That has certainly been the case now that Embiid has been putting up dominant numbers while Saric has been up and down.

However, Saric was on the same level as his fellow rookie against the Celtics. The Croatian broke out of a recent slump to notch a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, which both matched career highs.

That performance also included this highlight-reel moment when Saric destroyed Jonas Jerebko's ankles (see video).

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said (see story). “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

3. Clean the glass
The Sixers will need a similar effort from Saric on the boards if they want to compete with the Nuggets.

Denver is the No. 1 rebounding team in the entire NBA with 49.6 rebounds per game. The Nuggets attack the glass on both ends, too, as they are tops in defensive rebounding and No. 2 in offensive rebounding.

The offensive boards are also a main reason Denver sits third in second-chance points with 15.6 a night.

None of that bodes well for a Sixers team that rates just 20th overall in rebounding.

4. Injuries
Jahlil Okafor (gastroenteritis) is questionable. Robert Covington (knee/illness), Jerryd Bayless (wrist), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

Nikola Jokic (wrist) and Gary Harris (foot) are out for the Nuggets.

5. This and that
• The Sixers lost both meetings with the Nuggets last season by a combined four points.

• Monday's game will feature both players who won the NBA's Rookie of the Month awards in Embiid and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. Embiid is averaging 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 23.2 minutes per game. Murray is putting up 9.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 21.7 minutes a night.

• In seven career games against the Sixers, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried has averaged 7.6 points and 6.9 rebounds. Those are actually his lowest and third-lowest marks, respectively, against any NBA team.

Joel Embiid to play Monday vs. Nuggets; Jahlil Okafor questionable (illness)

Joel Embiid to play Monday vs. Nuggets; Jahlil Okafor questionable (illness)

CAMDEN, N.J. -- In following with his back-to-back plan, Joel Embiid will play Monday against the Nuggets at home and will not play Tuesday against the Grizzlies in Memphis. Embiid will be on a 28-minute restriction, established last week. 

"Obviously I wanted to play against Memphis," Embiid said after shootaround Monday. "Marc Gasol, great guy to play against. I wanted to do that but we've got Denver, especially at home. I know the fans that want to see team, that want to see me play. So that was a big factor into choosing, deciding to play this game."

The Sixers may be without fellow big Jahlil Okafor, who missed shootaround because of illness. He is questionable for Monday's game. 

Robert Covington will miss his second straight game with a left knee sprain. He also has flu-like symptoms. He will not travel to Memphis or New Orleans. 

Jerryd Bayless also remains sidelined with left wrist soreness. His status to join the team for the next two games on the road is questionable. 

Nerlens Noel, who is rehabbing with the Sixers, will not join the team on trip.