Sixers need group effort to fix defensive woes

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Sixers need group effort to fix defensive woes

The Sixers’ defense is broken and certainly needs fixing.

The Sixers are one of 16 NBA teams that allow at least 100 points per game. They actually give up 110.1 points per game, which is the highest in the league.

“We turn it over a lot and they run at us,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “We take quick, bad shots and they run at us. And a lot of our transition defense problems are coming from turnovers and quick, bad shots because we are so adamant at playing at a speed.

“But somewhere down the road there has to be a responsibility to play that style of play.”

The Sixers commit 17.8 turnovers per game, second-worst in the league to only the Houston Rockets.

Pushing the pace lends to committing turnovers, which has been testing the Sixers’ transition defense. Add to the fact that the Sixers do not have a defensive specialist like an Andre Iguodala and therefore their defensive success must be rooted in all five guys being in sync at all times.

“Usually, that one guy dictates a lot of things that goes on defensively,” Thaddeus Young said. “We all know ‘Dre was the guy who was going to go out and stop guys. We don’t have that one guy, so different guys have to step up each night.”

“Nobody stands out and says, ‘I am a consideration for an all-defensive team,’” Brown said. “It highlights that we need a group effort. It’s not like we have shot blockers or a perimeter stopper. Anything we do has to be done as a group and done perfectly.”

Brown could opt for his team playing a more deliberate style of basketball. That could cut down on mistakes, as well as the easy baskets being scored by the opposition.

However, that is not going to happen. Brown wants his team to play fast and score plenty of points. That hasn’t been a problem with the Sixers leading the NBA in pace (102.8 possessions per 48 minutes) and ninth in scoring (103.0 points per game).

The key is to take their minus-7.1 point differential and push that into the positive range.

“I want to persevere with this style and this way of playing,” Brown said. “Because we have seen with the group that we have and the talent base and the experience we are not going to beat those teams we have beaten playing any other way.

“I just want to coach it better. I don’t want to say now we are playing on our heels and we don’t want to run anymore because it comes with too many problems, which it does at the moment.”

Brown believes down the road his team will figure out how to blend playing an up-tempo style without being reckless.

Brown did make one tweak Sunday that he is going to stick with, at least in the short term, and that is playing rookie Hollis Thompson in the starting lineup.

“We want to sell defense, and I like his length,” Brown said of Thompson. “It is a rotation at this stage that I want to experiment with. That’s what this year is about and I see it being something we want to continue looking at.”

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.