Sixers ride strong start to road win over Hawks

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Sixers ride strong start to road win over Hawks

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA -- Sixers head Doug Collins spent a significant amount of time during Thursday’s practice at Georgia Tech in conversation with two of his young leaders -- Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.

It was not a talk about blame. Instead, it was an exchange about the importance of starting games right and not easing into a contest. The coach shared statistics and examples with the players to explain the importance of a quality start.

That message appeared to certainly sink in with Holiday, Turner and the entire team as the Sixers scored 40 points in the first quarter en route to a 101-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers’ 40 points in the first period were a season high for the team in a quarter this season. They also shot 73 percent and had 10 assists on 16 made field goals in that dominant opening frame.

“We were just really, really sharp,” Collins said. “I thought Evan came with a very good first quarter. I thought Jrue did even though he didn’t score that much. Thad (Young) was active, Spencer (Hawes) and Damien (Wilkins).

“I mean it really set the tone for the game and then we found a way to close it out. It wasn’t pretty at the end. That is a really good road win for us against a playoff team.”

Getting off to a good start was particularly important for Holiday, who was trying to put Wednesday’s 2-for-24 shooting nightmare behind him.

Holiday connected on 2 of 3 shots in the first quarter for four points to go along with four assists.

The All-Star point guard did struggle again overall from the field, evidenced by his final line of 3-for-14 shooting for just nine points. However, Holiday’s ability to set the pace of the game early and get everyone involved put the team on the right track.

“I am not sure if I really had that good of a start. It was me more trying to facilitate and getting other guys going,” Holiday said. “Again, just getting into the paint. Sometimes when you see the numbers they can either hurt your feelings or you see it as criticism and you learn from it.”

The Sixers rode that fast start to a 13-point halftime advantage. They increased that total to as much as 19 points in the third quarter, mainly behind a good performance from Turner.

Turner scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game.

“We won and that is always fun,” Turner said. “We all played well. Everyone contributed and that helps a lot.”

“I thought this was the best game Evan has played in a while,” Collins said. “He was really sharp and it makes me feel good because I spent a lot of time with he and Jrue sitting around and talking at the practice facility, talking about getting yourself prepared to play, especially coming down the stretch.”

The Sixers sputtered in the late stretches of the game, but they were able to put it away thanks to their balance.

Hawes (19 points and 12 rebounds), Young (14 points and 13 rebounds) and Wilkins (16 points) each seemed to come up with a key play when the Sixers needed it to help secure the win.

"These games are important for us," Collins said. "I've got young players. Little things that you keep teaching, that's why we're going to coach and teach and play these games to the finish."

The Sixers return to the court on Saturday in Miami against the Eastern Conference-leading Heat.

Expect Sixers to take cautious approach with Ben Simmons

Expect Sixers to take cautious approach with Ben Simmons

Expect the Sixers to take a cautious approach when determining Ben Simmons’ return to the court.

Simmons will undergo surgery to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot, according to a league source. No date has been set for the surgery. On Friday, Simmons rolled his ankle during the final training camp scrimmage. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Sixers believe Simmons has an acute injury that is not related to his weight, which is up to 250 pounds.

The Sixers placed a heavy emphasis on maintaining health and preventing re-injuries during camp. That focus will continue into the regular season. They implemented load management, in which they allocate the best use of a player’s designated minutes. 

The approach was applied to Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, as they entered the preseason coming off of injuries. Embiid, who is nearing his NBA debut, had been sidelined the past two years with foot injuries. Okafor underwent season-ending right knee surgery last March. Both are slated to play Oct. 4 in the preseason opener. Gerald Henderson also followed load management for rest.  

“There are more variables going on pre-practice,” Brett Brown said Friday. “Before we design our practices and figure out how we’re going to maneuver through the day, the first thing we always do is we put on a digital projector a depth chart and we have the medical staff behind us talking about the circumstances of each player and the restrictions that each player has. 

“Once you understand that world, then you go over to the practice plan and you say, ‘How do you want to spend your money?’ I don’t want to use Joel’s minutes up in a lot of small drills when I could spend it easily and more wisely playing.”

Following this plan, Embiid, Okafor and Henderson did not participate in all of the scrimmages. When they did, Brown utilized Embiid and Okafor in spurts instead of long stretches. 

“Four-minute clumps and really trying to test themselves,” Brown said. “Let’s learn a little bit before we play the Celtics. Let’s just go as hard as you possibly can, let’s see what that means.”

The mapped-out formula allows the players to gauge how they assert their energy on the court. The Celtics took a similar approach with Kevin Garnett during the 2011-12 season. Doc Rivers implemented a “5-5-5” plan in which Garnett played in three five-minute spurts. 

“You kind of know the rhythm you are going to have,” Okafor said. “I think that’ll make it easier for myself and I’m sure for Jo as well knowing that we have four minutes to go as hard as we can, to make an impact on the game, and then we have a sub.” 

The Sixers assessed the length of these segments by comparing them to real-game situations. They want the scrimmage setting to simulate the flow regular season contest. The Sixers are looking to feature an uptempo this season and ranked first in the NBA last season with a total of 1,427.4 miles run. 

“With our sports science program, we’re designing our practice on trips,” Brown said. “How many trips does a normal NBA game have before there’s a stoppage in play? You see, it’s about six, seven trips. You’ve got to go for that … We’re very calculated on how we design our practice to reflect the true pace of a game.”

While there is the eagerness of players to make a comeback as quickly as possible, following the team’s carefully constructed recovery timeline is critical to prevent the reoccurance of injuries. Embiid better understands the importance of waiting after undergoing two surgeries. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab … the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor told me you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to people have to say.”

The Sixers drafted Simmons to be a centerpiece of their team for the future, not just this season. It is worth being careful early on to help him be healthy down the road. 

Source: Ben Simmons will undergo surgery for foot injury

Source: Ben Simmons will undergo surgery for foot injury

UPDATED: 5:10 p.m.

Ben Simmons will need surgery and the theory that his recent weight gain caused his injury appears to be false.

According to a league source, the rookie will undergo surgery next week for a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot, which was first reported by ESPN's Marc Stein. There is no specific date set for the surgery, according to the source. 

The Sixers believe Simmons suffered an "acute injury" not related to his adding over 30 pounds of muscle. He rolled his ankle after landing on the foot of Shawn Long, Stein reported, during the last scrimmage of training camp. 

Per Stein, Simmons’ advisors have consulted with Cleveland Clinic foot specialist Brian Donley in addition to the Sixers’ physicians. 

Simmons played at LSU at 217 pounds and was up to 238 before the draft. On media day, he said he was up to 250. A focus quickly shifted to Simmons’ weight, but Simmons reportedly actually was six pounds lighter at 244 pounds to start camp.

The news of surgery is a little disappointing. As a guest on SportsNet Central, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Schwartz, who is not treating Simmons, gave some insight into what a fracture to the fifth metatarsal could mean. Surgery could mean a lengthy recovery, according to Schwartz. If it is the dreaded Jones fracture, it'll be tough to know Simmons' timetable.

"The prognosis is still good, but we know that Kevin Durant had a Jones fracture and he was out for an entire season because of it not healing," Schwartz said. "But the prognosis is good, however, the question is whether it's going to require surgery or not."

Schwartz said that surgery would involve inserting a screw to repair the fracture.

With how the Sixers have handled their prospects in the past and the way they've been cautious with the likes of second-year player Jahlil Okafor, they'll likely be conservative when assessing Simmons' possible return.