Sixers set franchise mark with 21st straight loss

ap-sixers-michael-carter-williams.jpg

Sixers set franchise mark with 21st straight loss

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Sixers don’t like talking about their losing streak.

After all, nobody really wants to discuss a skid that reached a franchise-record 21 games with Monday night’s 99-90 loss to the Pacers (see Instant Replay).

“If we focused on that, that would be all we would focus on,” starting center Henry Sims said after collecting 11 rebounds in the game. “We are focused on the next game.

“We played the Pacers tough. I thought this was one of the better games we played since I have been here. Losses I am not worried about. I am worried about building. We played well. How do we sustain it and build on it for the next game?”

The Sixers did play the Pacers tightly for the second time in the last four days, creeping within three points in the game’s final minutes. Still, they couldn’t get over the hump and prevent themselves from breaking the organization’s mark for consecutive losses set by the 1972-73 team.

“Worrying about a record, we don’t live in that world,” head coach Brett Brown said. “I am asked that question often and it is the truth. I don’t bring that to the locker room once. I don’t mention it to them and I don’t think about it often. You can’t help but be aware of it, but you move on.”

Despite 19 turnovers on Monday, the Sixers kept things close mainly by hustle and shooting 39.1 percent from three-point range.

Tony Wroten sliced the Sixers’ deficit to three at 88-85 with 2:51 on the clock before Sims took a charge on the next possession to give Indiana the ball back.

With a chance to cut the game to one point or even tie, Michael Carter-Williams misfired on a three-pointer. Then the rookie lost contain of George Hill on defense as the Pacer dropped in an open three from the corner to make it a six-point Indiana lead with 1:55 to play.

“We are not a team that has one guy that can take over a game,” Thaddeus Young said. “We have to play as a team. We have to play as a group. We have to figure things out together. There is no room for error. One guy messes up and the whole defense is messed up. That usually results in a layup or a wide-open shot.”

That was a rare occasion on Monday, as the Sixers limited the Pacers to 38.3 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent from long range. They did get called for 33 personal fouls, which led to 38 free throw attempts for the Pacers. But there physical presence made an impact on the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers.

“I thought Henry did a great job on [Roy] Hibbert and we did a good job on David West,” Brown said. “I thought interior-wise Sims helped us guard them inside. I thought our defense was decent.”

“We communicated and put forth a lot of effort,” Sims said. “We knew we had them at a home a few days ago and so we really wanted to come out and get this one. The reason we had them at home is because defensively we all came to play.”

When the Sixers’ defense did break down it came at the most inopportune times. Hill’s critical three-pointer was one of two that the Sixers allowed in the game’s final minutes.

“If you could make free throws and not have those mental errors at the other end with those three-point shots, then you are really in it,” Brown said. “But we look at it as another layer of learning and us trying to forge our way through this season. We point out that we can’t make those mistakes.”

Sixers intend to use Ben Simmons, Dario Saric in same lineup

Sixers intend to use Ben Simmons, Dario Saric in same lineup

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Training camp is an opportunity for Brett Brown to assess all the pieces he has available to construct the best roster possible. There are no clear-cut formulas to create the most successful lineups, not when the team has so many players that can be utilized at multiple positions. 

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Brown said Wednesday after Day 2 of training camp. “You’re going to see a bunch of different looks, blue and white. That’s part of my job. That’s part of what I’ve got to get done when we play on opening night.” 

Among these combinations is pairing Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. Given their versatility, the rookies can play multiple positions to share the court. Brown has eyed their size and skills at the two- and three-spots.

“The pluses are you have 6-10, do-alls that really can jump into a very versatile defensive world with perhaps a lot of switching,” Brown said. “I think they’re elite defensive rebounders that can rebound and lead a break and take off. ...

“The disadvantages are, you’re playing two guys out of position that’ve never played a second of NBA basketball and have never played together. It comes down to familiarity, it comes down to some type of comfort level that they’re going to have to navigate and figure out each other a little bit more.”

Saric and Simmons, like the rest of the Sixers, are learning one another’s games in training camp. Saric described Simmons’ skill set as “amazing” considering his stature and speed, noting, “I never played with somebody who’s that [many] kilograms.” 

“I think we will find a way to play together,” Saric said. “I think we can do it. Coach said most of the time we will play together. Maybe I can push the ball, he can push the ball too. ... He’s an unbelievably good passer and I think we’ll find a way how to play and I’m very happy because of that.”

Simmons entered the league touted as a point-forward. Exceeding the combo position, Simmons has played pure point at times, both on the offensive and defensive ends. He has been tapping into the Sixers' guards and veteran leader Elton Brand to help enhance his communication running the floor.

“[The] challenge is probably guarding the point guard position. They’re a lot quicker,” Simmons said. “But I also have a lot more length and strength. I think just being able to get to the rim. Also, if I have a smaller guy I can post it up.”

Saric also has ball handling skills in his arsenal. He grew up playing point guard from ages 8 to 14 before hitting a growth spurt. Saric looked up to Magic Johnson at the position. 

“To make other players happy and to make other players better, I think that’s the role of point guard,” Saric said. 

Brown will use the next four weeks as a trial period to maneuver different combinations and looks, including a towering duo of rookies.  

“Now is the time to do that," Brown said, "with the end game being whenever that type of thing happens, you have something quite special if they’re paired — when they’re paired, because I’m going to play them together — when they start really feeling each other’s game out in the environment that I've put them in a lot better."

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”