Sixers' sloppy defense exposed in loss to Bobcats

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Sixers' sloppy defense exposed in loss to Bobcats

BOX SCORE

CHARLOTTE -- The Sixers’ defense is in desperate need of improvement.

That much was evident once again in Friday night’s 105-88 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats (see Instant Replay). The Sixers allowed 36 points in the first quarter and 62 in the first half on the way to suffering their eighth consecutive loss on the road, dropping their record to 7-13.

“I feel like that whole first half was not good defensively,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “We scored, but we have to find ways to individually and team-wise improve defensively or it is going to be a really long year.”

“We have to start off games better defensively,” Tony Wroten said. “We played good defense in the second half like coach said, but we have to play it for 48 minutes. We can’t let teams get 36 or 40 points in the first quarter. It is going to be hard to win games like that.”

Brown has been saying the same thing about his team’s defense from the start of the season. He’s repeatedly pointed out that some of the Sixers’ defensive deficiencies have to do with the team's makeup and style of play. Still, the coach knows opponents are onto the club’s clear weakness and it will only get worse after allowing the NBA’s lowest-scoring team to put up 105 points.

“Al Jefferson was 6 for 21. That wasn’t our problem,” Brown said. “It was more catching that first dribble, guarding that first dribble. The perimeter people did a really good job of exposing some problems that we have to fix.”

While big men have been an issue for the Sixers lately, holding Jefferson to 14 points on an inefficient 28.5 percent shooting has to be considered a small win. It was the team’s effort on other players slashing to the basket that prevented them from an actual victory.

The Bobcats scored 16 of their 22 fast-break points in the first half, while the Sixers totaled 10 for the game. The Bobcats also put up 56 points in the paint en route to shooting 46.2 percent from the field.

“My concern is how easily they scored in the first half and the way that they did it,” Brown said.

Things were particularly bad for the Sixers in the second quarter. They allowed a three-point deficit to balloon to 11 when they were outscored in the frame, 26-18.

The Sixers never really threatened the Bobcats after that point, although Wroten did his part to try and make it a game.

With Michael Carter-Williams not making the trip because of a sore right knee, Wroten took advantage of the opportunity to be in the starting lineup. He scored a game-high 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out eight assists.

Wroten is averaging 19.5 points, 6.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds in five starts this season.

“You rely on the starters to set the tempo,” Wroten said. “Since I was starting, I just figured I had to be aggressive.”

“You give him the ball and the lights come on and there is a player that’s engaged,” Brown said. “You try to put him in environments that he can use that attack mentality and tap into what he can bring to the team.

“His challenge is going to be, well, if I am not the starting point guard and I don’t get thirty-something minutes, how do I evolve into a solid NBA player?”

The Sixers get right back at it Saturday night when they face the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets will also be on the second game of a back-to-back set after losing to the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

Best of NBA: Magic overcome Wall's 52 points to beat Wizards

Best of NBA: Magic overcome Wall's 52 points to beat Wizards

WASHINGTON -- Elfrid Payton scored 22 of his season-high 25 points in the first half and the Orlando Magic overcame John Wall's 52-point performance to beat the Washington Wizards, 124-116 on Tuesday night.

Wall had the highest-scoring game of his career and kept Washington in it with 33 points in the second half as the Wizards cut the lead below 10 in the fourth quarter. The guard made 18 of 31 from the field and added eight assists.

Payton went 8 for 8 from the field and 3 for 3 from the line off the bench in that first half, nearly matching his previous season best of 23 points in the first two quarters alone. Payton finished 9 for 12 and handed out nine assists.

Orlando won its third straight game and its 124 points were a season high (see full recap).

Spurs trounce Timberwolves to reach 13-0 on the road
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and the San Antonio Spurs improved to 13-0 on the road this season with a 105-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

Leonard hit 11 of 15 shots after not scoring at all in the first quarter and Patty Mills scored 15 points off the bench for the Spurs (18-4), who played without Tony Parker after he bruised his left knee against Milwaukee on Wednesday night. San Antonio overcame a slow start to shoot 52.7 percent.

The Spurs moved past the 1969-70 New York Knicks to take sole possession of the second-best road start to begin a season in NBA history. The Golden State Warriors started 14-0 last year.

Zach LaVine scored 25 points for the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns had 11 points and 14 rebounds, but shot just 3 of 16 (see full recap).

Anthony, Knicks blow past depleted Heat
MIAMI -- Carmelo Anthony matched a season high with 35 points, and the New York Knicks beat the injury-ravaged Miami Heat 114-103 on Tuesday night.

Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points and 12 rebounds for New York, which is three games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2012-13 season. The Knicks lost Derrick Rose to back spasms in the third quarter.

Goran Dragic scored 29 points and Hassan Whiteside finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Heat, who fell to 2-8 at home.

The teams were tied at 68 late in the third quarter, when the Knicks went on a 27-13 run over the next eight minutes to take control. Anthony finished 13 for 27 from the field, and Porzingis and Joakim Noah combined for 22 rebounds (see full recap).

Sixers' gutsy effort not enough in tight loss to Grizzlies

Sixers' gutsy effort not enough in tight loss to Grizzlies

BOX SCORE

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The ice bucket where his feet were chilling, the ice bags on both knees, the tired, almost resigned look on his face — and the very full stat line — were proof positive that Ersan Ilyasova gave it everything he had, and then some, Tuesday night for the Sixers.

Yet in the end — again — it was not enough to keep Memphis' All-Star bigs, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, from pummeling their way to a ninth straight win over the Sixers, 96-91, before 13,521 at FedEx Forum (see Instant Replay).

Both teams were in the second game of back-to-backs. Both benches were severely depleted by injuries and illness. Randolph had not played since a double-overtime win in Philadelphia Nov. 23, just hours before his mother suddenly died. Star point guard Mike Conley is out with two fractured vertebra, leaving the point to a pair of rookies.

On the Sixers’ side, rookie star Joel Embiid was tethered to the bench for mandatory rest in the second game of a back-to-back. Jahlil Okafor (illness), Nerlens Noel (knee), Jerryd Bayless (wrist) and, of course, Ben Simmons (foot) were all out.

The Sixers had lost seven straight since that first meeting with the Grizzlies this season at the Wells Fargo Center.

Ilyasova did his part that night with season highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds. Thin up front on Tuesday, Brown relied on Ilyasova’s tenacity inside along with the ability of the veteran and Dario Saric to hit the three and drive to the hoop. Ilyasova, a pending free agent from Turkey, stepped up again with 23 points, including four threes, 17 boards, four assists and two blocks.

“That’s the only way we’re going to win,” Ilyasova said. “Come out with more energy and give it 110 percent. That, and play smart.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown said, “There is a toughness to him. He’s an acquired assassin. He goes about his business. He does it without emotion.”

Saric added 17 points, including the trey that helped give the Sixers a 77-76 lead after three quarters and the bucket that put them up, 91-89, with less than two minutes to play.

Gasol, coming off a triple-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds and as many assists in a double-OT win at New Orleans on Monday, had 26 points and 12 boards. Randolph struggled until the fourth quarter. He parked down low for eight of his 12 points in the frame. Randolph also finished with 14 rebounds and had a loving crowd wanting to give him a giant bear hug.

“He rebounds in his sleep,” Brown said of Z-Bo. “Any 50-50 balls that are close to the rim … he’s done that his whole life. … Zach and Marc are obviously NBA veterans very capable of closing out games.”

The Sixers, who stayed in the game by hitting 14 of 41 three-point tries, had two of their 16 turnovers in the final 1:06. They also hit just 13 of 26 free throws, were outrebounded, 53-45, and outscored in the paint, 52-34.

“We’ve got to play smarter and take care of little things like free throws and the glass,” Ilyasova said.

Still, Randolph left the door open. With the Grizzlies up 94-91, he missed two free throws with nine seconds left. The Sixers set up Nik Stauskas (12 points) for a left-wing three. But he missed the shot and was 1 of 8 from distance on the night.

“I got a really good look, it just didn’t fall,” Stauskas said. “That’s been the theme the last two years. We fight, we fight and things just don’t go our way. We make a few mistakes and teams capitalize.”

The Grizzlies came through again in “clutch time” and are now 11-0 in games decided by five points or less or that reached overtime. 

The Sixers are 4-18 for the season and losers of eight straight going into Thursday’s game at New Orleans.

Brown said he told his team after the loss that the group “showed tremendous character. Fourth game in five nights. We came down with nine guys, are playing a tough, playoff, hard Memphis team. We had a chance to win the game and I was proud of their effort.”

Still, Stauskas said effort without results “gets old. It really gets old.”