Sixers-Suns: Inside the box score


Sixers-Suns: Inside the box score

Taking a closer look at some numbers from the Sixers' 124-113 loss to the Suns at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night (see game recap):

• The Suns swept the season series with the Sixers with the win. Moreover, the Suns have 23 blocked shots in the two games against the Sixers. Those 23 blocks account for 9.6 percent of the Suns' blocks in 44 games.

• The Sixers had 12 shots blocked against the Suns, pushing their NBA-leading total to 334 shots blocked this season. The Sixers have had at least 10 shots blocked in 12 games and at least 12 shots blocked in seven games this season.

Coach Brett Brown says the Sixers’ ability to get shots in the paint has led to so many of their shots getting blocked.

“We lead the NBA in getting to the rim. I’m proud of that. We want to continue to attack,” Brown said. “But then it comes to a point where you have to realize you’re in traffic. You’re playing in traffic and we have to kick it. I love the mentality and you have to understand that it’s the NBA and you’re going into some big men who are great athletes.”

• The Sixers had three players reach 20-plus points on Monday night. Michael Carter-Williams led the way with 22 (and 11 assists), while Evan Turner and Thad Young both scored 21. Spencer Hawes added 18 points.

• The Suns shot 53.8 percent from the floor against the Sixers. This season, the Suns are 9-0 when they shoot better than 50 percent and the Sixers are 1-8 when allowing the opposition to shoot better than 50 percent.

• Both teams committed 20 turnovers. The Sixers have forced teams to commit 20-plus turnovers in 12 games this season after doing it just six times last year. They also have committed 20-plus turnovers in 12 games this season after committing the second-fewest number of turnovers last season.

• The Sixers allowed 11 steals in the loss to the Suns. In doing so, the Sixers are the first team to allow 10-plus blocks and 10-plus steals in the same game six times since Atlanta did it in 2004-05.

• The Sixers shot a season-best 25 for 26 from the foul line against the Suns. Carter-Williams was perfect on seven attempts while Turner went 6 for 6. The Sixers have not shot better than 96 percent from the foul line since going 26 for 27 against Cleveland on Jan. 24, 2007.

• The Sixers are 14-11 when Turner scores 20-plus points.

Brett Brown says Ben Simmons will return in January

Brett Brown says Ben Simmons will return in January

Ben Simmons is on track to return to the Sixers in January, Brett Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday. 

Previous reports indicated that Simmons, who suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot in the Sixers' final training camp scrimmage on Sept. 30, would be out three months. Friday's news jives with that, but this is the first time the Sixers have given a timetable.

"It's not doom and gloom," Brown said. "Ben is coming back in January. We are still trying to find information on Jerryd (Bayless). Jahlil (Okafor) is still trying to touch the court in his first preseason game."

With long-term ramifications in mind, there had been some speculation that Simmons' camp wanted him to sit all season. 

This is rather encouraging news and it means the Sixers may avoid watching another of their top picks miss his entire first year.

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

The Sixers struggled to carve a clear role for Jahlil Okafor last season as he and Nerlens Noel split time out of position in the frontcourt. Brett Brown has a more clear picture of how to utilize Okafor in his second year, highlighted by goals and a shift to the bench. 

Okafor has been sidelined from preseason action because of his right knee. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in March and aggravated it during the final training camp scrimmage. 

Okafor said he felt “pretty sore” after scrimmaging Monday, his first since camp, and he was better after going through individualized training and work in the water on Tuesday. This setback has forced him to exercise patience. 

“I know I told you guys I wasn’t frustrated a few weeks ago, but at this point it has been frustrating because I’ve been doing all the right stuff and I want to see me back out there sooner,” Okafor said after practice Thursday. “But I can’t rush my body, I can’t rush my health. ... I would love to have the opportunity to be there for opening night and play in front of our fans. Right now it’s looking like that’s probable."

The Sixers plan to use Okafor in a reserve role to start the season. Okafor expects to be on a 12- to 15-minute restriction, similar to Joel Embiid, when he is cleared to play. 

“I think about it all the time, but I talk to him. We’ve talked about this for months,” Brown said of Okafor's coming off the bench. “It’s not anything that is going to surprise anybody. He’s been fantastic. ... I talked with Jahlil about a lot of things and that could be, to start the year it will be, a scenario.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, started 48 of his 53 games last season. He is approaching this year with realistic expectations given his restrictions and is not concerned about being out of the starting five. 

“I’ll be fine,” Okafor said. “That won’t be a tough adjustment for me. I came off the bench a couple of times last year.”

Brown’s focus is not necessarily on how Okafor starts the game, but how he finishes. He would like Okafor and Embiid to be able to play together at the end of games to give the team a fourth-quarter boost.

“If it ends up you’ve got Jahlil coming off the bench and he’s going against backup five men, you think you probably have an advantage there,” Brown said. “If he does anything, he scores the ball, he scores buckets, he gets points. You can see how that can be a really nice role for him and for us.”

Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season with 17.5 points per game. Brown, though, is focusing on his defensive improvements. The Sixers are looking to play an uptempo system in which they will need Okafor to hustle on defense each possession. Okafor slimmed down and added muscle this summer to prepare for the season. 

“He has to be elite in two areas to me,” Brown said. “Transition defense first — A-plus-plus-plus, get back. If you’re tired, if you’ve got to conserve energy, it’s not that way. It’s running back on offense. We have to get him back on defense.

“Then he has to be better skilled, better drilled by me, [a] high level of accountability with pick-and-roll defense. ... You can go over to defensive rebounding (as) a close third, but those two things happen the most.”

Okafor expects to be more effective on the defensive end after getting adjusted to it as a rookie. 

“(I want) to be smarter on defense, knowing where to be,” Okafor said. “My first year playing in the NBA, it was just a lot going on. Everybody was so fast.” 

Brown sees a focused 20-year-old who is more disciplined and ready to embrace whatever role he is given this season. 

“I can’t wait to coach him this year," Brown said. "I think he’s going to come back and have a great year. His body tells me that, his attitude tells me that. He’s in a good place personally."