Sixers top Kings to finally earn back-to-back wins

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Sixers top Kings to finally earn back-to-back wins

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After two months and nine missed opportunities, the Sixers have finally done it.

After their 89-80 victory over the Sacramento Kings at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night (see Instant Replay), the 76ers feel as though they have turned a corner.

“Two in a row,” head coach Doug Collins said. “Finally.”

And why not? For a change the schedule seems to have broken in their favor. After taking care of Washington and Sacramento, the Sixers (20-26) do not play again until Monday night when the lowly Orlando Magic come to town.

Orlando has won just twice in its last 21 games.

Perhaps the Sixers have regained their winning ways as the All-Star break and trade deadline loom. Though they remain three games behind Boston for the No. 8 playoff spot, things are looking up. Andrew Bynum is expected to play in actual basketball games this month, and there are only four games on the road until March 3.

Still, the DVD of Friday’s victory is not one that will be shipped to the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. In fact, there are parts of it, particularly in the third quarter, which will be mulled over intensely in Saturday’s film session. Most notably, there was the 19-point lead that the Sixers ever so slowly gave back to the Kings. From the 7:31 mark of the third quarter to its close, the Kings went on a 24-10 run. Then, to start the fourth quarter, the Kings actually took the lead by a point with 10:35 to go in the game.

“We didn’t finish the quarter very well,” Collins said. “We had 20 turnovers and we’ve got to clean that up. We can’t turn it over like that. We just make it too hard for ourselves.”

Fortunately for the Sixers, the Kings’ run ended almost as soon as they took the lead. After Thad Young drilled an 18-footer with 9:50 left for the Sixers to regain the lead, the Kings missed their next nine shots and closed the game on a 2-for-15 skid.

Actually, the Kings shot 3 for 19 in the fourth quarter, which included 3 for 14 in the paint and 0 for 5 from everywhere else.

Is that good defense or bad offense?

“We were getting shots, getting stops and maybe they were missing shots,” Jrue Holiday said. “Again, I think in the third quarter, they had a lot of fast break points and we kind of kept that up. It kind of came down to our defense. The last couple minutes we played defense really well.”

Regardless, a win is a win is a win and the Sixers aren’t after style points. It’s a good thing, too, considering the Sixers committed 20 turnovers, with Holiday the all-star accounting for eight of them.

Additionally, center Sencer Hawes grabbed just one rebound in 26 minutes while shooting 4 for 13 from the floor, and Evan Turner shot 3 for 9 in 31 minutes to go with just seven points off the bench.

But Nick Young scored 20 points on 12 shots, and Holiday got his points -- 21 of them -- on 9-for-17 shooting. Better yet, Thad Young turned in his 12th double-double of the season, piling up 23 points and 15 rebounds, taking advantage of the Kings’ choice to attack the Sixers with a small lineup.

“When they went small, I kept Thad in the game,” Collins said. “I thought that was key because Thad could guard [Sacramento’s guards]. I don’t know if he would want me to match small or not, but we left Thad out there. Thad could play the perimeter and I think he had six or eight points in one stretch just ducking in and around the basket. That was very important for us.”

After a week in which Thad Young was matched up against Carmelo Anthony, Zach Randolph and Nene, an evening in which he didn’t have to hang out in the paint was welcomed.

Next up, the Sixers have an open practice at the The Palestra at 11 a.m. on Saturday before taking off on Sunday. That sets up a week in which Orlando, Indiana and Charlotte visit the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s see if the Sixers can put some more wins together.

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley is jumping on the Sixers bandwagon.

"I think the Sixers gonna get really good, really quickly, but it all depends on (Joel) Embiid," Barkley said. "They're not gonna win a championship the next couple years, but I think they can really become a perrenial playoff team in the next three years."

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. There are a lot of "ifs" according to Barkley. 

Most of those "ifs" ride on the health of center Joel Embiid. If the big man gets healthy, and the Sixers can resolve the "glutton of big guys," Barkley likes the Sixers chances.

"I think the most important thing they need to figure out is if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. ... I like (Jahlil) Okafor and I like (Nerlens) Noel, but they gotta figure out if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. 

"I like Ben Simmons, but that team's got a long way to go," Barkley said.

To hear more of Barkley's thoughts on the Sixers' future, watch the full video above. 

 

 

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

The Spurs have been one of the most consistent NBA teams for nearly 20 years. They have made 19 consecutive postseason trips and won five championships during that span. 

The Sixers, on the other hand, are entering a phase of building a new foundation with a group of young players. They are working to improve upon a 10-win season, let alone making the playoffs.

Yet four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili saw more than records when weighing his options in free agency. The veteran point guard looked to the Sixers sidelines and was intrigued.

Head coach Brett Brown previously worked in the Spurs basketball operations department and on the coaching staff under Gregg Popovich. He was part of four championship teams in San Antonio. When the Sixers approached Ginobili this offseason, he gave them consideration before returning to the Spurs, where he has spent his entire 14-year career.

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical on Thursday. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

The Sixers reportedly offered Ginobili, 38, a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal worth around $30 million. The Spurs first offered him a one-year, $3 million contract. Ginobili ended up re-signing with the Spurs for one-year, $14 million. 

“It was not my main option. I never wanted to leave San Antonio,” Ginobili said. “But I had to listen to all the options that are there.”

Ginobili averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes coming off the bench last season. The Sixers are adding veteran leadership, and Ginobili is one of the most experienced in the game. In addition to his reliability at the position, he could have been a mentor to the entire team and worked with Ben Simmons to help hone his point guard skills as the rookie big man plays point-forward. His years of international competition would have gelled with incoming players such as Dario Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Sergio Rodriguez. 

The Sixers signed point guards Jerryd Bayless (three years, $27 million) and Rodriguez (one year, $8 million) this summer. T.J. McConnell and Kendall Marshall still are under contract. Last season's starting point guard Ish Smith signed with the Pistons at the start of free agency.