Sixers top shorthanded Heat in season finale

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Sixers top shorthanded Heat in season finale

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MIAMI -- The game may have appeared meaningless, but don’t say that to Sixers head coach Brett Brown or the players in his locker room.

With their 100-87 victory over the shorthanded Miami Heat on the final day of NBA’s the regular season, the Sixers closed out the year on a two-game winning streak (see Instant Replay).

During a season in which they endured a brutal 26-game skid to tie the NBA record for consecutive loss, the Sixers will gladly take any win they can get their hands on.

“We went out there and played as a team, played collectively and had fun playing basketball,” Thaddeus Young said after the Sixers finished the season 19-63, the third-worst record in franchise history.

With the Heat already locked in as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, they decided to rest stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

However, the Sixers weren’t able to take advantage of those absences until the third quarter. They outscored the Heat 29-15 during the frame and held Miami to just five made baskets in extending their four-point halftime lead to 18.

The Sixers increased their advantage to 21 points before allowing the Heat to dwindle it down to seven. But the Sixers made the right plays down the stretch to hold on for the win.

“To their credit, they found a way to navigate through that without me having to call a timeout,” Brown said. “I thought the energy that those guys came out with to end their season the way that they did confirms the character I have said they have from day one. They found a way to stay together and play hard most nights and tonight they did that.”

Michael Carter-Williams didn’t have the best shooting night (3 for 10), but he still managed to leave an imprint on the game. He scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists.

Overall, Carter-Williams finishes his first professional season averaging 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.9 steals a game, all tops among rookies.

MCW wasn’t the only Sixer to have a strong year. Thaddeus Young averaged a career- and team-high 17.9 points per game.

Not to mention a host of other Sixers that bounced around or were viewed as castoffs who spent all season proving they could play at the game’s highest level.

No matter what the public ends up remembering about this particular Sixers team, those within the locker room are just happy everyone remained a tight-knit group throughout the struggles.

“We kept playing with each other and really stuck together, which I think is great,” Carter-Williams said. “It takes a lot of character to do that, to not give up and let the season get out of hand. I applaud my teammates and coaches for that.”

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

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Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”