Sixers turn in sloppy effort against Heat


Sixers turn in sloppy effort against Heat

The first time the Sixers played the Heat this year was the season opener. The Sixers won, as the Sixers and their fans remembered. The Heat remembered, too (see story). Sixers head coach Brett Brown thought that might be a motivating factor for the visitors -- that and the fact that the Heat came to Philly on a surprising three-game losing streak.

“You’re getting a very talented, angry team that’s going to go up many, many levels defensively,” Brown said before tipoff. “That is going to be a real test for our young team, because we lead the league in turnovers already, and we’re going to be faced with an angry team that prides itself on defense, that is extremely well coached, that rolls out a bunch of thoroughbreds that are going to make us pay if we’re not smart. I think that’s the nature of, in my opinion, the team we’re going to play. And that’s what makes them special.”

As Brown anticipated, the Heat looked special in their 101-86 win over the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). You know who didn’t look special? If you guessed the Sixers, you are smart and observant -- or maybe you just watched the game.

The Sixers adopted a slogan this season: “Together we build.” Friday was a good night for that, because the Sixers had all the bricks they’d ever need. The Sixers shot 36.9 from the floor (only 2.6 percent better than their lowest single-game effort this season). They hit just 2 of 20 attempts from three-point range. The math nerds among you know that works out to 10 percent -- which was the worst single-game mark this year.

Part of it -- a large part -- was the Heat defense. Miami was great defending the perimeter. But part of it was the Sixer's long-range shooting, which was broken all evening.

“More than not, I think [the Heat] do a good job chasing and contesting,” Brown said. “Only a handful of threes, I think, were poor shots where we perhaps could have driven it or early in clock. I thought we had some good looks.”


“Two for 20,” Brown continued, “is 2 for 20.”

That it is.

Making matters worse (which was hard to do, but they did it), the Sixers did not take care of the ball. If you’ve watched any Sixers hoops this year, you know that’s nothing new. The Sixers' capacity to create turnovers is staggering and unmatched.

The Sixers entered the game averaging 17.2 turnovers. If you think that’s a lot, it is. It’s the most in the NBA. On Wednesday, the Sixers committed 24 turnovers in a win over the Bobcats, which is the kind of oversized number that ought to come with its own cartoon character that shoots eyeballs attached to springs out of its face when it sees something unbelievable.

That unsightly season-long trend continued against the Heat. The Sixers turned the ball over 23 times against the Heat, which led to 25 points for Miami.

“We actually spread our turnovers around quite well,” Brown said, getting a laugh from the media assembly. “You can’t just blame it all on pace … it doesn’t give you the freedom to be reckless or irresponsible. Sometimes we’re wishing things. We’re hoping things. We’re trying to will our way into making something happen. The game tells you everything -- it’s not there.”

It wasn’t there Friday. Not the shot from distance, not the attempt to limit turnovers, not even uncontested attempts from the free throw line. The Sixers took 37 free throws and made 22. That’s 59.5 percent. Like a lot of the other stats from Friday evening, it wasn’t good.

“How about the free throw number -- 22 for 37?” Brown asked rhetorically. “Those are enormous numbers. You’d think we’d look down and say ‘we lost to the Miami Heat by 50.’”

They didn’t. It just felt that way.

Kevin Durant era begins as Warriors open vs. Tim Duncan-less Spurs

Kevin Durant era begins as Warriors open vs. Tim Duncan-less Spurs

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Kevin Durant era tips off for the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night against an opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, that both Durant and the Warriors would consider unfriendly.

After signing a two-year, $54.3 million deal to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in the offseason, Durant is expected to take his place alongside holdover Warriors standouts Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the nightcap of TNT's opening-night doubleheader (10:30 p.m. ET).

And he will do so against a Spurs team that also will sport a new look this season -- albeit one with a key piece missing.

In its quest to unseat Golden State as the two-time Western Conference champs, San Antonio will go forward without future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who retired in July after his 19th season.

Before concluding the addition of Durant and the subtraction of Duncan tilts the balance significantly in the Warriors' favor, consider this: The last four times the Spurs played Golden State without their star big man, they won two of them.

The Spurs went after Durant in free agency, then settled for Pau Gasol, who is primed to join a star-studded collection of talent himself. San Antonio returns Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard from a team that won 67 games last season.

"I wouldn't think of ourselves as the guinea pig," Gasol said Monday when asked if the Spurs saw themselves as a test experiment for Golden State's new concoction. "We have an incredible team here with a lot of talent and a lot of experience. It's going to be an interesting, challenging first game."

The Warriors feel the same way, and with good reason.

Even after winning the season series 3-1 last season, Golden State has prevailed just six times in its past 30 regular-season meetings with the Spurs.

Meanwhile, halfway across the country, Durant was having similar struggles with his Southwest Division rival. His 25.8-point career scoring average against the Spurs is lower than his mark all teams except the Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trail Blazers.

The Warriors will take the court fully aware the NBA hasn't scheduled a coming-out party for Durant on opening night.

"It'll be a really good atmosphere, obviously, and I'm sure there will be a very high level of play on both ends," Curry said. "It'll take a lot to get a win."

The Warriors did more tinkering to their record-breaking, 73-win team than adding Durant. They even plucked one of the Spurs -- David West -- with a team-friendly, $1.6 million offer that was similar to the one ($1.5 million) that lured the veteran away from the Indiana Pacers for a shot at a title in San Antonio last season.

That didn't work out as planned, as West contributed only a career-worst average of 4.0 rebounds and his lowest scoring output in 10 years (7.1 points per game) to the Spurs' quest.

So now, instead of backing up Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge as he did a year ago, he will team with Zaza Pachulia in replacing Andrew Bogut in Golden State's bid for a second championship in three seasons.

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

CAMDEN, N.J. — Toward the end of Sixers practice Monday, Joel Embiid participated in a fast-break drill … by himself.

Embiid brought the ball up the floor in a one-on-none situation against members of the Sixers' coaching staff. 

He's already showed off his three-point shooting skills and now he’s running the break? 

“I’ve always thought I was a point guard,” Embiid joked. “So that’s something that I want to do.”

In all seriousness, Embiid worked on his ball-handling skills during his two-year rehab from foot injuries. It’s not that he wants to become an unconventional point guard, it’s that he is striving to be an all-around threat. Embiid focused on recording his first assist, as an example, during the preseason. 

“I think I’m a complete player,” he said. “I think I can do everything on the court. Doing that shows I think it can help my team, too, in other aspects.” 

With running the break comes attacking the basket in traffic. It could be an anxious moment for a coach to watch a player fresh off two years of foot injuries to drive in a crowd. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he has to be past the feeling of holding his breath whenever he watches Embiid do so. 

“We are so responsible with how we use him and play him,” Brown said. “It’s like us with children. They go out for the night. You’re nervous, but they go out for the night. He plays basketball for a living, and so he plays. We’ve just got to keep putting him in responsible environments and monitoring his minutes.”

As a point guard, T.J. McConnell appreciates Embiid’s skills, especially given his size. 

“To the people that try to pick him up when he brings the ball up the floor, good luck,” McConnell said. “It’s pretty incredible to see.” 

Robert Covington watched Embiid practice his ball handling during his lengthy recovery. He has seen improvements and likes the dynamic it creates for the team on the break. 

“His handle is really tight and then he’s really strong with it as well,” Covington said. “We’re very comfortable with him pushing the ball.”

That being said, Brown isn’t about to anoint Embiid into a point-center role. He knows Embiid’s desire to be active all over the court, but just as he’s said he doesn’t intend for Embiid to become a go-to three-point shooter, he also wants Embiid to focus on his true position. 

“Joel likes to be a player,” Brown said. “He wants to be a guard. He wants to shoot a three. He wants to be a post player. He wants to play. And we all have seen enough to think he actually can. 

“There are times that he rebounds and leads a break, we want him being aware of get off it, get it to a point guard more than not. I don’t mind him coming down in trail if he’s got daylight, him shooting some. He’s got a wonderful touch and I’ve seen it for two years. 

“... All over the place, I want to grow him. I’m not just going to bucket him up. I still say, like I say to him, 'At the end of the day, you’re a seven-foot-two post player. Post player.'”

Watch Embiid running the floor here: