Sixers-Wizards: 5 things you need to know


Sixers-Wizards: 5 things you need to know

With the winning streak gone, the 3-1 Sixers will look to bounce back on Wednesday night against the 0-3 Washington Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center.

This game could be a little tricky for the Sixers. Last Friday, the Sixers rallied from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Wizards, 109-102, in Washington’s home opener. The Sixers also withstood a first-half barrage from John Wall only to shut him down in the second half. They also faced the Wizards without veteran big man Nene, who hasn’t played since the season opener.

Here are a few storylines to keep an eye on for Wednesday night’s game:

1. MCW vs. John Wall, Part II
It was a tale of two halves last Friday for the speedy Wall. In the first half, Wall hit his first seven shots, hit 9 of 13 and had 23 points. In the second half, Wall shot 1 for 6 and had just three points.

What happened?

“We built a wall in front of him and he took a lot of shots to get going,” Sixers’ leading scorer Evan Turner said after Friday’s game. “Sometimes you use them all up. That’s pretty much it.”

Wall’s strength is his ability to get past the defense in transition. When the Sixers forced the Wizards to slow down and play a half-court offense, the shots stopped falling. Meanwhile, rookie Michael Carter-Williams was slowed by the Wizards’ defense. He had a solid performance with 14 points and five assists, but really excelled in running the Sixers’ offense.

What will round two bring?

2. Scoring in the paint
The Sixers scored an amazing 74 points in the paint last Friday. They also got 20 fast-break points, 18 second-chance points and nine offensive rebounds. Thad Young led all scorers with 29 points on 20 shots -- with just two outside of the paint.

Turner, who scored 23 points on 18 shots, made just two of them from outside of the paint and attempted just three shots longer than 14 feet.

That sums it up. The Sixers attack and run, and because of that they were able to wear down the bigger Wizards.

“We want to attack and attack. We want to get to the rim,” coach Brett Brown said after the game. “It’s not all about firing up threes, because if you look at our three-point shooting percentage, you say, ‘Oh, they’re 6 for 23 and they only shot 14 free throws and made seven. How do you win a game like that?’ So we did a good job continuing to run, and I was especially proud that they were able to run late in the game.”

The Sixers pulled off the same feat in rallying from down 20 against the Bulls on Saturday. Big teams like the Wizards and Bulls have had a difficult time keeping up with the Sixers late in games.

Expect the Sixers to try and wear down the Wizards again on Wednesday.

3. Turner’s zone
Turner is averaging a career-best 21.8 points through the early going, shooting a robust 52.3 percent from the field while converting on 19 of his 22 free throw attempts. He is second in the NBA in field goals, field goal attempts and has cracked the top 15 in league scoring average after four games.

Not a bad start for Turner.

Interestingly, Turner has found his hot spots on the floor. Of the 65 shots he has attempted this season, 51 have come from 15 feet and in. On those shots, Turner is shooting 65 percent (33 for 51).

But on shots longer than 15 feet, Turner is 1 for 14 this season, including 0 for 7 on three-pointers. That made shot was a 16-footer in the season opener against the Heat.

4. Battle of TOs
The Sixers turned it over 19 times last Friday in Washington, which led to 26 points. They committed 24 turnovers in the blowout loss to the Warriors on Monday night and have fought bouts of sloppiness throughout the exhibition and regular season.

It’s early, but the Sixers are third in the league with 76 turnovers (19 per game). They also have forced 77 turnovers, which is third-best in the league, which exemplifies the up-tempo pace.

5. This and that
• Turner has appeared in 139 consecutive regular-season games and has missed just four games in his four-year career. The last time Turner missed a game was Jan. 16, 2012, against Milwaukee when he had a quadriceps bruise.

• Along those lines, Spencer Hawes has appeared in 108 straight games. This comes after he missed 29 of 34 games with injuries during the 2011-12 season.

• The Wizards followed the loss to the Sixers with a 10-point loss to the Heat on Sunday. Bradley Beal scored 19 points to lead Washington, but shot just 6 for 14. The second-year guard is shooting 32 percent (16 for 50) this season, which underscores the Wizards’ early-season woes.

• Jan Vesely, selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 draft, has not appeared in a game this season. The 7-footer is healthy, but seems to be residing deep in coach Randy Wittman’s doghouse.

• Wittman was fined $20,000 after the game against the Sixers for cursing during the postgame press conference.

After the game, Wittman was asked about the loss and to explain what he thought was the problem.

Wittman said: “Well, you tell me what you think the problem is? You watched the game. Commitment to [expletive] playing defense. That’s what it is. That’s what it boils down to.”

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: