Sluggish Sixers struggle in rout to Cavs

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Sluggish Sixers struggle in rout to Cavs

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND — Sixers coach Brett Brown has a simple formula his team needs to follow in order to stay in games: His three veterans need to have a big night and the bench needs to perform admirably in relief.

The Sixers got the latter Tuesday night in Cleveland, but the three veterans looked like players who were playing their fifth game in seven days. It added up to a 111-93 loss to the Cavaliers (see Instant Replay), the second loss in as many days for the Sixers (12-23).

“We need our big three firing,” Brown said. “We need a bench that’s playing B, B-plus games in order to be in anything competitive. That’s the reality of our roster.”

The big three -- Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young -- combined for just 13 points. All three played limited minutes, and Young was held scoreless for the first time since 2011. He finished 0 for 7 from the floor in 21 minutes.

The Cavs, meanwhile, looked like a team that just got a new shot of life playing hours after acquiring Luol Deng from the Bulls in a trade that sent Andrew Bynum to Chicago. Deng wasn’t with the team Tuesday, but if he watched any portion of the game, he had to have liked what he saw from his new teammates.

Anderson Varejao (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Tristan Thompson (12 points, 10 rebounds) each had double-doubles. Kyrie Irving had 16 points and eight assists playing for the first time in three games.

C.J. Miles scored a game-high 34 points, making a career-high and franchise record 10 three-pointers. The Cavs as a team shot 13 for 28 from deep, as the Sixers fell victim to the poor perimeter defense that plagued them prior to their West Coast trip.

“You give him credit,” Brown said of Miles. “You most definitely give him credit. As a young team, when somebody is rolling like that, you have to be aware of where he is every second. There’s a tiny bit of that that’s on us. You have to show a level of desperation.”

It was evident the Sixers didn’t have the energy to be desperate Tuesday. Reluctant to pin Monday’s loss to Minnesota on fatigue, Brown admitted Tuesday that perhaps his team just didn’t have anything left.

“I have no idea about the team I just saw the last two nights,” Brown said. “The fatigue must have played a far greater factor than I anticipated. The team that came back from the West Coast in relation to what I have seen the last two nights from an energy standpoint is night and day.”

Aside from rookie Michael Carter-Williams, who finished with a career-high 33 points to go along six rebounds, five assists and just one turnover, the Sixers' starters lacked the stamina to stay with the Cavs.

A 14-3 Cleveland run midway through the first quarter was enough to put the Sixers away. The Cavs led by 23 at the half and the lead grew to as much as 31 in the fourth quarter.

“It’s just one of those games where you couldn’t get anything going,” Young said. “Just want to get this one pretty much behind me and move on to the next one. I think as a team we just didn’t play well.”

If the Sixers can find another bright spot outside of Carter-Williams, it might be the play of their bench. The Sixers' bench outscored the Cavs, 43-29. James Anderson (15 points), Brandon Davies (11 points) and Lorenzo Brown (12 points) provided double digits off the bench.

Other than that, it was the kind of lethargic effort that they’d just as soon forget.

“The road trip kind of caught up to us a little bit,” Young said. “It’s been tough on us the last couple weeks.”

Luckily for the Sixers, they get an off day Wednesday before preparing to host Detroit Friday.

“Yes, I do (welcome the off day),” Hawes said. “With open arms.”

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."