Turner snaps Sixers' skid with OT buzzer-beater

slideshow-sixers-team-uspresswire.jpg

Turner snaps Sixers' skid with OT buzzer-beater

BOX SCORE

It’s no coincidence that the Sixers’ seven-game losing streak ended when rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams returned from a seven-game absence.

Carter-Williams is what makes the Sixers go and it was proven in the 121-120 overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night (see Instant Replay).

Posting 15 points, 10 assists and three steals in his first game back, Carter-Williams was the first one to grab Evan Turner after his driving layup bounced on the rim three times before rolling through for the game-winner at the buzzer.

“It felt like it bounced on the rim 150 times,” Turner said. “I got a couple of good rolls. The basketball gods were looking out for me.”

Turner was ready in case the gods had forsaken him, too. If the ball would have rolled off the rim, Turner said (jokingly) that he was, “just thinking of my reaction if it didn't go in, who I was going to punch.”

Yes, that’s what a long losing streak can do to an 8-19 team.

“We needed to get that win for the sanity of the group, keeping our group together, holding hope,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “For those reasons, as that ball is hanging on a rim and then decides to fall in, for us, given where we are, that is an important win.”

Less of a coincidence is the way players like Turner, Thad Young and Tony Wroten performed with the rookie point guard back in the lineup. With Carter-Williams commanding the ship, there was less of a burden for others to match his production.

As if they could.

“I think he helps Evan and I think he helps everyone,” Brown said about Carter-Williams.

That’s especially the case for Friday night’s hero, Turner. Without the point guard on the floor, Turner shot 38 for 105 (36.2 percent) from the field and scored 13.3 points per game with 12 combined points in the last two epic losses.

But Friday night, Turner was a force, shooting 13 for 22 for a game-high 29 points and 10 rebounds. Turner made his first eight shots to pace the Sixers through the first half, but it was the last two that were the most important.

Turner hit a three-pointer from the corner with 3:12 remaining in overtime to give the Sixers a one-point lead. It was a lead that grew to four points when Young buried a three from the same spot with 2:03 to go.

But four straight misses coupled with a long jumper from Deron Williams and a three-pointer from Paul Pierce left the Sixers down to their last shot.

Afterwards, in the victorious locker room, the Sixers expressed a lot of relief that the losing skid was over. Considering that the team lost to the Nets at the Barclays Center by 36 points just two days after losing by 34 to Portland, Brown thought his team showed a lot of heart.

Maybe heart was all the Sixers had left.

Take Young, for example. It hasn’t been the easiest week for the seven-year veteran. After practices and shootaround, Young has patiently and cordially fielded questions about his future in Philadelphia and trade rumors that seemingly pop up out of thin air (see story).

Despite this, Young has been the model of professionalism. Always a straight shooter, Young didn’t shy away from the questions. More importantly, Young didn’t let it affect his performance on the floor, either. Maybe some players would have been bothered by the off-court distractions, but Young has been able to leave that stuff behind.

Against the Nets, Young scored 25 points on 11 for 18 shooting with three three-pointers, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shot.

Trade that guy?

“Like I told you, at the end of the day I don’t let that stuff affect me or the way I play,” Young said. “I just hoop. This is what I’m paid to do. I’m paid to do a job and provide a service and this is what I’m going to do. Any stories that come up about trades and stuff don’t bother me. I don’t pay attention to it, I just play and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I play my butt off.”

Young won’t find any argument from Brown, who asked his veteran to guard point guard Deron Williams as well as seven-footer Brook Lopez in the post.

“How about Thaddeus Young? That was a performance,” Brown said. “That’s who he is.”

And maybe with Carter-Williams back in the lineup, the Sixers showed who they are on Friday night? After all, the Sixers are 1-10 without the rookie point guard and 7-9 with him.

The Sixers kick off a six-game road trip Saturday night in Milwaukee. After the game, the team returns home for a week before heading off to Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have been challenged by playing without Joel Embiid in one of two games in a back-to-back series all season. Now they will have to do it in at least the next two straight games. 

“We’re going to be without him tomorrow (against the Clippers) and in Milwaukee and we’ll go from there,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. 

Embiid, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, suffered a left knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. He did not travel with the team to Atlanta on Saturday for the back-to-back series. 

Brown called the decision “precautionary.” Embiid did not practice on Monday but took some light shots after. He was pre-scheduled to sit out on Wednesday against the Bucks in accordance with his limitations for consecutive games. Embiid is reportedly expected to return Friday against the Rockets.

The standout rookie leaves a glaring hole on the court when he misses games. The Sixers are 2-10 when he does not play. For all the ways Embiid dominates at the basket (22.4 points over the last 10 games), there is an obvious difference on the defensive end without him. 

“It’s still about our defense, it’s still about running, it’s still about sharing the ball,” Brown said. “I think you go with Jahlil (Okafor) and Nerlens (Noel) and challenge them in relation to rim protection and what Joel provides us. The group around them also has got to perform at a higher level when you don’t have Joel. I think that second group that we have been playing, led by Nerlens really can take on a far greater defensive identity than it has recently, and Nerlens will be the captain of that.”

This is a time when the Sixers’ logjam at the five-spot actually helps them. Brown still has three true centers to turn to, in addition to power forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric, whom he could slide into the position if they go small. Brown sees a silver lining for his bigs in the uphill battle of playing without Embiid. 

“It definitely hurts the team, how can we spin it any other way?” Brown said. “But like anything, you’re going to now look at Nerlens and Jahlil. This is fantastic for those two. It could prove, based on some things, Richaun (Holmes) sees daylight a little bit. 

“There aren’t many teams, I would suspect, that have the ability to roll out three young guys when somebody like Joel goes down and look forward to watching them develop more, look forward to giving them the opportunity to play NBA minutes.”

Okafor has been receiving the start when Embiid is out. (He has been out of the rotation when Embiid does play.) Okafor, though, is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up. He is listed as probable against the Clippers.

“It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period it got kind of (got) sore on me again,” Okafor explained. “Today they were trying to make sure I could get back to being a hundred percent because they knew that my knee was bothering me. They haven’t really told me what the plan was for tomorrow. Today was really focused on getting me back to being healthy.”

The Clippers are shorthanded as well. Blake Griffin has been sidelined since Dec. 18 because of a right knee procedure and Chris Paul had surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. Griffin could make his return against the Sixers.

Embiid's honor
Embiid's Player of the Week honor is rare for a rookie. He's only the third Sixers rookie ever to win it, joining Allen Iverson and Michael Carter-Williams.

The last Sixer before Embiid to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week was Thaddeus Young in January 2014. 

The Sixers won all three games Embiid played last week. He averaged 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.

Joel Embiid (left knee) to miss Sixers' next two games

Joel Embiid (left knee) to miss Sixers' next two games

Update: 4 p.m.

Joel Embiid did not practice on Monday and is listed as doubtful for the Sixers' game Tuesday against the Clippers.

Embiid hyperextended his left knee in the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Blazers Friday. He said after the game that the knee was fine, but the Sixers are clearly exercising caution with their young star center.

"I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way," Embiid said Friday. "I'm great. The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good."

The Sixers are calling it a left knee contusion. Embiid will also rest on Wednesday against the Bucks. He is expected to return Friday against the Rockets, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Sixers are 13-17 when Embiid plays and 2-10 without him. Brett Brown is looking forward to seeing how the defense responds without its centerpiece Tuesday and Wednesday (see story).

Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness) was limited at Monday's practice but is probable to play the Clippers.

Okafor had 12 points, four rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes in Saturday's 110-93 loss at Atlanta.

CSN Philly's Jessica Camerato contributed to this report.