Turnover-prone Sixers collapse against T-wolves

slideshow-sixers-team-ap.jpg

Turnover-prone Sixers collapse against T-wolves

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS -- Things simply didn’t add up for the Sixers on Wednesday night.

While the team played one of its best first quarters of the season on the way to building a 19-point advantage over Minnesota, it wouldn’t last. The Sixers allowed the lead to disappear during the second half in a 106-99 loss to the Timberwolves (see Instant Replay).

The loss was the Sixers’ ninth straight on the road as their record fell to 7-16. The Sixers are now 1-11 on the season when they don’t score at least 100 points.

“We put ourselves in position to win a game on the road and that is hard to do,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “I think the energy and effort that our guys continue to give, I’m proud of them. I think to look at the free throw numbers and the difference and to look at the turnovers and the difference, that coupled with some other numbers you would close your eyes and say that is a 30-point loss.”

It wasn’t, but it may sting just like a blowout. Especially when you factor in that the Sixers contributed a lot to their own demise.

They had 26 turnovers in the game and took just 14 free throw attempts. On the flip side, the Timberwolves had 16 giveaways and were 25 of 29 from the charity stripe.

“It is the prime example, especially for a young team, when you get a team down you have to understand the situation,” Spencer Hawes said. “You have a team down 20, that is coming off a back-to-back, you have an opportunity to put a stamp on it. You have to take advantage of that. Credit them, they kept battling and they fought their way back.”

The Timberwolves outscored the Sixers by 10 points in each of the final two quarters to erase a 13-point halftime deficit. Kevin Love led the way for the Timberwolves with 26 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.

Still, this was a game the Sixers should have won. They were plus-15 on fast-break points and scored 42 points in the paint.

But it all came down to turnovers for a team that is second-worst in the league in giveaways per game at 17.7. Every time the team appeared to be slowing down the T-wolves’ momentum, it would commit another error.

Evan Turner was big culprit, committing nine of the Sixers’ turnovers.

“I think we play in a crowd too much,” Brown said. “I think we try to force too much. I think it is simple. If someone else is open you pass it. It is really hard to candy coat it.”

“If you are playing in a crowd you have a problem. We had 15 assists in the first half. We had seven in the second. We had 39 points in the first period and 38 in the second half. There is a disconnect and we need to address that.”

With Michael Carter-Williams out again with a sore knee, Turner and Tony Wroten found themselves sharing the Sixers’ ball-handling duties once again. They are both individuals who like to dribble a lot and penetrate the lane. However, they need to find a better balance to help cut down on the miscues.

“We play good together. As coach says all the time, we aren’t selfish. It is just sometimes we try to be too aggressive trying to see the open man,” said Wroten, who tied Hawes for a team high with 20 points. “I see improvement offensively and most definitely defensively. Coach got on us a lot defensively. We lost tonight, but I feel like we are getting better every single day.”

“I feel bad for our guys because we were in position to win,” Brown added. “We just weren’t able to pull it off because of a lot of turnovers and good plays by them.”

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers at Bucks
3:30 p.m. - CSN/CSNPhilly.com/streaming live on the NBCSports App

The Sixers (12-26) look to get back in the win column when they face the Milwaukee Bucks (20-19) at the Bradley Center in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Let's take a closer look at Monday afternoon's matchup:

1. Back on the Embiid express
The Sixers have started to show flashes of coming together and finally turning the corner on their massive rebuild. However, they are nowhere near the point that they can remove the biggest piece of the puzzle and still expect to win games.

The Sixers found that out again on Saturday night, as they were pummeled during the second half of a 109-93 loss to the Washington Wizards with Joel Embiid sidelined for rest.

The team didn't want to use the rookie phenom's absence as an excuse, but it was clear his presence was missed.

“We didn’t have that extra oomph,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the loss. “Obviously, the omission of Joel Embiid clearly is impactful, but that’s the challenge. We just didn’t have it tonight.”

Embiid and his 19.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game will be back in the lineup against the Bucks.

2. Freak of nature
The Sixers won't be the only squad with a star in the making on the court Monday afternoon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown plenty of potential since he was selected by the Bucks 15th overall in the 2013 draft (Anthony Bennett, who was recently released by the Brooklyn Nets, was taken No. 1 overall that year, for those of you keeping track at home). But the man known as "The Greek Freak" has taken his game to new heights this season.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 23.4 points on 53.5 percent shooting in addition to 8.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals per game this season - all career highs. He's also coming off a 33-point, eight-rebound and six-assist performance in the Bucks' 111-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

With Antetokounmpo playing point guard full time now and the Bucks' starting five boasting players all above 6-foot-7, it's hard to determine how the Sixers will match up on defense. Whatever the plan is to slow down "The Greek Freak," it will have to be a total team effort.

3. Protect the paint
All of that size and athleticism for the Bucks is a big reason they attack the rim so much. Milwaukee is tied with Oklahoma City for the league lead in points in the paint with 50.6 per game.

The Sixers were dominated on the low block for 54 points by the Wizards on Saturday with Embiid out. For the season, they rank 14th in the league in points in the paint allowed at 42.3 a night.

One thing that might help the Sixers is their shot blocking. They swat 5.6 shots a game (sixth in the NBA), which could deter some of those romps to the rim by the Bucks.

4. Injuries
T.J. McConnell (right wrist), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Khris Middleton (hamstring) is out for the Bucks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 12 of their last 14 games to the Bucks.

• Ersan Ilyasova spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Bucks (see story on his return to Milwaukee). This will mark the fourth time he has faced his former team.

• Jabari Parker, selected No. 2 overall in the 2014 NBA draft right before Embiid, has emerged this season with 20.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Sixers' T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) out Monday vs. Bucks

Sixers' T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) out Monday vs. Bucks

The Sixers will get Joel Embiid back in the lineup when they meet the Bucks on Monday afternoon in Milwaukee, but they'll be without their starting point guard.

T.J. McConnell will miss Monday's game with a sprained right wrist suffered in Saturday night's loss to the Wizards in D.C., the Sixers announced Monday morning.

McConnell reportedly did not travel with the team to Milwaukee and is back home in Philadelphia.

The 24-year-old McConnell has been a presence this season for a Sixers team that desperately needed something from the point guard spot. In 38 games this season, McConnell has averaged 4.8 points, 5.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds a night in an average of 22.3 minutes a game.

The highlight of McConnell's season, of course, came last week when he nailed the game-winning shot at the buzzer to give the Sixers a 98-97 victory over the Knicks.

Sergio Rodriguez is expected to start in McConnell's place Monday against the Bucks.