Actually, It's Pronounced "Mill-e-wah-que": Sixers Take on Bucks to Move Above .500

Actually, It's Pronounced "Mill-e-wah-que": Sixers Take on Bucks to Move Above .500

Who's going to be starting at center tonight? That's the question that
should be on everyone's mind as the 2-2 Sixers host the 1-4 Bucks
tonight at the Wagon. In the team's first four games this season,
Spencer Hawes has not looked up to the 4-year, $20-million-dollar
contract he signed in the off-season, averaging just six points and five
rebounds in 30 minutes a game, while getting absolutely destroyed by
Andrea Bargnani and Dwight Howard on defense in the team's losses to the
Raptors and Magic.

Kwame Brown and Alexis Ajinca, the two ex-Bobcat bargain-basement
signings the team made in the off-season, are both options at the pivot,
but certainly neither are without their drawbacks, as Ajinca's offense
is predicated on his jumper, which proved erratic in the pre-season, and
as the team's primary backup, Brown has proven unable to stay out of
foul trouble. Meanwhile, Coach Collins has continued to appear
supportive of Hawes, insisting that he'll be find and saying he just
needs to "shake off a little rust from the off-season." (Of course, many
of us remember Hawes playing like this at times well into last season,
so we'll all be curious to see exactly what a truly rust-free Spence
looks like.)

Another area in flux for the Sixers is their positioning at the
wing. Hot off his 5-year / $45-million extension, Thaddeus Young has
started off the season on fire, averaging 18 points and 6 rebounds a
game on 54% shooting in just 28 minutes a game off the bench. In the
meantime, Andre Iguodala's shooting woes continue, going just 4 for 16
last night (including a cringe-worthy 0 for 5 from downtown, with only
one or two of them being even close) to bring his shooting average down
to 32% for the year. With Evan Turner off to a fairly decent start (10
points, 3 assists and 4 rebounds in 25 minutes a game, with only five
turnovers across the four contests), it's hard not to wonder if 'Dre
doesn't feel a tad bit superfluous on the team now, and should his
scoring struggles continue, we wouldn't be surprised to hear the trade
talk heat up again—maybe this time with the Spurs, who just lost
starting three Richard Jefferson for 2-3 months with a gimpy knee.

Two positions in which the Sixers do appear to be set so far,
however, are at the one and the four. For the latter, Elton Brand has
picked up where he left off last season as the team's Mr. Consistent,
scoring between 12 and 18 points and grabbing between 8 and 12 boards in
each of the team's games so far. And as we all knew (well, hoped) he
would, Jrue Holiday just continues to get better, scoring a career-high
33 points (and dishing out seven assists) against the
defensively-deficient Rockets last night. Most encouraging were the
couple key jumpers that The Damaja hit down the stretch to ice the game
for the Liberty Ballers—if for no other reason than because he was the
one who took them, and not Iguodala. "I'm just glad Coach trusts me with
the ball in my hands late," Jrue said after the game. "I've been
working hard my first two years here to gain that kind of trust, and
hopefully I showed him tonight that I deserve it." Word.

7:00 tip tonight from the Wells Fargo Center. A win tonight would
move the Sixers above .500 for the first time this season, a shaded
region that the Sixers hopefully plan on spending much of the year
within. At the very least, they appear off to a better start than they
were last year, when they dug themselves into a 3-13 hole it took them
till February to crawl out of. "It's totally different [this year],
absolutely," Elton said in an earlier press conference. "Last year, it
took a couple months for us to believe in each other, in Coach, in
ourselves...this year, we really think that we got this." Yeah, Elton,
we sure hope so. 41-41 just ain't gonna cut it this time around.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as he liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).