Sixers Play First Actually Good Opponent in Weeks at Home Tonight

Sixers Play First Actually Good Opponent in Weeks at Home Tonight

The Philadelphia 76ers recently completed a six-game pre-Thanksgiving
stretch which included five games at home and opponents including the
Jazz, Raptors, Pistons and Cavaliers (twice). It would've been awesome
if the Sixers had grabbed five or (lord forbid) all six of those, and
would've been good if they had won four of 'em, but instead, the Ballers
split the six-gamer down the middle, getting three and giving three.
Now, things are about to get a little tougher, starting tonight with a
contest against the 9-4, Northwest-best Oklahoma City Thunder.


OKC has been a little stilted out of the gate, struggling to adjust a
bit after trading away a core player in the off-season in dynamic
scoring guard James Harden. They got a good return in bench
sharp-shooter Kevin Martin, but have missed Harden's stability and
play-making, and have struggled offensively at times—though when you
have two All-NBA scorers averaging over 20 a game in Kevin Durant and
Russell Westbrook, "struggle" is always a relative term. In any event,
OKC dropped a tough one last night against the erratic Boston Celtics,
so look for the Thunder to be out for blood tonight at the Wells Fargo
Center.


The Sixers should be smarting a little themselves after a brutal
loss against a crappy, injured Cavaliers team in Cleveland, which saw
Cleveland connect on 13 out of 23 threes as little-used reserve guard
Jeremy Pargo went for a career high 28 after franchise Cav Kyrie Irving
was held to 14 in the two teams' first matchup of the season. "Just one
of those games" was my Dad's analysis and I'm inclined to agree, though
some of the team's flaws were badly exposed in that game—particularly
their lack of a solid presence in the middle, as the team's small lineup
(with Thad at the five) was pummeled on the boards by Anderson Varejao
at the end of the game, getting the team endless second opportunities
that they used to bury the Sixers.


It'll be interesting to see what big man rotation Coach Collins goes
with tonight, as well as what he plans to do about the superstar
swingman Durant, as the last time the Sixers faced a dynamic wing like
KD, the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, the results were not pretty. You'd like
to see Evan Turner, who has struggled with his shot in the last few but
contributed with his rebounding and passing, picking up the challenge,
though Dorell Wright and Thaddeus Young will also likely see action on
Durant as well. And Jrue Holiday will have a hell of a matchup of his
own to work with, as he will undoubtedly be stuck to his fellow UCLA
alum Westbrook for most of the game.


7:00 tip from the WFC. If the Sixers struggle out of the gate
tonight, a starting lineup shakeup might be called for, and we don't
want to see that—with the possible exception of actually getting a
starting center at some point.

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”