5 observations from Sixers-Cavaliers

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5 observations from Sixers-Cavaliers

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The Sixers overcame a slow first quarter to roll past the Cleveland Cavaliers, 94-79, at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night to end a two-game losing skid (see Instant Replay).

The Cavs won’t have to wait long for a chance at revenge with both teams slated to play Saturday in Cleveland.

Here are a few developments that piqued our interest during Friday night’s game:

1. Thad down low
Right at the top of the game, the Sixers looked to get power forward Thad Young involved with the offense. On the first play of the game, Young was fed in the low post and hit a running jump hook. He got the ball again on the second possession in nearly the same spot, but missed the jump hook.

Coach Brett Brown may have sent in the plays for Young in attempt to get the veteran going. Young hasn’t been bashful about declaring his frustration with his play through the early part of the season, especially after the 3 for 11 shooting night against the Wizards on Wednesday.

Though he’s averaging 13 points, that’s somewhat skewed by the 29-point game against the Wizards last week. Take that game away and Young went into the game against the Cavs averaging just nine points.

After Thursday’s practice, Brown said he wanted to figure out a way to get more production from Young,

“I see him being one of the premier athletes at his position in the league where he can run, he can sneak behind defenses and he can go to the offensive boards,” Brown said. “I feel that in his sleep he could get eight to 12 points if he mastered that. And then I feel a burden, a responsibility to put him in those spots where he can create. I don't see that being his bread and butter, though. I don't think you want to give it to Thad and let him rocker step and shoot it. I do feel a responsibility, most definitely, to put him in some positions, but by and large I think his strength is the map I just said.

“I don't blame him for being frustrated, I get it. You'd love to be in a situation where this is your role, this is your path, this is your development package. He's such a good person and is extremely coachable and he wants to be a good teammate and please. He rolls with whatever coach comes in here and he's been that way with me. He's been fantastic. I feel a responsibility when you coach people like that to do everything I can to put him in a position where his skill package can prevail. At this stage it's not exclusively in those areas, the traditional isolation-type guys. He can score in a variety of ways and impact his games more from energy than static-situation basketball.”

Nevertheless, it appears as if Brown’s little plan worked. The Sixers called Young’s number to open the second half, too. However, Young was most valuable on the defensive end where he had a steal and a block on an attempted dunk by Dion Waiters that launch a fast break.

2. How do you … boo!
Former Sixer Andrew Bynum made his debut at the Wells Fargo Center since being traded by the Lakers, only it didn’t exactly go down the way the Sixers envisioned in August of 2012.

The Cavs’ big man, still battling knee pain, played 18 minutes, took three shots and grabbed five rebounds. No, his numbers didn’t have many pining for a way to get Bynum back, but there were glimpses of his old form.

Bynum was very active on the boards and showed a nice passing touch out of the low post. And even though he isn’t the fleetest afoot, Bynum’s presence in the paint was enough.

Bynum says he is “a shell" of himself, and he may be right. However, just seeing him on the floor is enough to wonder what might have been …

Well, maybe not for the boo birds. Maybe they found some catharsis with all the boos.

3. Going small
Tony Wroten was instant energy off the bench, dropping in a season-high 18 points on 7 for 14 shooting, including two three-pointers. The lefty guard also had four rebounds with four assists and a steal.

Brown had Wroten and point guard Michael Carter-Williams on the floor together down the stretch of Friday’s game, riding a combination that hasn’t run together too much this season. In the five games, Wroten and Carter-Williams average a little more than five minutes per game on the floor together.

4. Staying in the zone
Evan Turner led the Sixers with 22 points (10 for 18 shooting) and added 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Better yet, Turner continued to take shots in his sweet spots.

Turner went 3 for 7 on shots longer than 15 feet in the win over the Cavs. That makes him 7 for 11 on shots closer than a foul shot. 

5. Allen gets some burn
Center Lavoy Allen played a season-high 21 minutes Friday night. With Daniel Orton out and Bynum in town, the Sixers needed a big man.

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brett Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media.

Once the deal was made official, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo released a statement. 

“We want to wish Nerlens the best of luck in Dallas and thank him for his contributions over the last few years," Colangelo said. "Justin Anderson is a talented, strong and defensive-minded wing who will fit nicely in Brett’s system. I’m certain Justin’s toughness and edge will add a tremendous amount to our team."

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter (see story).

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”