5 observations from Sixers-Warriors

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5 observations from Sixers-Warriors

The Sixers’ improbable 3-0 run to open the season came to a crash landing on Monday night with a 110-90 loss to the Golden State Warriors (see Instant Replay).

Though the teams have similar styles on offense, the Warriors had too much talent. Stephen Curry posted the second triple-double of the NBA season, going for 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He also had five steals and helped the Warriors force the Sixers into 24 turnovers.

Meanwhile, ex-Sixer Andre Iguodala scored a game-high 32 points on seven three-pointers in his second game at the Wells Fargo Center since being traded two years ago.

Here’s a look at a few other interesting developments from Monday’s game:

MCW vs. Curry
Fresh off being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week (see story), Michael Carter-Willams faced his toughest matchup on Monday night against Curry. That mostly has to do with Curry’s defensive ability and quickness as opposed to his long-distance shooting.

And since the Sixers allowed Iguodala to shoot the three-pointer, Curry piled up the assists, dishing out 12 including nine in the first half. When Curry finally got his shot together, the points came in bunches. In the third quarter, Curry scored eight points in the first 75 seconds.

After getting the triple-double, Curry did not play a tick in the fourth quarter.

Carter-Williams had a rough-looking line: 4 for 17, including 1 for 7 from three-point range with four assists and six turnovers.

Welcome to the league, rookie.

Iguodala comes back
The Sixers’ defensive strategy was to pack it in the lane in order to keep Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Klay Thompson away from the offensive glass. For the most part the Sixers were able to do that.

However, in protecting the paint, the Sixers allowed Iguodala to shoot the wide-open three-pointer and he made them pay.

Iguodala set a career-high with seven three-pointers, with six of them in the first half. His 32 points were two shy of his career-high set on Jan. 24, 2007, in the Sixers’ double-OT win over Cleveland.

Incidentally, Monday’s game was Iguodala’s second trip back to Philadelphia since he was traded after the 2011-12 season. His first game with Denver was at the Wells Fargo Center in which Iguodala had 11 points on 13 shots, including 0 for 4 from three-point range.

Thad T’d up
Thad Young rarely looses his cool, but he picked up a technical foul for arguing against a call in the second quarter. Chalk it up to the frustration that comes with a big loss and a 3-for-10 shooting night.

If they’re free, make them
Though the Sixers shot a season-high 37 free throws, they hit just 23 for 62 percent. That’s not terrible, but in the first half when the game was still in the balance (for a little bit, anyway), the Sixers were 12 for 21 from the line.

Interestingly, the Sixers went into the game shooting 75 percent from the foul line in the final three minutes of games.

Turnovers, turnovers and turnovers
Another interesting stat … going into Monday’s game, the Sixers had not committed a single turnover in the final three minutes of games. They had 24 total against the Warriors with Carter-Williams and Evan Turner combining for 11.

Speaking of ugly stats, Spencer Hawes was minus-41 in 26 minutes.

Yikes.

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.”

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid will miss the next four games and is slated to return March 3 against the Knicks in Philadelphia, so long as he is symptom-free (see story). While Embiid wants to play as soon as possible, he’s just glad there is now a definitive timetable announced.

Prior to Thursday, the team had not announced a specific timeframe.

“I wasn’t too happy with the way it was kind of handled before,” Embiid said. “I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn’t happy with the way it was handled.

“I thought keeping my name out there was going to just like literally have people think about me all the time instead of just saying when I was going to be back. So I’m happy that they did that today and they said that I’m out for the next four games.”

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion on Jan. 22 against the Trail Blazers. He sat out three games and returned on Jan. 27 to play the Rockets. He has not played since then, sitting out the last eight games.

An MRI also revealed Embiid has a slight tear in his meniscus, which is not thought to be related to the contusion.

Embiid went through a full practice on Thursday for the first time, he estimated, in four or five weeks. (Wednesday’s practice was not intense.) According to the Sixers, they are encouraged by the progress Embiid showed but do not feel he is game-ready. Team doctors are holding him out the next four games to minimize the risk of aggravating his knee. In order for him to be cleared, Embiid has to be symptom-free.

Embiid had eyed a return on Friday against the Wizards because he was feeling well, he said, but he had some swelling on Thursday.

“No swelling, no pain, nothing,” Embiid said of his criteria to play.

Now the team -- and fans -- can move forward without daily questions of Embiid’s status.

“I think it’s good for everybody,” Brett Brown said. “For you all to understand, the people that buying a ticket to understand, for me as a coach to prepare my team that he’s not going to be here for four more games. I like that clarity. I’m fine with it. Obviously, you want him playing, but the mystery that surrounds that speculation I think is frustrating for people and we understand that.”

Embiid reiterated the patience aspect of the injury, noting he waited two years to rehab his foot and there is no need to rush his knee. Now everyone can be in the loop with his status.

“The end point is basically making sure I’m ready to play instead of just putting me out there,” Embiid said.