Philadelphia 76ers

5 observations from Sixers-Wizards

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5 observations from Sixers-Wizards

WASHINGTON -- The Sixers followed up their stunning opening night win over the Miami Heat with another improbable victory on Friday night against the Washington Wizards.

Trailing by as many as 14 points throughout the first three quarters, the Sixers rallied to tie the game after three before surging to a 109-102 victory (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers are 2-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season when they began the year 3-0.

Here are a few items that caught our attention in Friday’s game:

1. Before the game, Sixers head coach Brett Brown talked about how the Sixers can best contain John Wall.

“Get back! Run as fast as you can and get back! It really is that simple,” Brown said.

Or was it. Wall, perhaps the fastest player in the league in terms of raw speed, was a monster in the open court. Though the Sixers were able to get back on Wall, the guard either slipped past with a quick move or was able to draw contact.

Before the game, Brown talked about Wall finishing his drives to the hoop with contact.

“You have to give him some cushion. You don’t want to be static, you don’t want to be stuck, so you have to give some cushion,” Brown said. “When someone is moving that fast you’ll have to absorb some of that and it’s much easier to talk about than to do it.

“I saw it for years with Tony Parker. He just loved finishing into people’s bodies. He'd run right at him and get up and go at them, so you have to avoid being static. You have to keep moving.”

Like Brown said, easier said than done. Wall scored 15 points in the first quarter and had 23 at the half.

But in the second half Wall had just three points, as the Sixers were able to get back on defense and cut off the drives to the basket.

2. The Sixers’ half-court offense still needs some help. In the early part of the game, the lack of movement hurt the Sixers’ shot selection and they often settled for three-pointers when a better shot might have been available.

The Sixers went 0 for 9 from three-point range and ran just one pick-and-roll play. And guess what? Lavoy Allen and Tony Wroten ran the play well enough to get a layup.

3. Though the Sixers were down by as many as 14 points from the first quarter into the third quarter, they were able to whittle away at the Wizards’ lead by forcing bad shots.

The Wizards attempted nine long two-pointers during the third quarter after attempting nine during the entire first half. Meanwhile, the Sixers continued to get shots in the paint. They also hit a few three-pointers, too. After the 0 for 9 in the first quarter, the Sixers went 6 for 14 the rest of the way.

4. Give Michael Carter-Williams some credit for showing some grit. Despite committing two turnovers in the first two minutes of the game, the rookie didn’t commit another for the rest of the game.

He didn’t back off his game either. After shooting 1 for 6 in the first half, MCW went 5 for 9 in the second half.

5. Spencer Hawes (16 points, 14 rebounds) could be the Sixers’ best three-point threat. He shot 3 for 6 from deep on Friday and because of his ability to hit the long ball, he was able to make passes from the high post to teammates cutting to the hoop.

Give and Go: Who will be the Sixers' sixth man?

Give and Go: Who will be the Sixers' sixth man?

With training camp starting next week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we discuss who should be the Sixers' sixth man going into the 2017-18 season.

Camerato
This role has become a hot topic since the Sixers finally have the pieces to put together a consistent starting five and establish a go-to sixth man. This summer I wrote an article on the starting lineup in which I projected Robert Covington to start and Dario Saric to come off the bench as the sixth man. The Sixers need Covington’s defensive presence at small forward and Ben Simmons likely will start at power forward while running the floor. Not every reader agreed in the comments section and the Saric-as-a-starter sentiment was echoed on social media. 

I still see Saric as the best fit for sixth man. This role is often filled by a starting-caliber player. Saric had 36 starts as a rookie, including all 25 games in which he played after the All-Star Break. Brett Brown wants the Sixers’ sixth man to be on the court to end games. Saric averaged more minutes (7.1) in the fourth than any other quarter last season. 

The key would be getting Saric to buy in to being the sixth man. Saric worked his entire career to be the best player he could be. He is his own toughest critic and became visibly disappointed when he had letdowns last season. There is a shift in mindset going from a starter to the first player off the bench. Saric can thrive in this role, but first he has to embrace it and not looking at it as a demotion. The sixth man can be just as valuable, if not more, than a starter. 

Haughton
With a widely projected starting lineup of Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, JJ Redick, Markelle Fultz and Simmons, the Sixers’ sixth man would appear to be a lock as Dario Saric. After all, Saric is a strong all-around player and coming off an impressive rookie season.

However, that starting five may force Brett Brown to go in a different direction with his first man off the bench.

Sure, Brown’s opening group may have a lot of firepower, but it lacks a necessity of legitimate NBA teams: a proven floor general. With Fultz and Simmons in the backcourt, the Sixers have two players that have yet to take part in an NBA regular-season game. They also will be trying to adjust to playing off the ball (Fultz) and running the team as a full-time point guard (Simmons).

That’s why I believe Brown may opt to go with Jerryd Bayless as his first reserve to combat the expected growing pains of his rookie backcourt. Bayless didn’t exactly wow Sixers fans by playing in just three contests a season ago because of torn ligaments in his wrist, but the veteran still has 513 career games under his belt (29 in the postseason) and knows how to play both guard positions.

It may not be the preferred pick, but Bayless may be the necessary choice as sixth man if the Sixers hope to achieve their goals in the upcoming campaign.

Hudrick
I know it doesn't please some Sixers fans that Saric seems destined to come off the bench, but really, it's a great sign.

Saric has proven to be a good NBA player after a strong rookie campaign, but think about it. This roster suddenly has talent. People are getting giddy and talking playoffs. Do you know what playoff teams have? Good players coming off the bench. It's not a knock on Saric as much as it's a testament to how talented this roster has become.

I will say that Matt's idea of using Bayless as the team's sixth man is interesting. Brown puts such a heavy emphasis on the point guard position. He's referred to it as the hardest position to play in the NBA. And now he's turning the keys over to a 6-foot-10 player that's never truly played the position. 

In the end, I'm going Saric. He should come in and dominate most team's second units offensively. Plus his grit and energy are perfect for the role. The Sixers just have to hope he embraces it.

Sixers Mailbag: Playoffs, winning records and restrictions

Sixers Mailbag: Playoffs, winning records and restrictions

Guess what time it is … just over a week until the start of training camp. Playoffs, winning records and restrictions are on the minds of a lot of Sixers fans. Thanks to everyone who submitted their questions with #CSNSixersMailbag. 

My prediction for this season is 43 wins. That being said, the win total has so much to do with health and restrictions.

The Sixers finished 28-54 last season. Reaching 43 wins would be a significant jump. I heavily considered their 10-5 month of January for this projection. That was the small window last season when the Sixers (finally) had a healthy group to work with and Brett Brown could coach a team, not just a revolving door of players. Based on the potential they showed during that month, a 15-win improvement is not out of the question.

I did factor in the fact the Sixers have 14 sets of back-to-backs. It remains to be seen in how many of those Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be cleared to compete. I would expect restrictions to be heavier at the start of the season, when the Sixers’ schedule is stacked with playoff-contending opponents. Even if the team starts out below .500, they will have the opportunity to catch up in the standings in the second half of the season when their schedule is much more Eastern Conference-heavy. 

And if you’re thinking playoffs, the Bulls grabbed the eighth seed last season with a 41-41 record. The competition in the conference has lessened and teams may be able to get into the postseason under .500. 

Good question, and one that will be a hot topic for Simmons and Embiid this season.

The team has not announced minute restrictions for Simmons, who has yet to play in an NBA game because of a right Jones fracture. That will be further evaluated during training camp and into the season. 

I would expect the Sixers to place some type of restriction on Simmons and monitor him carefully as they did with Embiid. Whether that is a limitation on minutes or consecutive games is to be determined. 

Simmons is a key piece for the Sixers’ future, not just the 2017-18 season. They will not rush into playing time just because he is cleared for game action. 

From lottery picks to postseason seedings, yes, we are talking about the playoffs before the season even begins.

The Eastern Conference is wide open for teams to move up in the standings. Trades by the Pacers, Bulls and Hawks have created the opportunity to shake up last season’s top eight. 

I made this prediction earlier in the summer and I’ll stick with it in mid-September: I am projecting the Sixers as the seventh seed in the East. That’s behind the usual five, the Cavaliers, Celtics, Wizards, Raptors and Bucks and … the Hornets jumping back into the playoffs at six. 

Of course, playoff predictions for any team, especially the Sixers, depends on health, player availability and future trades. 

Feels like a while since last season ended, right? Here are some dates to look forward to before Opening Night on Oct. 18 against the Wizards in Washington, D.C.:

Sept. 25 - Media Day

Sept. 26 - Start of training camp

Oct. 4 - First preseason home game against the Grizzlies