6 observations from Sixers-Nets

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6 observations from Sixers-Nets

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Michael Carter-Williams’ return from a seven-game absence helped the Sixers snap a seven-game losing streak with a 121-120 overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). Here are some observations from the matchup:

1. The Nets didn’t have Kevin Garnett (rest) or Joe Johnson (personal matters) for the return match against the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center, two players that had a big impact in Monday’s rout. But it wasn’t like the Nets were at a loss for replacements. Garnett’s replacement was Brook Lopez, the Nets’ leading scorer with 20.6 points per game. Lopez sat out of Monday’s game. Johnson’s sub was Paul Pierce, the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer and a 10-time All-Star.

2. How much of a difference does Carter-Williams make for the Sixers? You know, aside from the obvious things like the team’s record (1-10 without, 7-9 with).

The Sixers are a righter unit offensively and defensively with the rookie point guard. They also move the ball up the court quicker with MCW in a few basic ways. He takes the outlet pass as deep as possible. When the Sixers secure the ball on a rebound or turnover, Carter-Williams is already breaking off and headed up the floor, but not too far that there is a risk of a bad pass.

Carter-Williams also understands the ball moves quicker on a pass than a dribble. So when the point guard gets the ball in transition, his head is up looking for a teammate moving up the floor with him.

Those things didn’t happen often when Carter-Williams was out of the lineup.

3. With four players 6-foot-10 or taller, the Nets should be a force on the boards and in the paint. Yet, through 25 games this season, the Nets rank 25th in offensive rebounding and 20th in defensive. Overall, the Nets are 23rd in the NBA in total rebounding. So how were the Sixers, with just one 7-footer and one player listed at 6-10 getting any playing time able to clean up the boards against the Nets?

Easy, positioning. When the Nets shot the ball from the outside, it wasn’t uncommon to see two Sixers alone in the paint waiting for the rebound. Plus, because the Sixers attack the paint, they often outnumbered the Nets in there.

4. Tony Wroten has no trouble getting to the basket. The Sixers’ backup point guard has a ton of moves that can get him from the three-point line to the paint in a half-second. But Wroten’s outside shooting is still a work in progress.

Wroten went 8 for 17 from the floor, including 2 for 8 from three-point range against the Nets. Take away the 5 for 8 shooting from three on Dec. 12 and Wroten is 18 for 84 (21.4 percent) from long range. If coach Brett Brown is going to play Wroten along side Carter-Williams in the Sixers’ backcourt, Wroten is going to have to improve his shooting.

5. The Sixers held the Nets to just 15 three-pointers Friday night. That’s a big improvement from the 21 the Nets hit Monday night. But the Nets weren’t without a career night or a big third quarter. Alan Anderson scored 16 of his team-high 26 points in the third quarter and hit five threes. Mirza Teletovic shot a career-best 6 of 10 from three-point range.

6. Thad Young is a pro’s pro. After Friday’s shootaround, he cordially and patiently answered questions about trade rumors and if he requested a trade from the Sixers (see story). He did it all over again before the game following his pregame warmup.

It was tiring just watching him go through it.

No worries, though. Young went out and scored 25 points on 11 for 18 shooting with two three-pointers, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

“I am here, ready to give 110 percent each and every game,” Young said after shootaround. “I am ready to just play and try to win basketball games.”

Indeed he is.

Joel Embiid admits to reaggravating foot injury after 2014 surgery, almost quitting

Joel Embiid admits to reaggravating foot injury after 2014 surgery, almost quitting

Joel Embiid trusts the Process, more so than anyone — the process of patience.

After sitting out two whole seasons because of foot injuries, Embiid learned the importance of patience the hard way.

Appearing on NBA TV's Open Court, Joel Embiid opened up about how he reaggravated the fracture in his foot that cost him the 2015-16 season.

"I didn't know how to deal with patience," Embiid said on the roundtable discussion. "I just wanted to do stuff, that's why I think I needed a second surgery, because after my first one, I just wanted to play basketball again. I just wanted to be on the court and I pushed through what I wasn't supposed to.

"At one point I thought about quitting. I just wanted to come back home and just forget everything."

Embiid goes on to discuss the Sixers' turnaround this season and his mindset during his recovery. Watch the full clip below. 

Embiid also said he models his game after Hakeem Olajuwon. 

 

NBA power rankings: Sixers can't escape the lower third

NBA power rankings: Sixers can't escape the lower third

With the NBA's glorified exhibition in the rearview mirror, we reenter reality of the remaining NBA season. The Sixers still are looking for suitors for Jahlil Okafor while questions swirl around about the health of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. 

Some claim they are tanking still, and if those people are talking about the recent NBA power rankings then they would be right. 

Games before the All-Star break
Last Monday and Wednesday the Sixers split their two games before the break, beating the Hornets and losing to the Celtics. 

Dario Saric continues to be the Sixers' most productive player in the absence of Embiid. In the short week, he averaged 19 points (a team leader in that category both games) and 11 rebounds. 

T.J. McConnell continues to control the floor at the point, dishing out seven assists against the Hornets and eight against the Celtics. 

An inability to finish has been the story for the Sixers without Embiid. The Sixers led by one at the half against the Hornets and were tied with the Celtics at the midway point. These are good signs, but these guys are far from being contenders in the east. The experts agree. 

What's next
Only two games this week for the 76ers: Friday at home against the Wizards (7 p.m./CSN) and on the road on Sunday to play the Knicks (7:30 p.m./CSN).

What the experts say
ESPN’s Marc Stein had some fun with his rankings this week using tweets and memes to describe a team’s current situation. The Sixers dropped from 20 to 23 in his rankings — not a significant drop but a drop nonetheless. 

He used this one in his evaluation of the Sixers:

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann bumped the Sixers up from 22 to 21 this week. He sees great improvement in Saric’s game stating: “Saric has already shown a lot of improvement and TLC, with his length on the perimeter, could prove to be a great fit next to the other core pieces if he can knock down shots.”

He added a positive thought on the Demarcus Cousins trade and how the Sixers still made out well even though they were not able to ship Okafor to the Pelicans. 

“The Sixers lost a potential trading partner with the DeMarcus Cousins trade to New Orleans, but still came out a winner in the deal, because they can swap first round picks with the Kings this year and own Sacramento's pick (with no protections) in 2019.”

Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes did not move the 76ers from the 21 spot on his list last week. He writes that he is intrigued with this processing team: “Sorry, but I'm never going to stop being delighted by the Sixers finding ways to win.”

He made his prediction for games won by the Sixers if they get Embiid back on the court: “It's hard to know what Simmons might bring, but Embiid's contributions are well understood. If he makes it back and looks healthy, Philly could easily win 30-plus games.”

Finally, Fox Sports’ Andrew Lynch dropped the Sixers from 27 to 28 – yikes! His outlook is very pessimistic as he looks exclusively at the injuries of Embiid and Simmons. He writes that a complete shutdown of Simmons would make sense as the season’s end gets closer by the day.