Cold-shooting Sixers have win streak snapped by Bobcats

slideshow-040313-sixers-holiday-uspresswire.jpg

Cold-shooting Sixers have win streak snapped by Bobcats

BOX SCORE

CHARLOTTE -- The Sixers kept thinking that eventually the shots would fall.

One by one their attempts rattled off the rim on Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, but they still believed at some point the ball would go through the net enough times.

Not enough times to keep their momentum going, as the Sixers were handed an 88-83 loss by the Bobcats (see Instant Replay). The defeat snapped the Sixers’ three-game win streak and dropped their record to 30-44.

The Sixers shot just 35.1 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range for the game. Jrue Holiday was the biggest culprit on the night, shooting an abysmal 2 of 24 for a meager five points.

“I think it was just an off night,” Holiday said. “They had really good defense around the basket, but a lot of my shots were in and out. I just never got in a rhythm.”

Holiday kept firing away because recent history suggested he would shake out of his slump.

In last Saturday’s home win over the Bobcats, Holiday went just 1 of 9 through the first three quarters before draining 5 of 8 attempts in the fourth to finish with 14 points.

“Coach is a guy who as a player was a shooter and a lot of the shots I took, especially in the fourth, rimmed in and out,” Holiday said. “I thought those were going in, but there is nothing I can really do about that. In the fourth quarter I know I want to make that play, but unfortunately tonight I didn’t make it.”

Despite the Sixers’ offensive struggles, they still found themselves in the hunt for a win late in the game.

Holiday was able to corral one of his many misses and put in a layup with 1:15 remaining on the clock to tie the game at 82. Dorell Wright followed that up with a steal before Damien Wilkins was fouled on a shot attempt. Wilkins made the first of his two free throws to give the Sixers a one-point lead.

The Sixers tried to clamp down on defense, but former Episcopal Academy standout Gerald Henderson was able to shake free to drain a jumper to put the Bobcats back on top.

On the ensuing possession, Evan Turner had his inbounds pass stolen by Henderson, who soared in for a dunk to give him a game-high 24 points and the Bobcats a cushion to secure the win.

“You have to use a fake. You can’t just put the ball over your head,” Sixers head coach Doug Collins said of Turner’s crucial turnover. “You have to fake a guy out. We also had a timeout.

“These are all situations where we are learning and have to do a better job at, but that is why I am still teaching and telling this group the importance of finishing these games off. Even though this is a game where we probably are not going to make the playoffs, you have to learn to make the right plays whether you are playing Charlotte or Game 6 against Chicago in the playoffs.”

That wasn’t the only pass the Sixers weren’t able to execute. The team showed an uncharacteristic lack of ball movement against the Bobcats, evidenced by their 16 assists on 33 made shots.

“We stopped moving the ball,” Collins said. “All you have to look is at 16 assists. That is the barometer for our team. We got off to a great start. We were up 16 and then scored 10 points the last 10 minutes of the quarter. We tried to do too much on our own and when we don’t move the ball we get against the clock.”

Once the Sixers found themselves pressed up against the clock on possession after possession, they were forced to make one-on-one plays and take tough shots. That led to them being outscored by 10 in fastbreak points and 14 turnovers on the night. All an equation that played right into the Bobcats’ hands.

“We know the way they want to play. They want to push the ball, throw it ahead to the guards and attack, get to the free throw line and get to the rim,” Collins said. “We were in a good rhythm, but once we got out of rhythm we never got back in and yet we had a chance to seal the game.”

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

BOX SCORE

SAN ANTONIO -- Stephen Curry scored 36 points as the Golden State Warriors closed out the Western Conference Final against the injury-ravaged San Antonio Spurs with a 129-115 victory Monday night, becoming the first team in league history to start the playoffs 12-0.

Golden State led by as many as 22 points in cruising to its third straight NBA Finals. The Warriors await a possible third straight championship matchup with Cleveland, which leads Boston 2-1 in the East finals.

"It's great to be one of the last two teams standing, we'll see how it goes," said Kevin Durant, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds.

San Antonio's only lead came on the opening possession when Manu Ginobili tossed in a left-handed scoop shot. The Spurs started Ginobili in what could be his final game with the team. The 39-year-old had maintained he will not ponder whether to retire or return until after the season.

Unsure if the beloved veteran will return, the crowd serenaded Ginobili with "Manu, Manu" chants as the game came to a close.

"An amazing competitor, even more fun playing against him," Durant said of Ginobili. "He was phenomenal this series."

Kyle Anderson scored 20 points to lead the Spurs, who were without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and David Lee. San Antonio didn't go down without a fight despite the injuries.

Anderson dove on the court for a loose ball that the Spurs had tipped away defensively, pushing the ball upcourt to Patty Mills who fed Ginobili for a 3-pointer that pulled San Antonio to 108-94 with 7 minutes remaining.

The effort made Spurs coach Gregg Popovich smile and clap at times, but the Warriors' depth and talent proved too much for short-handed San Antonio.

Golden State shot 56 percent and were 14 for 39 on 3-pointers.

Draymond Green had 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors.

Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge closed out a disappointing series with his second eight-point effort against the Warriors.

Ginobili finished with 15 points in 32 minutes.

The case for Duke's Jayson Tatum to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Duke's Jayson Tatum to the Sixers at No. 3

With the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery behind us, there appears to be a consensus on the first two selections in next month's draft. The Celtics are expected to take Washington guard Markelle Fultz, and it would be a surprise if the Lakers passed on Lonzo Ball.

After that, all bets are off, and the Sixers will have plenty of options at pick No. 3.

A popular choice has been Kansas' Josh Jackson, and with good reason. The 6-foot-8 guard was an All-Big 12 first-team selection in his lone season with the Jayhawks, averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Others have pointed to Kentucky sharpshooter Malik Monk, who would fill an obvious need. Monk consistently has shown the ability to pull up without hesitation. He shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 19.8 points per game to lead the Wildcats.

There is a strong case to be made, however, that Duke forward Jayson Tatum will be the most talented player remaining on the board when it is the Sixers' turn to pick. 

As a basketball beat writer for The Duke Chronicle, I had the opportunity to watch Tatum play up close and in-person for much of the season, seeing him at his best and his worst.

A quick rise
After coming to Durham, North Carolina as one of the key pieces of the Blue Devils' top-ranked recruiting class, Tatum suffered a left foot sprain during a preseason practice that kept him out of action until early December. 

But even with what appeared to be a breakout performance against then-No. 24 Florida in early December, he struggled to find a rhythm throughout the first half of the season. Tatum shot only 30 percent from three-point range in his first 13 games.

When the Blue Devils were shocked at home by ACC bottom-feeder NC State Jan. 23, I was quick to call out the first-year player — he was not cutting it on the defensive end, and offensively, Tatum had yet to prove himself as a consistent shooting threat.

Down the stretch, however, no freshman came on stronger than Tatum. He scored 28 points on 6 of 7 shooting from distance against Virginia in February, averaged 22 points in four ACC Tournament wins in March, and notched a double-double in his first career NCAA Tournament game.

Whatever questions scouts have about Tatum's potential, he has already shown an ability to develop in a short period of time. Even if Tatum takes time to develop as an NBA player, it probably won't take all that long as the Sixers continue their rebuild.

Cool customer
In a deep ACC, Tatum was one of just two first-year players to earn all-conference honors, picking up a third-team spot in early March. He was also second in ACC Freshman of the Year voting behind NC State's Dennis Smith.

Tatum was a consistent performer at the charity stripe — unlike Jackson, who shot just 56.6 percent from the line. Tatum hit on 118 of 139 free throw attempts (84.9 percent) and has the body to get to the line at will with strong drives to the rim.

Although the Sixers have budding stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, they lack a true end-of-game threat who can score both inside and out. Tatum's improving outside shot combined with a powerful inside game could give the Sixers an option that will stretch opposing defenses.

Defensive concerns
As has been the case with a few recent young Duke prospects (e.g. Brandon Ingram, Jabari Parker), Tatum at times struggled on defense. As Sixers fans know all too well, Jahlil Okafor has the same problem. The former Blue Devil standout led Duke in scoring during his lone collegiate season but wasn't a major factor on defense and has been even worse with the Sixers, ranking 324th of 486 NBA players in defensive win shares last season.

Tatum's numbers suggest he has potential to be a better defender than many might expect. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Tatum had a 3.2 block percentage and a 2.3 steal percentage — an uncommon combination. He helped Duke limit North Carolina's Justin Jackson to only 6 for 22 shooting in an ACC Tournament semifinal matchup.

Where Tatum needs to grow is guarding away from the ball. He often found himself losing his man on back cuts and long possessions in the half court.

With the Sixers, the 6-foot-8 Tatum potentially could be the shortest member of a lineup that would feature the 6-foot-9 Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Simmons at 6-foot-10, and the 7-foot Embiid in the middle. Although he will likely need to improve his quickness, Tatum has the size to overwhelm smaller guards and the strength — weighing in at 205 pounds — to match up with most small forwards in the league.

Tatum vs. Jackson
Tatum and Jackson are comparable players in most respects. The two were right next to one another in the ESPN's Class of 2016 rankings behind Harry Giles and put up nearly identical numbers on the offensive end.

Both are considered top-five picks, but the 19-year-old Tatum is younger by more than a year and has room to grow physically. And unlike Jackson, he does not carry the baggage of a criminal property damage misdemeanor from December.

Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel told 97.5 The Fanatic last week that Tatum is "one of the most talented, most gifted offensive guys" he has ever seen. 

Agreed.