Harden, Rockets bad matchup for Sixers

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Harden, Rockets bad matchup for Sixers

Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets looks like the classic bad matchup for the Sixers. It’s one thing to have All-Star Dwight Howard on the roster, but to have him playing power forward alongside center Omer Asik is sure to create a size disadvantage.

Who guards Howard? Thad Young?

As if handling the Rockets’ size won’t be difficult enough, the Sixers have to contend with All-Star James Harden, who is averaging nearly 25 points per game and leading the league in three-point attempts.

Sixers coach Brett Brown is all too familiar with Harden’s game from his days as an assistant coach for San Antonio when he had to scout Harden’s teams.

“I had Oklahoma City when I was with San Antonio, so I was always watching them and James coming off the bench. Then you see the evolution of him as a starter and we coached him in All-Star Games, so we’ve seen him,” Brown said. “You’re always amazed at how big he is -- physically and height wise. He's such a force downhill -- he gets to the rim and he draws fouls and he’s always coming at you. He also has the ability to rise up and make threes or duck his head and bait fouls. He’s just a really hard guard.”

Where the Sixers might run into the most trouble against Houston is on the perimeter. Not only will Harden fire it up from outside, but Chandler Parsons also can light it up, averaging 19 points and shooting 22 for 42 over his last three games.

The Sixers have allowed the opposition to hit 13 three-pointers in five games and 15 three-pointers in three games already this season. The Rockets are second in the league in three-pointers attempted, averaging more than 25 per game.

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Ben Simmons

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons

Position: Point guard? Power forward? TBD

Status for 2017-18: Guaranteed — $6,168,840

Simmons in 2016-17
Ben Simmons missed the entire 2016-17 season after suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot on the final day of training camp.

He was ruled out officially in late February when a scan revealed his foot had not fully healed. Simmons was cleared to advance his training in mid-April.

This season was one of learning for Simmons. The Sixers implemented a multifaceted rehab program to improve his health, education and shot. This included studying game film with Brett Brown and working closely with shooting coach John Townsend.

Simmons also joined the Sixers to experience life on the road. During these trips, he spent time with point guard Jerryd Bayless, who is serving as a veteran go-to as Simmons learns the NBA backcourt.

Signature game
Since Simmons did not appear in a game, let's modify here. Simmons was no stranger to showing off his skills during pregame warmups, including this dunk in Indiana.

Looking ahead to 2017-18
Simmons' first step to prepare for next season is five-on-five work. The Sixers have to determine if that will include his participating in the summer league. This seems unlikely given Simmons' lack of full-contact basketball activity with his own team and the fact he was limited last summer when healthy.

The second step is learning the point guard position. The Sixers plan to start Simmons at the one next season, a role in which they believe Simmons can thrive because of his athleticism and court vision.

The Sixers will work with Simmons to continue improving his shot, specifically hitting free throws and finishing at the basket with both hands.

On Simmons
"I think that the question about whether or not Ben Simmons is a point guard or not, that will play itself out over time. But I don't think there's going to be a quick answer there. I know there's a commitment by the staff to make that happen."

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo

"What I left Stockton (training camp) being so excited about was that he is an elite, potentially, defensive player. So was his father that I coached for five years. It's in his bloodline." 

Sixers head coach Brett Brown

NBA Playoffs: Celtics win 3rd straight to grab series lead over Bulls

NBA Playoffs: Celtics win 3rd straight to grab series lead over Bulls

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley scored 24 points apiece to help the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 108-97 on Wednesday night and take a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series.

After the road team won each of the first four games, the Celtics won at home in Game 5 to earn a chance to eliminate the Bulls on Friday night in Chicago. A Bulls victory would force the series back to Boston for a decisive Game 7 on Sunday.

Dwyane Wade had 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for Chicago.

But Wade and Robin Lopez were called for technical fouls 32 seconds apart with just under five minutes left, helping the Celtics to a 20-5 run that turned an 84-84 game into a 15-point Boston lead.

The Bulls cut it to nine before Al Horford got loose for a dunk, Wade missed a 3-pointer and then Horford fed Jae Crowder for a layup that made it 108-95 with 99 seconds to play.

Despite the technical fouls, there was little of the tension that characterized Game 4, when Jimmy Butler and Marcus Smart got in each other's face on the court and continued the criticism in their postgame comments (see full recap).

Beal, Wall push Wizards past Hawks for 3-2 series lead
WASHINGTON -- John Wall figured the credit went to the down-the-stretch defense displayed by his Washington Wizards.

Neither Dennis Schroder nor coach Mike Budenholzer found any flaws with the way their Atlanta Hawks handled things late.

Either way, the odd manner in which Atlanta seemed to allow the final half-minute or so to slip away while trailing -- not fouling Washington to try to extend things; passing around the ball, instead of shooting it, as the clock headed toward zero -- left the Wizards on the verge of closing out the teams' Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

Back at home, and back in charge, Bradley Beal scored 27 points, and Wall added 20 points and 14 assists, leading Washington to a 103-99 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday night for a 3-2 series lead.

"I thought they were going to play the foul game -- or at least try to trap. But they let us run the clock down," Wall said, noting that he felt as if he and his teammates finished "with the best scrambling defense we had."

Schroder led the Hawks with 29 points, making a career high-tying five 3s, and 11 assists. But after his basket from beyond the arc pulled Atlanta within 101-99 with 70 seconds left, Wall responded with a 21-foot pull-up jumper. Neither team would score the rest of the way (see full recap).