Road-weary Sixers blasted by Timberwolves

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Road-weary Sixers blasted by Timberwolves

BOX SCORE

In a sense, the Sixers really haven’t come off their long, six-game road trip that covered 16 days. For as long as the team was in Philadelphia for Monday night’s game against the Timberwolves, it could have been in Minnesota or any other spot on the map.

That’s because the Sixers didn’t get back to Philadelphia until 5 a.m. on Sunday after flying all night following Saturday’s game in Portland. The cross-country flight didn’t even allow the Sixers a chance to unpack their bags because they have another flight on Monday night in order to get to Cleveland for Tuesday’s game.

So it wasn’t like the Sixers were even home at all. Given the 126-95 loss to the Timberwolves at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), it looked as if the Sixers weren’t all there, too.

“That’s the goal of not getting complacent,” head coach Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt. “That’s where we have to get better and get greedy. We had a successful road trip and we won some games and, yeah, we played a lot of games in a few days and had to fly from one end of the country to the other, but that’s the NBA. Everybody does it. You have to come on your home court and show the people that we’re getting better and we’re better than what we showed.

“That’s not us. That’s not who we are and a reflection of the improvement we have made.”

It was a rough one for the Sixers from the jump. Sure, they shot the ball well during the first half, connecting on 57.5 percent of their shots, including 59 percent of them in the first quarter. And Thad Young continued his white-hot play that got him Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with 13 points in the first quarter.

But 12 first-half turnovers -- eight of them in the second quarter -- led to 18 points for the Timberwolves. The Sixers were within six points with 3:27 to go in the first half, but six missed shots, a turnover, and a thin bench with Tony Wroten out with flu-like symptoms, opened the door for Minnesota to go on a 14-4 run to close the half.

From there, the Sixers got no closer than 18 points.

“It was a back-breaker for us. They were a step quicker,” said Young, who scored a team-high 20 points. “They were pushing it more. They were good defensively, but we didn’t make some plays we should have been making.”

The Sixers aren’t using tiredness, a short stop at home or a long cross-country flight as an excuse, though. After all, turnovers are typically caused by poor judgment or bad decisions. That’s the mental side of the game. The physical side may have left the Sixers a bit overwhelmed, too, but not enough to shoot nearly 60 percent during the first half.

The part that left Brown seething after the game was the mental aspect. The Sixers got down and then they checked out.

“It’s fair to point a finger at it from a physical side to a point, but that’s the hardness. That’s the evolution and the grooming of a program that has the ability to come back and move forward,” Brown explained. “I think there is a physical side of what you saw tonight, but the mental side of it upsets me far more. I feel that and see that far more than I see a fatigue side.”

Brown will get no argument from his players.

“After a while basketball is all mental,” said Evan Turner, who scored 13 points on nine shots in 25 minutes. “People get tired, but you really have to bounce back and stick together, especially with the squad we have.”

Brown and his 25-year-old veteran, Young, understand that the mental part of the game is where the true grind of the NBA season lies. Sure, the Sixers had to fly across the country after nearly three weeks on the road, only to leave a day later, but so what. Every team in the NBA has to make tough road trips.

No, the Sixers aren’t going to find a sympathetic ear from any of their brethren in the league.

“We didn’t get it done and that’s on me,” Brown said. “We have to find ways to keep moving forward and you can’t get too full of yourself. Complacency can’t creep in. It’s human nature to have a weakness and we had a weakness, and I feel like we didn’t show the qualities we have shown recently.”

The good part is the Sixers won’t have to wait long to get back out on the court. Only 90 minutes after the final horn sounded, the Sixers were on a flight to Cleveland for Tuesday’s game.

There’s no rest for the weary. That goes for mind and body.

Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid's return, signing Kyle Lowry?

Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid's return, signing Kyle Lowry?

This week I tweeted asking for questions for a Sixers mailbag, and the replies came pouring in. (Thanks, everyone!)

So we changed it up and in addition to answering the questions in these articles, we also discussed some of the topics on PST Extra. Read below and watch the video for the responses.

If you tweeted a question with #CSNSixersMailbag and don't see it on here, there will be plenty more answered leading up to the draft and free agency.

Both players are planning to return to the court during the offseason.

Joel Embiid recently said he intends to be ready for opening night and to play all 82 games next season. That would mean he has a lot of work to do before then. Embiid, who underwent knee surgery in March, has been pleased with his rehab and is scheduled for another scan. He has not been jumping and plans to be cleared for 5-on-5 this summer.

"Every day I go in and do some rehab on my knee, on my whole body basically," Embiid said last week at the draft lottery. "Then [I] get on the court, shoot a little bit flat-footed, and then lift. After lifting, I go in the pool and [on the] treadmill and then start running in the pool. Usually, I'm there for about four, five hours every day."

Covington underwent surgery for a right meniscus tear in mid-April. He actually began his rehab before the procedure, which doctors told him could cut down on his recovery time. Following the surgery, the Sixers announced Covington was expected to "resume basketball activities" this summer.

Training camp is still months away. The players will be closely watched during that period before their availability and minutes are determined for the start of the season.

Rye.

And for the non-question, I'll give that a reply too. I see this point of view: draft a young small forward and bring in an experienced guard. I could envision an opposite scenario, though.

The Sixers could bolster their perimeter play through free agency or a trade. They lacked depth at small forward last season. A player with years on his résumé could fill that void faster than a rookie who will need time to develop into an NBA player.

As for Lowry, there's no question he can improve any NBA team. As I noted a few weeks ago, he is at a different stage in his career than the Sixers are in their progress. The Sixers also have Jerryd Bayless on the books to provide that veteran leadership to Ben Simmons as he learns how to play the one spot.

If I had to go with adding experience at one position or the other, I'd lean toward small forward over point guard.

NBA Notes: Cavs-Warriors III joins past championship trilogies

NBA Notes: Cavs-Warriors III joins past championship trilogies

It never happened between Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics. Same for Michael Jordan and Karl Malone or Jerry West and Bill Russell.

While there have been 14 rematches in NBA Finals history, this year's meeting between LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors will be the first trilogy in league history.

After the Warriors beat the Cavs for their first title in 40 years in 2015, Cleveland got revenge last season with a comeback from 3-1 down to give the city its first major championship since 1964. Now they meet for the rubber match starting June 1 in Oakland.

While this may be unprecedented in the NBA, it has happened once before in the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball with matchups that included some of those sports' biggest stars.

There was Babe Ruth vs. Frankie Frisch in the 1920s and then a pair of memorable three-peat matchups in the 1950s featuring Otto Graham against Bobby Layne in the NFL and Gordie Howe against Maurice Richard in the NHL.

Warriors: Durant once team’s 2nd choice
Truth be told, Golden State's former coach wasn't sure the Warriors needed Kevin Durant.

The Warriors were already small-ball sensations, capable of piling up the points with their daring drives and sizzling shooting. So rather than add another scorer, Don Nelson figured Golden State might be better off getting a dominant man in the middle to shore up the defense in the 2007 NBA draft.

Nelson thought the Warriors needed Greg Oden.

That was 10 years ago, leading up to the heavily hyped draft in which the Oden-Durant debate raged throughout basketball. And now, as Durant leads the league's most potent team into the NBA Finals while Oden is long gone from the NBA spotlight, it's easy to forget that a lot of people agreed with Nelson.

"I think everyone felt that there were two players there that were going to be prominent players, but one thing you can't count on is injuries," Warriors executive Jerry West said. "So Greg really never had a chance to have a career, where Kevin's obviously been more than advertised."

Celtics: Thomas unsure if he’ll need surgery
Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas wanted to keep playing in the Eastern Conference finals, but team doctors and officials convinced him he needed to shut down his season for his long-term health.

"They had multiple people come in and talk to me about what's more important," Thomas said Friday, a day after the Celtics were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers. "But I definitely wasn't trying to hear that at that point in time."

Thomas injured the hip in March and aggravated it in the second-round series against Washington. He played three halves against the Cavaliers before limping off the court in the middle of Game 2.

The Celtics lost that game by 44 points to fall behind 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, then announced the next day that Thomas was done for the season. Still, they beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland the next game before falling easily in Games 4 and 5.

"Eastern Conference finals, that's the biggest stage I've ever been on," Thomas said at the team's practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts. "To not be able to go back out there in that second half and continue that series was painful. Like it hurt me."

Speaking for the first time since the end of his season, Thomas said he might need surgery but it's "not the No. 1 option right now." He will have to wait for more tests until the swelling goes down, he said (see full story).