Sixers blasted by Collins after loss to Magic

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Sixers blasted by Collins after loss to Magic

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Maybe the part about the 98-84 defeat that bothered Sixers coach Doug Collins the most was the seeming lack of effort from his players (see Instant Replay). Collins explained, when he was a player for the 76ers, he played until he was physically unable to do so.

But for the life of him, Collins can’t figure out why his players don’t see the season slipping away, and he let everyone know about it after the game (see story).

“I wish I knew. I really do. I gotta tell you. I'm sitting there,” Collins said after the loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. “I gave my body to this franchise. I was never booed as a player. Never. I ran through my sneakers.”

Collins’s team was booed off the floor after the only thing the Sixers left out there were a ton of bricked shots and lots of opportunities to score for the opposition.

He said that it didn’t appear that his players were ready to go from the jump. Considering that the Sixers are still fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the lack of effort is almost unfathomable.

“I looked out there to start the game and three guys weren't even sweating when we started the game. They're going to ease themselves into the game,” Collins said. “You’ve gotta get sweaty, you've gotta get ready to go.”

So at 22-33 with six straight losses and no cupcakes looming on the schedule, what can Collins do to get the team back on the correct path? Obviously it would help if center Andrew Bynum were able to play, but after 55 games and apparently just one practice session, the All-Star still hasn’t spoken to the media (see story) about when he plans to make his debut.

That is if a debut is even out there. One has to imagine that just the sight of Bynum at practice or on the bench (though he wasn’t on the bench for Tuesday’s game) has to be nothing more than a big tease for the Sixers’ players.

“You know guys, it's been hard,” Collins said. “I think there's a part of this group wondering, ‘Are you gonna play? Aren't you gonna play?’ And it's been a tough year.”

No, the Sixers have not seen their complete team out there this year, but then again, they haven’t performed too well lately. Collins was quick to point out after the defeat to the Magic that the Sixers dealt away All-Star Andre Iguodala, and their last two top draft picks in Nik Vucevic and Moe Harkless and do not have anyone they received in the deal playing for them.

But if the team doesn’t give an effort, it almost doesn’t matter who is out there. At one point during the third quarter of Tuesday’s loss, Collins went to his bench to sub in four different players.

What other choice did he have?

“Hey, you know what? They weren't getting it done,” Collins said. “What were we down, 17? We went from seven to 17. And I go back to [coach Hank Iba], that voice I always hear, ‘Hey, son, if you don't want to play, your substitute does. Give somebody else a chance.’ We did and we cut it to five. It wasn't anything other than getting some stops, push the ball, play with some aggression. Basketball is a simple sport. The game is usually going to go to the aggressor. That's just the way it is.”

As it turned out, a couple of former Sixers were quite aggressive. Vucevic scored 12 points and pulled down 19 rebounds, while Harkless scored 10 points on four shots and got the rest from the foul line. Boy, could the Sixers use a rebounder and someone with the ability to get to the foul line.

In other words, the Sixers dealt away three good players and got back nothing … at least nothing yet.

“We made a huge deal and we have nobody playing a part of that deal,” Collins said. “How many teams can give up Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic and have nothing in return playing? That’s tough to overcome. That’s just the facts. I’m not looking for any outs. That’s a fact. Nik Vucevic had 19 rebounds tonight. Spencer [Hawes] had one, I think Lavoy [Allen] had two.”

Still, as Collins likes to point out, there is no player or team out there that will feel sorry for the Sixers. Right now, the Sixers are ripe for the picking and the Bulls, Warriors and Wizards are looking for an easy W.

The scouting tape won’t be difficult to decipher. The Sixers are at their most vulnerable at the start of quarters. Though trailing by five points at the half, the Sixers gave the Magic an 11-0 run to start the second half that morphed into a 14-2 streak. Later, the Magic made eight straight shots from the field to close out the third quarter and start the fourth.

The Sixers trailed by seven points to start the final quarter and were down by 21 points in a little more than four minutes.

What, if anything, can the coach do about that?

“Can I tell you something? If everybody looked inside themselves as much as I did, this world would be a CAT scan. OK?” Collins said. “I mean, believe me, there's not two days go by that I don't go to [team president] Rod [Thorn], I don't go to [general manager] Tony [DiLeo] -- 'what can I do? Can I do anything different? How can I be a better coach? How can I be a better leader? How can I help these guys?' Sometimes you've gotta help yourself. You know? Sometimes you’ve gotta help yourself. Youth is a very blaming thing.”

The loss didn’t sit well with veteran Thad Young, either. The longest tenured Sixer, Young has weathered a few rough seasons along the way and is just as disappointed as Collins with how the season has progressed.

Tuesday night, Young agreed with Collins in that the Sixers didn’t have much energy.

“I’m frustrated,” Young said. “I’m always frustrated when we lose games because my whole life I’ve been a winner. There’s been a time when I did lose games and that made me frustrated, too. That was when we were 27 and 50-something and I don’t ever want to be a part of that anymore. I want to win games and I’m going to put each and every bit of energy I have into the game.”

For now, Collins is hoping the loss to the Magic is as low as it gets. With the Bulls, Warriors, Wizards and Celtics looming on the schedule, it’s not going to get any easier.

“I sure hope it can’t get any worse than this, but I mean, if you look at our schedule, 12 of our last 14 are on the road and look at the home games we’re playing: Atlanta, Golden State. Every one of them is a playoff team,” Collins said. “I’ve always said, ‘Beat the team you’re supposed to beat and let’s see where you are against the others.’ And it seems like for us we’ve laid some eggs in here against some teams we’ve had a chance to beat and then we’ve played pretty well -- San Antonio, Memphis, Miami -- played well, but they were still better than us and beat us and that’s what you can’t do.”

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

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BOSTON -- The NBA Finals has its first "three-match," courtesy of a King who passed His Airness.

LeBron James scored 35 points and passed Michael Jordan to become the NBA's all-time playoff scoring leader as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 135-102 on Thursday night to claim their third straight Eastern Conference title and another trip to the NBA Finals to meet the Golden State Warriors.

Kyrie Irving added 24 points and Kevin Love finished with 15 for the Cavs, who never trailed and led by as many as 39 points in one of their most dominating wins of the series. The Cavs set an NBA record by winning their 13th consecutive series closeout opportunity.

Cleveland's 4-1 series win gives it a 12-1 record this postseason and sets up a third consecutive matchup with Western Conference champion Golden State, the team it beat in the Finals last season to claim the franchise's first championship.

"I wear the number because of Mike," James said. "I think I fell in love with the game because of Mike, just because of what he was able to accomplish. When you're watching Michael Jordan it's almost like a god. So I didn't think I could be Mike."

It will mark the seventh straight trip to the Finals for James, who hit a 3-pointer late in in the third quarter to nudge past Jordan on the playoff scoring list. He quickly flashed one finger as he backpedaled down the court.

In the postgame trophy presentation backstage, James spent most of it lingering in the background as his teammates celebrated.

But there's no denying that his accolades are putting him in the orbit of Jordan, his boyhood idol.

"The biggest thing is I did it just being me, I don't have to score the ball to make an impact on the basketball game," James said. "That was my mindset. If I'm not scoring the ball, how can I still make an impact on the game?"

As much as this series was about James, Irving helped turn the tide of the series with a 42-point effort in Game 4. But he said both he and his teammates continue to be inspired by their leader.

"He's been the driving force, this entire playoff run, and all of us have just helped us along the way," Irving said.

Coach Tyronn Lue said they've gotten tighter this season.

"This team is a crazy team. They just stayed resilient all year, got to the playoffs, and we really stepped our game up," he said. "Now we can start focusing on Golden State to get ready. As of tonight, I'll get started."

Avery Bradley led Boston with 23 points.

The Cavaliers basically conceded the East's top seed to the Celtics at the end of the regular season by opting to rest their starters in advance of the playoffs. But they displayed their superiority over the final two games to wrap up the series.

After allowing the Celtics to seize the early momentum in Game 4, the Cavs barely gave them the chance in Game 5.

Led by its Big Three, Cleveland quickly built a 21-point lead in the first quarter, while getting lots of contributions from their teammates.

Love continued to knock down shots from the outside, Irving sliced his way into the lane to the rim and James got free for several of his one-handed, tomahawk dunks.

It was a very welcomed sight in Irving's case, after he rolled his left ankle in the third quarter of Cleveland's Game 4 win. He showed no signs of lingering issues, though, beating several defenders off the dribble and handing out seven assists.

Meanwhile, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver helped spread out Boston's defenders by connecting on several wide-open scoring opportunities.

Deron Williams, who had been quiet for most of the series, also got in on the act with a series-best 14 points for Cleveland.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James has scored 30 or more points in 11 of Cleveland's 13 games this postseason. ... Improved to 36-5 against Eastern Conference opponents in the playoffs since 2015. ... The 43 points Cleveland scored in the first quarter set a team postseason record for a quarter.

Celtics: Never led at home in the series. ... Finished the playoffs having made at least 10 3-pointers in 16 of their 18 games. ... Held a pregame moment of silence for the victims of the Manchester bombing.

Making progress
The Celtics did their best to keep up, but the consistent outside shooting, bench scoring and defense they relied on to stun Cleveland in Game 3 wasn't there Thursday night.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said though he's disappointed with how the season ended, he's encouraged that no one in Boston's locker room is satisfied just making it to the conference finals.

"I told our guys: `We made a lot of great strides, but this pain is part of the path to what we ultimately want to be,'" he said.

Showing support
Injured Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas was in attendance Thursday night and gathered with his teammates in a huddle before they took the court for pregame warmups.

The two-time All-Star was sidelined in Game 2 after aggravating a hip injury.

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

It may be time for Sixers fans to start setting money aside for some Big Baller Brand gear.

Sources tell ESPN's Chris Haynes that Lonzo Ball is considering working out for the Sixers, who hold the No. 3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

"A final decision will be made once Ball's agent, Harrison Gaines, and Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo have had an extensive conversation centered on the identity of the team, sources told ESPN," Haynes writes.

Haynes also states that the main concern between Ball and the Sixers would be how the former UCLA point guard would fit in on a team that plans to feature 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons as the primary ball handler.

This news comes after Ball declined to work out for the Boston Celtics, who own the top pick in June's draft.

"We don't deal with [Ball's camp] all that much," Celtics president Danny Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub radio during The Toucher and Rich Show Thursday. "They didn't show up at the combine, which is very common — many of the top 10 or 15 players don't show up for the combine. ... We just tried to get him in for a workout and they politely said no."

Ball's father, LaVar, has previously stated several times that his son would only work out for the Lakers, who will select at No. 2. Plus, Lonzo Ball has said he would rather be drafted by the home state Lakers instead of going at the top of the draft.

"I'm a family dude," Ball said during an interview on ESPN last month. "All my family is in L.A. So, to be able to play in front of them, I think that would mean more to me."

Even with all the pre-draft posturing and the outspoken nature of his father, Ball has proven to be a top-tier talent. The 6-foot-6 Ball averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds as a freshman at UCLA as he was named a consensus first-team All-American.

We previously looked at how Ball would blend with the Sixers, which one analyst called a "perfect" fit.

The Sixers may be having similar thoughts.