Sixers dominated by Clippers to start four-game road trip

slideshow-032013-sixers-hawes-ap.jpg

Sixers dominated by Clippers to start four-game road trip

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- The fact that the Sixers were tied with the Los Angeles Clippers after one quarter on Wednesday night was slightly deceiving.

The Clippers lost in Sacramento 24 hours earlier and appeared to be stuck in the same malaise that plagued them against the Kings.

Then came the second quarter in which the Clippers made 60 percent of their shots and the Sixers could not buy a basket. The Sixers followed that with a third quarter that saw them commit seven of their 19 turnovers in the game.

It all equaled up to a 101-72 loss for the Sixers, their 41st of the season (see Instant Replay).

“Their defense was tremendous tonight,” Sixers head coach Doug Collins said of the Clippers. “They really did a good job. They do a great job trapping Jrue (Holiday). They are not going to let him get any shot opportunities and they try and get the ball out of his hands.

“We did some good things for a while and then turnovers just killed us. They had 24 points off turnovers and they had 13 steals.”

“I feel like that is what they do,” Holiday said. “They are very hard to stop in transition. They have so many high flyers and obviously from the past weeks you start to think a little more about jumping with those guys, but they definitely take advantage of turnovers.”

Holiday finished with a season-low two points on a dismal 1-for-8 shooting. It was just the sixth time in 63 games this year that Holiday failed to reach double-figure points.

The Clippers held the Sixers to just 36.7 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent from three-point range. They also limited Holiday to four assists.

By taking the ball out of Holiday’s hands, the Sixers’ big men were forced to do more of the team’s decision making. Spencer Hawes took on that duty, recording seven assists to go with 16 points and seven rebounds as the lone bright spot for the team.

“They swarm,” Holiday said. “They obviously made our big (Hawes) make some point-guard decisions and I think he did a great job. I mean we did really well in the first half. Second half we let it get away from us.”

“They got us turning it over and got some easy baskets,” Hawes said. “I thought we defended them well when we weren't turning it over early, when we were in the halfcourt. When they get out in transition, they're as dangerous as any team in the league.”

Things started to unravel after intermission mainly because of the play of Chris Paul.

Paul had 10 points and two assists in the decisive third quarter. The All-Star point guard finished with a game-high 19 points, nine assists, six rebounds and five steals before watching nearly the entire fourth quarter from the Clippers’ bench.

“Chris Paul just impacts the game in every possible way. He is an amazing player, Collins said. “We were hanging around for a while, but the turnovers were the deciding factor.”

“He’s tough. He’s a dog. He runs the team, he does everything,” Holiday added. “He scores when he has to or wants to. He obviously gets everyone else off as well, and at the same time that’s a very deep team. They can go to their bench and get so much out of that.”

The Clippers’ bench outscored the Sixers’ reserves, 42-25. Even former Sixer and Villanova standout Maalik Wayns joined in on the act, scoring nine points on 3-of-6 shooting in the Clippers’ win.

The Sixers will play at Denver on Thursday. The Nuggets are 30-3 at home this season and are currently riding a 13-game winning streak.

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Nik Stauskas

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Nik Stauskas

Nik Stauskas

Position: Shooting Guard

Status for 2017-18: Guaranteed — $3,807,147

Stauskas in 2016-17
In his second season with the Sixers and third in the NBA, Nik Stauskas saw himself generally improve across the board, albeit by a small amount. The Sixers as a whole had a plethora of injuries that kept nearly every player off the court for extended periods, yet Stauskas remained healthy enough to play 80 games, start 27 and play 27.4 minutes a contest. Health is certainly a skill and Stauskas has it.

As for his play on the court, Stauskas got better in essentially every category. His field goal percentage rose from 38.5 to 39.6 percent, he shot a career-high 36.8 percent from three and he improved his scoring to 9.5 points per game while also sporting career highs in rebounds, assists and blocks with only a 2.6 minute increase in minutes per game.

His consistency was pretty notable. He played at least 23 minutes in every game after Jan. 20 and was a constant in an ever-changing Sixers rotation. He had eight straight games with double figures to end February. While he began the year as the backup two-guard, Stauskas started at shooting guard by the end of the year with Gerald Henderson nursing an injury. Coach Brett Brown even had Stauskas play point guard down the stretch with injuries to Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez creating an opening. In that way, Stauskas diversified his skill set

Signature game
Stauskas' season-high 21 points came against Phoenix in mid-November, a win against a team even worse than the Sixers. Stauskas had 20 points on back-to-back games in Orlando and Oklahoma City in late March, hitting eight threes over the two games.

But what is a signature game for Stauskas without a little measure of revenge? On Jan. 30, Stauskas made four threes and scored 16 points against the Kings, providing some key baskets in a 122-119 win over his former mates.

Looking ahead to 2017-18
Next season for Stauskas will be a critical one. It'll be the final season of his four-year rookie contract. While he's improved year to year, he's not quite the product one may expect out of the former eighth overall pick. At this point, a few years removed from that 2014 draft, it is unfair to continually compare him to that draft and instead focus on what he is.

Well, what is Stauskas? He's a shooting guard who can play a little bit of the point in a pinch and can hit a decent, albeit not elite, clip of threes. There's value there for sure. However, with a bevy of potential draft picks coming the Sixers' way, the guard known as Sauce Castillo could see his role downsized in 2017-18 with a rookie taking his minutes.

Even players getting healthy could take minutes away from Stauskas. He's already competing with veteran Gerald Henderson, also a free agent after 2017-18, for minutes and Bayless may be squeezed into more of a two-guard role with Ben Simmons at the point. Simmons, Bayless and T.J. McConnell likely take away the few opportunities Stauskas would have to play point guard, but he only took that on because of injury anyway.

Still, even in a roster squeeze, Stauskas brings a fair amount to the table. Brown's system needs shooters and despite a few slumps, Stauskas can drain jumpers. He's developed chemistry in the locker room and has earned enough trust and stayed healthy enough to play 27 minutes a game in the NBA. 

On Stauskas
"We're seeing a skill package that everybody talked about when he came out of college. You're seeing a lottery pick play. I'm personally happy for him because he cares sometimes too much and he's so self-conscious at times and extremely prideful and he's being rewarded for the work he has put in."

- Sixers coach Brett Brown

NBA Playoffs: John Wall scores 42 as Wizards eliminate Hawks

NBA Playoffs: John Wall scores 42 as Wizards eliminate Hawks

ATLANTA -- John Wall had that look in his eye at morning shootaround.

Bradley Beal knew it was going to be a big night for Washington's star point guard.

Wall scored 42 points -- a career playoff high, with 19 coming in the fourth quarter to single-handedly hold off a furious Atlanta comeback -- and the Wizards eliminated the Hawks with a 115-99 victory Friday, capturing the opening-round playoff series 4-2.

"You could just tell he was locked in," Beal said. "He was ready to go. We just feed off that."

Beal wasn't too shabby either, scoring 31 points (see full recap).

Celtics complete series comeback, eliminate Bulls
CHICAGO -- The Boston Celtics kept reminding each other not to let up as they closed in on a lopsided victory and a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

No need to worry about that.

Avery Bradley scored 23 points, and the hot-shooting Celtics pounded the Chicago Bulls 105-83 to win their first-round series 4-2 on Friday night.

The top-seeded Celtics simply torched Chicago to finish off a tougher-than-anticipated series and advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Boston regrouped after dropping the first two games at home and will meet Washington in the Eastern semifinals. Game 1 is Sunday (see full recap).

Clippers beat Jazz on road to force Game 7
SALT LAKE CITY -- Chris Paul scored 29 points and the Los Angeles Clippers forced a Game 7 in their first-round series with a 98-93 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

The Clippers will host the only do-or-die game of the first round Sunday, with the winner advancing to face the Golden State Warriors.

Los Angeles began to edge away in the third quarter and appeared to be in control when Austin Rivers capped a 9-2 run with a step-back 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 91-77 with 3:58 remaining.

He hit another with 1:29 left to make it 96-86, but Gordon Hayward scored seven straight to bring the Jazz within three before Joe Johnson missed a 3-pointer in the waning seconds (see full recap).