Sixers get taste of rebuilding in loss to Nets

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Sixers get taste of rebuilding in loss to Nets

BOX SCORE

For a team in a rebuilding mode, there will be times of great growing pains and the Sixers are not hiding from this fact. It’s going to get rough during the 2013-14 season for the youthful and inexperienced Sixers.

How rough? The Brooklyn Nets gave the Sixers a little taste of what they can expect at times during the season with a 127-97 victory at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night (see Instant Replay).

“I feel like it was born out of a reality check,” head coach Brett Brown said.

The good part is that it’s still the exhibition season and the games don’t count in the standings yet. But the bad part is that the game showed just how much work the Sixers have to do to reach the elite level in the NBA.

That’s the part that worried Brown because he noticed some of his young players drop their heads when the Nets built a lead to 35 points in front of a crowd of 6,315. But that also presented a chance for Brown to teach a few lessons to his players.

Brown believes it won’t be the last time he gets a chance to do some teaching, either.

“You can’t let your energies and your emotion be dictated by our inability to score and the fact that they just kept going,” Brown said. “I thought that there was an emotional letdown that you see in young teams and I think the veterans continued to battle. But I felt like some heads dropped and it’s something that we’re going to have to deal with throughout the course of the year.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day, of course. And if the Sixers’ brass is looking for some reassurance, they need to look no further than the Nets. Two years ago, they finished in last place in the Atlantic Division. With a revamped roster and a new coach, the Nets are looking to challenge the Heat in the Eastern Conference.

They might be able to do it, too. The Nets smoked the Sixers even with All-Stars Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko sitting out. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett played just 15 minutes and no starter played more than 26 minutes in the rout.

Apparently, that was enough. The Nets shot 54 percent from the floor and 52 percent from three-point range. They also scored 32 fast-break points, easily beating the Sixers at their own strong suit.

Reality check.

“Guys compete, but it’s about executing,” said Evan Turner, who led all scorers with 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting. “I don’t think there is anyone slacking on this team, it’s just executing and getting things together. Sometimes we’re there, we just have to go to finish off the play.”

Then again, the Nets and Sixers are teams headed in different directions. The Sixers blew it up in the offseason and are putting it back together from scratch. The Nets added veterans with championship rings and are the favorite to win the Atlantic Division.

“Obviously, that’s a great team over there,” Turner said.

The Nets were able to get out and run because of their rebounding advantage. With former Sixer Reggie Evans pulling down 10 boards in 16 minutes, the Nets outrebounded the Sixers, 54-31. The Nets also grabbed 18 offensive boards to the Sixers’ 18 defensive rebounds.

That means every shot the Nets took was essentially a 50-50 ball.

Talk about a reality check.

Nevertheless, the game film of the loss to the Nets will be a treasure trove for Brown to decipher before the team plays again on Thursday. The Sixers learned a hard lesson, but it won’t be so bad if they can take something from it.

At least that’s the tact Brown is taking.

“I get a lot of stuff out of this because I think this is reality,” Brown said. “You go and see the level of talent and you look at the level of experience and the physical stature of their players. I get stuff out of this. It’s clear that our physical stature is not going to change. We better spend a lot of time in box-out drills or trying to run is not going to pay the dividends we need it to pay.”

The Sixers return to action on Thursday when they go to Charlotte to play the Bobcats. Following that game, the Sixers play the Cleveland Cavaliers at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

The Sixers (22-35) finish off a back-to-back set out of the All-Star break when they the New York Knicks (23-35) at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Starting out strong
So much for having nine days off and players in new roles negatively impacting the team.

The Sixers stormed into the home stretch of the season with a 120-112 win over the Washington Wizards. Seven different players scored in double figures for the Sixers, as they knocked off the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed.

Perhaps no player had a bigger impact on the game than Richaun Holmes. The backup big man notched the first double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also added a career-best five blocks.

"I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt," Holmes said. "Prepare like I'm going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance."

2. Young guns
Injuries will prevent another juicy clash between Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis, but there will still be two other young players to keep an eye Saturday night.

Dario Saric and Willy Hernangomez have been two of the most impressive rookies this season, especially since the calendar flipped to February.

Saric has averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 boards and 2.2 assists this month. He's coming off a 20-point, 11-rebound performance against the Wizards for his third straight double-double.

Hernangomez has put up 11.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists a night in February. The center, who was actually drafted 35th overall in 2015 by the Sixers before being traded, recorded 11 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks' 119-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Saturday's clash could go a long way toward determining Rookie of the Month honors for the East.

3. A Rose is but a Rose
Derrick Rose will never be considered among the league's top assist men. That's simply not his style of play.

When the oft-injured Rose has his game flowing, it starts with scoring, particularly against the Sixers.

In 18 career matchups with the Sixers, Rose has averaged 20.7 points. He's also put up 6.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in those contests.

Rose scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting in the Knicks' first meeting with the Sixers this season back on Jan. 12.

That typically would have been enough to say he won the point guard battle that night, but T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beating jumper stole the show in the Sixers' 98-97 win.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Joakim Noah (hamstring) is a game-time decision. Porzingis (ankle) is out for the Knicks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers' win over the Knicks in their last meeting snapped a five-game skid in the series.

• The Sixers had 28 assists in their win over the Wizards. They are eighth in the NBA with 23.6 assists a night.

• The Knicks are fourth in the NBA in rebounding with 46.0 boards per game.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me, I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still, I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.