Sixers get taught lesson by efficient Spurs

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Sixers get taught lesson by efficient Spurs

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Sometimes it really is as simple as it looks.

The extra pass, ball movement, check the egos at the door, place the team above individual accolades, etc., etc. That’s the way the San Antonio Spurs do it with coach Gregg Popovich and veterans like Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

In the Spurs’ 109-85 victory over the Sixers on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), it was all right there for everyone to see. The Spurs didn’t just run a clinic on Monday night, they did it especially for the 76ers as if to send a message …

This is how it’s done.

“That’s the Spurs and that’s what we aspire to get to,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.

Brown should understand it more than most. After all, his only other gig in the NBA was with the Spurs when he spent 12 years learning from Popovich the way an NBA team is best run. It’s a lesson he’s been trying to pass on to his young team as the Sixers begin the sometime painful lessons in a rebuilding season.

So as the Spurs went on surges to build leads of 18 points in the first quarter and 29 points in the third quarter, Brown could say to his team, “See, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

“What you saw was the extremes of a team that has been together and move the ball and shared the ball and moved freely versus a team that became static and stagnant and tried to do it individually and really had no rhythm to what we were doing,” Brown said.

“It’s played the right way. Everyone talks about play the right way. What does that mean? To me it means you share the ball. As simple as a concept as that is, it’s really hard at any level because you get egos involved and other factors are involved. Its impact is far reaching to other aspects of the game. That’s the essence of offense -- sharing it.”

Actually, the Sixers weren’t as awful as the final score indicated. They committed just 15 turnovers and four of them were by big man Spencer Hawes. The Sixers also continued to get buckets in the paint, pouring in 52 points from up close. The Sixers blocked nine shots and did a decent job at keeping the Spurs off the offensive glass.

Plus, Evan Turner scored 20 points for the seventh time in eight games while Hawes notched his fifth double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 boards.

There was some good stuff for the Sixers in the loss. Sometimes a team just goes up against a buzzsaw, even with future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan taking the night off.

“They have so many ways to beat you, and the chemistry is unbelievable,” Hawes said. “Even without [Duncan] in there, they have so many weapons.”

In a season that will go down as one big learning experience, Monday’s loss to the Spurs might end up hitting harder than most games. After all, Brown brought along the Spurs’ offense and ethic when he was hired for the Sixers’ job and likely won’t have to explain too much in the postgame film session.

It was all right there in streaks of black and silver racing up and down the court.

“The biggest thing we took from tonight from seeing it first hand was the unselfishness on both ends of the floor,” Hawes said. “They sell out for each other on defense and they get excited when they make the extra pass. Whenever we play the Spurs it seems like they only shoot threes and layups.

“We run the same offense. But look at how they did it and how we did it.”

They also run opposing players ragged. Though the Spurs were playing the second game of a back-to-back, rookie Michael Carter-Williams struggled to keep up with Parker. But it wasn’t like Carter-Williams was too slow or far out of position.

The Spurs just move the ball that fast.

“They throw the extra pass and it’s really hard to cover,” Carter-Williams said after his 2-for-11 shooting night.

And it isn’t just the offense for the Spurs, either. The Sixers shot 41 percent from the floor in the loss, marking the second time this season they failed to shoot at least 47 percent.

But as Brown explained, the Spurs’ offense spreads to all aspects of the game. The Sixers struggled to get out on the break and when stuck in a half-court offense, they didn’t get much ball movement.

“It spills over into many areas and facets of the game where the ball sticks and people don’t get touches. It’s deflating,” Brown said. “Then you go back to the other end and the ball is moving and you have to chase them around and it’s like ping-pong. They make the passes and they find the right people and they can shoot. It’s what we aspire to get to. That’s what we saw.”

The lessons learned in the loss to the Spurs will be put to the test on Wednesday night when the Sixers host the Houston Rockets. After that, the team hits the road for its first extended streak of the season with games in Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas.

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.