Sixers' loss to Mavericks ends winless road trip

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Sixers' loss to Mavericks ends winless road trip

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DALLAS -- The Sixers’ three-game road trip didn’t start well and ended just as poorly on Monday night.

With 3:44 to play at American Airlines Center, James Anderson connected on a three-pointer to bring the Sixers within three points.

That was followed by a missed eight-footer from Evan Turner on a drive to the rim. Off the Turner miss, Jose Calderon connected on one of his four made threes.

Turner then got called for a technical foul after arguing for a foul call. Dirk Nowitzki sank the technical free throw and Shawn Marion put in two-handed slam off a turnover on the next possession.

While brief, that 6-0 run the Sixers allowed was enough to suffer a 97-94 loss to the veteran Mavs and finish winless in three straight games on the road.

“We missed a lot of free throws and a lot of layups. We didn’t help ourselves,” Brett Brown said. “But I was proud of our guys. I thought we battled and it showed a lot to come back from arguably our worst performance in New Orleans, and we lost to a good team.”

The Sixers did battle back after their debacle in New Orleans and were right on the verge of salvaging a game on this road swing. However, they managed to get in their own way on several occasions, especially at the free throw line.

The Sixers missed 10 free throws in the game (12 of 22). Tony Wroten, despite playing strong again in replace of the injured Michael Carter-Williams, was a main culprit at the line. The guard scored 19 points, but he connected on just 3 of 9 attempts at the charity stripe.

“As hard as I try not to, it is in my head,” Wroten said of his free throw struggles. “I work so hard and they trust me to make free throws. But missing six free throws is unacceptable.”

Wroten is shooting 60.5 percent from the free throw line this season. He shot just 58 percent on freebies during his one year at Washington. It is an obvious area of weakness for a player that has shown so much potential.

“There is a tenacity and a competitiveness and a toughness that you just can’t help but like,” Brown said of Wroten. “He gets to the rim. There’s no back down in him and he shows a lot of competitive qualities for being so young.

“We miss a great young point guard in Michael Carter-Williams and Tony has taken those minutes and the opportunity and done a heck of a job.”

The Mavs were in position to close out the game thanks to Nowitzki’s play during the early going.

After both teams failed to score a point in the game’s first 3:50, the Sixers opened up a quick eight-point advantage to take control. With the rest of his Mavs teammates still struggling, Nowitzki started finding his rhythm. At one point, the former MVP was 5 of 7 while the rest of the team was 5 for 18.

Nowitzki scored his final field goal of the game with 5:11 to play in the third quarter before finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds. He did other things down the stretch and the rest of the Dallas roster picked up the scoring slack to secure the win.

“You are always wondering if you should use a timeout and address it. It is just that constant onslaught that they can do with that group of players that they have,” Brown said.

Despite the loss, the Sixers' defensive effort was much improved from their 37-point defeat to the Pelicans on Saturday. They limited the Mavs to just 26 points in the paint and held them to 9 of 29 from long range.

“I think it was an all-out effort thing,” said Thaddeus Young, who had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. “There was a lot of effort. We put out fires with guys scrambling and rotating. If we keep doing that we’ll be fine."

“I know we played super hard and we just competed,” said Turner, who led the Sixers with 26 points.

The Sixers will look to snap their three-game losing streak when they return home on Wednesday night to face the Toronto Raptors.

Shawn Long the latest of Sixers to seize opportunity

Shawn Long the latest of Sixers to seize opportunity

CHICAGO -- Injuries have been creating opportunities for different players on the Sixers all season.

Just last week, we took a look at the emergence of Richaun Holmes and how he has moved up the depth chart and proven himself to be a reliable first backup center next season (see story).

Shawn Long has been capitalizing on the same opportunities since earning a call-up from the Delaware 87ers. The Sixers signed Long to a multi-year deal on March 16 following the end of his 10-day contract. His contract is guaranteed for the remainder of this season but partially guaranteed after that, making every game an audition for the future.

The Sixers are down to three centers since the season-ending injury of Joel Embiid (see story), and just two when Jahlil Okafor is out. Long has slid into the backup (and sometimes backup-to-the-backup) role Holmes previously held.

"I think that Shawn Long has really grabbed his brief opportunities and been more than serviceable," Brett Brown said this week. "He's shown reasons why he should be considered a genuine NBA player."

Long's numbers, standing alone, aren't jaw-dropping. Taking a closer look, though, they are efficient. In seven games this month, Long is averaging 5.8 points (shooting 59.3 percent from the field) and 3.5 rebounds in 9.0 minutes.

In Wednesday's loss to the Thunder, Long led the Sixers with six rebounds (in a game they were held to a season-low 25 boards) and 13 points in 15 minutes off the bench. Seven of those minutes came in the first half, so this wasn't just a case of getting a run in a fourth-quarter blowout situation.

On Monday, Long spread his contributions across the stat sheet in the Sixers' overtime loss to the Magic: four points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 11 minutes.

Going back to Sunday's 105-99 win over the Celtics, he played a key role in the Sixers' third-quarter push that cut a double-digit deficit to only three points heading into the fourth. He posted eight points and three rebounds in 5:52 during the third.

Long has to watch his foul trouble as he gets adjusted to defending NBA opponents. He is averaging 4.7 personal fouls in 11.0 minutes over the last three games.

Long also continues to focus on his three-point shooting to stretch the floor. He is just 2 for 3 from three as a Sixer. On Wednesday, he worked on long-range drills with Holmes after shootaround.

With the skills he has and those he is honing, Long could be the latest member of the Sixers to make a name for himself by maximizing playing time when he receives it.

"Isn't it fantastic -- as we've seen over the years, opportunity uncovers different qualities in people," Brown said.

Now with Thunder, Jerami Grant still considers Sixers family

Now with Thunder, Jerami Grant still considers Sixers family

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jerami Grant was the first familiar face to be traded in a season that has seen Nerlens Noel and Hollis Thompson exit town as well.

The Sixers dealt Grant to the Thunder on Nov. 1 in exchange for Ersan Ilyasova and a protected draft pick. The Thunder had already played the Sixers on opening night in Philadelphia, and nearly five months passed before Grant faced his former (and only other) team.

"It's still family, everybody in the organization," Grant said. "They're doing well, they're playing a lot better, so I'm happy for them."

Grant's life was thrown into a tailspin when he was traded. In a flash, he had to leave the city he had called home since 2014. So quickly, in fact, his family had to move out of his home in Philadelphia for him.

"I had to pack my bags and things in two hours," Grant recalled. "I had to get a physical so I could play the next day in L.A. At first it was a little shock, but once you settle down, it's OK."

Grant quickly found a role with his athleticism. He averaged 6.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 21.2 minutes before the All-Star break. The reunion with childhood best friend Victor Oladipo was an added bonus to the adjustment period.

"I settled in well," Grant said. "I think everybody did a great job of just bringing me in. I think the fans have done a great job of embracing me. Whenever I get on the court, they give me a standing ovation, so that's great. My teammates are great, too."

Grant's playing time waned when the Thunder acquired Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott from the Bulls. Grant is averaging 3.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.2 blocks in 12.3 minutes since the break. He continues to stay focused on improving his three-point shot every day in practice, which was a focal point with the Sixers.

Grant played 11 minutes against the Sixers and scored three points (a trey, nonetheless), along with three rebounds and two assists (see game recap). Brett Brown has seen Grant play enough games to believe in spite of his lessened role on the Thunder, he will have a place in the league for years to come.

"He lives right, he's prideful, he wants to be good," Brown said. "He's athletic enough to feel like there's potential there. He's a wonderful person and a great teammate. There's a cleanliness, there's a wholesomeness to Jerami Grant along with pedigree, his family tree ... that makes him for sure to me an NBA longtime player."