Sixers' loss to Mavericks ends winless road trip

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Sixers' loss to Mavericks ends winless road trip

BOX SCORE

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.

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular-season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."

Sixers-Pelicans 5 things: Joel Embiid takes on dominating Anthony Davis

Sixers-Pelicans 5 things: Joel Embiid takes on dominating Anthony Davis

76ers (4-18) vs. Pelicans (7-15)
8 p.m. on TCN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live starts at 7:30

The Sixers will try to snap their eight-game losing skid when they take on the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center on Thursday night.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Walking wounded, part II
After the Sixers were limited to nine available players in Tuesday's loss to the beat-up Memphis Grizzlies, things won't be much better in the health department in New Orleans.

Sure, Joel Embiid's expected return after sitting out the second half of a back-to-back set for rest will be a welcome boost. However, the Sixers are still dealing with a host of other ailments that will likely limit them to just 10 healthy bodies on Thursday night.

The Pelicans surely won't shed a tear for the Sixers because they have their own injury issues. New Orleans could have as many as five players sidelined, including former Sixer Jrue Holiday with turf toe.

2. The next big thing
All of the injuries won't decrease the game's intrigue, mainly because of the matchup at center between Embiid and Anthony Davis.

Embiid is coming off a subpar performance in his last outing against the Denver Nuggets, but the big man has still been as advertised this season. The rookie is putting up 18.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 23.3 minutes a game. Embiid is also shooting 46.8 percent from the field and an even 50.0 percent from three-point range.

On the other side, Davis has been an absolute monster for the Pelicans this season, even if it hasn't translated into many wins. 

The three-time All-Star leads the NBA in scoring with 31.6 points per game on 50.3 percent shooting. While carrying the scoring load, Davis has still been able to average a career-high 11.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals a night.

This should be the first of many meetings between two big men that look to dominate the future of the league.

3. Glass repair
With Embiid out on Tuesday, the Sixers were dominated 69-54 in the rebounding battle against the Grizzlies.

They should find things a little easier in that department against the Pelicans. Despite Davis' best efforts on the boards, New Orleans has allowed a league-high 48.9 rebounds to opponents this season. 

With Embiid back in the lineup, Ersan Ilyasova coming off a 17-rebound game and Richaun Holmes always active, the Sixers should be able to control the rebounding category.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee/illness) is available to play. Jahlil Okafor (illness), Jerryd Bayless (wrist), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

Holiday (toe) and E'Twaun Moore (toe) are questionable. Tyreke Evans (knee), Dante Cunningham (knee) and Quincy Pondexter (knee) are out for the Pelicans.

5. This and that
•  The Sixers are trying to avoid a franchise-record 24th straight road loss.

•  The Sixers and Pelicans split the season series in 2015-16 with each team winning at home.

•  Ilyasova is averaging 16.2 points and 8.2 boards so far in December.