Sixers' sloppy defense exposed in loss to Bobcats

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Sixers' sloppy defense exposed in loss to Bobcats

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CHARLOTTE -- The Sixers’ defense is in desperate need of improvement.

That much was evident once again in Friday night’s 105-88 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats (see Instant Replay). The Sixers allowed 36 points in the first quarter and 62 in the first half on the way to suffering their eighth consecutive loss on the road, dropping their record to 7-13.

“I feel like that whole first half was not good defensively,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “We scored, but we have to find ways to individually and team-wise improve defensively or it is going to be a really long year.”

“We have to start off games better defensively,” Tony Wroten said. “We played good defense in the second half like coach said, but we have to play it for 48 minutes. We can’t let teams get 36 or 40 points in the first quarter. It is going to be hard to win games like that.”

Brown has been saying the same thing about his team’s defense from the start of the season. He’s repeatedly pointed out that some of the Sixers’ defensive deficiencies have to do with the team's makeup and style of play. Still, the coach knows opponents are onto the club’s clear weakness and it will only get worse after allowing the NBA’s lowest-scoring team to put up 105 points.

“Al Jefferson was 6 for 21. That wasn’t our problem,” Brown said. “It was more catching that first dribble, guarding that first dribble. The perimeter people did a really good job of exposing some problems that we have to fix.”

While big men have been an issue for the Sixers lately, holding Jefferson to 14 points on an inefficient 28.5 percent shooting has to be considered a small win. It was the team’s effort on other players slashing to the basket that prevented them from an actual victory.

The Bobcats scored 16 of their 22 fast-break points in the first half, while the Sixers totaled 10 for the game. The Bobcats also put up 56 points in the paint en route to shooting 46.2 percent from the field.

“My concern is how easily they scored in the first half and the way that they did it,” Brown said.

Things were particularly bad for the Sixers in the second quarter. They allowed a three-point deficit to balloon to 11 when they were outscored in the frame, 26-18.

The Sixers never really threatened the Bobcats after that point, although Wroten did his part to try and make it a game.

With Michael Carter-Williams not making the trip because of a sore right knee, Wroten took advantage of the opportunity to be in the starting lineup. He scored a game-high 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out eight assists.

Wroten is averaging 19.5 points, 6.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds in five starts this season.

“You rely on the starters to set the tempo,” Wroten said. “Since I was starting, I just figured I had to be aggressive.”

“You give him the ball and the lights come on and there is a player that’s engaged,” Brown said. “You try to put him in environments that he can use that attack mentality and tap into what he can bring to the team.

“His challenge is going to be, well, if I am not the starting point guard and I don’t get thirty-something minutes, how do I evolve into a solid NBA player?”

The Sixers get right back at it Saturday night when they face the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets will also be on the second game of a back-to-back set after losing to the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

NBA Playoffs: Avery Bradley's buzzer-beating 3 lifts Celtics past Cavaliers in Game 3

NBA Playoffs: Avery Bradley's buzzer-beating 3 lifts Celtics past Cavaliers in Game 3

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CLEVELAND -- Leprechauns are imaginary. Celtic pride is very real.

Avery Bradley's 3-pointer danced on the rim and dropped with less than a second left and Boston, blown out in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals and playing without star Isaiah Thomas, stunned the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-108 on Sunday night in Game 3 to end the champions' 13-game postseason winning streak.

Bradley's shot from the left wing -- off a play designed by coach Brad Stevens -- bounced on the rim four times before going down. It capped a furious, focused comeback by the Celtics, who trailed by 21 in the third quarter before rallying to tighten up a series that appeared to be over.

"Wide-open look," Bradley said. "Al (Horford) did a great job of getting me open and Marcus (Smart) made a great pass and I was able to knock down the shot."

Smart, who started in place of Thomas, made seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points, and Bradley had 20 for the Celtics, who were given little chance after losing by 44 in Game 2 and then losing Thomas for the rest of the postseason because of a hip injury.

"Everybody had to step up their game tonight especially with one of our brothers down," Smart said. "Our love and support goes out to Isaiah. We wish he could be here but we understand. We just kept fighting. Everybody did their part."

Kyrie Irving scored 29 points, and Kevin Love had 28 for Cleveland. The Cavaliers dropped to 10-1 in the postseason with their first loss since Game 4 of last year's Finals.

Game 4 is Tuesday night in Cleveland.

LeBron James had one of the worst games of his postseason career, finishing with 11 points and six turnovers.

"I didn't have it," said James. "You let a team like that grab momentum you almost knew a shot like that was going in."

Still, the Cavs were in control leading 77-56 in the third quarter after making 14 3-pointers in the first half. But Cleveland got complacent, Smart got hot and the Celtics, who arrived at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday morning for their shootaround without Thomas and looking somewhat defeated, never gave up.

"We decided were going to go out and play hard, swinging." Bradley said. "We never counted ourselves out."

The Celtics caught the Cavs at 95-all on Smart's 3-pointer and then matched the James and Co. basket for basket in the final minutes in one of the most entertaining games of what has been a mostly boring postseason.

Boston's Jonas Jerebko's baseline jumper put the Celtics ahead 108-106 with 30 seconds left before Irving scored on a drive to tie it with 10.7 seconds left.

Following a timeout, the Celtics perfectly executed a play drawn up by Stevens and worked the ball to Bradley, who found himself open and then calmly knocked down a shot that goes straight into Celtics lore.

For Cleveland, the loss was a wake-up call on their march toward a possible third straight Finals and a seemingly inevitable rematch with Golden State. The Cavs had been playing a glorified game of H.O.R.S.E. with the Warriors, who are undefeated and can complete a sweep of San Antonio on Monday night.

The Cavs hadn't lost since Game 4 of last year's Finals, and they came in tied with the 1988-89 Los Angeles "Showtime" Lakers for the longest winning streak in postseason history.

With Thomas back home, the Celtics could be forgiven for feeling down after Thomas, their inspirational leader was shut down with a hip injury he first sustained in March.

However, Stevens liked his team's energy leading up to tipoff and felt confident they would play hard.

"Our guys are itching to play," he said. "Obviously, we're here for a reason, and we've got tough-minded, competitive guys who have largely been guys that have had to really earn their way up in this league."

They earned their way back into the series.

Tip-ins
Celtics: Stevens said Thomas will visit hip specialists over the next few days and there's a chance the 28-year-old will need surgery. ... Stevens didn't review much of the Game 2 tape, but there's a mental image in his head of the Cavs making tough shot after tough shot that he can't shake. "As good as they are and they are tremendous, that might have been the best game I've ever seen a team play against us," he said. Does that mean college too? "Yeah, I think they would have beaten all those teams, too," he said, drawing laughter. ...

Cavaliers: James came in needing 73 points to pass Michael Jordan as the top scorer in postseason history. ... Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was an assistant in Boston and said his team reminds him of those Celtics teams with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. "That was a tight group," he said. "They did everything together, dinners and everything." ... Cleveland is 14-0 when leading a series 2-0. ... Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, and fellow rookie Jabrill Peppers took a few shots on the floor before teams came out for warmups.

Give and Go: Should the Sixers take a run at J.J. Redick?

Give and Go: Should the Sixers take a run at J.J. Redick?

Before the offseason craziness starts, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we analyze if the Sixers should take a run at free-agent guard J.J. Redick.

Camerato
The Sixers should make Redick, an unrestricted free agent, one of their top targets this offseason. They have a glaring void on offense and Redick can fill those needs. 

The Sixers ranked 25th in scoring (102.4 points), 27th in field goal percentage (44.2) and tied with the Bulls for 24th in three-point percentage (34.0). 

The young team needs a boost in the backcourt. The Sixers' top three offensive pieces are in the frontcourt (Joel Embiid, 20.2 points per game; Dario Saric, 12.8 points per game) or on the perimeter (Robert Covington, 12.9 points per game). Nik Stauskas was the highest-scoring guard last season at 9.5 points per game. 

Enter Redick. He has made a lengthy career as a knockdown shooter. He also brings that veteran experience the Sixers are looking for as he enters his 12th season. Not to mention he knows what it takes to get to the playoffs, where he's been in all but one of his seasons. 

Redick averaged 15.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 28.2 minutes for the Clippers this season. He shot 42.9 percent from three, 44.5 percent from the field and 89.1 percent from the line. Yes, his three-point shooting percentage did drop from a league-leading 47.5 percent last season, but he still finished fifth in the NBA. 

Redick will turn 33 in June. He played 78 games this season and has missed a total of only 15 games over the past three seasons. His age doesn't concern me given his role. Consider the long careers of other shooters: Jamal Crawford, 37, shot 36.0 percent from three in his 17th season. Manu Ginobili, who turns 40 in July, shot 39.2 percent from three in his 15th NBA season. The Sixers pursued both veteran guards last offseason. 

Haughton
With young talent already on the roster and more set to be added with the No. 3 overall pick, the Sixers could be in the market to add a significant free agent during the offseason.

While the backcourt — particularly shooting — is definitely an area to address, I'm not sure throwing money at Redick is the way to go.

Redick's offensive numbers have held steady throughout his 11-year career. He's a career 41.5 percent shooter from three-point range.

That's certainly an upgrade over anyone currently on the club, but is that really worth the reported $18-20 million per year Redick is seeking in a FA deal?

Not when you factor in his defensive shortcomings and the fact that the last time we saw Redick on the floor he looked every bit like a player about to turn 33 next month. He averaged 9.1 points per game (down from 15.0 in the regular season) during the L.A. Clippers' first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz as he shot 38.0 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from three-point range.

Perhaps it was just a bad stretch or unfavorable matchup for the typically reliable shooter. It's at least worth thinking about before throwing a hefty contract offer Redick's way.

Hudrick
I've been going back and forth on this ever since Woj came out and said he expects the Sixers to pursue Redick. 

It makes sense that they would. Colangelo reportedly pursued veteran free agents Manu Ginobili and Jamal Crawford last offseason. Redick would seem to be a better fit than both of those players. He's younger (33) and he fits the team's biggest need: Shooting.

The Eagles took a page out of the Sixers' book by drafting a likely redshirt rookie in Sidney Jones. Perhaps the Sixers could now look to emulate the Eagles. The Eagles' offseason seems less about winning — although it may be a byproduct — and more about surrounding second-year quarterback Carson Wentz with weapons. Redick's sharpshooting would certainly play to the strengths of Embiid in the post and Simmons as a facilitator. 

Redick also has a reputation for being a great team player and locker room presence. He's seen plenty of playoff action, playing 88 (48 starts) postseason games. He's struggled in his last couple trips, but the Sixers can worry about that when they reach the playoffs. 

Then again, depending on the length of the deal, do the Sixers want to spend their money now when it might be better used elsewhere down the road? I'll say this: Redick is a better fit than Kyle Lowry and would make the team's two franchise players better. Why not give Redick a shot?