Sixers stay on attack in comeback win over Wiz

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Sixers stay on attack in comeback win over Wiz

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON -- It doesn’t make much sense.

Typically when a team built like the 76ers plays the way it did for the first two-and-a-half quarters, it loses by 20. Especially on the road. After all, the Sixers missed their first nine three-pointers and 14 of their first 15. They went a horrid 7 for 14 from the foul line and their rookie point guard committed two turnovers in the first two minutes of the game.

Add in the fact that lightning-quick point guard John Wall scored 15 points in the first quarter and 23 in the first half, and it was easy to understand how the Sixers trailed by 14 points after the first 30 minutes of the game.

But what’s equally as easy to understand is how the Sixers pulled off the 109-102 victory over the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center on Friday night (see Instant Replay). Sometimes when a team doesn’t know it’s supposed to lose games, a funny thing happens.

It wins.

“Our guys don’t know what they don’t know and they keep playing,” rookie head coach Brett Brown said. “That’s how I want to keep it.”

The Sixers, a team most basketball experts picked to finish the season with the worst record in the NBA, are 2-0. Better yet, the Sixers are 2-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season, shortly before they traded Allen Iverson to the Denver Nuggets.

To get to 2-0, the Sixers beat the two-time defending champion Miami Heat at home and then rallied on the road to beat the Wizards. Taken at face value, it’s tough to figure out which win was most impressive.

“It’s only two, but we sure are happy,” Brown said. “I think it was a similar way tonight versus the way we won against Miami. It’s the group’s ability to stay together and run and run and run and run late in the games. It helps us find a way to win by getting great defensive efforts and then running out of it.”

Perhaps a cynic would say, “Geez, these guys can’t even tank the right way.” But a closer examination of the final 18 minutes of the victory of the Wizards helps bring things into focus.

For starters, the Sixers got 74 points in the paint and attempted 54 shots from up close. They also got 20 fast-break points and 18 second-chance points off nine offensive rebounds.

How committed were the Sixers to running and getting shots in the paint? Try this for instance: Thad Young led all scorers with 29 points on 14 for 20 shooting and attempted just two shots from longer than 13 feet. Guard Evan Turner followed up his 26-point performance against Miami with 23 against the Wizards, made two shots from outside the paint and attempted just three shots longer than 14 feet.

The outside shooting came from point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who followed up his epic NBA debut with 14 points and five assists, and seven-footer Spencer Hawes, who scored 16 points with 14 rebounds and five assists.

According to Brown, the Sixers were able to rally for the victory because of the commitment to getting those shots from close.

“We want to attack and attack. We want to get to the rim,” Brown said. “It’s not all about firing up threes, because if you look at our three-point shooting percentage, you say, ‘Oh, they’re 6 for 23 and they only shot 14 free throws and made seven. How do you win a game like that?’ So we did a good job continuing to run, and I was especially proud that they were able to run late in the game.”

While the Sixers ran and ran and ran, they were able to put the clamps on Wall, who was on his way to a huge game.

“The start John Wall got off to put us in a bad position,” Hawes said. “But we might have held him to [three points] in the second half and if you can do that, that gives you a good chance.”

The scheme on Wall wasn’t anything elaborate, Turner said. The game plan against a player with Wall’s speed and creativity is to get back on defense as quickly as possible and hope it’s good enough.

So after going 9 for 13 for 23 points in the first half, the Sixers kept Wall to 1 for 6 in the final half.

“We built a wall in front of him and he took a lot of shots to get going,” Turner said. “Sometimes you use them all up. That’s pretty much it. We competed and limited second-chance opportunities and that’s about it.”

There’s not much more to it than that, says Turner.

Meanwhile, don’t expect too many parties or celebrations over winning the first two games of the season. As Brown said, the Sixers are beyond that. Plus, they don't have much time to enjoy it. While the Sixers overcame the Wizards, the Bulls were waiting in Philadelphia for Saturday night's game at the Wells Fargo Center.

“We get it. We know where we’re at,” Brown said. “It’s only two games and we’re going to enjoy it, but we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing and try to make it better in the simple little world we live in.”

Reports: Pacers the latest team pursuing Jahlil Okafor

Reports: Pacers the latest team pursuing Jahlil Okafor

Another team has emerged in Jahlil Okafor trade talks: the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers are pursuing Okafor in an attempt to add help for Paul George, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Jeff Goodman and Chris Haynes.

Indiana would make some sense for Okafor because of their style of play. The Pacers rank 25th in the NBA in fastbreak points per game. They're 25th in speed/distance traveled on offense. (The Sixers are first.) 

And Indiana is also in the top-third of the league in post touches and paint touches per game. 

Al Jefferson, a plodding post player Okafor is often compared to, averages 8.5 points for the Pacers this season and has played in every game.

What might the Pacers be willing to part with?

Thaddeus Young would be a solid return, but it's hard to see the Pacers doing that because it wouldn't make them a better team.

C.J. Miles? Probably not. The guy's an elite three-point shooter.

Forget about Myles Turner, one of the best young bigs in the NBA. 

A trade that might make sense for both teams would be Monta Ellis and a 2017 first-round pick for Okafor. (Before you continue reading, just know I'm not advocating for such a deal, just bringing up the possibility.)

Ellis has fallen out of favor in Indiana, playing six fewer minutes per game than he did the last two years. And as a 31-year-old, undersized two-guard who's long struggled from three-point range, he's not the most efficient player. He's also owed $23 million the next two seasons.

The Sixers could use additional scoring, but could do better than Ellis in free agency. This theoretical trade would really be about the first-round pick.

If the season ended today, the Pacers (29-28) would get the 18th overall pick. In that regard, the pick coming back wouldn't be much different than what they could have received from New Orleans before the DeMarcus Cousins trade.

The Sixers seemed unwilling to take on the contracts of Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca in a trade with New Orleans because, even though they have salary cap flexibility, they don't want to limit their payroll for multiple future seasons. The same would likely be true with Ellis, even though he'd fill more of a need.

Okafor for Miles would be a good trade for the Sixers. So would Okafor for Young. But again, neither deal would make Indiana better in the short term, so it's probably a pipe dream.

The trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m.

Apparently, DeMarcus Cousins threatened to fight Nik Stauskas on a plane

Apparently, DeMarcus Cousins threatened to fight Nik Stauskas on a plane

Apparently, DeMarcus Cousins wasn't a big fan of Nik Stauskas.

Discussing the Cousins trade on his podcast Monday, Zach Lowe recalled a story from two years ago when Cousins threatened Stauskas on Sacramento's team flight to China.

"DeMarcus Cousins ruined Nik Stauskas, or almost did," Lowe said. "The stories about DeMarcus Cousins berating Nik Stauskas, threatening to fight Nik Stauskas on the plane when they were going to China for the preseason. 

"He ruined Nik Stauskas, he ruined Sauce Castillo to the point where he just had to go somewhere else."

Lowe and guest Brian Windhorst went on to compare Stauskas to Buddy Hield, the centerpiece of the Kings' return for Cousins. Both felt the Kings did poorly in the Cousins trade, arguing the draft pick they received from the Pels was equivalent to the one they got from the Hornets (No. 22) for Marco Belinelli.

Windhorst told a story of a conversation he had recently with a personnel executive who said Hield will be a backup two-guard. 

"You know who [Hield] is very similar to in that regard?" Lowe asked. "Nik Stauskas."

"[Stauskas] had a nice stretch in the first third of the season for the Sixers (which showed) he's going to be a rotation player. I think he settles into that — his shooting has slumped a little bit. But that's an example of DeMarcus Cousins ruined Nik Stauskas, and now they're trading him for maybe an equivalent player."

The Kings are just a complete mess, which is hugely important for the Sixers, who own pick swap rights with Sacramento in the 2017 draft and also have the Kings' unprotected 2019 first-rounder (see story).

That trade continues to boost former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie's credibility and make Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and GM Vlade Divac look like they don't know what they're doing.

"If your owner has stability and knows what he's doing and knows how to hire the right people and get out of their way, that's a (good) situation. This was created by Vivek," Windhorst said.

"And that doesn't mean that Vlade didn't make the decisions within the trade that they made with Philadelphia, but putting Vlade in that position when he wasn't ready for it — and I think everybody, including Vlade would agree — led to this.

"I just can't believe how little they got (for Cousins). You know that they've been offered so much more for DeMarcus in the past. And so not only is the recent decision to basically sell the long-term for the now, to trade Nik Stauskas so that you can sign Kosta Koufos or whatever else they did with that money, going and signing Arron Afflalo."

At that point, Lowe interjected and poured on poor Vlade, recounting the players Divac signed with the money freed up in the Stauskas heist.

"Kosta Koufos, Rajon Rondo — who might be out of the freaking league next year — and Marco Belinelli. ... That's who they traded those picks and swap rights for — those three players, who aren't going to help you win and everybody knew they weren't going to help you win. And they could have acquired two of them via free agency if they used the stretch provision and had any idea what the stretch provision was."

The Kings made their bed. Their only real chance of avoiding a catastrophic next few years is if Hield — a.k.a. Stauskas 2.0 — can pull them out of it.