Sluggish Sixers struggle in rout to Cavs

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Sluggish Sixers struggle in rout to Cavs

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND — Sixers coach Brett Brown has a simple formula his team needs to follow in order to stay in games: His three veterans need to have a big night and the bench needs to perform admirably in relief.

The Sixers got the latter Tuesday night in Cleveland, but the three veterans looked like players who were playing their fifth game in seven days. It added up to a 111-93 loss to the Cavaliers (see Instant Replay), the second loss in as many days for the Sixers (12-23).

“We need our big three firing,” Brown said. “We need a bench that’s playing B, B-plus games in order to be in anything competitive. That’s the reality of our roster.”

The big three -- Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young -- combined for just 13 points. All three played limited minutes, and Young was held scoreless for the first time since 2011. He finished 0 for 7 from the floor in 21 minutes.

The Cavs, meanwhile, looked like a team that just got a new shot of life playing hours after acquiring Luol Deng from the Bulls in a trade that sent Andrew Bynum to Chicago. Deng wasn’t with the team Tuesday, but if he watched any portion of the game, he had to have liked what he saw from his new teammates.

Anderson Varejao (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Tristan Thompson (12 points, 10 rebounds) each had double-doubles. Kyrie Irving had 16 points and eight assists playing for the first time in three games.

C.J. Miles scored a game-high 34 points, making a career-high and franchise record 10 three-pointers. The Cavs as a team shot 13 for 28 from deep, as the Sixers fell victim to the poor perimeter defense that plagued them prior to their West Coast trip.

“You give him credit,” Brown said of Miles. “You most definitely give him credit. As a young team, when somebody is rolling like that, you have to be aware of where he is every second. There’s a tiny bit of that that’s on us. You have to show a level of desperation.”

It was evident the Sixers didn’t have the energy to be desperate Tuesday. Reluctant to pin Monday’s loss to Minnesota on fatigue, Brown admitted Tuesday that perhaps his team just didn’t have anything left.

“I have no idea about the team I just saw the last two nights,” Brown said. “The fatigue must have played a far greater factor than I anticipated. The team that came back from the West Coast in relation to what I have seen the last two nights from an energy standpoint is night and day.”

Aside from rookie Michael Carter-Williams, who finished with a career-high 33 points to go along six rebounds, five assists and just one turnover, the Sixers' starters lacked the stamina to stay with the Cavs.

A 14-3 Cleveland run midway through the first quarter was enough to put the Sixers away. The Cavs led by 23 at the half and the lead grew to as much as 31 in the fourth quarter.

“It’s just one of those games where you couldn’t get anything going,” Young said. “Just want to get this one pretty much behind me and move on to the next one. I think as a team we just didn’t play well.”

If the Sixers can find another bright spot outside of Carter-Williams, it might be the play of their bench. The Sixers' bench outscored the Cavs, 43-29. James Anderson (15 points), Brandon Davies (11 points) and Lorenzo Brown (12 points) provided double digits off the bench.

Other than that, it was the kind of lethargic effort that they’d just as soon forget.

“The road trip kind of caught up to us a little bit,” Young said. “It’s been tough on us the last couple weeks.”

Luckily for the Sixers, they get an off day Wednesday before preparing to host Detroit Friday.

“Yes, I do (welcome the off day),” Hawes said. “With open arms.”

Sixers see light after latest round of roster turnover

Sixers see light after latest round of roster turnover

By the time reporters were admitted to the Sixers' locker room some 75 minutes before Friday's home game against Washington, the nameplates above the cubicles previously occupied by Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova had long ago been changed.

Where Noel once sat, in the corner nearest the shower room, there was now a "47 Splitter" nameplate for veteran center Tiago Splitter, who came over from Atlanta in the deal that sent Ilyasova to the Hawks two days earlier.

Where Ilyasova once sat, between Robert Covington and Dario Saric, there was now a "23 Anderson" nameplate for second-year forward Justin Anderson, acquired from Dallas (with Andrew Bogut, who is expected to head to Cleveland once his contract is bought out) in the trade that sent Noel there.

Across the locker room, there was no nameplate at all above the space once filled by rookie guard Chasson Randle. He had been cut when the two trades went down, collateral damage in this latest upheaval, this latest change to an ever-changing landscape.

Out in the hallway a few minutes earlier, coach Brett Brown had reinforced the message general manager Bryan Colangelo delivered to reporters during a news conference earlier in the day -- that all this had been necessary. Noel and Ilyasova are destined for free agency this summer (Noel will be restricted, Ilyasova unrestricted). The Sixers were unlikely to match any outside offer Noel is sure to attract, and just as unlikely to give Ilyasova the long-term deal he craves.

So, buh-bye.

Brown has grown used to all the tired and huddled masses shuffling through town.

"Historically, we all know how we treat people that walk through a door," he said. "We shake their hand and we say, ‘Guard somebody.’"

He settled on the word "appropriate" to describe all the roster turnover.

"There needs to be a frugal and, at times, ruthless approach," he said, "that you genuinely believe that (a certain player is) a keeper, that ultimately can play in the playoffs and ultimately play deep in the playoffs."

That rationale has not exactly set well with the masses. Not when the haul for two rotational players amounted to two injured 32-year-old centers -- Bogut is always hurt, and Splitter had hip surgery last February -- not to mention a guy who was unable to see regular action for a sub-.500 Dallas club and draft picks of dubious worth.

But if the front office has not inspired confidence, some solace can be taken from what we now see on the court. There are keepers on the roster beyond Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. There are guys the Sixers can hang their hats on. The first two post-deadline games -- Friday's 120-112 victory over the Wizards and Saturday's 110-109 loss to the Knicks -- have proven as much.

Consider Covington. Once a mere spot-up shooter, he can now do a little something off the dribble. And he guards Carmelo Anthony's last-second dagger Saturday notwithstanding.

Covington had 20 points and 10 rebounds in that game, 25 and 11 against Washington.

Then there's Saric, who makes up for whatever he might lack in athleticism with savvy belying his 22 years. The rookie forward stretched his own double-double streak to four by generating 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds against the Knicks.

He also has the endorsement of Colangelo, who during Friday's presser was asked about the view that the Sixers were returning to their tanking ways this season.

"I think I say Dario Saric, he's the answer (to that question) for us,” he told reporters.

Hey, no pressure, kid.

"Maybe some kind of pressure," Saric said before Friday's game. "For sure it's pressure, but I think I can say it's more attention on me. … But I will try to put everything on the side. I will try to not think so much about what he said. Of course, it's a positive thing, but I will not try to press myself."

He and Ilyasova were close. They shared a position, power forward, and while Ilyasova is from Turkey and Saric from Croatia, they very much spoke the same language.

"He was like some kind of mentor to me," Saric said. "He helped me a lot."

Especially on those occasions when the younger man got down on himself, as he did at times during the first few months of the season.

"He'd say, ‘It's one game. We have another game in 24 hours. You need to change your mindset and be ready for the next game,’" Saric said of Ilyasova.

Without his safety net, and with the expectations of the franchise now resting on his shoulders to some extent, Saric put up 20 points and 11 boards while making his 12th career start Friday night and his first since Feb. 2.

In one glittering second-quarter stretch, he hit a step-back jumper from the mid-post when he found himself in a mismatch against one Washington guard, John Wall, then backed down the other guard, Bradley Beal, and scored with the left hand. There was also an elbow jumper, not to mention a lefty post move over Otto Porter.

"The first 10 minutes, I tried to find myself," Saric said. "OK, I got a couple good assists, a couple good rebounds, but still I tried to find myself. It's a new role. I tried to play, tried to run, tried to find the rhythm of the game, which is most important thing in basketball. I got (into) the game after seven, eight minutes, maybe 10 minutes, and I'm happy. I had a good game, you know?"

Anderson didn’t play, but saw nearly four minutes of daylight against the Knicks, missing his only shot. Splitter, recovering from his hip surgery (as well as resultant calf issues), has not dressed for either game.

"Tiago right now is unhealthy," Brown said Friday.

Which is news to Splitter. Asked when he might be available, he said, "I hope soon. I was in full practice with the Hawks. … I saw the trainer (Kevin Johnson) today. They were happy with what they saw, and see."

Sixers fans, meanwhile, have mostly been seeing red of late. But if they look closely enough, they can see some reason for hope, too.

Report: Andrew Bogut expected to sign with Cavaliers after buyout from Sixers

Report: Andrew Bogut expected to sign with Cavaliers after buyout from Sixers

Andrew Bogut, we hardly knew ye. 

After coming over from Dallas as part of the Nerlens Noel trade, Bogut is already thinking about his next move.

With the Sixers expected to buy out Bogut's contract, the former No. 1 overall pick will look to sign with the Cavaliers, according to ESPN's Tim MacMahon. 

The Sixers swapped Noel for Bogut, Justin Anderson and a top-18 protected first-round pick -- which will likely turn into two second-round picks -- last Thursday. 

With LeBron James begging the front office for help, the Cavaliers are also expected to sign Bogut's former Dallas teammate Deron Williams on Monday, according to The Vertical's Shams Charania