Turnover-prone Sixers collapse against T-wolves

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Turnover-prone Sixers collapse against T-wolves

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS -- Things simply didn’t add up for the Sixers on Wednesday night.

While the team played one of its best first quarters of the season on the way to building a 19-point advantage over Minnesota, it wouldn’t last. The Sixers allowed the lead to disappear during the second half in a 106-99 loss to the Timberwolves (see Instant Replay).

The loss was the Sixers’ ninth straight on the road as their record fell to 7-16. The Sixers are now 1-11 on the season when they don’t score at least 100 points.

“We put ourselves in position to win a game on the road and that is hard to do,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “I think the energy and effort that our guys continue to give, I’m proud of them. I think to look at the free throw numbers and the difference and to look at the turnovers and the difference, that coupled with some other numbers you would close your eyes and say that is a 30-point loss.”

It wasn’t, but it may sting just like a blowout. Especially when you factor in that the Sixers contributed a lot to their own demise.

They had 26 turnovers in the game and took just 14 free throw attempts. On the flip side, the Timberwolves had 16 giveaways and were 25 of 29 from the charity stripe.

“It is the prime example, especially for a young team, when you get a team down you have to understand the situation,” Spencer Hawes said. “You have a team down 20, that is coming off a back-to-back, you have an opportunity to put a stamp on it. You have to take advantage of that. Credit them, they kept battling and they fought their way back.”

The Timberwolves outscored the Sixers by 10 points in each of the final two quarters to erase a 13-point halftime deficit. Kevin Love led the way for the Timberwolves with 26 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.

Still, this was a game the Sixers should have won. They were plus-15 on fast-break points and scored 42 points in the paint.

But it all came down to turnovers for a team that is second-worst in the league in giveaways per game at 17.7. Every time the team appeared to be slowing down the T-wolves’ momentum, it would commit another error.

Evan Turner was big culprit, committing nine of the Sixers’ turnovers.

“I think we play in a crowd too much,” Brown said. “I think we try to force too much. I think it is simple. If someone else is open you pass it. It is really hard to candy coat it.”

“If you are playing in a crowd you have a problem. We had 15 assists in the first half. We had seven in the second. We had 39 points in the first period and 38 in the second half. There is a disconnect and we need to address that.”

With Michael Carter-Williams out again with a sore knee, Turner and Tony Wroten found themselves sharing the Sixers’ ball-handling duties once again. They are both individuals who like to dribble a lot and penetrate the lane. However, they need to find a better balance to help cut down on the miscues.

“We play good together. As coach says all the time, we aren’t selfish. It is just sometimes we try to be too aggressive trying to see the open man,” said Wroten, who tied Hawes for a team high with 20 points. “I see improvement offensively and most definitely defensively. Coach got on us a lot defensively. We lost tonight, but I feel like we are getting better every single day.”

“I feel bad for our guys because we were in position to win,” Brown added. “We just weren’t able to pull it off because of a lot of turnovers and good plays by them.”

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid will miss the next four games and is slated to return March 3 against the Knicks in Philadelphia, so long as he is symptom-free. While Embiid wants to play as soon as possible, he’s just glad there is now a definitive timetable announced.

Prior to Thursday, the team had not announced a specific timeframe.

“I wasn’t too happy with the way it was kind of handled before,” Embiid said. “I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn’t happy with the way it was handled.

“I thought keeping my name out there was going to just like literally have people think about me all the time instead of just saying when I was going to be back. So I’m happy that they did that today and they said that I’m out for the next four games.”

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion on Jan. 22 against the Trail Blazers. He sat out three games and returned on Jan. 27 to play the Rockets. He has not played since then, sitting out the last eight games.

An MRI also revealed Embiid has a slight tear in his meniscus, which is not thought to be related to the contusion.

Embiid went through a full practice on Thursday for the first time, he estimated, in four or five weeks. (Wednesday’s practice was not intense.) According to the Sixers, they are encouraged by the progress Embiid showed but do not feel he is game-ready. Team doctors are holding him out the next four games to minimize the risk of aggravating his knee. In order for him to be cleared, Embiid has to be symptom-free.

Embiid had eyed a return on Friday against the Wizards because he was feeling well, he said, but he had some swelling on Thursday.

“No swelling, no pain, nothing,” Embiid said of his criteria to play.

Now the team -- and fans -- can move forward without daily questions of Embiid’s status.

“I think it’s good for everybody,” Brett Brown said. “For you all to understand, the people that buying a ticket to understand, for me as a coach to prepare my team that he’s not going to be here for four more games. I like that clarity. I’m fine with it. Obviously, you want him playing, but the mystery that surrounds that speculation I think is frustrating for people and we understand that.”

Embiid reiterated the patience aspect of the injury, noting he waited two years to rehab his foot and there is no need to rush his knee. Now everyone can be in the loop with his status.

“The end point is basically making sure I’m ready to play instead of just putting me out there,” Embiid said.