Shooters Keep Shooting: Jodie Meeks Finally Gets Hot, Sixers Beat Pistons

Shooters Keep Shooting: Jodie Meeks Finally Gets Hot, Sixers Beat Pistons

It's one of the oldest cliches in sports, about how sometimes, a shooter
just needs to see it go in once to help get his touch back. Very
rarely, however, do we see the cliche proven as explicitly as Jodie
Meeks did tonight. Jodie was in the midst of his worst slump as a
Sixer—entering tonight's action, he was just 9-27 from the field this
season and 3-14 from deep, before posting an 0-fer in the first half
tonight. He was about two quarters away from the first of what was sure
to be a number of annoying "Should Jodie Meeks still be starting?"
discussions—until finally, in the third quarter, he connected on a
mid-range jumper, his first basket of the night.

It seemed
innocuous at the time, and I probably wasn't the only one to give Jodie a
little sarcastic cheer at his finally draining one, but then he hit the
next one too. And the one after that. All of a sudden, Jodie Meeks was
back, and he was winning the game for the 76ers—he hit four threes in
the second half, three in the fourth quarter, allowing the Sixers (who
outplayed the Detroit Pistons all night) to finally pull away a little.
By the time his heat-check three officially ended his unexpected hot
streak, the damage was done, and the Sixers were well on their way to a
convincing 96-73 victory over Detroit, moving them to 4-2 for the
season.

As already alluded to, the Sixers seemed like the better
team by far all night—as well they should have, considering they were
playing a 2-4 team missing key players like Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon
and Charlie Villanueva—but the Pistons were able to keep it within
single digits for most of the night, thanks to some cold shooting nights
from Jrue Holiday (5 points on 2-9 shooting, though with nine assists)
and Elton Brand (also 2-9, averaging just barely over eight points a
game now), and some sloppy play from Andre Iguodala (1-4 for 5 points
with 4 TOs, and some definite boos from the WFC crowd). But the team was
still moving the ball well and getting good looks, and playing solid
team defense on the other end, and the Jodie hot streak was all it took
for the Ballers to finally break things open.

Again, Spencer
Hawes was the best player on the court for the Sixers for most of the
game. Spence notched his fourth double-double of the season—he had six
all last year—with a 16-14 line that saw him scoring just about every
way possible from inside the arc. After one long jumper, he even earned a
"SPEN-CER HAW-WES!!!" chant from the fans, certainly a Wells Fargo
Center first. He didn't score a single other point after that—though he
just missed a three that would have absolutely brought the house
down—but it was fantastic to see his impossibly improved play in person
at the WFC, and I was proud of our fanbase for acknowledging him
accordingly.

All right, so Detroit aren't exactly the Heat, and
indeed, none of the four teams they've beaten have exactly looked
post-season locks. But consider this—over their first six games, the
Sixers have a total point differential of +72, or +12 per game. (For
contrast, the Heat had a +53 through six, and the Thunder had just a
+14). They haven't just been beating the teams they should beat, they've
been killing them, and their two losses—neither of which even
look all that bad now, as the Jazz have climbed to 4-3 and the Blazers
have played like the best team in the West—each came down to the last
possession. 1/11 of the way through the season, all data points to this
team being way ahead of where they were last year, even towards the end.
(Lest we forget, the last time we played a regular-season game against
an undermanned Pistons squad at home, they won.)

And at the very least, the 4-2 Sixers remain at the top of the perch
in the Atlantic Division, with the chance to add further separation
against the second-place Raptors (HAH) tomorrow night when they visit
the WFC. Get on the bandwagon, guys. There were far more asses in the
seats tonight than the last few home openers, but there's still plenty
of tickets left out there, no doubt. This team is a good team—and now we
even have a shooting guard, too. 

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.

In Justin Anderson, Sixers get solid defensive wing who was buried in Dallas

In Justin Anderson, Sixers get solid defensive wing who was buried in Dallas

On the surface, the Nerlens Noel trade doesn't look good.

The Sixers on Thursday traded the third-year big man to the Dallas Mavericks for forward Justin Anderson, center Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick. That first-rounder turns into two second-round picks if it doesn't convey in 2017. Yuck. And double yuck.

The only hope in this trade comes in Anderson. The former first-round pick has the look of a prototypical NBA wing. At 6-foot-6 with a nearly 7-foot wingspan, he has the frame to disrupt passing lanes and the bulk at 228 pounds to muscle up stronger swingmen.

At Virginia, Anderson was a key cog for a team that was ranked as high as No. 2 and earned a 2-seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. After that season, Anderson opted to forego his senior year and enter the NBA draft. He was selected 21st overall by the Mavericks in 2015.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett preaches defense and Anderson was one of his finest disciples in that regard. Offensive limitations and being a part of a balanced attack with the Cavaliers caused Anderson's stock to drop. Despite shooting 45 percent from three in his final season, Anderson was considered a streaky shooter and, frankly, that's remained the NBA.

His rookie season was one to forget. The Mavericks were competitive in the Western Conference, finishing as the 6-seed and losing to the Thunder in the first round. Anderson couldn't find his way into Rick Carlisle's rotation. Dallas' never-ending supply of point guards coupled with the sharpshooting duo of Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons relegated Anderson to just 11.8 minutes a game his rookie season. In his limited time, he shot 41 percent from the field and 27 percent from three.

Unfortunately, it's been a similar story this season, but with some glimmers of hope. Anderson is still losing minutes to Matthews and also big free-agent acquisition Harrison Barnes, who's having a strong first season with the Mavs. But over a three-game stretch in late January, Anderson averaged 15.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. He also shot 6 of 16 (38 percent) from three during that span.

“I don’t want to sell myself short,” Anderson said to the Star-Telegram during that run. “I still think that I can be a really great player in this league, but I think it’s going to take a lot of hard work.

“I think [the early-season struggles] may be the best thing that’s happened to me in my career. All we can do is wait and just keep working hard, push through it and hopefully one day it’ll all pay off."

The most promising numbers in Anderson's young career are that he's averaging 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes as a pro. At the very least, Anderson should develop into a solid defensive wing. If he develops offensively, who knows?

Per ESPN's Kevin Pelton, "Noel and Anderson (who just sneaks over the bar) are both among the 21 players in the league who have averaged 2.0 steals per 100 team plays and blocked 2.0 percent of opponent 2-point attempts or better in at least 500 minutes."

It's tough to argue that this trade was a good one for Bryan Colangelo. With that said, Anderson could still turn out to be a decent NBA player. He needs minutes and patience, two things the Sixers can offer in spades.