Sixers 'can't guard anybody' in huge loss to Nets

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Sixers 'can't guard anybody' in huge loss to Nets

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NEW YORK -- There was no complex answer or obscure basketball nuance that only those close to the game could see and understand in the Sixers’ 130-94 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night at the Barclays Center (see Instant Replay).

It was very simple.

“We can’t guard anybody. We can’t guard our own man,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the team’s seventh straight loss. “It starts with individual breakdowns and we’re just trying to put out fires all behind it.”

Brown isn’t quite doing it justice. The Sixers’ defense hasn’t just been terrible over the past two games. It’s been historically bad.

For the second straight game, the Sixers allowed an opponent to hit 21 three-pointers and have given up 269 points in those matchups. The 42 three-pointers shattered the NBA record for most allowed in a two-game span as both the Nets and Trail Blazers on Saturday night set franchise records.

Meanwhile, the Sixers allowed at least 15 three-pointers in a game for the sixth time this season. That’s also an NBA record … just 26 games into the season. And just to add to the defensive woes, Nets guard Joe Johnson scored 29 points … in the third quarter (see video).

Johnson put together one of those once-in-a-lifetime stretches in which everything he pushed in the direction of the basket went in. He hit eight three-pointers in the third quarter from nearly every spot behind the arc and went 10 for 13 from long range in the game (see 6 observations). Actually, Johnson’s postgame shot chart looks like target practice at a carnival bull’s-eye game.

Johnson made four threes from above the break, three from the right corner and three more from the left corner. On one of those three-pointers, Johnson was fouled and knocked to the ground by James Anderson.

Needless to say, Johnson made the foul shot.

Amplifying the Sixers’ defensive woes is the fact that Johnson scored the fifth-most points in a quarter in NBA history and the most against the Sixers in one quarter. However, Johnson’s 37 points is only the fourth-highest scoring night against the Sixers this season.

Arron Afflalo (43), Kyrie Irving (39) and Caron Butler (38) had more points, but maybe not bigger nights.

“It just seems that I was in the right spot at the right time,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of wide-open shots and it was like when I was coming off pick-and-rolls, guys weren’t even guarding me, so I made a couple of tough shots, but for the most part I was [wide open].”

Yes, there’s the problem. Certainly the Sixers’ perimeter defensive woes have been well documented this season and Johnson wasn’t even the only player for the Nets to have a big game on Monday night. Point guard Deron Williams scored 13 points on just eight shots and dished out 13 assists that went for 34 points.

But it gets deeper than all of the three-pointers and the avalanche of points. On defense, the Sixers aren’t just bad, according to Brown, but they also are annoying. Brown said the team whined to the refs, bickered and on top of that, didn’t guard any one.

Yikes.

“I think it started with our inability to guard our man,” Brown said. “Our transition defense is that poor. I think we cry too much to the referees for fouls. We don’t get back. We whine a lot right now and we have to get over that.”

The way things have developed over the past two games have not sit well with Brown or veteran Thad Young. Hardworking and prideful, Young has not gotten used to losing despite his seven years with the Sixers. There was frustration and a terseness in his words in summing it up after the game that cut through the heavy mood in the locker room.

There is nothing fun about the way things have developed for the 7-19 Sixers, says Young.

“You can’t swallow it. You have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to figure things out,” Young said. “We have to get guys off the three-point line, make them take layups and tough twos instead of easy threes. We make a lot of mistakes on defense and we can’t have that.”

With 11 straight losses on the road and six of the next seven games to be played away from the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers need to figure out things quick. At the very least, the Sixers need to make scoring a little tougher for the opposition.

“The last two games confirm that we have some issues defensively that need to be fixed or it’s going to be beyond a long season,” Brown said.

The Sixers are off until next Friday when the Nets visit Philadelphia. Can they keep them under 130 points?

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid will have to hope NBA coaches trust the process.

Embiid on Thursday was not named a starter in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler locked in the three Eastern Conference frontcourt spots. Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan rounded out the backcourt.

James (25.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.1 assists) and Antetokounmpo (23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists) were locks as starters. That left Butler, Kevin Love and Embiid as the next in contention. Butler is a two-time All-Star averaging 24.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 36.8 minutes for the 21-22 Bulls. Love is posting 20.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 31.6 minutes per game on the Eastern Conference-leading, 29-11 Cavaliers.

The Western Conference starting spots went to Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. 

The voting was made up of fan votes (50 percent), player votes (25 percent) and media votes (25 percent). Embiid has a chance to be voted in by the NBA coaches, whose reserve selections will be announced on Jan. 26. 

Embiid would have been named a starter had the results been based on fan voting (50 percent). He finished third ahead of Love and Butler.

Embiid was in the running for a starting role during a breakout rookie season. He is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Even though his playing time is capped at 28 minutes, he ranks seventh among all players in scoring per 48 minutes. He is eighth overall in free throw attempts per game (7.9) and 10th in those made (6.2).

Embiid had obstacles, though, when it came to the voting: rookie status, 28-minute restriction, limited games played (29) because of his allocated workload, and the Sixers’ record.

Even though the All-Star Game highlights individual achievements, team record is often taken into consideration. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine games (see story), but still stand well below .500 at 14-26.

When it came to the players’ vote, it is hard for a rookie who hasn’t even competed against every team in the league to make a strong enough impression for another player to influence their perception of the top talent. Embiid finished outside of the top five in the players' vote, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Butler, Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis. Meanwhile, the Sixers' big man finished fifth in the media vote.

Embiid and the Sixers were very active in pushing for the fan votes. Embiid received the social media support of celebrities including Triple H, Kevin Hart and MLB MVP Mike Trout, among others. The Sixers promoted Embiid through a Shirley Temple campaign based on his favorite drink.

Embiid picked up major steam in the last week of voting. He had trailed Love by 16,028 fan votes in the second returns on Jan. 12.

He took to Twitter to express his gratitude.