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: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."