Spotty defense continues in Sixers' loss to Hornets

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Spotty defense continues in Sixers' loss to Hornets

Its been an all-too common theme for the Bynum-less Sixers this season. Just when it appears as if the team has rounded a corner and shored up its defense, it turns in a clunker.
The latest manifestation of this trend came in Tuesday nights 111-99 defeat to the last-place New Orleans Hornets, a team the Sixers held to just 62 points in a game earlier this season. In the latest loss, the Sixers allowed the Hornets to shoot 53 percent from the field and 55.6 percent (10 for 18) from three-point range to roll to a relatively easy victory (see Instant Replay).
Moreover, the Hornets dominated the boards, scored more in the paint and got to the free throw line more often.
But whats more troubling for the 16-23 Sixers is that head coach Doug Collins doesnt see any sign of things changing. One night the Sixers will be up just like they were in victories over the Celtics, Grizzlies, Lakers and Rockets and the next they will give up piles of points in losses to the last-place Suns or Hornets.
Its disappointing to say the least, Collins said. I was hoping to build on what we did against Houston, but we couldnt get any stops. They out-ran us, out-rebounded us, they beat us in the paint, they out-executed us, they beat us in every way they possibly could and thats disappointing.
In last Saturdays victory over the Rockets, the Sixers clamped down on defense late to hold on for a 107-100 victory. Over the final three minutes of the game, the Sixers forced the high-scoring Rockets to miss eight straight shots as they surged for the victory.
But against the low-scoring Hornets, averaging just 91 points per game heading into Tuesday, the Sixers defense couldnt find an answer. Guards Eric Gordon and Greivis Vasquez combined to score 42 points, while perimeter players Ryan Anderson and Xavier Henry came off the bench to score 25.
Then again, Collins didnt expect much to change after the solid game against Houston.
Ive got to see it more than once, Collins said. Turning the corner to me is consistency. As I said before, we havent won two games in a row since Nov. 30, so until I see that consistently, its hard for me to get excited. But, I mean, we almost scored 100 points, we had plenty of offense.
Oh yeah, Collins talked plenty about the fact that his team had not won back-to-back games since Nov. 30. In fact, he reminded his team of the fact before Tuesdays game, hoping to motivate it into two straight victories. But Collins neednt have bothered. His players knew quite well they hadnt been winning. In fact, over the last 18 games the Sixers have won just four times and are 6-16 since winning consecutive games.
According to captain Thad Young, the Sixers are getting frighteningly closer to a make-or-break point of the season even though the halfway point of the campaign is still a week ago.
In other words, its getting late early, says Thad Young.
In my mind its the last straw, Thad Young said. Weve got to figure out a way to get ourselves back into the game. We tried our best and it just didnt work out.
Still, give the Sixers credit for making things interesting on Tuesday night. Though they dug themselves into double-digit deficits in every quarter against the Hornets and fell behind by 20 points early in the fourth quarter, the Sixers somehow found a spark to whittle away at the lead.
They got within two points early in the third quarter and chopped that 20-point deficit down to into single digits with nearly four minutes to go thanks to a lightning-quick rash of scoring from reserve Nick Young, who gunned his way to 14 points in a little more than five minutes of action in the final frame.
Ultimately, Nick Youngs barrage was just window dressing as the Hornets pushed the lead back to as many as 14 points.
Again, it all gets back to defense. Thad Young says the Sixers cant guard the pick-and-roll and Collins says the team doesnt have enough quickness on the perimeter. They also dont have a presence in the paint, either.
In other words, its a mess.
The disappointing thing to me is night to night, I dont know what Im going to get, Collins said. I think some of the people watching our games wonder what in the heck are we doing. Sometimes I wonder. Its not like Im not trying.
The Sixers get to give it another try on Friday night when they host the last-place Toronto Raptors.
E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com.

Warriors complete comeback, oust Thunder in Game 7

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The Associated Press

Warriors complete comeback, oust Thunder in Game 7

OAKLAND – They beat the odds, clobbering them into submission.

Facing a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors rallied to take three successive games over Oklahoma City, finishing the epic comeback with a 96-88 victory in Game 7 Monday night before a delirious sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

Stephen Curry scored 36 points and Klay Thompson fired in 21, as the Warriors become the 10th team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA playoffs – and the first to do so in the West finals.

Draymond Green added 11 points and also had a team-high nine rebounds, as the Warriors battled the bigger Thunder nearly even on the glass, 47-46.

Curry splashed 32 3-pointers in the series, the most ever for a player in a seven-game playoff series.

Ratcheting up the defense, the Warriors overcome a 42-point first half, their lowest total at home all season. They trailed by as much as 13 before storming back.

Kevin Durant scored 27 points to lead the Thunder. Russell Westbrook added 19.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

When his team needed him most, Curry was at his MVP best.

Curry’s line: 36 points (13-of-24 shooting from the field, 7-of-12 from beyond the arc), eight assists and five rebounds. He played 40 minutes and finished plus-18 for the game.

TURNING POINT

After OKC took a 54-48 lead on a Durant fadeaway with 8:15 left in the third quarter, the Warriors responded with a 23-4 run to go up 71-58 on an Anderson Varejao floater with 58.3 seconds left in the quarter.

Six different Warriors scored during the run, lead by Curry with six points. They held the Thunder to 2-of-11 shooting, with three turnovers, during the run.

The Warriors outscored the Thunder 29-12 for the quarter.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors on Thursday play host to Cleveland in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Tipoff is scheduled for 6pm.

P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

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P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

Thirty-five years is more than enough time to get a sense of who a person is and how they do their job. That is how long Brett Brown has known P.J. Carlesimo, which made it easy for the Sixers' head coach to have interest in adding him to the staff. 

With Mike D’Antoni leaving to coach the Rockets, the Sixers had a vacancy at the associate head coach position. On Sunday, though, Carlesimo decided not to join the Sixers’ staff and remain a television analyst.

“He was a natural fit for me,” Brown said Monday following a pre-draft workout. “For family reasons, he just couldn’t do it. We talked a lot and it was an emotional thing from P.J.’s perspective. 

“P.J. is a very close friend of mine and he made that decision for family reasons and I understand it. The phone call really didn’t surprise me knowing what I know of him and how he views his family, having to travel across the country the whole time.”

Like D’Antoni, Carlesimo has a lengthy résumé on the NBA sidelines. He was a head coach for parts of nine seasons and worked five as an assistant coach. Brown called working with D’Antoni “a real learning experience,” and an ideal candidate would have similar experience to help both the staff and the young roster.

“That role will be filled with maybe that type of flavor,” Brown said. “I know this, we are still in a complete development mode. We still have a bunch of 20-year-olds, guys that could be with us for a long time, but they’re not old, that we have to make sure that the city and me, we remember that. We still need people and teachers that can teach and coach and establish relationships. 

“So you tick boxes on relationships, teaching, development, those still rule the day. If you can do that with some veteran wisdom and some type of experiences like Mike’s, say, or P.J. had, well then you’re really knocking it out of the park.”

Coaching vacancies are coveted at this level. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, a revamped front office, and a 125,000-square foot training facility under construction, the Sixers have enhanced the appeal of the role. 

"My phone is very active, as you can imagine," Brown said. "I think it’s a highly attractive position. … Like our draft picks, I too spend a lot of time studying who will be the best fit for me and our program."

NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

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NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 210

School: Kentucky

It's tough for a Kentucky star freshman to fly under the radar, but that's exactly what Murray did last season. While Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine dominated the spotlight, Murray was quietly as good as anyone in the country for the second half of the season.

In Kentucky's final 14 games, Murray averaged just under 24 points and shot better than 46 percent from three-point range. For the season, he averaged an even 20 points and connected on 41 percent of his three-point attempts. He also chipped in an impressive 5.2 rebounds. 

Kentucky lost some games early and fell toward the bottom of the Top 25 rankings. But Murray continued to produce and played his best basketball down the stretch, lifting the Wildcats to 27 wins and SEC regular season and tournament titles. 

As good as he was during his only college season, Murray projects to be an even better pro. He's the best guard prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft. 

Strengths
Shooting the ball. He has the best shooting stroke of any prospect in this year's draft. Murray's form on his jump shot is textbook with the results to match. He's able to get his shot off quickly and has range well beyond the NBA three-point line. Murray's outside shot is his greatest asset. Shooters are always in high demand and have never been more valuable in the NBA. The defending champion Warriors offer all the proof you need of that.

However Murray isn't a one-dimensional player. He can get to the basket off the dribble and is a terrific finisher around the basket. He also developed a polished mid-range game during his time at Kentucky. Murray also plays hard — a characteristic that NBA executives monitor closely. He rarely takes a possession off and competes hard on the glass for a perimeter player, as evidenced by his five rebounds per game last season.

Weaknesses
Murray doesn't have a defined position on the NBA level. He's not a true point guard and isn't quite big enough to be considered a prototypical shooting guard. While NBA talent evaluators are concerned by this, I don't necessarily view it as a weakness. Murray projects as a combo guard, capable of playing point guard but also comfortable away from the ball. He's similar to the Trail Blazers' C.J. McCollum in that regard.

Murray isn't an elite-level athlete and by no means is he a great defender. He'll struggle to stay in front of the more dynamic perimeter players in the NBA. But he has a very good work ethic and should be able to improve defensively.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Extremely well. The 76ers need shooters. That need will only become exaggerated if and when they draft Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick. With Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, the Sixers have a significantly frontcourt-heavy nucleus. They need quality guards to balance out their lineup.

The much-discussed hypothetical trade that would send Okafor to the Celtics for the No. 3 pick makes a ton of sense for the 76ers. They could clear out space in their frontcourt rotation as well as acquire Murray with that third pick. Murray would flourish playing alongside Simmons, knocking down the open jump shots that Simmons creates.    

NBA comparison
I see a mix of Bradley Beal and Eric Gordon in Murray's game. Beal and Gordon have similar builds to Murray and both entered the NBA as exceptional shooters. All three are natural scorers who have no problem getting their own shot on the NBA level.

Draft projection
Murray will be a high-end lottery pick. He could go as high as No. 3 to the Celtics and shouldn't fall any lower than No. 6 to the Pelicans.