Tonight in NBA: Struggling Knicks host Spurs

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Tonight in NBA: Struggling Knicks host Spurs

The Sixers are off tonight following a 95-89 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

The loss continued their inconsistent play, as Doug Collins' team hasn't posted back-to-back wins since November (see story).

Here is a look at the two NBA games on Thursday's schedule:

Spurs at Knicks, 7:30 p.m.

The struggling New York Knicks host the San Antonio Spurs.

Losers of three of their past four games, the Knicks have sputtered of late defensively. After starting 10-0 at home, the Knicks have lost three of five at Madison Square Garden.

New York will be with Amar'e Stoudmire, who made his season debut on Tuesday. The Knicks will have Carmelo Anthony, though, who returned from a knee injury that kept him out of two games.

In Stoudmire's debut from knee surgery, he scored six points on 3-of-8 shooting and grabbed one rebound in 17 minutes off the bench.

The Spurs are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak and look to extend the Knicks' losing streak to three games. Over that span, San Antonio is shooting 53.4 percent from the field and averaging 111.7 points per game.

The two teams met on Nov. 15 when the Knicks came away with a 104-100 victory in San Antonio. The Knicks look to win consecutive games against the Spurs for the first time since the 2002-2003 season.

Timberwolves at Nuggets, 9 p.m.

The Denver Nuggets look to win their ninth straight at home tonight when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Despite being 8-14 away from the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets hold an NBA-best 10-1 record at home.

One of Denver's best wins this season came on Tuesday at home when they snapped the Los Angeles Clippers' 17-game winning streak with a 92-78 victory. The Nuggets held the Clippers to 38.5 percent shooting and had six players hit double-figures in scoring.

Ty Lawson is questionable for the matchup against the Wolves after missing the Clippers game with a tight left Achilles' tendon. Lawson's return would be welcomed since he has averaged 20 points in his previous nine games against Minnesota.

Minnesota comes to Denver having lost five of its past seven games and four straight on the road.

Unlike the Nuggets, Minnesota is coming off one of their worst games of this season after dropping a 106-84 game at Utah in which they shot a season-low 34.5 percent from the floor.

The two teams have met twice this season. On Nov. 21, the Nuggets spoiled Kevin Love's return from a broken hand with a 101-94 victory. On Dec. 12, the Wolves evened the series with a 108-105 win.

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."