With Sixers down 3 starters, Turner slumping again


With Sixers down 3 starters, Turner slumping again

Often, an NBA basketball game is a microcosm for the season. There are hot streaks, cold streaks and times when the ball just doesn’t go into the basket for one reason or another.

Lately, Evan Turner is having one of those streaks in which he couldn’t buy a bucket with a week’s pay.

Turner is in the midst of a slump of slumps. He has scored just 20 points in the last five games, including two points in the 88-69 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. In that one, Turner shot 1 for 10 with four turnovers. On the plus side, Turner grabbed nine rebounds, but he has not made a three-pointer since Jan. 26 and he has not attempted a foul shot in the last two games.

Over the last four games, Turner has attempted just four foul shots while shooting 9 for 36 (25 percent) from the field.

Given that the Sixers are missing three starters -- Thad Young, Jason Richardson and Andrew Bynum -- because of injuries, Turner is picking a bad time to go into a funk. If anything, the Sixers desperately need Turner to produce.

“For him it is the all-around game,” head coach Doug Collins said after Thursday’s practice session at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “When he is having an all-around game, everything fits in for him. He can’t let some missed shots bother him and sometimes when he is not shooting the ball well, it deflates him a little bit. It frustrates him.”

Certainly, Turner’s inconsistency on offense has been frustrating. During the opening weeks of the season, Collins said he needed to find a way to get Turner, “unlocked.” A TV and movie buff, Collins hoped to emulate the relationship between Will Smith and Matt Damon in The Legend of Bagger Vance with Turner in hopes of getting the third-year player going.

Apparently it worked, because from Nov. 16 to Dec. 18 Turner scored at least 11 points in 17 straight games with five 22-plus scoring games thrown in. But after he twisted his ankle in a blowout loss in Houston on Dec. 19, Turner has been up and down. After scoring 36 points on 17-for-33 shooting in back-to-back games, Turner followed it up with a season-low one point in a victory in Memphis on Dec. 26.

Turner’s latest skid follows a stretch in which he scored at least 20 points in three straight games, pouring in 70 points on 28-for-51 shooting, while adding 15 rebounds and 17 assists over that span. In the Jan. 28 game against Memphis, Turner scored a season-high 27 points, with 14 of them coming during the pivotal third quarter.

Now it seems as if he hasn’t put together a string of baskets since.

According to Collins, Turner takes the missed shots hard. Often, failure in a game leaks into other areas, though Turner has been pretty solid on the boards.

Still, with the team’s injuries and the pressure on all-star Jrue Holiday to carry the club, Turner’s contributions are needed more than ever. It might be up to Collins to figure out a way to get Turner going.

“I don’t know,” Collins said. “He has the ball and he’s pushing it up the floor. When Jrue is off the floor, [Turner] has it in his hands. We run an offense that is equal opportunity. It’s not like we focus on one guy. We don’t have a team with great speed and quickness and so our guys do a lot of standing. You have to cut and you have to move and our guys are used to having the ball in their hands. You have to learn to move without the ball -- you have to make a conscious effort at it. Most of our guys are used to having the ball and then doing something with it. We don’t have guys who are used to running off screens.

“Evan has to keep battling. He has to get the ball in the open floor and he has to hit that mid-range shot and get himself to the free throw line and be active. But I’m trying my best.”

Whether it can translate into Turner’s best remains to be seen. With one year and $6.7 million remaining on his rookie contract, Turner doesn’t have a whole lot of time to prove he can be consistent.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as he liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).