Furkan Korkmaz

Embiid scores career-high 49, 76ers beat Hawks 129-112

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PHILADELPHIAJoel Embiid scored a career-high 49 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Tobias Harris had 25 points and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Atlanta Hawks 129-112 on Monday night.

Missing All-Star Ben Simmons for the second time in three games because of a back injury, the Sixers mixed up their starting lineup and got 15 points from Furkan Korkmaz in a reserve role.

Trae Young led Atlanta with 28 points despite missing nine of 11 from 3-point range. De'Andre Hunter added 22 and John Collins had 21 for the Hawks.

After trailing by 21 in the first half, the Hawks outscored Philadelphia 23-9 to start the third quarter. They closed out the period with an 8-0 run and took a 92-91 lead into the fourth after Young nailed a 3.

The Sixers went up to stay on four consecutive free throws by Embiid. Harris sank a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 105-98.

Embiid’s dunk and 19-footer put Philadelphia up by 15 with 3:08 left, and the All-Star center heard “MVP!” chants when he went to the foul line in the final minutes. Embiid made 14 of 15 free throws and 17 of 24 from the floor. He hit a 3 in the final minute to set his personal best. His previous high was 46 against the Lakers on Nov. 15, 2017.

Simmons only played five minutes in a loss at Milwaukee on Saturday before exiting. He had tests on Sunday and needs further evaluation.

Coach Brett Brown wouldn’t speculate on the extent of the injury or how long Simmons will be sidelined. But it appears the team is preparing to play without him for a while.

Bucks pull away in second half behind 31 from Giannis Antetokounmpo, rout Sixers

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MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks turned a tight game with the Philadelphia 76ers into a mismatch immediately in the second half, led by the reigning league MVP.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 17 rebounds, Khris Middleton scored 25 points and the Bucks beat the 76ers 119-98 on Saturday night in a matchup of Eastern Conference rivals.

Antetokounmpo scored Milwaukee’s first 11 points in the third quarter as the Bucks took advantage of the absence of Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid, who went to the bench less a minute into the period after picking up his fourth foul, and quickly put the game out of reach.

“We came out the third quarter and played fast,” Antetokounmpo said. “We were able to rebound the ball and just attack them. Joel had four fouls. That worked in our favor. We tried to be aggressive in the third quarter and set the tone.”

Antetokounmpo added eight assists as Milwaukee won for the 16th time in its last 18 games to improve its NBA-best record to 48-8.

The Bucks led 56-50 at the half before Antetokounmpo’s scoring outburst put the Bucks in control. Milwaukee would go on to outscore the 76ers 37-23 in the period.

Embiid, coming off a 39-point performance on Thursday night, had 17 points and 11 rebounds but shot just 5 for 18. Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton also scored 17 points apiece for the 76ers, who fell to 9-20 on the road.

“I liked what I was seeing in the first half, and the death knock was Joel sitting,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “We just didn’t respond well to Milwaukee playing their tails off, and they shot the heck out of the ball.”

Philadelphia lost All-Star point guard Ben Simmons early in the first quarter. Simmons, who missed the 76ers’ previous game with lower back tightness, headed to the locker room after making consecutive driving layups, the second with a little more than 7 minutes left in the opening quarter. He didn’t return after the injured flared up.

“We never got in a rhythm. Losing Ben, then foul trouble, not making shots and some calls that could have gone a different way,” Embiid said. “But it’s on us.”

The 76ers shot just 35%, while the Bucks connected on 53% of their shots.

The Bucks got off to a scorching start, taking a 12-2 lead sparked by seven points from Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee led by as many as 11 in the quarter and held a 31-21 lead at the end.

Philadelphia pulled within 37-36 in the second before the Bucks used a 10-2 spurt to push the lead back to double digits.

Joel Embiid calls ‘BS’ on idea he, Ben Simmons can’t play together

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CHICAGO — Philadelphia has not lived up to expectations this season. Their 34-21 record would have them starting the playoffs on the road, and this team some picked to come out of the East this season (*raises hand*) has not looked like a threat to Milwaukee.

Which has added fuel to the idea that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — the two All-Stars the 76ers have banked their franchise success on — simply don’t fit well together.

Embiid will have none of that.

“I think it’s BS,” Embiid said of the idea while at All-Star media day on Saturday. “Because when you look at the last two years we have been playing together, it was not a problem. This year it’s only a problem because at times our offense has struggled and I think it’s definitely going to be better after the All-Star break.

“I mean, just look at the last two years what we have been able to do and I think it can work and it’s going to work.”

Ben Simmons is on the same page.

“It takes time, not everything is supposed to be perfect…” Simmons said a few feet away from Embiid. “I mean I love playing with Joel, he’s an amazing talent, I have a lot of respect for his game and I know he feels the same way about me, so as long as we strive and continue to go the right way we’ll be fine…

“There’s a lot of things [the 76ers] haven’t tried, we’ve got a lot of talent, it’s kind of scary how good we can be. ”

This year, the Sixers have just a +1.3 net rating when Simmons and Embiid share the court. That is way down from the +7.9 net rating the pair had a season ago, or +15.5 two seasons ago.

What’s changed? The players around Simmons and Embiid. Gone are J.J. Redick and Jimmy Butler from last season, two players whose shooting and shot creation opened up space for Embiid to operate in the paint and Simmons to slash his way into that same space. Now, the threat of Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson is not having the same impact (it’s why Furkan Korkmaz has been so crucial for the 76ers, he has been a legitimate threat from deep) and the offense feels clogged.

This has sparked speculation about the Sixers trading Embiid or Simmons. Don’t bet on it. The first move in Philly (as it is with virtually every team where the pieces don’t fit) is to fire the coach and see if a new system solves the problem. That is the likely path if the 76ers continue to fall short of expectations once the playoffs start.

Embiid isn’t worried about any of it.



76ers bring Al Horford off bench, ending his 824-game starter streak

Al Horford
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Al Horford started his previous 824 games – the NBA’s sixth-longest active streak of not coming off the bench, behind only:

Horford’s streak ended last night.

The 76ers started shooting guard Furkan Korkmaz in their win over the Clippers. Horford came off the bench for the first time since his rookie year.

Horford, via Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“I just accepted it,” Horford said. “Obviously not the position that I saw myself in this situation, but it was what was best for the team.”

76ers coach Brett Brown, via Hudrick:

“All class,” Brown said about Horford’s reaction. “Right now, this starting group has been struggling, you’ve done nothing wrong. I keep myself up late at night trying to find ways to better coach it and fix it and let it coexist. And to date after 50 whatever games, we’ve struggled a little bit. And that’s one thing. Then the second thing is I feel like I can help you play at the level that you can play at. … You kept us up late at night with many scouting reports trying to figure you out. And I think it can be a win-win.”

“It was originated out of I thought that they were going to go small,” Brown said. “I think that in general, not to use that as the reason, I spoke to Al about it — we’re trying to find ways to help him and help the team. I felt, disregarding the lineup defensive adjustments that I just spoke of, that the time was appropriate to do it and see if we can get sort of that second unit going with Al. We did it with [Manu] Ginobili [with the Spurs] long ago. Al is obviously a quality player and how I end games will be, to me, the judgment.”

Philadelphia has five clear top players:

That five-man unit has actually played well this season, outscoring opponents by 8.5 points per 100 possessions. But that group – due to injuries and then Richardson coming off the bench for Shake Milton the previous couple games – hadn’t started together in nearly a month. In the prior month, the five-some outscored opponents by just 3.6 points per 100 possessions.

The 76ers have sounded frustrated amid moderate disapointment.

The Horford-Embiid pairing was a particular challenge. That’s the only of the 10 top-player duos that has been outscored this season.

Philadelphia signed Horford to play power forward with Embiid, yes. But the 76ers also valued him playing center when Embiid sits. So, moving Horford to the bench made some sense.

Horford still played 28 minutes, slightly less than the 31 minutes per game he was getting as a starter. Still, it’s tough to construct a winning roster when a backup big is earning $97 million-$109 million over four years. We’ll also see whether Horford chafes more after coming off the bench in a loss. It’s harder to grumble after a win, especially over a good team like the Clippers.

Beyond Horford-Embiid, the only top-player duo with a net rating below +3.0 is Embiid-Simmons (+1.3). The 76ers have shown no interest in breaking up that star pairing. Maybe that’ll change in the offseason.

But, for now, Horford is the latest player caught in Philadelphia’s long-running search for players who fit around Embiid and Simmons.

Three Things to Know: Brash, ‘good a**h***’ Joel Embiid is back, leads 76ers to win

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Brash, “good a**h***” version of Joel Embiid back, leads 76ers past Clippers. Joel Embiid says he was turning over a new leaf this season: A little less smack talk, a little more zen. Not stirring the pot. He didn’t like the results, so the old Embiid is back (quote via NBC Sports Philadelphia).

“This year I made a decision to change and I guess it hasn’t worked out. So, it comes with the good and bad. If it helps us win and it helps me help the team in a better way to win games, then I’m going to be that guy.”

“That guy” as in the guy who gets into it with Marcus Morris on the court.

The guy who’s a “good a**h***” on the court and social media.

Also the guy who puts up 26 points, had nine rebounds, and fit together well with Ben Simmons for a night leading the 76ers to one of their best wins of the season, 110-103 over the Clippers (another home win, but still). Simmons had a triple-double of 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists, but it was the way everything fit — with Furkan Korkmaz starting to provide more shooting (except he went 0-of-5) and Al Horford coming off the bench — that was impressive. This looked more like the Sixers team we expected before the season.

Simmons and Embiid seemed to be looking for each other more than usual, we’ll see if that continues. Other teams are still watching that pairing like vultures.

Embiid “shushing” the Philly crowd then taking it to social media — where overreaction and baseless conspiracy theories thrive — had the entire situation overblown. The version of Embiid who thinks all this is fun and uses it as fuel is back.

“They’ve been going at me,” he said of Sixers fans. “I went back at them. We’re all human beings. If I can take it, then everybody else can take it, too. We learn from it, we move on. I’ve gotta do a better job, they’ve gotta do a better job. I understand where they come from, but then again, if you dish it, you’ve gotta be able to take it back.

“But at the end of the day … it’s all love. I love my city. I’ve been here for a long time now. We have a special relationship. I’m happy to be here and I can’t wait for the future, especially this year. I think we can accomplish something great.”

2) James Harden and Russell Westbrook combine for 78 points, Rockets snap Celtics seven-game win streak. Houston’s small-ball lineup is fun. Unless you’re trying to defend it.

James Harden scored 42 points, Russell Westbrook added 36, and it all comes together like that the Rockets are hard to beat. Boston couldn’t, and Houston won 116-105. Harden sparked a 15-2 run in the fourth that sealed the game for Houston.

We’ll see if Houston’s commitment to small ball gets them wins and moves them up the West standings (and we can debate if it will work in in the playoffs), but when it all comes together is fun to watch. We are entertained.

3) The NBA’s television ratings are down, and that may not matter. On Tuesday, Forbes’ annual NBA franchise valuations came out, and it’s a reminder that the rich get richer — the average team value went up 14 percent in the past year. No team went up less than 6 percent in value, and no team is worth less than $1.3 billion, according to Forbes. If you care, your top five most valuable franchises are:

1. New York Knicks: $4.6 billion
2. Los Angeles Lakers: $4.4 billion
3. Golden State Warriors: $4.3 billion
4. Chicago Bulls: $3.2 billion
5. Boston Celtics: $3.1 billion

That’s not what caught my eye in Forbes’ report.

NBA television ratings are down this year, which has led to a lot of hand wringing in certain quarters, especially looking ahead to the next NBA television deal (2025). Maybe those concerns are overblown. Fewer people are watching NBA games the way your father and grandfather did, but in a streaming world are fewer people watching? From Forbes:

Yet as viewing gravitates more seamlessly to a streaming-centric world, the NBA’s younger demographic will be key. The NBA’s average viewership age is 43 versus 52 for the NFL and 59 for MLB, according to Nielsen. Streaming viewership of NBA games on ESPN and TNT is up more than 30% this season.

“This season’s NBA ratings story is silly. It is a small sample size. This is a year-round league with year-round stories,” says sports media consultant Lee Berke of LHB Sports. “The next NBA media agreements will be a substantially evolved set of deals because of streaming. There will be an increasing range of media companies that want the NBA for the U.S. and worldwide.”

The current $2.7 billion per year NBA deal with ESPN and TNT runs through the 2024-25 season, and Berke expects the next deal to roughly double in value.

Double. And that’s just domestic rights.

Predict where the media landscape will be in five years at your own peril, but maybe the bubble on broadcast sports rights is not about to burst. At least not for the NBA. Not yet.