J.J. Redick’s game-winning three lifts 76ers past Magic

Leave a comment

PHILADELPHIA — JJ Redick hit a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to lift the Philadelphia 76ers over the Orlando Magic 116-115 on Saturday night. You can see the video above.

Redick had his best game since moving to Philadelphia’s bench at the start of the season, scoring 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including eight 3-pointers.

Aaron Gordon had a chance to tie it with 10 seconds remaining but missed his second free throw, and a desperation heave by Terrance Ross missed the net entirely.

Joel Embiid had 32 points and 10 rebounds for the 76ers, including 19 points by halftime. He did it with an outside game in the first half but was more of a force down low after intermission.

Dario Saric scored 13 points and Robert Covington had 12 as the 76ers improved to 2-1 this season.

Evan Fournier had 31 points to lead Orlando. Nikola Vucevic added 27 points and Gordon had 20.

Ben Simmons left the game after the first quarter with a tight back, meaning Philadelphia had to lean that much more on Embiid and Redick.

With Simmons out, Markelle Fultz was given an opportunity to play extended minutes and run the offense. Fultz finished with eight points on 4-of-11 shooting and added seven assists with only one turnover.

However, with the game on the line, 76ers coach Brett Brown opted to use T.J. McConnell at the point and kept Fultz on the bench.

High scores have been common in the early part of the NBA season as teams are pushing the pace and trying more shots, especially from deep.

Both teams shot lights out from 3-point territory. The Sixers, paced by Redick, shot 17 of 34 (50 percent) while the Magic, led by Fournier’s six 3-pointers, shot 16 of 29 (55.2 percent).

Thirteen players attempted shots from beyond the arc, eight for Orlando and five for Philadelphia.

Three Things to Know: Jayson Tatum is a star. Markelle Fultz…

Getty Images
3 Comments

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. It’s good to have real basketball back — let’s get to it.

1) Kyrie who? Jayson Tatum is the star Boston was waiting for on opening night. So… anyone still want to argue Danny Ainge didn’t own the Sixers when he traded away the No. 1 pick to move back two spots and get Jayson Tatum?

Boston had stumbled its way through the preseason (to put it kindly) and the main issue then followed the team into the regular season: Adding Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back into the lineup was not going to be simple plug-and-play. Irving missed his first eight shots and ended the night 2-of-14 from the floor. Hayward was 4-of-12 and it’s clear he still lacks explosion on his first step. Those two will be fine, eventually, but there is a lot of work to do.

What the Celtics have is depth. And Jayson Tatum.

Tatum picked up right where he left off in last season’s playoffs dropping 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting, and showing off his improved handles. Just ask Joel Embiid.

Boston leaned on Tatum (28.6 percent usage rate, higher than he ever had playing with Irving last year) and the fact they were willing to go to him is a good sign. Not only will the Celtics need Tatum while Irving and Hayward settle back in, but if Boston really is going to be a threat to Golden State they will need him to be elite.

It wasn’t just Tatum that was working in Boston. Marcus Morris had 16 points off the bench, and Terry Rozier was fantastic with 11 points and a +22. Al Horford is not Boston’s best player but he is their most important — he played great defense in the paint with five blocks, scored nine points, and just did whatever needed to be done to get the win. He is the glue that makes the whole thing work.

Don’t read much into Game 1 of 82, but for Celtics fans this was the kind of win that can fuel very big dreams.

2) Can the Sixers just blame everything on the China trip? Off-the-record (and occasionally on it), every team that does the NBA’s annual preseason trip to China complains when they get back about how it throws them off for weeks into the regular season. The Warriors felt that way last season, but I’ve had that conversation with a lot of teams who have made that trip. NBA owners love the idea of going (and expanding their franchise brand in that massive market) until they do it once and see the impact on their team when the games matter.

It would be nice to blame the Sixers struggles opening night on that.. but their problems against the Celtics were bigger than frequent flier miles in the preseason.

It starts with Markelle Fultz — his New and improved jumper is simply not a threat, defenders are backing off of him because of it, and Fultz is not yet confident attacking into that space. What that leads to is a clogged halfcourt offense. This isn’t a new concern, a lot of people (myself included) wondered before the season how the Sixers starting lineup would work having Fultz, Ben Simmons (not a jump shooter) and Joel Embiid (he can hit threes but needs to be in the paint primarily) on the court together. We saw it a lot in the first half — it was tough to make post entry passes to Embiid (or Dario Saric) because defenders backed off Simmons and Fultz and took away the pass, daring them to shoot.

Fultz, Embiid, and Simmons were on the court for 14.3 minutes in this game and during that time the Sixers shot 38.7 percent overall and 18.2 percent from three. To be fair, they were +1 as a team in those minutes, but the offense struggled. It’s just one game, but Fultz showed that while he has made strides in improving his jumper, he’s not yet back to where he was.

The Sixers need another shot creator off the dribble besides Simmons and the underrated T.J. McConnell. By the fourth quarter Tuesday it seemed Landry Shamet was getting minutes that could have gone to Fultz — and he should have. Shamet played well.

Can Fultz become this team’s best second string shot creator at this point? Maybe Boston and their elite defense is the wrong team to judge this against, but the first game wasn’t promising

It’s a long season and what matters is where Fultz is come March and April, not October. That’s a long time from now, but he has a long way to go.

3) Dennis Schroder may be what Oklahoma City needs off the bench. Schroder, in his first game for the Thunder (after five seasons in Atlanta), was thrust into the starting lineup Tuesday night because Russell Westbrook isn’t yet cleared after having his knee scoped in the offseason. In that starting role, Schroder was up and down — defensively he was asked to track Stephen Curry at times and Steph dropped 32 on the night.

But offensively, once he is coming off the bench with the second unit, this may be a fantastic fit. Schroder finished with 21 points (on 19 shots) and had nine assists on opening night, showing his value as a shot creator.

Things were not perfect — he shot 4-of-12 from the midrange, which is both a low percentage and too many shots from there — but the potential is there. He was hitting spot-up looks and played defense at times.

Westbrook will be back soon (possibly even Friday against the Clippers in Los Angeles) and when he is Schroder goes to the bench. If he accepts that role and creates shots the same way with the second unit (and just shoots a little better, something that will come, he had a solid 51.5 true shooting percentage last year) he could be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate leading that unit.

Report: 76ers, Brett Brown agree to three-year contract extension

AP Photo/Jessica Hill
1 Comment

Brett Brown saw the 76ers through their dark days.

Can he successfully guide them in better times?

Philadelphia will find out.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Brown and Philadelphia had been working toward an extension for a while. It’s unsurprising this got done.

The 76ers had a breakout season, winning 52 games and a first-round series over the Heat. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons give Philadelphia an even brighter future.

Brown spent most of the 76ers’ second-round series getting worked by Celtics coach Brad Stevens until inserting T.J. McConnell into the starting lineup. Although it got Philadelphia only one win, that adjustment stemmed the tide flowing against Brown.

To justify this extension, Brown must better handle the tactical adjustments that come through playoff series. His players are already good enough to advance even deeper.

It’s a different challenge than Brown faced earlier in his career. He excelled at teaching and instilling a positive culture amid losing. That quality work will get him a chance at the next task.

Brown has helped the young 76ers grow. Now, he must continue to develop with them.

Sixers live to play another day, knock off Celtics 103-92 to force Game 5

6 Comments

The playoffs are a learning experience, and the young Philadelphia team has figured a few things out.

From the opening tip of Game 4, the Sixers came out much more aggressive on defense, both in terms of effort and plan, trapping and doubling on pick-and-rolls, being faster with help in the post, and generally cranking up their defensive pressure. Boston didn’t handle it well.

It was Philadephia’s best game of the series, and this time the confetti could fly without hesitation. Philly will live to play another day.

The Sixers won Game 4 103-92, 25 points from Dario Saric and a career-high 19 from surprise starter T.J. McConnell. The series heads back to Boston on Wednesday for Game 5, with the Celtics still leading it 3-1.

“We have nothing to lose…” McConnell said after the game. “We’re just trying to play our hearts out and be that one team (the first to come back from a 0-3 deficit in the NBA playoffs).”

Philly is a long way from being in a serious conversation about shattering the 129-0 record of 3-0 teams in an NBA playoff series. What matters more is the steps forward, and those were evident on Monday night.

It’s strange to say sitting Robert Covington — an All-Defensive Team level wing for the 76ers — and starting McConnell was a defensive move, but it was. All series long McConnell has been the best defender for Philly on Terry Rozier, the Boston point guard who has been so hot. Not coincidentally, Rozier struggled going 4-of-11 overall and 1-of-6 from three. With the point guard out of sorts, the entire Boston offense became defendable.

Especially with the energy the Sixers showed on defense, which led to things getting a bit chippy at points.

On the other end, the Sixers emphasized getting the ball inside — 51 of their 94 shot attempts came in the paint. Boston had emphasized taking away the Philadelphia three ball, so the Sixers pounded them in the paint and also on the boards — the Sixers grabbed the offensive rebound on 30.2 percent of their missed shots in this game.

“It just shows when they take something away, we’re mature enough to go to something else. Even though we were a little immature on our home floor in our last game, we showed a lot of maturity today and came up with the win.”

McConnell was getting buckets with his 19 points, same as Ben Simmons. Joel Embiid had 15. The Sixers were racking up assists with good ball movement, but more importantly they only turned the ball over on 10 percent of their possessions (turnovers have been a weakness all season)

That said, neither team was terribly efficient — Boston scored less than a point per possession in Game 4, Philadelphia had a net rating of 103.6 (points per 100 possessions, more than 4 points per 100 off their regular season average).

Boston’s defense seemed to slip in the second half, and they couldn’t get the buckets needed to close the gap after a third-quarter Philly run pushed the lead to double digits.

The Celtics were led by Jayson Tatum who had 20 points, followed by Marcus Morris who had 17 off the bench. Marcus Smart added 14, but when your defensive specialist is your third leading scorer it can be a sign of trouble.

It was for Boston on this night, but now the Celtics head home looking to end this series. Boston didn’t have the answers for Philly’s intensity on Monday, expect things to feel different on Wednesday in The Garden.

Markelle Fultz active, will come off bench for 76ers Monday night

Getty Images
10 Comments

So much for the idea of not throwing a guy who has struggled with confidence into the fire of the playoff chase…

Philadelphia’s No. 1 pick last June Markelle Fultz will be active and play for the team against the Denver Nuggets Monday. Via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Fultz will not be on a strict minutes limit, but Brown will watch him closely as the rookie tries to play his way into game shape.

Fultz played in four games for Philadelphia at the start of this season — you probably forgot that — and averaged six points a night in 19 minutes, but looked off with his shot. Fultz was taken out of the rotation deal with a shoulder injury, which had morphed into a concern about his shooting form and jump shot. Part of the issue was in Fultz’s head, and Brown said it was a matter of Fultz getting his confidence back.

Apparently, he has.

The Sixers certainly could use another shot creator off the bench, right now they rely on T.J. McConnell, and while he’s a solid reserve, he’s not near the potential of Fultz. How much of that potential Fultz can bring to the team now as he gets back into the flow remains to be seen, but he’s going to get his chance.