Report From Philadelphia 76ers
Game Recap: Pistons 110, 76ers 97
Snapshot: Shorthanded again, and playing for the second time in as many nights, the 76ers (7-40) trekked out to The Palace of Auburn Hills in search of a second consecutive victory. The Detroit Pistons (25-21) proved to be a bit deeper, and a little more fresh after having not played in three days. Behind the strength of 36 fourth-quarter points, Detroit outlasted the Sixers for a 110-97 victory in a competitive battle that featured eight ties and 10 lead changes.
For all but a few brief stretches during the first 40 minutes of play, the Sixers were in control, leading by as many as 10 points in the first half. The Pistons tightened up the tilt in the third quarter, but the Sixers still managed to hold a five-point edge heading into the fourth period. With seven minutes remaining in the final frame, the landscape changed. Detroit guard Reggie Jackson poured in one of his four three-point field goals to break an 88-88 tie. From there, the Pistons ripped off a 22-9 run that decided the game.
Despite missing Jahlil Okafor for a second game in a row, the Sixers’ starting frontcourt turned in a prolific performance. Jerami Grant, getting the nod at power forward, and Nerlens Noel, who manned the center spot, were steady throughout the evening. Grant established a new career-high, depositing 21 points. Noel matched a season-best by cranking out 20 points. In addition to their prolific offensive output, the duo combined to generate 15 rebounds, six assists, and four steals. Ish Smith posted 13 points (6-18 fg), three assists, six assists, and six turnovers.
Detroit too boasted a pair of 20-point scorers. Jackson netted a game-high 27 points. Andre Drummond, the NBA’s leader in rebounds, had an impact on both sides of the floor, with 25 points and 18 rebounds. The double-double was his 38th of the campaign, a total that tops the league as well.
Brett Brown Said – On the Sixers’ performance versus the Detroit Pistons in their 110-97 defeat:
“I think that we did a good job of gutting out most of the game. We played three games in four nights. We said it at the start, ‘It’s life in the NBA.’ It’s good for our young guys to figure all that out, and I think they did. I thought for about 42 minutes, we were right there, but we give them credit.”
Brett Brown usually does a pretty good job of maintaining an intense, steely, and focused in-game demeanor while patrolling the Sixers’ sideline. This viciously powerful pick-and-roll dunk from Jerami Grant in Wednesday’s fourth quarter, though, was enough to get the veteran NBA coach to crack a bit, and understandably so. The slam was one of the 11 the Sixers threw down on Detroit.
Notes and Quotes:
Jahlil Okafor and JaKarr Sampson were each held out of a second straight game because of their respective illnesses. Okafor has gastroenteritis, while Sampson is recovering from an upper respiratory infection. They were both deemed too sick to travel. Elton Brand missed the trip as well, staying back in the Delaware Valley to help his family tend to what Brett Brown referred to as a “not serious” family matter.
Brown approached the challenge of having to play shorthanded on back-to-back nights in matter-of-fact fashion.
“It’s just on your doorstep,” Brown told Sixers Radio Network broadcaster Tom McGinnis in a pre-game interview. “You talk about it in pre-season. You remind them about the importance of recovery, hydration, and sleep. We go overboard…so you can back it up. This is a show me league. We are banged up, but it’s an opportunity to talk about why we go so hard at their health.”
Brown used a total of nine of the Sixers’ 12 available players in Tuesday’s 113-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns. He again went with a nine-man rotation in Wednesday’s loss to the Pistons, despite having only 11 active bodies on the roster.
For a third consecutive season, the Sixers will boast representation at the NBA’s BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge. On Wednesday, the league announced that assistant coaches from across the league had chosen power forward Nerlens Noel and center Jahlil Okafor to take part in the event. The exhibition consists of two 10-man teams. One roster features rookies and second-year players hailing from the United States, while the second group is made up of NBA freshmen and sophomores from other nations around the world.
The Rising Stars Challenge, now in its 23rd year, will be held Friday, February 12th in Toronto at Air Canada Centre. Two days later, the arena will host the NBA All-Star Game.
“To go to an All-Star environment, to see it, to take it in, to watch how other All-Stars relate to fans, and interact with media and how they carry themselves and handle themselves,” said Brett Brown on the Sixers Radio Network, discussing the benefits he expects his players to experience during their weekend north of the border. “They’re going into a city that’s going to host the best players in the world, and the NBA is amazing on how they present and showcase our talent. So I’m proud of them.”
Brown believes the Sixers could have had another first and second-year player, respectively, voted to the Rising Stars Challenge.
“I think in many ways T.J [McConnell] and Jerami Grant could have put their hand up, and genuinely put their hand up to be considered for that game, too,” Brown said. As of Wednesday, McConnell ranked first among rookies with 222 assists. Grant was 11th in the NBA with 69 blocked shots.
“With Jah and with Nerlens, I’m proud of their efforts, and I’m glad that others have rewarded what they’ve done so far,” said Brown.
“I’m very appreciate to be chosen for a second year in a row,” said Noel. He tallied four points and four rebounds in 17 minutes last February at the Rising Stars Challenge, staged in Brooklyn. “I think it’s going to be a good experience to be up there, just have fun and play the game I love. Being invited to the whole All-Star weekend overall is just a great, humbling experience.”
In addition to Noel, Robert Covington landed on the United States’ Rising Stars Challenge roster a year ago. Covington was picked to fill the spot vacated by an injured Michael Carter-Williams. In 2013, Carter-Williams was the Sixers’ lone invitee.
As of late, the Sixers have made headway in the turnover department. For the month of January, Brett Brown’s club has averaged 15.3 cough-ups per game, a dramatic and encouraging drop-off from the NBA-high 18.6 turnover per game rate his group generated from the season’s opening night through to the final day of December.
Down the stretch of Wednesday’s setback to Detroit, the Sixers’ ball security troubles resurfaced. The team committed eight of their nine turnovers in the fourth quarter. Six of those miscues came in the final seven minutes of regulation, after the Pistons had knotted the game at 88. Consequently, Detroit outscored the Sixers 9-0 in points off turnovers in last period, and 24-18 in the game overall.
The Sixers return to The Center on Saturday for arguably their most anticipated home date of the season, hosting the Golden State Warriors (41-4) at 5:00 PM EST. As an encore to their NBA championship performance last year, Golden State is now threatening to surpass the 72-10 1995-1996 edition of the Chicago Bulls for the best regular season record in league history. Outside of failing to remain perfect through 45 games, there really is very little the Warriors haven’t done. They top the league in both per game scoring (114.8), and offensive efficiency (112.0). Their 98.7 defensive rating is 0.1 point off from being the second-best figure in the NBA. Golden State has so far played at the fastest pace of any team in the league, creating 101.84 possessions per outing. The Warriors have not only hit the most three-point field goals in the NBA this season, but have manufactured the highest three-point shooting percentage as well. And, on top of all that, just to make sure everyone got the message, Steve Kerr’s club put a 30-point whooping on the San Antonio Spurs, the squad with the second-best record in the NBA, on Monday (it should be noted the Spurs didn’t have Tim Duncan that night; might not have matered). Kerr returned to the Golden State bench on January 22nd. He missed the first 43 games of the season due to complications stemming off-season back surgery.