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Takeaways from Sixers' overtime loss to Cavs

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

After a dominant defensive showing against the Mavericks on national television on Thursday, the Sixers would be back in action on Saturday night, hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Sixers would lack energy for a majority of this game, and it would result in the matchup going down to the wire. 

Joel Embiid would get a chance to win the game for the Sixers at the end of regulation but could not get his shot to go. The Cavs would go on to pick up a 112-109 victory in overtime. Cleveland is now 2-0 on the season against the Sixers. 

Here are some takeaways from the Saturday night matchup. 

Supporting cast struggles 

The Sixers' supporting cast has had its struggles in recent weeks, and it would carry on in this game. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons would have good games against the Cavs, but everyone around them would have a tough time scoring. 

Outside of the two All-Stars, only one other Sixer would finish this game in double-figures, Shake Milton who racked up 11 points off the bench. It took until about the seven-minute mark in the third quarter for someone outside of Embiid and Simmons to score more than five points. The stars can only do so much when they are getting such minimal production from the players around them. 

One player in particular who would have major struggles is Seth Curry. Since returning from Covid, Curry's play has been up and down. Saturday's game against Cleveland was arguably his worst in a Sixer uniform. Curry would finish with just four points on 1-13 shooting from the floor. 

The Sixers become much more dynamic when the supporting cast can knock down shots. Hopefully after some much-needed rest over the All-Star break, they can get back to form in the second half of the season. 

Missing Tobias Harris 

Tobias Harris would miss his first game of the season on Saturday after suffering a knee contusion against the Mavericks. The Sixers would miss him greatly against the Cavaliers, especially on the offensive end. 

The Sixers would start slow on offense, and part of it was because of a new starting lineup. With Furkan Korkmaz starting with Curry and Danny Green, they struggled to get their offensive sets going. Not to mention without Harris in the lineup, they lost a pick-and-roll threat and someone who operates a good two man game with Embiid. 

Seeing how the offense looked without Harris speaks volumes to the consistency he has brought to the team this year. It showed how crucial he has been to the Sixers' success in the first half of the season and might enhance his case for being an All-Star snub.  

Simmons and Embiid leading the charge 

With the supporting cast struggling the way they did, it was on Simmons and Embiid to carry this team to the finish line. The All-Star duo would do just that, both would dominate the Cavs in an attempt to steal this game. 

Simmons would start this game getting downhill and putting pressure on the Cavs in transition. He would then switch to working in the post, a part of his game that has continued to grow this season. By the end of the game, Simmons would have 24 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. 

Embiid has had some minor struggles in recent games, but he would get back to his dominant self against the Cavs. The MVP favorite would erupt for 42 points and come down with 13 rebounds. On top of his huge scoring outburst, he would also dish six assists. 

Although it resulted in a loss, it was good to see Simmons and Embiid dominate together. This team is only going to go as far as they can take them, so seeing them continue to figure out how to put up big showings in the same game is a major positive. 

Playing down to an opponent 

This has been a bad habit for the Sixers for multiple years now. They continue to drop games against teams that they should not. 

Looking at this game, there was no reason for the Sixers to drop this game. At home against a struggling team who was missing multiple players should have been an easy win to keep the momentum going. But sleepwalking through the first half resulted in the Cavs being able to swing the game in their favor. 

The Cavaliers are not a good team this season, and they should not be 2-0 against the Sixers, who have finals aspirations. Now although it is not something to go rushing for the panic button for, it is something to monitor. If the Sixers want to remain at the top of the Eastern Conference, they cannot have these lapses and drop unnecessary games like this.  


Ben Simmons's Defense Does Not Rest

     We are going to start this out by bringing back a very old game: Two Truths And A Lie (see answer below)

Ben Simmons is the best perimeter defender in the NBA.
Ben Simmons once dunked on a giraffe.
Ben Simmons’s defensive on/off split in 2021 is a negative.

76ers fans have been watching Ben Simmons display a combination of power, speed and athleticism not seen in the city of Philadelphia since the days of Reggie White and Charles Barkley. He has the court vision of LeBron and Magic, could rebound in traffic, and if opponents allowed him to get out in the open floor with the ball, opponents were certain to regret it.

Unfortunately, despite these strengths, Ben Simmons also arrived in Philadelphia with one minor flaw.

He refused to shoot from more than five feet away from the rim.

This flaw became the overwhelming narrative for the first three seasons of his career, after having to sit out the year he was drafted with a foot injury.

In the 2019-2020 preseason, he hit the first three-pointer of his professional career in a pre-season game against the Guangzhao Loong Lions. He hit the first official three of his NBA career about six weeks later against the New York Knicks. Sadly, these shots, and the ongoing conversation surrounding his general unwillingness to launch more attempts from behind the arc, overshadowed a development in Ben Simmons’s game.

He was slowly becoming one of the best defenders in the NBA.

This should not have been such a surprising development. After all, he’d received 11 votes for All-Defense (5 first team) in his rookie season. And he was still unlearning many of the terrible defensive habits he developed during a disappointing season playing at LSU.

In the ensuing seasons, Simmons was getting more and more acclimated to the speed and intricate nature of defending NBA players, learning how to be physical without fouling and how to use his size to frustrate smaller, quicker guards.

As the 2020 season ended, Simmons was out with a knee injury suffered in the seeding games after the NBA’s five-month Covid-19 shutdown. As the 76ers were unceremoniously dismissed from the playoffs in four straight games by the Boston Celtics, the conversation about Simmons’s defense, ball handling and vision grew smaller and smaller in favor of complaints about his lack of shooting. Seemingly every NBA blog presented trades where Simmons would be dealt for James Harden, Bradley Beal and others.

Finally, in January, a failed trade negotiation with the Houston Rockets in which Simmons would be traded, with draft picks for the aforementioned Harden was one of the biggest trending topics as Harden was eventually dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for virtually every first-round pick the Nets have until 2027. Suddenly, it appeared that Simmons had been experimenting with Bruce Banner’s gamma radiation, because he was angry…and 76ers’ opponents were not going to like it when he was angry.

He began to show more aggression on the offensive end, but even more on the defensive end. He appeared to take pleasure in making miserable the lives of prolific scorers like Kemba Walker (just nine points in the 2nd half of two games), Jerami Grant (11 points on 3-19 shooting, ending a 14-game 20-point scoring streak), De’Aaron Fox (11 points on 4-17 shooting in the 2nd half after a 23-point first-half outburst) and, finally, Damian Lillard (9 points on 2-13 in the 2nd half after a 21-point first half)

All of this led to a nationally televised showdown against Luka Doncic on February 26th. Doncic came in red-hot, averaging 31.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 8.9 assists over his last 16 games, and leading Dallas to seven wins in nine games. This included a thriller over Boston in which Doncic hit two step-back three-pointers that could only be described as soul-crushing to Boston fans.

Ben Simmons decided to make Doncic his personal cause. Not only was he not going to let him score, but he also was not going to let him shoot. He stalked Doncic like a lion stalking a hornbill. Per The Athletic’s Derrick Bodner, Doncic shot 3 for 9 in attempts when Simmons was defending him, including just 1-5 on three-point attempts.

But there was one play in the Dallas game that truly defined the defensive genius of Ben Simmons. Simmons is checking Doncic as Willie Cauley-Stein dribbles to the left for a dribble handoff action, I think with either Burke or Brunson. Simmons leaves Doncic and steals the ball from behind. Normally, you would say it is insane to leave your man in any situation to go for a steal, especially when the man you are leaving is a world-class offensive player. The scramble to recover is most likely to result in a bucket, a foul or both. However, Simmons's route to the play was so perfect that even if Cauley-Stein picked up the ball, he will not be getting a pass back to Doncic (as his back is turned), plus the screen action is getting blown up (with the presence of Simmons, who would now be on the front side of the action) AND the fact it was close enough to the sideline to use it as a defender. Simmons stole the ball from Cauley-Stein, picked his head up and led Joel Embiid with a perfect pass for a dunk.

Ben Simmons was named third-team All-NBA in 2020. He started out the 2020-2021 season in an offensive funk but has rebounded in a serious way since the proposed Harden trade fell through, averaging 17.8 points with 7.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists in 17 games. If he continues his upward trajectory, he could be looking at not only another All-NBA nod, but a Defensive Player of The Year trophy for his mantle as well.

For the record – Simmons IS widely acknowledged as the best perimeter defender in the NBA, but his defensive on-off split in 2021 is -.4 points/100 possessions. Much of this is likely due to a few early attempts at using Simmons as a rim-protecting small-ball 5 that did not go well.

Finally, Ben Simmons has never dunked on a giraffe. At least, not that I am aware of. If you have video of this happening, please hit me up on Twitter @Drfunkenstein24.

Hart Gets Shutout as Flyers Sweep Sabres

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

In his first start since the Lake Tahoe game a week ago, perhaps Carter Hart showed Brian Elliott that anything you can do, I can do better. One day after Elliott backstopped the Flyers to a 23-save shutout performance, Hart bested it with 28 saves.

Hart's performance plus three second-period goals were the difference, as the Flyers once again defeated the Sabres, 3-0, on Sunday afternoon to complete the weekend sweep.

Continue reading "Hart Gets Shutout as Flyers Sweep Sabres" »

Flyers-Sabres: Game 18 Preview

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers kicked off their weekend successfully with a 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday afternoon. Just under 24 hours after that game concluded, the two teams get back on the ice to finish off the weekend back-to-back.

The Flyers look to keep the success going against the Sabres, who are dealing with some struggles and injuries that have hindered their play in the last few weeks.

Game time is at 3 p.m.

Continue reading "Flyers-Sabres: Game 18 Preview" »

Flyers 5: Takeaways from Saturday's Flyers-Sabres Game

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers had to play three games upon their return from a COVID outbreak without half of their forward group. They managed to get the first to overtime before losing in a shootout. They were dismantled by the team at the top of the division in an outdoor game last Sunday. They got their captain back earlier in the week and pulled off a victory.

Finally, the Flyers are at a spot where there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Four more players returned to the lineup on Saturday afternoon and with those players back, plus another excellent goaltending performance, the nearly full-strength Flyers showed what may have been missing from their recent games.

A 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres kicked off a back-to-back weekend series that also started five straight games on the road, and the Flyers made sure it started on a good note.

Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s win in Buffalo.

Continue reading "Flyers 5: Takeaways from Saturday's Flyers-Sabres Game" »

Elliott Records Shutout as Flyers Defeat Sabres

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

On Saturday afternoon in Buffalo, the Flyers nearly got their regular lineup back. It certainly showed as they were opportunistic, dominant on the forecheck, and consistently rolling lines.

Brian Elliott was also on point. He made 23 saves to secure his second shutout of the season, both coming against the Sabres, once again in a 3-0 victory on Saturday afternoon.

Continue reading "Elliott Records Shutout as Flyers Defeat Sabres" »

Flyers-Sabres: Game 17 Preview

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The final reinforcements are on their way. The Flyers continue to get players back into the lineup after their long two weeks dealing with a COVID situation. It comes at a great time for the Flyers, as they hit the road for the next five games.

It starts over the weekend with a pair of games in Buffalo against the Sabres. Following a COVID situation of their own, the Sabres have lost five of their last seven games.

Game time is at 1 p.m.

Continue reading "Flyers-Sabres: Game 17 Preview" »

Strong defense carries Sixers in win over Mavericks

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers would be back on their home floor Thursday night in a matchup against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Both teams would start slow in this game, but it didn't take long for the Sixers to take full control.

Team defense would carry the Sixers, making every possession tough for the Mavericks. This engaged defense, along with strong performances from Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, would lead the Sixers to a convincing 111-97 victory.

Ben Simmons would not appear to have a great game looking at the box score, but he would be the standout player for the Sixers on Thursday night. His aggressive play on both ends of the floor would be a key factor in the Sixers running away with this game.

Simmons would finish this game with a stat line of 15 points, three rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and one block. What was most impressive about Simmons' efforts was his defense on Luka Doncic.

From the opening tip, Simmons made his life miserable, giving him no room to operate and funneling him right to Joel Embiid in the lane. Doncic would end the night with 19 points and turned the ball over seven times. On the other side of the floor, he continued to get downhill in transition and punish smaller matchups when switched on to him.

Embiid would have a rough shooting night on the outside but would still manage to put up numbers. Despite shooting 5-20 on the night the MVP favorite would score 23 points in just under 28 minutes of action.

Things would not go well for Tobias Harris in this matchup. He would score just six points before leaving the game in the second half due to a right knee contusion.

The Sixers' second unit has been in a dry spell over the last two weeks, but they would have a much-needed breakout game against Dallas. 46 of the team's 111 points would come from the bench.

Shake Milton and Dwight Howard in particular would lead the surge off the bench. Both would be two of the five Sixers to finish this game in double figures. Milton would score 10 points and dish six assists, while Howard would rack up 14 points and come down with eight rebounds.

Three-point shooting has also hurt the Sixers at times in their recent stretch but they look to be getting hot from deep after Tuesday's game against the Raptors. Five different Sixers would hit at least two threes tonight en route to shooting 41.4% from beyond the arc as a group. This effectiveness from the outside did a great job opening up the floor for Embiid and Simmons to attack around the rim.

The Sixers couldn't have kicked off their final stretch of the first half of the season in a better fashion. They were able to get their stars off their feet for the entire fourth quarter and keep up their dominant play on their home floor. Looking ahead, their next game will be on Saturday facing off against Collin Sexton and the Cleveland Cavaliers.


Rumor Report: Kyle Lowry open to trade to Philly

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

We are exactly one month away from the NBA trade deadline, and the rumors are starting to pick up. Recently Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported that Daryl Morey and the Sixers are still looking to make 'big moves' before the upcoming deadline. One name O'Connor tied to the Sixers is Raptors' guard Kyle Lowry.

The Lowry to Philly talk has gained even more steam as the Sixers and Raptors just wrapped up a two game series. Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that Lowry is open to the idea of being dealt to his hometown team.

A source said Lowry would like to be in Philly. The source believes the Sixers and Raptors might be able to get something done.

The Philadelphia native has played 26 games for the Raptors this year and is currently averaging 18.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 6.5 APG. He is also shooting a stellar 39.5% from beyond the arc on seven attempts per game.

Lowry's playstyle fits what the Sixers should be looking to upgrade, but acquiring him is going to be no small task. Along with creating a package of proper compensation for a six-time All-Star, they have to match his 30 million dollar salary.

In a deal to acquire Lowry, the Sixers would have to include Danny Green, Mike Scott, Terrance Ferguson, and Tony Bradley, and that is just to salary match. They would still have to throw in draft pick(s) or a young player like Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, or Tyrese Maxey.

Bringing in Lowry would certainly push the Sixers more into the title picture, but will they have enough left to round out the roster after a deal like this is done? In using all of the contracts at the end of the bench to get Lowry, the Sixers will have very little to work with to continue to make upgrades.

All they would have left to upgrade the roster is the trade exception from the Al Horford deal (8.1 million) and what's left of the taxpayer's mid-level exception. Realistically speaking you still could acquire players to fill the bench with those, but you are leaving a lot to chance.

This is an interesting position to be in for the Sixers. They have the assets to get a Lowry deal done, but is it the right move? Should Morey play it safe and use his pieces to revamp the second unit to better fit a starting lineup that has played well together, or should he push all in and acquire a soon-to-be 35-year-old on an expiring contract? It looks like we could find out soon.

Morey has always been know for getting deals done so he is not just going to sit on his hands. It is all going to come down to if he wants to work the margins or make a big splash to his already star-filled lineup.


Flyers 5: Takeaways from Wednesday’s Flyers-Rangers Game

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

For two games, the Flyers played with a shorthanded roster and without the player that has been a fixture of the lineup for over a decade. It's certainly a rarity, especially after 328 consecutive games. The captain returned on Wednesday and had an immediate impact on the team. 

The Flyers were able to open up leads in the first and second period with a pair of goals in each, before ultimately holding on for a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers.

It wasn’t a pretty win, and it wasn’t going to be pretty with the Flyers still plenty shorthanded from their COVID situation. But Claude Giroux marked the first player to return on a list that will only be increasing with each passing day, and he showed just how motivated he was to come back strong.

Here are five takeaways from Wednesday’s win.

Continue reading "Flyers 5: Takeaways from Wednesday’s Flyers-Rangers Game" »