Takeaways from Elton Brand's End-of-Season Media Availability

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

76ers general manager Elton Brand spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon about a multitude of different things. Throughout the conference call, he talked about a desire to keep Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, potential change in the front office and his role in the ever evolving Sixers management.

Here are three takeaways:

1. Elton Brand's role in the 76ers front office is solidified

When Brett Brown was fired on Monday, many 76ers fans hoped to see Brand gone with him. They were frustrated at his decision to build the team in a bully ball style last offseason instead of surrounding Embiid and Simmons with outside shooters. However, Brand will be staying at the helm for the 76ers, albeit with a twist.

When Brand was hired to be the team's general manager in September 2018, he had very limited managerial experience. His only experience came as the general manager of the Sixers' G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats. Partially as a result of his lack of experience, the 76ers front office utilized a "collaborative approach" when making any decisions in Brand's first full offseason at the helm.

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Why Firing Brett Brown is Only the First Step for 76ers

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

When the news came out on Monday evening about the firing of Brett Brown, Sixers fans everywhere rejoiced because it had become clear that Brown's time in Philadelphia was up. After getting swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics, the 76ers are in a situation where a lot has to change for things to get better before next season. Firing Brown, the team's coach for the past seven seasons, is only the first step in hopefully transforming the team from the one which got swept by Boston to a team that can contend for championships.

One of the things that must change this offseason is the roster construction. The 76ers' two superstars are Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, both of whom would benefit greatly from being surrounded by outside shooters.

However, last offseason general manager Elton Brand made the decision to build the team around a "bully ball" style of offense. The 76ers traded away Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat in which the team acquired Josh Richardson. The team then re-signed Tobias Harris to a five-year, $180 million contract that he has vastly underperformed in so far. The final piece on the cake, and the one that hurt the 76ers this season the most, was giving Al Horford a four-year contract worth $109 million. Last offseason's experiment to build a team around big men proved, after one season, to be a critical mistake which could hold the team back for some of the most important years of Embiid's and Simmons' careers.

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76ers Fire Brett Brown in Precursor to More Front Office Moves

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers have fired Brett Brown, according to ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

Brown's dismissal is expected to be a precursor for more upheaval in the Sixers' front office. The 76ers' plan is to continue having general manager Elton Brand oversee basketball operations as he also will begin exploring potential changes in the front office personnel and structure.

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Poor Shooting Dooms 76ers in Close Game 3 Loss to Celtics

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Poor shooting proved to be too much to overcome on Friday as the 76ers fell 102-94 to the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the first-round series. Philadelphia battled throughout, playing with a lot of physicality, and held a two-point lead with 2:14 remaining, but Boston went on a timely 10-0 run to end the game and further deepen the hole the 76ers are in. The Celtics hold a 3-0 lead in the series. 

The 76ers, who find themselves on the brink of the end of their season, have a chance to avoid elimination in Game 4, which is on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Here are some observations from the loss:

1. Despite the loss, the 76ers played with some character, grit and physicality

It might not be saying much, but the 76ers showed up and played with physicality and grit in Game 3. Just two days after a brutal blowout loss in Game 2, questions abounded about the 76ers lack of energy and whether or not they had the mental fortitude to bounce back in the series. Their play in Game 3 can best be described as scrappy and gritty. 

However, playing with physicality and grit does not do much when you are unable to hit a shot from anywhere on the court. The 76ers shot just 29.5% from the field and 23.1% from 3-point range in Game 3, neither of which were good enough to power them past Boston despite the infusion of energy and better defense. The 76ers became the first team since May 11, 2017 to shoot below 30% in a playoff game, according to Jay King of The Athletic.

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Do the 76ers Have a Chance Against Boston? Game 3 Provides Test of Character and Coaching Adjustments

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Nothing went right for the 76ers in Game 2 of their first-round series against the Boston Celtics. Boston, led by 33 points from Jayson Tatum, did whatever they want against a demoralized 76ers defense. A lot of things have to change if the 76ers are to have a chance to come back in this series and avoid a first-round elimination. 

First, the 76ers' pick-and-roll defense must improve by leaps and bounds. Brett Brown has had the 76ers utilize a drop coverage style of defense on Boston's pick-and-rolls. Drop coverage is when the big man drops down into the paint and the guard attempts to fight around the screen, with the desired result being mid-range, low-percentage shots. 

The drop coverage has not worked this series, with Boston generating 1.13 points per pick-and-roll possession through the first two games of the series. Boston's players have mostly pulled up for open 3-pointers when coming around pick-and-rolls. The Celtics shot 19-of-43 from beyond the arc, and Tatum shot 6-of-9 on pull-up threes in Game 2.

Joel Embiid spoke after Game 2 about the need for a change in how the 76ers defend the pick-and-roll.

"I know they want me to sit back on pick-and-rolls and protect the basket, but they’ve just been coming off and making a lot of threes, so we’ve gotta make adjustments," Embiid said. "Either I’ve gotta come up and we’ve gotta scramble all over the place or something’s gotta change. It feels too easy. They’re just walking into those shots. We’ve gotta fix that."

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How Will Gordon Hayward's Injury Impact the 76ers-Celtics Series?

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Boston Celtics will be without Gordon Hayward for the remainder of their first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers due to a right ankle sprain he suffered in Game 1, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.

The 76ers' defense was stretched thin due to the loss of Ben Simmons. Philadelphia caught a big break with the Hayward injury for multiple reasons. Boston can easily substitute Marcus Smart into the starting lineup, but it will cost them on offense since Smart is not nearly the scorer Hayward is.

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Why 76ers Should Add Matisse Thybulle to the Starting Lineup

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The key to the 76ers' chances in their first-round series against the Boston Celtics could prove to be right in front of them. Just one game into the series, rookie Matisse Thybulle made a strong case to be put into the starting lineup.

The 76ers, being without their top defender Ben Simmons, are struggling to find the best way to defend Boston's starting lineup. One of the key questions was who would be tasked with guarding Jayson Tatum, Boston's leading scorer. Head coach Brett Brown went with Josh Richardson in Game 1, but that matchup did not find much success. Tatum scored 32 points en route to leading the Celtics to a 1-0 series lead.

Thybulle came off the bench in Game 1 and proved to be the 76ers' best option defensively against Tatum. Tatum, when guarded by Thybulle, scored just four points on 2-of-9 shooting compared to 28 points on 8-of-12 shooting when guarded by anyone else.

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Turnovers, Dominant Nights from Tatum and Brown Doom 76ers in Game One

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers dropped Game One of their first-round series against the Boston Celtics, 109-101, on Monday night. The 76ers fought hard, but in the end turnovers and a lack of consistent rebounding doomed them. Jayson Tatum, despite being guarded by a flurry of different defenders throughout the game, finished with 32 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Celtics past Philadelphia in game one.

The 76ers get a chance to even up the series on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Here are some observations from the loss:

1. Turnovers highlight lack of offensive consistency

From the opening tip to the end of the game, the 76ers struggled to maintain offensive consistency mostly due to committing a lot of turnovers and failing to consistently get the ball deep in the post. Feeding Joel Embiid the ball on a consistent basis needed to be a priority for the 76ers throughout the game. They executed early, resulting in Embiid finishing the first quarter with 11 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting. However, that did not come without a few bumps in the road. Embiid committed three turnovers in the first quarter as Boston threw a bunch of different looks at him defensively.

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76ers vs. Celtics Playoff Preview: Embiid's Dominance, Simmons' Absence and More

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The 76ers will be facing off against their division rival, the Boston Celtics, in the first round of the NBA playoffs. In a rare occurrence, the 76ers managed to win the season series against Boston, 3-1. However, the regular season has been a long grind, and Philadelphia now finds itself without one of its top players, Ben Simmons, due to a knee injury he suffered in the seeding game against the Washington Wizards.

How will the loss of Simmons affect the 76ers' defense against Boston? How will the 76ers handle Boston's pesky group of defenders? Will Joel Embiid be able to dominate Boston's weaker group of bigs? The answer to those questions, and much more, below in our Philly vs. Boston series preview:

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Embiid's Performance, Consistent Outside Shooting and More from 76ers' Final Tune-Up

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers built some momentum heading into the playoffs by soundly defeating the Houston Rockets on Friday night, 134-96. Philadelphia had eight players finish in double figures, led by Tobias Harris' 18 points.

Friday's game against Houston was not exactly a playoff atmosphere, but it was still important for the 76ers to take advantage and use it as a final tune-up for the playoffs. The games will mean something again starting on Monday when the 76ers open up their first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics at 6:30 p.m.

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