Sixers Blow Big Lead in Loss to Warriors

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Golden State 106, Philadelphia 104 – Box Score

With former GM Sam Hinkie in Oracle Arena Tuesday night to watch his former charges take on the 2-time Western Conference Champions, you had a feeling it wasn’t going to be the run-of-the-mill game for the Sixers.

It certainly was a memorable performance from the Sixers, even in, in classic Hinkie-era fashion, the team collapsed in crunch time to come away with the short end of the stick on the scoreboard.

Since the Kevin Durant injury, Golden State has not been playing its best ball, even losing three straight coming into last night. The Sixers were more than happy to take advantage for the bulk of the game, led by Dario Saric, whose Rookie of the Year resume gets stronger by the day. Saric finished with a fat stat line of 25 points on 11-20 shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Across 8 games in the month of March, Saric is now shooting 47.3% from the floor for averages of 20.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists.

Let’s forget the sublime passing ability, which we all had an inkling was part of the Saric skillset. But raise your hand if you watched the Homie at the beginning of the season and thought by March, he would repeatedly be the team’s option to can a tough jumper with the shot clock winding down. Now keep your hand raised, because my next question is who is lying. The rookie from Croatia’s game has grown by leaps and bounds these last couple months; it’s really been a fun storyline amidst a dismal end of the season for Philadelphia.

The Sixers also received great games from both of their remaining centers. Jahlil Okafor had 22 points on 8-15 shooting and 4 blocks in 23 minutes of action. It was the second straight 20-point game for Mr. Roll Out of Bed and Get 20 & 10, the 1st time he’s reached the mark in consecutive games this season. He also avoided the type of defensive lowlights that get you on Deadspin, at least generally giving effort on that side of the floor.

Okafor’s tag team partner for the evening, Richaun Holmes, showed up with a big outing as well, adding 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes. Holmes plays with such an abundance of energy; he’s the perfect bench guy to come in and kick up the intensity after the first units have gotten worn down. I don’t think Klay Thompson expected anyone to come in out of nowhere and block this shot.

https://twitter.com/Sixers/status/841865982629056514

So generally playing very well, the Sixers led by 16 with a couple minutes left in the third quarter. Unfortunately, that’s when the Warriors remembered they won 73 games last year, and about 6 minutes of game time later, a 19-2 Golden State run had the Warriors back in front. On his 29th birthday, people will focus on Steph Curry finally knocking down some shots. He finished with a game-high 29 points, but shot just 8-23 from the field and had as many turnovers as assists with 5 of each.

Really though, Draymond Green was the reason the Warriors were able to come back. The former Defensive Player of the Year winner was in top form on that end, suddenly shutting everything down on that end as the Sixers were held to just 14 points in the 4th quarter. Green missed a vaunted 5×5 game by a single steal, ending the night with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, and 6 blocks.

In the final minute of the game, it was a flashback to the late game Sixers of old when they stopped looking like they are a professional basketball team in the clutch. Three consecutive possessions in a one-possession game featured TJ McConnell blocked on a drive by Green, Richaun Holmes stepping out of bounds, and McConnell having a pass stolen by Matt Barnes. It was a tough note to go out on for a Sixers team that played well enough as a whole to earn a tough road victory.

The good news is that the Knicks won last night, so the Kings are back to having the 6th-worst record in the league (the Sixers are 5th). Going toe-to-toe with a championship-caliber team like the Warriors is even more impressive with Philadelphia’s top two prospects in street clothes, and at least one top pick is soon to be on the way. 15 games left.

Sixers Out-Tanked by Lakers, Win by 2

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 118, Los Angeles 116 – Box Score

Entering play 3 games ahead of the Lakers in the standings, Sunday night was Philadelphia’s last chance to realistically fall behind the Lakers in the Great Tank War of 2016-17. Whether or not Los Angeles finishes 2nd or 3rd-worst overall in the standings means the difference between a 44.2% or 53.1% chance of that top-3 protected draft pick conveying to the Sixers this summer. Not to mention, there are lottery ball implications for every loss by the Sixers in this stage of the season. These are our great battles.

Philadelphia even pulled out the big guns, sitting Robert Covington with knee soreness to make sure the entire game was a no-defense affair by both sides. In the end though, you can’t hold a scrappy Sixers squad down.

Not when they have TJ McConnell, who has been called more clutch than Michael Jordan, making his only field goal of the game on a fadeaway jumper with 50 seconds left that put the Sixers ahead for good. Talk about saving it for when it really matters.

Or when Joel Embiid’s pick for Rookie of the Year, Dario Saric, is out there doing everything for the team once again, tallying a career-high 29 points by knocking down 3 of 7 shots from three, grabbing 7 rebounds, and dishing out 5 assists. I wrote many words Saturday about how Saric is saving the end of this Sixers season from a watchability standpoint; they all applied Sunday night. Wonderful player, wonderful human being.

Filling in for the resting Covington, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had the best game of his short NBA career, hitting 7 of 11 shots from the field for a career-high 18 points. TLC drained 2 of 4 from behind the arc and converted a number of difficult shots around the basket. He has a great knack of timing his cuts and getting open at the right moment heading to the hoop. His game keeps developing by leaps and bounds across this rookie season. First, he adjusted to the defensive side of the ball and now the offense is appearing on the scene. The Sixers look to have a keeper on their hands.

Even Jahlil Okafor got in the action, showing off against one of the two teams that decided to pass on him in the draft. Jah had an effective game offensively, scoring 23 points on 8-12 shooting, and mostly not playing painfully slow on that side of the ball to bog down the team’s action. The other side of the ball was business as usual for Jahlil, but it being a Lakers game, poor defensive effort fit right in out there.

Jordan Clarkson did everything in his power to get his team the victory, recording 30 points on 10-16 shooting, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists off the bench. Presumably, he wants no part of a top-3 pick coming in next year and stealing any more of his minutes. D’Angelo Russell, however, is the consummate team player. He drove lead tank by shooting 5-17 from the field and making the two biggest bone-headed plays of the game.

With 25 seconds left in the game and Lakers down 1, Russell completely forgot how much time was left on the shot clock coming out of a dead ball, in-bounds situation. As he casually dribbled away from the basket, he finally looked up and saw 1 second left on the clock, having to toss up a 30-footer which was no good. That was the last best chance for the Lakers to win the game, and even that play didn’t top this trainwreck of a play right before halftime.

https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/841119951343767552

My favorite part is Russell being so embarrassed that he starts blaming his teammates, as if they were the reason is starting playing soccer with the ball. That’s some next-level tanking.

With the Sixers victory, the Lakers seem increasingly likely to only finish ahead of Brooklyn in the standings. On the plus side, Sacramento has lost 8 straight and is now right ahead of the Sixers with the 6th-worst overall record. And the 2018 unprotected Lakers pick has a pretty good ring to it, should it come to that.

The Sixers will play at Golden State Tuesday night. I don’t think that one will be as close.

2017 March Madness Challenge

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

It didn’t take a leaked bracket this year to know that defending national champion and Big East tournament champion Villanova would receive the top overall seed. The Wildcats will have a tough road ahead if they hope to win it all again, and so will you in our 2017 contest.

Few things can match the thrill of the NCAA tournament, especially when you’re rooting for the teams you selected to advance in your bracket. As always, our bracket challenge is free to enter and we pay out money to the top-2 finishers. What do you have to lose? Sign up for the 5th annual Philly Fast Break March Madness challenge now!

Rules: 

  • Entry is free for all participants.
  • To be eligible for the prize pool, you must:
  • In addition to topping the rest of the field, you must defeat the official Philly Fast Break entry in order to win.

How to Enter:

  • Join our group at ESPN.com; group password is ‘embiid′.
  • Use your twitter handle or facebook profile name as your bracket entry name to accurately identify yourself.

Prize Pool:

  • Total prize pool will be $100. 1st place = $80; 2nd place = $20.

Good luck to everyone and enjoy March Madness!

Sixers Open West Coast Trip with OT Loss to Blazers

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Portland 114, Philadelphia 108 (OT) – Box Score

For those Sixers fans staying up late to watch the team on the West Coast, they were treated to an unexpectedly exciting game out in Portland, with the only downside being Philadelphia ended up on the short end of the result. With 19 seconds left in regulation, Robert Covington unnecessarily fouled CJ McCollum (with McCollum sinking both free throws), putting the Sixers down 2. Covington would make up for it though by tipping in a missed Gerald Henderson shot at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. Bonus basketball! Your sleep was already messed up for the night anyway.

Unfortunately, the Blazers pulled away in the extra session, as Jusuf Nurkic scored the first 7 points of overtime for Portland. The Bosnian Beast caused havoc for the Sixers big men all game long, finishing with 28 points, 20 rebounds (7 offensive), 8 assists, 6 blocks, and 2 steals. Jahlil Okafor had a solid offensive game, tallying 16 points and 8 rebounds of his own, and it’s unfair that he was thrown right back out there for big minutes (29 in total) coming off missing games with a sore knee. Still, Nurkic’s absurd stat line is Exhibit 14, subheading 5 in the chapter of Okafor’s scouting book, entitled ‘offers no interior defense whatsoever’.

Carrying the heavy lifting for Philadelphia were the usual suspects at the two forward positions. Dario Saric has emerged in recent weeks as the emotional leader of the team, and had one of the best games of his young NBA career with 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 steals. Saric finally had his outside shot working, hitting 4-7 from three, which brought out the finger guns (a little nod to old Westerns on the West Coast trip). Saric got big points for the Sixers in crunch time, was the catalyst of the team’s 9-0 run in the second half to get back in the game, and even played some center. The man is doing it all right now. Bovada is right to have the Homie as the Rookie of the Year favorite, Malcolm Brogdon’s efficiency be damned.

Meanwhile, Robert Covington had a game himself, recording 24 points, knocking down 4 threes of his own on 8 attempts, and grabbing 13 rebounds. It was the 6th game of the season Covington rolled out of bed for an Okafor (that’s a 20 & 10 game for those of you not involved with Sixers twitter inside jokes). Dumb foul in the closing seconds aside, Rock was great defensively once again, and keeps adding a little more each night to his offensive repertoire. His three-point percentage continues to climb, now up to 33.7% on the season after his awful start. The Northern Liberties resident is going to be able to have any warehouse-converted loft he wants when his next contract rolls around.

Having lost three straight, the Sixers are now below Orlando for the 4th-worst record in the league. With the Kings losing 6 straight of their own, Philadelphia’s hoard of lottery balls continues to grow. They’ll next take on the Clippers in a Saturday matinee.

City 6 Conference Tournaments Primer

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

First, let’s pour one out for the two City 6 schools who have seen their seasons already come to an end.

Coming off the worst season in former head coach Bruiser Flint’s Drexel tenure, it was reasonable to expect a long road ahead for new head coach Zach Spiker. That proved to be the case as the Dragons finished 9-23, ending up dead last in CAA play with a 3-15 conference record, and bowing out to James Madison in the opening round of the conference tournament. The team will have a hole to fill next season after 3rd-team All-CAA senior Rodney Williams graduates; he led the team in both scoring and rebounding. The bright spot for the future came in the form of 5’10” freshman point guard Kurk Lee, who made the CAA All-Rookie team while averaging 14.9 ppg and a team-high 5.0 apg.

After losing DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles from the Hawks team that won the A-10 tournament last year, anyone would have predicted a step back for St. Joseph’s this season. What no one could have predicted was the amount of injuries that would strike the Hawks; most notably, the team’s top three leading scorers, Shavar Newkirk, Lamarr Kimble, and James Demery all missed significant chunks of the season. The good news is that all three will return to Hawk Hill next year, and with A-10 All-Rookie team freshman Charlie Brown having another year of experience under the belt, things should be much improved for the Hawks from this season’s 11-20 campaign.

Now, on to those schools still looking to dance.

Villanova

KenPom: 51.5%

The defending national champions have not missed a beat this season, led by Big East player of the year and current Naismith semifinalist Josh Hart, who averaged 18.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, and 1.5 spg, while shooting a sparkling 50.7% from the field and 40.4% from three. Mr. Big Shot Kris Jenkins continues to do his thing from behind the arc, and Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges both had no problem assuming larger roles this season. Crucially, starting center Darryl Reynolds returned to the line-up in the regular season finale after missing 5 games, so the Wildcats are more or less back to full strength. Jay Wright’s squad should have no problem advancing to Sunday, where they’ll potentially meet the Butler squad that has served them 2 of their 3 losses this season. Revenge for those defeats while winning the Big East tournament title and securing a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament would be pretty sweet.

La Salle

KenPom: 0.6%

La Salle was able to avoid the double play-in game that claimed victim to St. Joseph’s, but a late season swoon where the Explorers lost 5 of their last 7 meant they cost themselves a chance a top-4 seed and the all-important double bye. La Salle will have to get past Davidson (who they beat in the teams’ only meeting) before taking on top-seeded Dayton. Led by junior B.J. Johnson and senior Jordan Price, the Explorers have the talent where a tournament run wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world. However, winning 4 games in 4 days is very tough, and having to play on Thursday may be La Salle’s downfall.

Temple

KenPom: 0.8%

Ken Pomeroy does not like the Owls’ chances of making a miracle run and I have to agree. Temple first needs to win an opening round play-in game over East Carolina, a team against whom the Owls split their two regular season meetings, before taking on top-seeded SMU in the quarterfinals. The Mustangs (17-1 in American conference play) defeated the Owls by 14 and 16-point margins in their two games this season. For a young Owls team that saw a freshman, Shizz Alston, Jr., lead the club in points, assists, and steals, I don’t feel like this is their year.

Penn

KenPom: 17.5%

For the first time in conference history, the Ivy League will have a postseason tournament! The Quakers were just able to sneak in thanks to winning 6 of their last 8 games, including a game-winning three in the final seconds of the regular season finale to send them to the 4-team field. That’s the good news. The bad news is Penn will first play Princeton, who went 14-0 in conference play, beating the Quakers 64-49 and 61-52 in the teams’ two meetings. To get by the Tigers and face the winner of Harvard/Yale, Penn will need a huge effort from freshman AJ Brodeur, who led the team in scoring, rebounding, and blocks on his way to 2nd-team All-Ivy. Ken Pomeroy gives the Quakers a decent chance to go dancing, both because they only have to win two games, and because those two games come on Penn’s home court at the Palestra.

Sixers Bow to Bucks in Snoozer

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Milwaukee 112, Philadelphia 98 – Box Score

If you’re the type of person who hates uncertainty in life, then Monday night’s game between the Sixers and Bucks was for you. After the opening tip, there was no doubt Milwaukee was coming away with the victory. It took the Sixers over 5 minutes of game time to make their first field goal, as they quickly fell behind by double digits. That deficit snowballed to over 20 points, where it resided for a good chunk of the second half, before the classic Sixers garbage time comeback made the final score look more respectable.

After losing the battle of incredibly talented, basketball freak-of-natures in a Sixers win earlier this season, Giannis Antetokounmpo was undoubtedly happy to not see Joel Embiid patrolling the rim anymore. The Greek Freak cruised to an easy 24 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. Pristine ball movement was really the star of the night for the Bucks, which led to Tony Snell (he of the most recent Michael Carter-Williams trade) hitting 5 of 7 threes for 21 points. The high point for comedy on the night was in the first half when Sixers announcer Marc Zumoff said in utter disbelief, “Tony Snell has 18 points!”

Rookie of the Year Battle

If voters decide Joel Embiid’s 31 games played aren’t enough to win the award, then this game featured the two top players vying for Rookie of the Year honors. Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon ended the night with 13 points on 6-7 shooting, and 5 rebounds. Meanwhile, Dario Saric tallied 14 points on 5-15 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.

The game was a microcosm of the argument between the two sides. Brogdon is only ever the 3rd or 4th option on the court for Milwaukee, so he only has to hit open shots, make the extra pass, or finish around the rim off a nice feed. On the other hand, Saric has basically been the Sixers offense for weeks now; his efficiency numbers are certainly lacking, but the counting stats and eye test show up as the much more impactful player. Generally, voters go the counting stats/eye test route, but there may be Sixers fatigue with this award, or a situation with Embiid splitting votes among those partial to the Philadelphia guys.

Up-and-Coming Young Sixers?

While much of it came in garbage time, Justin Anderson had another good outing with a team-high 19 points in 23 minutes. Anderson attacks the rim like it came after his family, an aggressiveness that really stood out on a night the Sixers looked so lethargic as a team.

There’s a lot of Jerami Grant in Anderson’s game. I’m still trying to piece together whether Grant is a floor or ceiling for him, which obviously makes a huge difference in his overall evaluation.

In his NBA debut, Sevens call-up Shawn Long scored 13 points on 5-8 shooting, hit his only three-point attempt, grabbed 7 rebounds, and blocked Greg Monroe on his first defensive possession. Aside from injuring Ben Simmons, I liked everything I saw from Long before the season. He certainly looked like he belonged in his first official NBA action; let’s see some more from him.

If you were hoping the Sixers would be able to shake off what has been a couple of really rancid performances lately, the bad news is 11 of their next 13 games come on the road. The good news is that as both they and the Kings keep losing, those odds for a top-3 pick keep climbing. 19 games left, everybody.

Sixers Hit Rock Bottom in Loss to Pistons

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Detroit 136, Philadelphia 106 – Box Score

Coming off an exciting win Friday night against the Knicks, it might have seemed reasonable to expect another competitive game from the Sixers the following evening against Detroit. Instead, the last-minute victory against New York must have used up their entire supply of competitive juices, as Philadelphia allowed their highest point total of the season in a contest where the outcome was never in question.

The team that once had too many centers, now keeps losing them. Joel Embiid is in street clothes, Nerlens Noel is in Dallas, Jahlil Okafor was out with knee soreness, and Richaun Holmes was limited by a hamstring injury. No surprise then that Andre Drummond went off for 14 points, 14 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. The perimeter defense was also lacking though with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope dropping an efficient 26 points on 9-11 shooting, and former Sixer Ish Smith darting around for a game-high 13 assists.

In a game where the Sixers lost the turnover battle 20-8, Dario Saric was once more a shining beacon in an otherwise dismal affair, tallying 19 points on 7-15 shooting, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists. The vision for a man his size is consistently remarkable; there just aren’t too many players closer to 7 feet than 6 that make these sort of plays:

Starting again for the injured Gerald Henderson, who was out with hip soreness (I feel you Gerald, pushing 30 is tough), Nik Stauskas dropped a season-high 24 points on 10-15 shooting. Not only did Sauce knock down 4-7 from three, but his driving game keeps improving. This is the sort of play he wouldn’t have even thought of making last season.

On the plus side, with the loss, the Sixers are now tied with Orlando for the 4th-worst record in the league. Just 20 games left to get through, and aside from stellar play from Dario and the stray good performance from someone else here and there, there’s every reason to want this last month and a half to pass by as quickly as possible.

Sixers Win Rubber Match Over Knicks

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 105, New York 102 – Box Score

In a true clash of titans, the first two meetings between the Knicks and Sixers this season both ended in buzzer-beater victories. TJ McConnell hit a dagger in Carmelo Anthony’s face back in January, before Melo got his revenge in Philly last week. Friday night’s rubber match also came down to the wire, but this time, the Knicks’ shots in the closing moments came up dry.

It all started with the Sixers down one, and Dario Saric showing incredible patience under the hoop before finding Justin Anderson with a wrap-around pass for a short jumper in the lane to put Philadelphia in front. Predictably, the Knicks went to Iso-ball with Melo, but unlike last Saturday, the reluctant All-Star’s shot from the left wing was off the mark. Saric would pull down the rebound and hit both free throws on the other end to put the Sixers up three. Courtney’s Lee potential game-tying three at the buzzer drew iron and the Sixers sent the ever-populous Knicks fans at the Wells Fargo Center home unhappy.

Indicative of his presence in the deciding moments of the game, Dario Saric was tremendous throughout the game for the home team. The rookie finished with 21 points on 7-14 shooting, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. It sure is fun watching him grab a rebound and immediately head up court to lead the fast break. The late pass to Anderson on the go-ahead bucket was nifty, but Saric’s most impressive pass came a little earlier when he somehow saw Jahlil Okafor out of the corner of his eye and fed him with a behind-the-back pass under the hoop.

I can’t wait to see what Dario’s game looks like next year after he has another full offseason to work on his shot from NBA range.

While Sixers fans (rightfully) continue to bemoan the Nerlens Noel deal, we did get our first sign that the return wasn’t completely terrible. Justin Anderson had his first productive game as a Sixer, scoring 19 points on 8-12 shooting, hitting 3-6 from three, and getting under Carmelo Anthony’s skin on the defensive end of the court (the pair were even charged for a double technical at one point). Anderson attacked the offensive glass vigorously for a couple putback dunks, and even logged a short stint as a quasi-center. If he can be active on the boards, pull hard-nosed defense, and hit just enough threes, he’ll stick around.

The win broke a 3-game losing streak for Philadelphia and puts them in a position where just 2 games separate them from falling (rising?) all the way to the 10th spot in the lottery. Still, if a victory is coming on the back of Saric playing out of his mind and guys like Anderson, Robert Covington, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot playing tough defense on a premiere scorer like Carmelo Anthony, you take the W, lottery odds or not.

Sixers Roll Over and Play Dead in South Beach

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Miami 125, Philadelphia 98 – Box Score

First off, nobody on the Sixers played very well Wednesday night. Every single player had a negative plus/minus. The saving grace during the past couple weeks, Dario Saric, shot just 4-12, didn’t get to the line, and had more turnovers (3) than assists (2). He and TJ McConnell looked to get into an actual argument during the game, which flies in the very face of Trust the Friendship. The bench allowed Tyler Johnson to roast them for a game-high 24 points. Nik Stauskas shot 3-12 and managed a -26 in 26 minutes. I suppose Richaun Holmes scoring 15 points for the second straight game and Robert Covington dropping 19 points on 12 shots qualify as the bright spots of the evening.

Maybe it was the news earlier in the day that Joel Embiid would officially miss the rest of the season that left the team without a pep in their step. Maybe it was the usual South Beach hangover. I don’t care. The Sixers have lost plenty of these games over the years. Usually, you just forget about it and move onto the next one. Right now though, I need to vent about Jahlil Okafor.

Okafor had the most pathetic, phoning it in effort I’ve seen on a basketball court in quite some time. I imagine his post-game comments would have been, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.” It was like the ethos of “Keep Gettin’ Dem Checks” come to life. Okafor’s line of 6 points on 3-11 shooting and 5 turnovers in 22 minutes was really bad. But we’ve seen really bad from Jahlil Okafor on a number of occasions. Wednesday night was the most blatant display of IDGAF I’ve ever seen from him.

On the offensive end, the turnovers were unforced bits of carelessness, and the misses were a mixture of poor execution and poor awareness about his surroundings. It’s hard to imagine how a near-7-footer could miss a wide-open lob this badly, then have the ball ripped out of his hands by a guy half a foot shorter than him without even the semblance of a fight.

https://twitter.com/xylondimoff/status/837110823743016964

My favorite part is his pointing after the play to acknowledge to Dario what a nice pass it was, as if he had scored and they were happily jogging back down court. Need more? Here’s Okafor trying to force a shot up through a double-team and Hassan Whiteside getting one of his four blocks by palming the ball with one hand in mid-air.

https://twitter.com/World_Wide_Wob/status/837107354315309056

Then, there was coup de grace. The “defensive” play that went viral because Jahlil Okafor did as much to stop the Heat from scoring as fans do when they clap thunder sticks in the crowd.

Let’s break it down. First, Okafor does absolutely nothing to defend the pick-and-roll, allowing Whiteside to cleanly pick TJ and giving Goran Dragic a full head of steam into the paint. Dragic goes right at Okafor, who can’t even be bothered to stick a hand up to contest the shot. Dragic misses the wide-open 6-footer, and while Okafor continues to watch the game like a spectator, Dragic would have gotten his own miss if teammate Rodney McGruder didn’t crash in for offensive rebound. At one point, Okafor raises his right hand slightly above his shoulder, which is the peak of his defensive effort this entire sequence. McGruder dribbles around the paint while Okafor spins slowly in a circle, looking like an animatronic figure on a theme park ride that’s bolted into the floor. Naturally, McGruder finds Okafor’s wide open man, Hassan Whiteside, who cans the short jumper. Okafor again doesn’t bother to so much as stick a hand up.

Absolutely disgusting. I can’t imagine being his teammate and seeing that kind of piss-poor effort go unpunished (Brett Brown inexcusably didn’t immediately yank Okafor from the game), and having the heart to give the required 100% effort needed at the NBA level. Bryan Colangelo might have thought keeping Jahlil Okafor around would raise his trade value. If anything, it’s seeking to even lower depths. These last 22 games are going to be rough.

Sixers Can’t Quite Crack Cold-Shooting Warriors

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Golden State 119, Philadelphia 108 – Box Score

As what’s been a rough month for Philadelphia 76ers fans winds down, they took another punch to the gut earlier in the day Monday with the announcement that Joel Embiid would require an MRI due to increased swelling in his knee. If there was any doubt before, it now looks to be certain that the once-runaway Rookie of the Year favorite will be out for the remainder of the year.

In other less-than-encouraging housekeeping news, Ben Simmons is undergoing a minor procedure to try and stimulate growth in his foot (always what you like to hear!), and the Sixers finalized the buyout with Andrew Bogut (way to read the market again, Bryan Colangelo).

Amidst all that commotion, the Sixers had the almost-two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors coming to town. Thanks to an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance from the Dubs, the Sixers were able to hang around within striking distance for the entirety of the game. Golden State shot just 6-29 from behind the arc as a team, missing their first 8 shots from downtown. Steph Curry did not have his usual allotment of NBA Jam TE-style power-ups, missing all 11 of three-point attempts, including a pair of airballs in the first quarter.

The really nice thing about having 4 top-notch Olympians on your team though, is when one is having an off night, others are right there to pick up the slack. Draymond Green was all over the court as usual, finishing with 14 points, 11 assists and 5 steals. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant got to the foul line 11 times (making 10), on his way to 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Still, given the fact that the Warriors weren’t their usual Super Saiyan selves from downtown, the Sixers might have been able to pull off the upset if they had taken better care of the ball. Philadelphia gave it away 23 times, with the biggest culprit being Jahlil Okafor.

Coming off his strong performance Saturday night against the Knicks, Jah was unable to string two good outings together, recording 4 points and 3 rebounds, against 7 turnovers and 5 personal fouls in just 17 minutes. Unsurprisingly, he was a team-worst -15 on the evening. Not only was he barreling into Golden State defenders like a poorly-designed soap box derby car and getting whistled for charges, but Okafor was often caught displaying his customary level of defensive “awareness”. The way his mind wanders puts a new spin on pace-and-space (slow and off-in).

There were bright spots for the Sixers. Dario Saric saw his string of double-doubles broken, but did have an excellent line of 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. The fact that he’s scoring so efficiently without shooting well from the outside (0-6 from three), could bode very well if his shot adjusts in the NBA like it did given time in Europe.

Robert Covington continues to perform like an elite 3-and-D guy, tallying 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals. Rock has even expanded his offensive game with some nice drives to the hoop, something completely foreign to him as recently as the beginning of this season. With his ability to shut down multiple positions defensively, he’s providing tremendous value on both ends of the floor. Colangelo needs to use some of that money he won’t be spending on Nerlens Noel and hammer out an extension with Covington this summer before he hits the open market next year.

Finally, the other side of the current Sixers center duo fared much better than his counterpart. Richaun Holmes played with tremendous energy on both ends of the court and wound up with 15 points and 3 blocks. Few players have the kind of pogo-stick-like leaps that Holmes shows when he tenaciously attacks the offensive glass. He also owned Draymond Green on a play, dunking the ball so hard that Green’s face transformed into a trampoline on its return trip down through the hoop.

Ultimately, it was a missed opportunity to catch a good team on a bad night and provide some much-needed added excitement for fans with a win. The Sixers still put on a good show for most of the evening, and really, every loss counts with the team’s best two players out for the season and the controls on this tanking vessel set to dive. The team will next take on the Heat in South Beach Wednesday night.