Good morning, 76ers fans. Just as the Sixers got off the road, they are headed back there. Coach Doc Rivers and the players conceded that they were one tired team after Sunday’s 116-100 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at the Wells Fargo Center.
It was the second of back-to-back home games that came after a season-long six-game road trip. Joel Embiid didn’t play as he rested his left knee. Embiid had missed 10 games with a bone bruise in the knee before scoring 24 points in Saturday’s 122-113 win over Minnesota.
Now the Sixers head back on the road to face Boston on Tuesday, the beginning of a four-game road trip. Rivers can only hope the day off Monday can rejuvenate the team, especially point guard Ben Simmons, who remains in a post-All-Star-Game funk.
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No concern for Ben?
Simmons’ struggles since the All-Star break have been well documented, but they continue. He missed the first two games after the break because of health and safety protocols (contact tracing). Simmons also has been sidelined one other game, a 129-105 home win over Sacramento on March 20, because of a sore left knee.
In the 11 games since the break, Simmons is averaging 12.9 points and shooting 45.5% from the field and 54.4% from the foul line. He is averaging 6.2 assists and 3.8 turnovers.
After last Tuesday’s 104-95 loss at Denver, Simmons acknowledged his poor play and said, “Yeah, I mean there’s a lot going on, but I have to get my [stuff] together. We have to get back on track as a team.”
After that game, Rivers said Simmons has to play better. After Sunday’s loss, when asked if he was concerned about Simmons’ scoring slump, the coach was clearly behind his three-time All-Star point guard.
“No, I think Ben’s a facilitator and I think that’s what he does,” Rivers said. “I thought he did a great job early on, and I thought they all got tired as the game went on. Less and less driving happened.”
That was certainly the case for Simmons. For the game, he scored seven points, shooting 2-for-6 from the field and 3-for-6 from the foul line.
Yet in the first quarter when the Sixers were outscored, 29-22, Simmons had six points, was 2-for-4 from the field, and made both his foul shots. Both field goals were impressive driving dunks, in which he simply blew by the defense — the type of plays that has made Simmons an All-Star in each of the past three years.
That brief bit of explosion was it, leaving his coach to answer the same questions about Simmons’ recent offensive struggles.
“I think you guys [the media] are way more concerned about Ben scoring than I am,” Rivers said. “I think Ben does so many things for this team that help us win. Scoring, I am telling you, is the least thing I am concerned about.”
Simmons is a beast on defense and remains in contention to be the NBA’s defensive player of the year after being a first-team all-defensive selection last year. The nine games before the All-Star break, he was doing all those things — plus scoring, averaging 22.2 points during that span.
Simmons has stopped a recent trend of excessive turnovers. He went through a five-game stretch in which he committed six or more turnovers four times. Since then, he has totaled seven turnovers in four games.
Now, the next step is to get his offense in gear.
David Murphy lists five teams besides the Brooklyn Nets that the Sixers should fear in the playoffs. Hint: Two of them are from the Eastern Conference.
Keith Pompey writes that a limited number of fans can sit courtside during Sixers home games.
Embiid returned to action in Saturday’s 122-113 win over Minnesota. Keith Pompey has the details.
Rivers mentioned that it was an easy decision to sit Embiid in Sunday’s game against Memphis.
Marcus Hayes writes about the Sixers’ groundbreaking ‘Buy Black’ program and how a 15-year-old business owner became one of the beneficiaries.
Looking back on recent NBA Rookie of the Year choices
The Sixers faced last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year, Ja Morant, on Sunday. Not all Rookie of the Year choices become future All-Stars, but several have.
Here are last 10 NBA Rookies of the Year, listed with the team for which they won the award:
2020: Ja Morant, Memphis. He looks like a future All-Star. Entering Sunday, he was averaging 18.3 points and 7.3 assists in his two seasons so far.
2019: Luka Doncic, Dallas. Already a generational player, he is a two-time All-Star.
2018: Ben Simmons, Sixers. Simmons is already a three-time All-Star.
2017: Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee. Now with Indiana, he has been a solid player with a 14.8 career scoring average.
2016: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota. Towns, who scored 39 points in Saturday’s 122-113 loss to the Sixers, is a two-time All-Star.
2015: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota. Now with Golden State, Wiggins entered the week with a 19.5 career scoring average, but has never made an All-Star team.
2014: Michael Carter-Williams, Sixers. Among those listed, his career has been the least successful. He is with Orlando, his sixth NBA team.
2013: Damian Lillard, Portland. Lillard is among the top players in the NBA and a six-time All-Star.
2012: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland. Now with Brooklyn, Irving won an NBA title in Cleveland and is a seven-time All-Star.
2011: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. A six-time All-Star, Griffin has been impacted by injuries. On March 8, he signed with Brooklyn after having his contract bought out by the Detroit Pistons.
Tuesday: Sixers at Boston Celtics, 7:30 p.m., TD Garden, NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus/TNT
Friday: Sixers at New Orleans Pelicans, 8 p.m. Smoothie King Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Saturday: Sixers at Oklahoma City Thunder, 9 p.m. Chesapeake Energy Arena, NBC Sports Philadelphia
April 12: Sixers at Dallas Mavericks, 8:30 p.m., American Airlines Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia
April 14: Brooklyn Nets at Sixers, 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, ESPN
Passing the rock
Question: Over-under on Dwight (Howard) ejections the rest of the season including the playoffs? — Kevin Calabria (@kevinCalabria1) on Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the question, Kevin. This came because Howard was ejected in consecutive games during the recent six-game road trip. I would say that Howard won’t be ejected again this season. He admitted that he couldn’t have that happen, especially since Embiid was out for both games.
Howard brings so much energy to the Sixers, but he does have to control his emotions and his penchant for hard fouls. He leads the NBA in technical fouls with 13, which is amazing since he averages just 17.5 minutes.
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