7.6 Takeaways | Seeking a Strong Finish

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Prepared for you each week, highlighting headlines, observations, and other anecdotes surrounding the 76ers.

1. Seeking a Strong Finish

The 76ers will look to close their four-game Western Conference road trip the way they started it - with a win.

The club makes its lone stop of the season at Pepsi Center in Denver for a mile-high matchup with the Nuggets, which boasts reigning All-NBA First-Team big man Nikola Jokic and should compete for a spot in the Western Conference playoff race. 

Despite entering Friday's game coming off back-to-back losses, the Sixers feel good about a few things that went down when last on the court Wednesday in Salt Lake City. 

Brett Brown, for instance, liked the way his team finished. The Sixers outscored the Utah Jazz 31-22 in the fourth quarter, and nearly managed to erase a 13-point second-half deficit. 

"I thought the positives that came out of this were we continue to fight," said the seventh-year head coach. "I think there are some real positives that came out of the game."

Joel Embiid agreed with that sentiment, and also pointed to another area.

"I actually thought our turnovers were better considering the way we've been turning the ball over," the All-Star said. 

That's not to suggest the Sixers didn't feel the pain of 16 turnovers in Wednesday's two-point defeat, but relatively speaking, the total was a step in the right direction. The Sixers gave the ball away at least 20 times in four of their five previous contests.

Embiid also said that had he and the team hit some more shots, the outcome against the Jazz might have been different. The Sixers converted 41.2% of their field goal attempts, while going 8 for 25 from the outside. 

"It's not going to happen every night," he said. "Some nights you're going to miss, some nights you're going to make some, but give Utah a lot of credit. They did a good job." 

2. Embiid Eager to Build

With his suspension now in the rearview, Joel Embiid is looking to get back into his encouraging early-season rhythm. 

In his last full game before sitting out the Sixers' stops in Portland and Phoenix, the 7-footer powered his way to 36 points, 13 rebounds, and the winning free throws a week and a half ago in Atlanta. 

Embiid had rolled to 19 points and five boards in just 20 minutes last Wednesday against Minnesota before he and Karl-Anthony Towns were both ejected five minutes into the third quarter. 

Back in the line-up at Utah, Embiid made a quick impact. He repeatedly muscled his way to the foul line throughout the first half, en route to tallying 18 of his 27 points by intermission. 

"I thought in the first half I was pretty aggressive. In the third quarter I was not. I didn't see the ball, I didn't demand the ball. I didn't assert myself." 

Embiid's 16 boards on Wednesday marked a new season high. Afterwards, inside the Vivint Smart Home Arena visiting locker, he acknowledged he could have done more, but also said it felt great to play again. 

"Those are my guys," Embiid said of his teammates. "I'm happy to be back. We got another one in Denver. We have to get that win." 

Amen to that. 

3. Backing Up Ben

When a mild right shoulder sprain forced Ben Simmons to leave Wednesday's game at Utah midway through the third quarter, Brett Brown turned the Sixers' primary ball-handling duties over to Raul Neto, the immediate replacement for Simmons, and Josh Richardson, who shifted from the two to the one to start the third quarter. 

Both Neto and Richardson subsequently went on to have what were arguably their highest-impact performances with the 76ers, each posting season-highs in scoring with 11 and 24 points, respectively. 

Each player handed out four assists, while Neto established a new career-high with three steals. 

"I thought Raul Neto came in and gave us a really good boost," said Brett Brown. He then praised Richardson for managing everything the Sixers have put on his plate, and having "a big heart."

 

For Neto, of course, Wednesday's visit to Salt Lake City had added significance. The Brazilian spent the first four seasons of his NBA career in Utah before inking a deal with the Sixers this summer.

“It was great being back. We didn’t get the win, so it is not as good as winning against them, but it was great. I think once I stepped on the court, I just forgot about all of that and [tried] to play my game.”

4. Richardson Reflects

A game after scoring eight points on 3 for 11 shooting Monday in Phoenix, Josh Richardson responded Wednesday at Utah with an impressive 24-point outing. The 26-year old went 8 for 13 from the field, hitting a pair of 3-pointers. 

From what we've been able to gather in the two months or so that Richardson has been around, he's a relatively mellow, even-keeled dude (while also extremely tough and competitive). It sounds like he approaches the game that way, too. 

"My thing is just to keep shooting," Richardson said Wednesday. "Don't change anything, stick to the script. It will always even out."

Richardson also likes what he's seen from Raul Neto, who he split point duties with against the Jazz once Simmons left the game. 

"Raul's been great. All of his minutes this year have been good. He's a good player, he's always ready, he's professional. You've got to appreciate that about a guy like him."

5. Importance of the O-Boards

The fact that the 76ers have been without one of their All-Stars for essentially each of the last two games shouldn't go overlooked in respect to results. 

Beyond the immense general talent that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons boast, they give the Sixers a specific advantage - and a considerable one at that - on the backboards, particularly with their offensive rebounding. 

Not surprisingly, with Embiid absent Monday in Phoenix and Simmons logging only five minutes Wednesday in Utah, the Sixers' offensive rebounding numbers were down a bit, as was their second-chance scoring. 

Against the Jazz, the Sixers were outdone on the offensive glass for the first time this season.

"I think they did a really good job going to the offensive boards," said Brett Brown, praising Utah. 

While Embiid noted the obvious - that Simmons is a 6-foot-10 point man who can outrebound just about anyone - the Cameroon native also didn't want to use Simmons' injury as an excuse.

"We should be able to dominate the glass every single night."

6. One More Thing About the Offensive Rebounding…

It's also heavily tied to the 76ers' transition defense, an area that Brett Brown was pretty pleased with heading into the Utah game.

"My starting point is transition defense. That to me is where the world makes most sense because it gives you a chance to play in half-court. At the end of the day I want it all, and until I feel like I am hurting our team by asking some of our players to go to the offensive boards, I’m going to try and have it all. It’s early, but I think we’ve done a decent job of it.” 

Underscoring Brown's remarks is that the Sixers enter this weekend just outside the league's top five in fastbreak points allowed per 100 possessions, at 10.8

7. Coats! Coats! Coats!

The Delaware Blue Coats recently finalized their 2019-20 start-of-season roster. Some highlights include:

  • Zhaire Smith, on assignment from the 76ers.

  • Two-way players Marial Shayok and Norvel Pelle.

  • Haywood Highsmith, a two-way player for the Sixers a season ago.

  • Christ Koumadje and Isaiah Miles, who, like Shayok, Pelle, and Highsmith, participated in Sixers' training camp.

  • Terry Harris, the younger brother of Tobias Harris, and coming off a strong year at North Carolina A&T.

  • Former Temple University standout Shizz Alston Jr.

  • Jared Brownridge, last season's G League leader in 3-pointers. 

The Blue Coats make their season debut Saturday at 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington against the Maine Red Claws. 

7.1 At the start of Blue Coats training camp, Zhaire Smith, who's been on assignment in Delaware during the Sixers' current road trip, expressed excitement about getting more reps. 

"I'm feeling good, just getting ready to come out here and play some games. It's better for me."

7.2 Yeah, sure, Furkan Korkmaz knocked down a :: pretty :: big shot in Portland to open the current road trip, then turned around and dropped a career-high 20 points the next game in Phoenix. But another trend that's caught our eye lately is his willingness to give up the body. The 22-year old has already drawn three charges this season. His first two years in the league, he only drew two. 

7.3 The Tobias Harris drip game has been strong. 

7.4 All said and done, basketball is a brotherhood.

7.5 I've got a daughter. If she were in 8th grade, and not 19 months old, I'd encourage her to put a group together and take part in this initiative.

7.6 Think I'm going to make picking a favorite snap from one of our staff photogs a weekly thing. Our guy Alex Subers had all the pre-game angles covered at Moda Center in Portland. 

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