Familiar Faces Help Usher in Spirited Practice
Once the NBA season is in full swing, let alone 50 games deep, finding time to practice is rare.
So when the 76ers hit the floor Monday at the UCLA Student Activities Center, they were sure to make their two hours in the historic gym count, especially on the heels of a tough loss, and even more especially with three starters back in the mix.
“It was a really spirited practice,” Brett Brown said.
In the wake of Saturday’s 126-110 defeat in Denver, it was no surprise that Brown used the session to zoom in on defense.
The Nuggets shot 51.1 percent from the field, and scored 74 points in the paint.
Good news for the Sixers, reinforcements appear to be on the way.
Being without Defensive Player of the Year candidate Joel Embiid (rest), four-time all-league defender Jimmy Butler (wrist), and steady veteran Wilson Chandler (left hamstring) obviously complicated matters in the Mile High City.
The trio, along with fellow starters Ben Simmons and JJ Redick, have proven to be one of the best five-man defensive line-ups in the NBA (101.6 defensive rating).
Embiid in particular seemed to relish the competitive nature of Monday’s practice. According to the two-time All-Star, he didn’t lose a single drill.
“Anytime I get to practice and the intensity is high, it’s always good, because we always get better,” said Embiid. “We’re still learning how to play with each other, so it’s good.”
Saturday’s stop in Denver marked just the fourth time this season Embiid didn’t play. When he takes the court Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers at STAPLES Center, the big man will be coming off five days’ rest - a mini All-Star break, essentially.
“I worked out yesterday, and today was getting back in shape,” said Embiid, who’s finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds each of his last two outings.
As for Butler, sidelined the Sixers’ past three contests, he didn’t miss a beat in Monday’s session, said Brown.
“He looked good. I think his spirit especially, defensively, the physical side of it was great.”
It’s a side the Sixers are certainly looking to reclaim in Tuesday’s match-up with Los Angeles.
In the absence of LeBron James, out the last 16 games with a groin injury and still considered “day-to-day,” the Lakers have gone 6-10, and struggled to score (24th-NBA 104.9 offensive rating).
Should the Sixers maintain their standard level of quality offensive production (9th-NBA 111.2 offensive rating), while also buckling back down on defense, they figure to stand a good chance of leveling their record two games into this week’s Western Conference trek.