Joel Embiid, Andrei Kirilenko, Luc Mbah a Moute, Nerlens Noel, Jason Richardson, and Tony Wroten.
That's the list of players on the Sixers roster who were not available for head coach Brett Brown last night against the New York Knicks, as neither Nerlens Noel (Upper Respiratory Infection) or Luc Mbah a Moute (Left Knee Contusion) were available to play.
The end result was a 98-91 loss to the visiting New York Knicks, who have improved to 7-36 on the season after winning 2 of 3 games since Carmelo Anthony's return.
An 8-2 run to start the third quarter, highlighted by a pair of Carmelo Anthony three pointers, pushed the Knicks lead to 13, something the Sixers were never able to fully come back from. The Sixers did make a run in the 4th quarter, cutting a 12 point deficit to start the quarter to 3 with just over 7 minutes remaining, but they were never able to get over the final hump.
A Langston Galloway three pointer put the Knicks up 7 with 15.2 seconds left, sealing the win for New York. The three came off of a broken play where Jerami Grant blocked a shot from the driving Jason Smith. It was Grant's 8th block of the night, the most in a game by a Sixers player since Samuel Dalembert had 9 almost 7 years ago, but the ball bounced right to Galloway in the corner.
"When that happens you've just got to shake his hand," Michael Carter-Williams said after the game. "There's nothing else you can do. We played good defense, he had better offense."
Michael Carter-Williams' shot selection was once again in question, as he attempted 17 field goal attempts in the first half for his 14 points. The next highest 76ers player had 6.
Carter-Williams is placed in a precarious situation, having lost the Sixers leading scorer and 2 additional starters due to injury, resulting in a team that already struggles to score offensively down even more offensive talent.
"I knew I had to come in and be aggressive, but also get others involved. But for the most part I was just trying to keep us in the game and trying to keep it close," Carter-Williams said after the game. "That's all I was trying to do."
"I think that Michael was trying to do the right thing," Brett Brown said when asked after the game. "I think he realized when you don't have [Wroten, Noel, and Mbah a Moute], sometimes that produces that volume of shots. But I think, as a team, we still need to share the ball more."
But the overall volume of shots didn't seem to bother Brown that much.
"I still liked his mentality. I thought that he didn't shy away from anything, and I want him playing with that aggressive mentality," Brown said.
While the injuries and lack of offensive talent certainly played a part -- Furkan Aldemir and Malcolm Thomas combined to play 26 first half minutes without making a field goal -- Michael Carter-Williams struggled in the first half, as he has for much of this season, to find that balance between being aggressive and running the offense. By my count, he had 8 field goal attempts in the first half that were taken with 14 or more seconds remaining on the shot clock.
That being said, Michael Carter-Williams is averaging 20 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game in just over 33 minutes per night in the 5 games since Tony Wroten went down with a sprained right knee. He has shot 41.1% from the field, good for a 46% true shooting percentage during that time. The Sixers have a 92.9 offensive rating during the last 5 games with Carter-Williams on the court, up from the 88.2 the team has with him on the court for the season, and up from the 91.2 offensive rating the Sixers have on the season (NBA.com formula).
One area where the Sixers have continued to show improvement is taking care of the basketball, The Sixers had only 14 turnovers on the night, good for a turnover ratio of 15.2%, an especially good rate for a team that turns the ball over on 18.7% of their possessions for the season (NBA.com).
Over their last 8 games, the Sixers are averaging only 15.5 turnovers per game, down from the 19.2 per night they averaged in the first 34 games of the season, while also averaging 1.3 assists per turnover, compared to 1.03 assists per turnover before that.
|Stat||Last 8 Games||First 34|
It is the lack of turnovers that has been the biggest cause of the Sixers improved offensive play. On the season, the Sixers have a true shooting percentage of 49%, with an offensive rebounding rate of 24.9%. Those numbers are actually down over the last 5 games, with a true shooting percentage of only 47.5% and an offensive rebounding rate of 23.2% over that span. But the drop in turnovers, from an 18.7% turnover ratio to 15.5% (NBA.com), has helped the team out offensively.
|Stat||Last 5 Games||Season|
One other Michael Carter-Williams anecdote: 43% of Carter-Williams' passes that have ended up in a shot attempt for his teammates have resulted in assists. Of the players in the NBA who are in the top 15 in assists per game, that is by far the lowest percentage. The next lowest is 48.5% and, on average, 53% of the passes from the top 15 in assists per game that result in shot attempts by their teammates lead to assists. Kyle Lowry is tops on the list at 59.4%, with Jrue Holiday at second with 57.7%, benefiting from playing with Anthony Davis.
|Player||APG||% of Opportunities|
|Rajon Rondo (Dal)||7.6||56.7%|
|Rajon Rondo (Bos)||10.8||52.7%|
Offensively, Michael Carter-Williams was helped most by Robert Covington, who had 17 points on 5-11 from the field to go along with 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. Henry Sims (11 points, 12 rebounds) and K.J. McDaniels (12 points, 5 rebounds) both contributed as well, although they combined to shoot 8-25 from the field.
On the defensive side of the court, Jerami Grant had a career game with 8 blocked shots in just under 25 minutes off the bench. Grant became one of just 8 players in the last 20 years to block at least 8 shots in less than 25 minutes in a game. His blocks helped the Sixers record 13 blocked shots in the game, the most on the season, despite not recording a block from either of their two leading shot blockers. Nerlens Noel, who did not play, leads the team at 1.6 blocks per game, with K.J. McDaniels, at 1.4 per game on the season, failing to record a block in 24 minutes of play.
The Sixers have now reached double figures in blocks 8 times this season and are 3rd in the league in blocked shots. They recorded 10+ blocks in only one game last season, where they finished 25th in blocked shots.
Furkan Aldemir got the start for the injured Luc Mbah a Moute, with Henry Sims starting for Nerlens Noel. Aldemir came into the game with a usage rate of only 8% and attempted only 1 field goal in 19 minutes as a starter. Aldemir has scored 21 points in 177 minutes so far this season, good for 4.3 points per 36 minutes, the lowest on the team. Larry Drew II has the second lowest rate at 7.8 points per 36 minutes.
Tony Wroten update
Tony Wroten traveled to Los Angeles Wednesday to see a specialist about his right knee sprain.
"He is in Los Angeles getting his tests. Right now we haven't learned anything yet," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said before the game.
Brown said that Wroten has previous history with the doctor out there. When asked before the game, Brown did not know the name of the specialist Wroten is seeing off the top of his head.
"Anything could be possible. And I say that sincerely. Right now we're certainly not prepared to say that [the injury could be season ending]," Brown said. "But we haven't ruled out anything.
"He needs to be cared for, and whatever is smartest and best for him, then that's what we will do," Brown said.
A couple of videos from last night.
The first two feature Joel Embiid. The first is a compilation of Joel Embiid running through shooting drills before the game. Embiid, who is usually limited to fairly casual shooting, ran through what was perhaps the most intense set of drills that I've seen to date, either at practice or before a game. He was, that I saw, out there for upwards of an hour.
The second, another Embiid video, is of him working on some of his turnaround jump shots out of the post.
Finally, Brett Brown's post game press conference.