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Turnovers, Defense Doom Sixers, Fall To Celtics 111-91

The Sixers fell to the Celtics 111-91 yesterday in preseason action, with assistant coach Chad Iske manning the sideline in place of Brett Brown. Brown and Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie were with Joel Embiid, who had found out earlier in the day that his brother had passed away.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Transition defense has been one of the points of emphasis for Brett Brown and the Sixers during training camp and the early part of the preseason.

The link between transition defense and overall defense is pretty clear.

If you look at the teams who gave up the most transition opportunities last season, in terms of the percentage of their opponents possessions used in transition, 3 of 4 worst teams in that regard finished in the bottom 6 in defensive rating. With transition opportunities yielding an extremely high points per possession, giving up an abundance of such opportunities can kill a defense.

Last night, the Celtics sprinted out to 65 first half points against the Sixers, where they built a 21 point half-time lead. This was largely due to the Sixers own miscues. The Sixers committed 16 first half turnovers, allowing the Celtics easy looks, and preventing the Sixers defense from getting set.

"We struggled to get back," forward Hollis Thompson said about the teams defensive effort. "We didn't communicate. We didn't stop the ball. We didn't check the paint. We didn't protect the three point line."

Outside the turnovers, the Sixers other big bugaboo during that disastrous first half was defending the three point line, where they allowed the Celtics to shoot 10-22 from beyond the arc in the first half. The turnovers impacted this figure, as a few of the three point makes came off of the Celtics pushing the ball in transition, but overall the defensive rotations were about as sloppy as the ball movement was for the team.

"We didn't bring the energy in the beginning of the game," starting point guard Tony Wroten said. "[Coach] said regardless of if you're tired physically, you have to be there mentally. I feel like we got ourselves into a bit of a hole."

These struggles were not something new. The Sixers had the worst turnover percentage in the league last season at 14.8%, gave up the third highest percentage of their opponents possessions in transition, gave up the 5th worst points per possession in transition (suggesting that they struggled to rotate back), gave up the second most three pointers in the league (at the 6th worst efficiency), which all led to the 5th worst defensive rating in the league.

Obviously, much of the flawed roster that led to those struggles still exists, especially with Michael Carter-Williams (rehabbing from surgery on his torn labrum) and Nerlens Noel (flu like symptoms) missing the game. Still, for a team that is making transition defense a point of emphasis this season, it will be nice to hopefully see some progress towards that as the season progresses.

Joel Embiid's brother passes away

Yesterday we reported that Joel Embiid's brother, Arthur Embiid, had passed away.

Embiid was told the news sometime between when the team held shootaround at 10 am and the start of the game. For many of his teammates, the news came not long before the game started.

Sixers head coach Brett Brown, along with general manager Sam Hinkie and long time friend and mentor Luc Mbah a Moute, missed the game to be with Embiid.

"That's very sad. Our thoughts, our prayers, go out to him and his family," Hollis Thompson said after the game. "It puts everything in perspective. At the end of the day, we're playing a game. And it's real life out here."

"I lost my mom a year and a half ago. That's a tough thing losing somebody so close," Elliot Williams said about the tragedy. "We're going to be praying for him."

"We're all a family here, and obviously everybody is thinking about Joel at this time," assistant coach Chad Iske said before the game. "Our hearts and prayers are with him."

"We all love him," Iske said. "You feel for him so much. What a tough situation to deal with at his age, for anybody for that matter."

Update: Oct 17th, 10:19 am

According to Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News, Arthur Embiid, 14, was killed in an accident involving a vehicle.

Odds and Ends

  • Brandon Davies got the start with Noel out, but had perhaps his worst game of the preseason. Davies played over 20 minutes, but went just 1-3 from the field and had 5 personal fouls to go along with 4 turnovers.
  • Arnett Moultrie got the majority of the minutes in Noel's absence, playing over 34 minutes last night. Moultrie scored 16 points, although on 19 field goal attempts, launching many long range jump shots that are unlikely to endear himself to general manager Sam Hinkie. I did think Arnett played relatively well defensively, which is a plus.
  • K.J. McDaniels struggled a bit from the perimeter, going 1-4 from three point range, but contributed a steal and 2 blocks in 18 minutes.
  • Tony Wroten showed some positives, including getting to the line (6 free throw attempts to only 11 field goal attempts) and hitting a couple of three's. He also had 3 turnovers in only 25 minutes, and was the primary defender on most of Avery Bradley's 6 first half three point makes. Wroten struggled with his defensive positioning all night.
  • Elliot Williams had what was perhaps his best game as a 76er. He scored 17 points on 6-11 shooting, including a pair of makes from three point range, while playing strong defense. His -9 plus/minus was the best rating among the starters by far, as nobody else had better than Hollis Thompson's -17.
  • Thompson struggled in his first game back after being poked in the eye. He shot just 1-5 from the field, the make being a three pointer, and also had a couple of lazy passes.
  • Henry Sims continues to struggle in preseason. He nearly had a double-double (8 points, 10 rebounds), but shot only 4-10 from the field, didn't get to the free throw line, and committed 5 turnovers.
  • Alexey Shved only played 12 minutes, but scored 8 points (3-7 shooting) in that time, including a three point make. He was able to get into the lane, but struggled to finish once there.
The Sixers next game is Saturday against the Orlando Magic at the PPL Center in Allentown.