Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Sixers Notebook: Searching for first win

Posted by Eric Fisher On November 9

The 76ers missed two golden opportunities to notch their first win of the season. It might be a little while until they get their next opportunity.

The Sixers hosted the winless Magic on Wednesday. A long jump shot by Henry Sims – his only basket of the game – tied the game, 89-89. But Tobias Harris drilled a jumper from the right wing as time expired to boost the Magic to their first win while denying the Sixers an overtime opportunity to net their first victory.

On Friday, the Sixers and Bulls were tied at halftime, 57-57. The Bulls used a 35-19 advantage in the third quarter to pull away, but the Sixers reeled them back in. Three 3-pointers in the final 36 seconds of regulation cut the Bulls’ lead to 116-115, with Chris Johnson’s 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds making it a one-point game. But Kirk Hinrich made two free throws and Johnson’s desperation heave from midcourt at the buzzer missed, leaving the Sixers at 0-6 after a 118-115 defeat.

The road gets a lot rougher this week. After an 0-4 homestand, the Sixers embark on a four-game road trip, starting with Sunday’s game (7 p.m.) at Toronto. The (5-1) are in first place in the Atlantic Division.

The Sixers then get a few days off before beginning the Texas portion of their trip. They play at Dallas on Thursday, at Houston on Friday and at San Antonio on Mon., Nov. 17. The Mavericks are 4-2, the Rockets are 6-1 (including a win over the Sixers) and the Spurs, although just 2-3, are the defending NBA champions.

The Sixers’ next realistic shot at a victory might not come until they return home Nov. 19 against the Celtics. If the Sixers don’t beat the Celtics, Suns (Nov. 21) or Knicks (Nov. 22, on the road), they will be perilously close to matching the 0-15 start of the 1972-73 Sixers, who established the benchmark for the worst record (9-73) in an 82-game season.


GETTING CLOSER: Will the Sixers approach the awful start of the 1972-73 team? A positive sign that their start won’t be that bad is, after losing their first four games by double digits, the Sixers lost their last two games by a combined five points.


GETTING THE POINT: Second-year point guard Michael Carter-Williams returned to practice this past week, his first full-contact practices since having surgery last May to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Barring a setback, the target date for MCW’s return is Thursday against the Mavericks. That’s another reason the Sixers might not match the 0-15 start of the infamous 1972-73 squad.


TRIVIA TIME: The Sixers are (through Saturday’s games) one of only two winless teams in the NBA? Which is the other winless team?


RETHINKING ANALYTICS: When Henry Sims hit a long jumper from the top of the key with 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the Sixers’ game with the Magic, I wondered if Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie joined in the joy the rest of the arena was experiencing.

According to the analytics system that Hinkie espouses, Sims’ shot was an inefficient shot. If you’re going to shoot from that far away from the basket, the percentages tell us that you’d be better off shooting from beyond the 3-point line.

Putting aside for a moment that any shot which brings the Sixers closer to victory might be viewed in a negative light by the “Tankmaster” Hinkie, the inefficiency of Sims’ shot might have overshadowed any joy Hinkie felt about the Sixers tying the score.


CONCERNS ABOUT NOEL: Nerlens Noel left Wednesday’s loss to the Magic with a sprained ankle. He missed Friday night’s game against the Bulls.

Noel also missed half of the Sixers’ preseason and summer league games with a variety of injuries and ailments. Are the Sixers being overly cautious with Noel, who missed all of last season while recovering from a torn ACL, or should his durability be a concern?

Another concern might be that Noel had three rebounds in a combined 47 minutes during his last two games. He had 10 rebounds in each of his first two games, but only a combined eight rebounds in his last three games.

Noel also hasn’t been drawing fouls. After shooting six free throws in the season opener, making two, Noel hasn’t been to the free throw line again.

Maybe we’re expecting too much too soon from Noel, or maybe durability, rebounding and drawing fouls are areas of concern that should be monitored throughout the remainder of the season.


WROTEN PUTS UP NUMBERS: Guard Tony Wroten leads the Sixers in scoring (22.5 points per game), having scored at least 20 points in five of the Sixers’ six games. He scored 27 points during Wednesday’s loss to the Magic and 27 in the loss to the Bulls.

That’s the good news. The bad news is he’s averaging almost five turnovers per game. He committed nine turnovers against the Magic, negating his eight assists. Against the Bulls, Wroten took 27 shots to score 31 points.

Wroten is putting up good numbers, but he needs to harness his talents and get his game more under control if he wants to be a good NBA player. It will be interesting to see how Wroten, who has had the ball in his hands a lot so far this season while playing point guard, adjusts his game when Michael Carter-Williams returns.


PAYTON MAKES POINT: The Sixers drafted Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton with the 10th overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft. They quickly traded him to the Magic for the 12th overall pick, which turned out to be Croatian forward Dario Saric and the usual assortment of future draft picks.

I complimented Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie on maximizing his assets. The Sixers wanted Saric, but, instead of taking him 10th overall, they selected the player the Magic wanted – Orlando needed a point guard – and extorted a second-round draft pick in 2015 and the return of their 2017 first-round pick that had gone to the Magic in the Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum four-team trade. But the trade won’t look so good if Payton becomes a star and neither Saric nor the future draft picks pans out.

Sixers fans received a glimpse of Payton, who is averaging nine points, 6.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds through the Magic’s first six games, during the Magic’s 91-89 victory Wednesday. Payton only scored eight points Wednesday, but his steal, assist, rebound and forced turnover during the final two minutes were crucial to the Magic’s victory. Once second-year shooting guard Victor Oladipo returns from a facial fracture and sprained MCL, it will be interesting to see how the he and Payton work together. They certainly would give the Magic and excellent defensive backcourt.


TRIVIA ANSWER: The Lakers (0-5) join the Sixers as the only winless teams in the NBA (through Saturday’s games). It’s going to be a long season for Kobe Bryant & Co.

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