Sixers' weaknesses exposed in loss to Timberwolves

Posted: October 25, 2013

THE AMOUNT of work that was ahead of Brett Brown when he became the 76ers coach in mid-August was slightly more than enormous. He was given an incomplete roster that included only a few healthy NBA veterans, rookies expected to play huge roles in the rebuilding of the program, and a fair share of injuries.

He came in with a game plan he initially implemented in training camp, but once he acknowledged the type of talent he had, it was time to quickly go in a different direction. Throwing too much at young players could cause irreversible damage, but not incorporating enough is a recipe for disaster in the NBA. It is the fine line Brown has been toeing since he began leading the assembled group.

"A lot," Brown said when asked to pinpoint where he's changed. "Big-picture, generic stuff, we've stayed with it. But in regards to the details and the intricacies and game reads and subtleties, it is plain vanilla, really just basic stuff. The iterations that you experienced at my old job, the level of understanding that veteran players could make and read [was a given].

"It's not our young guys' fault. We started someplace and I've gone the whole other direction bringing it back to something even more refined, a lot simpler and, because of that, more accountable, both offensively and defensively. Especially defensively. So, yeah, we've tweaked a lot, but we've reduced. We've really reduced."

At practice on Tuesday, the team went through a defensive drill in which five players were packed in the paint defensively, then jumped out of the lane toward jump shooters. Brown reasoned that because he sees no one player who can really protect the paint individually, it must be done by all. Basically, the Sixers will make teams beat them from the outside with long-range shooting and try not to give up much in the paint. Kind of a pick-your-poison scenario, and, again, pretty basic stuff.

"We just don't have a lot of stuff in," center Spencer Hawes said. "A lot of that is probably due to the youth, a lot has to do with all the new faces and so many new pieces. It's something that we're going to have to build on during the regular season, we'll have to put a lot of new stuff in.

"I didn't mind having all the stuff thrown at me. It's just something when you're developing the offense, the evolution of the offense, for me it wasn't difficult to pick up on stuff. For some it may be a little harder. But I like to have the different options. But I also understand why it is now. It's just more generic and the more we play, the more we'll figure out how to play to guys' strengths. That's all part of this process and what's getting figured out by coach Brown."

The defensive drill the team practiced Tuesday did not translate into last night's game against Minnesota, as the visiting Timberwolves made 15 three-pointers and laid a 125-102 loss on the Sixers in the final preseason game of the season. The Sixers won only two of their seven preseason games.

Brown gave a strong indication in the final game before next week's season opener against the Miami Heat as to who might be playing and when. Expect the starters to get a boatload of minutes. Tony Wroten will be the first off the bench, and either newly signed Daniel Orton or Lavoy Allen will be the first big-man sub. Royce White should get ample minutes, and Darius Morris will see some time in the backcourt.

James Anderson continued his strong preseason, leading the Sixers last night with 23 points, while the rest of the starters also hit double figures. Michael Carter-Williams collected 15 points and nine assists, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner (10 rebounds) had 11 points each, and Hawes added 10.

J.J. Barea scrambled for 22 points for the Timberwolves, while Kevin Love had 19 points in 16 minutes, including 4-for-6 from three-point range.

"Obviously we need presence in the paint [defensively]," Turner said. "We don't have a presence or anything like that, so we have to win rebounding battles. We have to have carryover [from practices]. We've been doing the same thing for 3 or 4 years now - we need presence in the paint, and we have to rebound, have to communicate more and get back in transition."

Simply put, myriad problems.

"You look at it, and we took a step backward defensively, there's no doubt about that," Brown said. "We've put a large emphasis in playing defense and trying to guard the paint, and they made us pay from the three-point line. We got a little bit lazy, we got a little bit sloppy. That desperation wasn't there."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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