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Amazingly, Sixers have avoided NBA's rash of early-season injuries

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Amazingly, Sixers have avoided NBA's rash of early-season injuries

MIAMI — Brooklyn's Jeremy Lin was horrified to see what happened to Gordon Hayward, whose season almost certainly ended in a most disturbing fashion five minutes into the Celtics' season-opener.

A night later, Lin met a similar fate.

Here's some of what should be celebrated from the opening nights of the NBA season: Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo had a 37-point game, Cleveland's LeBron James was one assist away from a triple-double, Houston beat Golden State on the Warriors' ring night and Miami's Hassan Whiteside went for 26 points and 22 rebounds.

It all seems overshadowed by injuries.

No, this is not the start the NBA wanted.

"It's tough watching that happen to anybody in the NBA," said Golden State guard Shaun Livingston, whose horrific knee injury from 2007 -- so bad that doctors originally thought he could lose his leg -- was compared to the grotesque nature of Hayward's injury Tuesday night. "It's all a brotherhood. You want to see guys succeed."

Many members of the brotherhood are ailing, none causing bigger shock waves than Hayward.

San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard hasn't played yet this season because of a quadriceps injury. The Warriors sent Draymond Green to get an MRI on an aching knee, which had knocked him out early in their season opener. Houston's Chris Paul missed a game at Sacramento on Wednesday with knee pain. Cleveland's Isaiah Thomas won't be back until January, at least, while recovering from a hip injury.

And those guys, along with Hayward, are just the hurting All-Stars from last season.

"There's no doubt we'll get him back to be better than he was before," said Mark Bartelstein, Hayward's agent.

Lin's injury was nowhere near as visibly horrifying as Hayward's, but the end result was the same -- a bad landing at Indiana on Wednesday left him in tears and saying, "I'm done, I'm done."

His personal diagnosis was officially confirmed Thursday morning: Lin ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee, the Nets said.

"We feel awful that the injury will cost him the season," Nets general manager Sean Marks said.

Plenty of other teams are missing key players and would-be starters.

Among them: Utah's Dante Exum may miss the whole season with a dislocated left shoulder, Miami's Rodney McGruder had surgery on a stress fracture in his leg, Phoenix's Brandon Knight blew his knee out in the summer, San Antonio's Tony Parker (leg) is still several weeks from returning, Indiana's Glenn Robinson III (ankle) may miss half the season and Milwaukee's Jabari Parker (knee) has months of rehab work left.

"You worry about guys getting nicked up," Memphis forward Brandan Wright said. "Lot of big injuries ... You want to just take care of your guys."

Hayward had surgery Wednesday night and is likely to miss the remainder of the season, after breaking his leg and dislocating his ankle in Boston's opener at Cleveland.

Livingston had no interest in seeing the replay of Hayward's injury. He knows the road that awaits the Boston star.

"I'm not watching the video, but I've seen the pictures," Livingston said. "Prayers go out to him. It's going to be a long road back for him but if he puts his mind to it, is a man of faith, keeps good people around him ... it's going to be a long rehab for him but he's very capable of coming back and being the same player."

Rockets extend streak as Butler exits with injury

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Rockets extend streak as Butler exits with injury

HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 31 points and the Houston Rockets won their 11th straight game with a 120-102 victory Friday night over the Minnesota Timberwolves, who lost All-Star Jimmy Butler to an apparent right knee injury.

Butler left the game late in the third quarter. After grabbing a rebound late in the third quarter, he pivoted and planted hard on his right foot before collapsing and grabbing his right knee. He was on the floor for at least three minutes before he was carried off the court by two teammates. He appeared to avoid putting weight on his right leg when heading to the locker room.

A Timberwolves official said during the fourth quarter that Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau would provide an update on Butler's injury following the game.

Clint Capela had 25 points and 11 rebounds for Houston, getting his 10th double-double over the past 13 games. Chris Paul added 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

The Rockets trailed for much of the first half before going ahead to maintain the NBA's best record.

Andrew Wiggins led Minnesota with 21 points, and Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns both had 18 points. Towns added 13 rebounds (see full recap).

Davis sensational in Pelicans’ OT victory over Heat
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis had 45 points, 17 rebounds, five blocked shots and five steals, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Miami Heat 124-123 in overtime Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Goran Dragic scored 30 points and Dwyane Wade hit two runners to give the Heat the lead twice in the last 36 seconds of overtime, but Davis responded to the first with a layup as he was fouled, and Jrue Holiday answered the second with a runner in the lane with 7 seconds left.

Wade had one last shot for the win with Holiday defending him closely. It bounced off the rim to Josh Richardson, whose rushed put-back missed the basket as time expired in Miami's third straight loss.

Davis, who has scored no fewer than 38 points in a game during New Orleans' winning streak -- and 42 or more three times -- raised both arms in triumph as he looked up at the jubilant crowd, and then exchanged high fives with fans along the court.

Holiday finished with 29 points and nine assists, connecting with Davis on a couple of alley-oop dunks. Ian Clark scored a season-high 21 points and Nikola Mirotic capped his 10-point, nine-rebound performance with a crucial 3 in overtime.

Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out in overtime when he hacked Davis on a put-back attempt. Davis hit both free throws to tie it at 117, and then gave New Orleans a brief lead with his fifth alley-oop dunk of the game on a fast-break lob from Holiday with 1:10 to go. Wade had 16 points, while Richardson and Tyler Johnson each scored 15 points (see full recap).

Balanced Celtics rout Pistons
DETROIT -- Kyrie Irving scored 18 points and rookie Daniel Theis added a career-high 19 to lift the Boston Celtics to a 110-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Jayson Tatum scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half for the Celtics, who went into the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak but returned with a solid win on the road. Boston took control by outscoring the Pistons 38-21 in the second quarter.

Blake Griffin scored 17 points for Detroit but shot just 5 of 19 from the field.

Theis eclipsed his previous career high of 12 points. He played an important role after Aron Baynes, the starting center for the Celtics, went to the locker room in the first half with left elbow soreness. Baynes ended up playing only 2:39, but Theis shot 8 of 10 from the field and had seven rebounds.

Ish Smith made his first eight shots and finished with 20 points for the Pistons. Detroit led 39-37 in the second quarter before a 21-5 run by Boston. The Celtics were ahead 61-49 at halftime.

The lead was only four late in the third before Boston scored seven straight points -- five by Irving. The Celtics broke the game open at the start of the fourth (see full recap).

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

The Sixers have been rising steadily in the standings and players around the league are taking notice. 

The young squad improved to 31-25 with a victory over the Bulls Thursday. They have won six straight and have not lost at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. That totals up to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, only two games behind the Wizards for the fourth spot and two games ahead of the Heat for the eighth. 

"I like them," Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler said at the All-Star break. "They've got a lot of great young talent. We do as well. But I think the way that they're going and how they play so hard and play so together, that's how you win basketball games. They're going to be really, really good for a long time."

The Sixers turned heads with a statement win over the Rockets in only their seventh game of the season. From there, they have defeated playoff teams, including a rare sweep of the Spurs, while struggling against sub.-500 opponents. 

They have 26 games remaining to make a postseason push. Of their upcoming opponents, only 10 games are against current top-eight teams in their conferences. Brett Brown has emphasized they can't take any team lightly. This is the time for the Sixers to maximize their schedule and show they learned from previous letdowns.

"They look good," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "Obviously as a young team, it takes time to learn how to win. ... The mature, really high-level teams, they find a way to get it done. I think for them, that's what their record shows. You play against them and it's hard to play against them. 

"They're really talented, they play hard, they play for a great coach. It's just those nights where you might not have it, having that understanding and that experience that'll lead you to more wins. I think once they get to that point, that's when maybe nine or 10 games that they've let slip, maybe they win those games."

The Sixers wrapped up the majority of their Western Conference schedule prior to the All-Star break. They have only the Timberwolves, Nuggets and Mavericks left to play. Those in the conference still are keeping an eye on the Sixers' progress, even if they may not face off again for months. 

"Everyone definitely sees the talent there," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Any time you've got Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid to build around, they've got a very bright future. I think everyone had very high expectations, but it's hard to have high expectations with a team that's got a lot of first-, second-year guys that have never been in the playoffs. 

"But you can tell that they're going to be in the playoffs for, shoot, the next decade or so, probably be upper echelon pretty soon."