Ben Simmons to face LeBron James and Cavs tonight

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Ben Simmons to face LeBron James and Cavs tonight

Updated: 5:38 p.m.

Ben Simmons will play against the Cavaliers tonight for his first matchup vs. the defending Eastern Conference champions. The Sixers have been game planning for him to guard LeBron James.

"Tonight I'm going to start on J.R. (Smith)," Robert Covington said after shootaround Monday. "We're going to throw different matchups at LeBron. We're going to start Benny on him. But we're going to see how the game goes and get a feel for how we're going to defend him."

Simmons, who was officially listed as questionable in the morning, missed Saturday's win over the Magic because of left elbow soreness. He was taking free throws after Monday's shootaround wrapped up. Simmons' teammates weren't overly concerned about the extent of his injury.

"I think he's fine tonight," JJ Redick said. 

The questionable status meant a 50 percent chance of playing. 

But Simmons' own tweet Monday seemed to indicate he would face the Cavs.

And now it's official: Simmons is good to go against "King James."

James on Simmons
Which leads us to the face-off between Simmons and James. The two have had a close relationship since Simmons entered the league because they are represented by the same agency. They've worked out together in the offseason but have yet to compete in a regular-season game.

Simmons has drawn comparisons to the future Hall of Famer after playing fewer than 20 games. There are similarities in their frames, ball-handling skills and abilities to attack the basket. James is leaving all that on the court.

"You guys do that comparison stuff," James said at Cavs shootaround. "I think Ben is his own makeup of speed, power, quickness, ability to pass the ball but have a feel for the game. Ben is Ben. I am who I am."

James isn't making the game about their matchup, either.

"It's not about me vs. Ben," he said. "It's about the Cavs vs. the 76ers. We want to continue to play good ball. They've been playing good ball, especially at home. So it's not about me vs. him at all."

James on Embiid
One player James has seen play the Cavs before is Joel Embiid. The big man averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists against them last season and he's only gotten better since then.

"He's good," James said. "He's very good. Very talented. Multi-dimensional, can shoot the ball from the outside, can get to the post, footwork, up-and-unders, plays with a lot of energy, and he's funny too. Very funny. Very funny guy."

James on the Eagles
James roots for the Browns and Cavs. Talent recognizes talent, though, and he's seeing it in quarterback Carson Wentz, who's led the Eagles to an NFL-best 10-1 record.

"I've got three guys that I love watching play: Tom Brady, Antonio Brown mixed with Le'Veon Bell — they're on the same team so I get an opportunity to watch the same guys at the same time — and my favorite player right now is Carson Wentz."

James went on to give his own analysis of why the quarterback has been so successful in the Eagles' 10-1 season (see story).

"I told my brother earlier in the season that I just love the way he plays the game," James continued. "The way he's able to get to his progressions throughout a three-step drop or five-step drop and then if everything breaks down, his ability to run, get outside the pocket. He can make passes or get yards with his feet. Very smart player, from the outside looking in, obviously. And they've got a really good team."

Western Conference streaks give Sixers a boost

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Western Conference streaks give Sixers a boost

SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and nine rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth straight, 98-90 over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

San Antonio remained in sixth place in the Western Conference, one-half game behind fourth-place Oklahoma City. The Spurs close out a six-game homestand on Friday against Utah, which is 1 games behind San Antonio in eighth place.

Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. each had 21 points to lead the Wizards, who dropped into sixth in the Eastern Conference.

San Antonio's winning streak follows a 3-11 skid that briefly dropped the Spurs out of playoff position.

Aldridge has been critical to the turnaround, averaging 29.6 points and 9.2 rebounds during the streak.

Against Washington, Aldridge scored nine points during a 23-9 run that gave San Antonio a 17-point lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.

Without injured All-Star John Wall, the Wizards were unable to answer (see full recap).

Davis, Pelicans outlast Pacers for 3rd straight win
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis capped a 28-point, 13-rebound, five-block performance with a 15-foot baseline fade, a gritty put-back and two free throws in the final minute, and the New Orleans Pelicans outlasted the Indiana Pacers 96-92 on Wednesday night.

E'Twaun Moore scored 23 for New Orleans, which had to overcome a scrappy defensive effort by Indiana to win its third straight.

The Pelicans, who average nearly 112 points per game, were limited to 43 percent (34 of 79) accuracy by the Pacers, who also turned 20 New Orleans turnovers into 15 points.

The Pacers shot only 36.6 percent (34 of 93), but kept the game close with 15 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points.

Neither team led by more than six, and the game was tied at 87 with 1:49 left, after Victor Oladipo's block of Jrue Holiday sent Darren Collison away for a fast-break layup as he was fouled by Moore.

Moore put back his own miss with 1:24 to play to put the Pelicans back in front, and after Oladipo was called for a travel with 1:12 to go, Davis hit his clutch fade in front of the Pacers' bench, holding his right arm up triumphantly as the shot went down (see full recap).

Howard has historic night in Hornets’ comeback
NEW YORK -- Dwight Howard had 32 points and 30 rebounds, becoming the first player with a 30-30 game against the Nets since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1978, and the Charlotte Hornets stormed back to beat Brooklyn 111-105 on Wednesday night.

Kemba Walker scored 10 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter for the Hornets, who trailed by as many 23 points in the second half to win in front of an announced crowd of 10,231 at Barclay Center while a heavy snowfall outside blanketed the New York City area.

Trailing 105-102 with 2:14 left in regulation, the Hornets went on a 9-0 run to pull off the impressive comeback.

Jeremy Lamb, who had 17 points to help end Charlotte's two-game losing streak, made a layup to cut the deficit to 105-104. The Hornets then called a timeout after a miss by Caris LeVert with 23 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Walker spun around Quincy Acy and capped a three-point play to put Charlotte up 107-105, the Hornets' first lead of the night since a 16-15 advantage with 5:46 in the opening quarter.

LeVert missed a chance to tie it when he was met by Howard under the basket. Howard then hit a pair of free throws to make it 109-105.

D'Angelo Russell scored 19 points and LeVert added 11 for the Nets, whose two-game winning streak was cut short. They have yet to have won three consecutive this season (see full recap).

Robert Covington shoveled snow before Sixers' win

Robert Covington shoveled snow before Sixers' win

Did you hire someone to shovel out your driveway in Winter Storm Toby?

Robert Covington didn’t. 

“I shoveled my driveway and the sidewalk and my walkway,” Covington said following the Sixers' 119-105 win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday (see observations). “[It took me] about 20 minutes. It wasn’t that bad because the snow wasn’t really heavy and it wasn’t sticking, so I just kind of, in and out.” 

The thing is, Covington actually likes to shovel snow. It’s a task he grew up doing during the winters in Illinois and one that taught him the value of hard work. He shoveled to help his family and elderly neighbors who needed a hand. 

“The responsibility that my parents instilled in me was, when you’re told to do something, you’ve got to make sure you handle your business and you have to do it at a certain level,” Covington said. 

Covington, who signed a $60 million contract this season, easily could have hired a snow removal service to help him get to the game on time. But there was something he liked about taking care of it.  

“I’ve always done it myself,” Covington said. “It kind of gives you a sense of still working and still doing the simple things. Everybody tells me I could have paid someone to do it, one of the kids in the neighborhood, but it wasn’t about that. It was just something quick. I chose to go out there and do it, knock it out.”

The snow didn't slow down Covington at all. He scored 15 points in less than 23 minutes, shooting an efficient 6 for 9 from the field and 3 for 4 from three. 

So given how well he played following the shoveling, did he stumble upon a new pregame routine?

“No,” Covington said with a laugh. “I won’t continue to do that because I kind of got a little sniffles while I was out there. No, I won’t be out doing that too much because I don’t want to get sick.”