Sixers get emphatic reminder of who is king by LeBron James

Sixers get emphatic reminder of who is king by LeBron James


Ben Simmons isn’t feeding into the comparisons between him and LeBron James. The difference between the rookie and the three-time champion, four-time MVP, 13-time All-Star (and so on, and so on) was evident in their first meeting. 

"It’s nothing close," Simmons said before the Sixers’ 113-91 loss to the Cavaliers on Monday night (see observations). "He’s a Hall of Famer, if not the greatest ever to play the game." 

The Sixers started Simmons against James to test their similarities in stature, style and skills: the 6-foot-10, 230-pound point guard Simmons versus the 6-foot-8, 250-pound do-all James. Then James showed why he’s a future Hall of Famer and Simmons, 21, has years to grow. 

James did just about whatever he wanted to do from tipoff. He made his high-scoring intentions clear by attacking the basket, as Simmons has done early in his career, to start the game. James scored 15 points in a span of only seven minutes. That domination continued for 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes (see highlights)

Simmons, on the other hand, struggled in contrast to usual triple-double-tempting performances. Over 35 minutes, he scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished only two assists as he wasn’t as effective as he usually is in finding his teammates (see highlights).

Simmons had to leave the game early after suffering a sprained right ankle in the fourth quarter. X-ray results were negative and he will be reevaluated on Tuesday, the day before the Sixers’ next game against the Wizards. 

“Everybody wants to be their own player but there’s going to be comparisons,” Simmons, who was receiving treatment on his ankle after the game, said earlier in the night. "LeBron, I don’t think you can compare anybody to him.” 

Simmons and James have a unique relationship in that they are linked together by their agency. They both are represented by Klutch Sports Group and through that have spent time together in the offseason. Simmons reaches out to James when he has a question or needs advice, tapping into 15 years of Hall of Fame-caliber NBA experience. James is happy to reply. 

“I'm honored that a young, gifted kid like himself would allow me to even be a part of his life and be able to mentor him and be like a big brother to him,” James said after the game. “So I'm honored by that and I will continue to do that as long as he would like me to.” 

The comparisons are going to only become more frequent as Simmons continues his career. He already is averaging 18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and has 11 double-doubles with two triple-doubles through 18 games. The ceiling is sky-high for the versatile rookie, who has shown he can take over games at a rapid pace.

Still, Simmons is saying hold off on the comparisons. He has a lot of work to do first. 

“You shouldn’t compare me to somebody like that," Simmons said. "Not yet.” 

Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

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Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

HOUSTON -- Clint Capela had a career-high 28 points and James Harden scored 12 straight points for Houston in the fourth quarter as the Rockets rallied for a 130-123 victory to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Monday night.

The game was tied with about three minutes remaining after Harden made two free throws. Those were the first of seven straight points by Harden that put Houston's up 124-119 with 1:30 left.

Jrue Holiday made a basket after that, but Harden hit a 3-pointer seconds later to push the lead to 127-121. Harden stole the ball from E'Twaun Moore after a timeout by New Orleans. He was fouled and made both free throws to make it 129-121 with 34 seconds left.

After scoring 48 points in Houston's last game, Harden finished with 26 on Monday, but he tied a career-high with 17 assists, finding the 6-foot-10 Capela under the basket again and again.

Holiday had a season-high 37 points for the Pelicans. Moore had a career-high 36 points and made a career-most six 3-pointers on a night New Orleans set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers (see full recap).

Mirotic, Portis help Bulls blow out Celtics
CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points, Bobby Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA's worst record, the Bulls built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms. The 6-foot-10 forward hit 9 of 14 shots and grabbed eight rebounds in his third appearance.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Before Monday night, Mirotic and Portis had only made headlines together this season for the wrong reasons. Mirotic missed the first 23 games with facial fractures he suffered in a fight at practice with Portis.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics' most lopsided loss of the season (see full recap).

Howard, struggling Hornets roll past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Dwight Howard scored 23 points to help the Charlotte Hornets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-103 on Monday night.

Kemba Walker had 19 points for the Hornets, who had lost seven of eight. Marvin Williams scored 18, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 17 points.

It was Charlotte's second road win of the season in 12 tries.

Russell Westbrook had 30 points and seven assists and Paul George scored 20 points for the Thunder after missing the previous two games with a right calf contusion.

Charlotte shot 53 percent from the field against one of the league's best defensive teams. The Bobcats made 13 of 25 3-point attempts (see full recap).

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers have hit a four-game skid and there is not a clearly defined way out of it thanks to a laundry list of injuries.

“I think it’s painfully obvious,” Brett Brown said of what needs to be done. “Let’s get our better players back in a uniform.”

The Sixers have to play their best with their pieces available down two starters (Joel Embiid, Robert Covington) and a key bench player (T.J. McConnell).

There are adjustments that can be made to prevent a losing streak from spiraling the Sixers down in the standings.

“We need to be just smarter,” Dario Saric said. “I know we are a young team. I know are playing without Joel, without our very important players … we need to find a way. We need to be more calm down, don’t be nervous, especially on defense.” 

Saric pointed to the Sixers’ late-game defense in their 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). They were tied with eight minutes to play before the Pelicans hit threes on their next four straight possessions. Jrue Holiday drained four treys himself during a five-minute stretch to push the lead to 11. The Sixers were outscored 44-29 in the fourth quarter.

“In that situation, to me, we are playing like a high school team,” Saric said. “That cannot happen. We need to be smarter at that point. I hope we will grow up and we will be mentally ready for that last five, six, seven minutes.”

The Sixers also were in the position to come back Saturday in Cleveland. They trailed the Cavaliers, 99-98, with 1:39 to play and did not score after that point.

It was during that final stretch when Covington landed out of bounds and suffered a lower back contusion. A day later, Embiid was a late scratch because of lower back tightness (see story). McConnell has missed five of the last six games with a left shoulder injury.

“We’ve got to be consistent with making the right plays every time,” Ben Simmons said. “It’s hard to make mistakes without those guys there. When you make mistakes and you don’t have Jo or Cov and guys like that to make up for that, it’s tough. But we’ve got to just come together as a team and get through it.” 

The Sixers don't have it easy their next two games. They face the Timberwolves (16-11) Tuesday in Minnesota when Embiid said he expects to play but has not been cleared. Covington is doubtful, while McConnell's status is to be determined. The Sixers return home Friday from a three-game road trip to host the Thunder (12-13).