76ers

Best of NBA: Giannis Antetokounmpo dominates as Bucks down Celtics

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Best of NBA: Giannis Antetokounmpo dominates as Bucks down Celtics

BOSTON -- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, and the Milwaukee Bucks opened their season with a 108-100 victory over Boston on Wednesday night to spoil the homecoming of a Celtics team coming off a late and emotional season opener.

One night after a gruesome broken ankle just six minutes into the season cost Boston top free agent Gordon Hayward -- perhaps for the entire season -- the Celtics fell to 0-2 by giving up an 11-1 run that left Milwaukee with a 97-90 lead and under three minutes to play.

Antetokounmpo added 13 rebounds, Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon scored 19 points and Khris Middleton had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Bucks. Matthew Dellavedova scored 15 points, hitting a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left after the Celtics cut the lead to two points.

Kyrie Irving scored 17 points on 7-for-25 shooting in his Boston debut, and Jaylen Brown had 18 for the Celtics.

It was a subdued home opener for the Celtics, who underwent a near-complete overhaul over the summer even after earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season. Although Irving and No. 3 draft pick Jayson Tatum appeared in a Celtics home uniform for the first time, Hayward was left to wish them well in a pregame video from his hospital bed (see full recap).

Revamped Pacers score 140 in win
INDIANAPOLIS -- Victor Oladipo scored 22 points in his Indiana debut, Darren Collison added 21 points and 11 assists in his return to Indianapolis, and the Pacers held off the Brooklyn Nets 140-131 on Wednesday night in their season opener.

Eight players scored in double figures as the Pacers, in their first game since trading All-Star Paul George, produced their highest point total since a 144-point game against Denver on Nov. 9, 2010. Myles Turner had 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Thaddeus Young added 17 points and 11 rebounds.

D'Angelo Russell scored 30 points in his Nets debut but backcourt mate Jeremy Lin limped to the locker room with an injury midway through the fourth quarter. Trevor Booker finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Nets from losing a franchise-record fifth consecutive season opener.

Despite having chances to take control, neither could.

Brooklyn led 30-29 after one quarter, the Pacers took a 65-63 halftime lead and then used a 10-0 third-quarter run to build a 75-65 lead. Brooklyn never led again.

But the Nets charged back in the final minutes, trimming a 10-point deficit to 130-126 before the Pacers finally managed to close it out (see full recap).

Grizzlies cruise past Pelicans in opener
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Mike Conley scored 27 points, rookie Dillon Brooks added 19 and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the New Orleans Pelicans 103-91 in their season opener on Wednesday night.

Marc Gasol had 14 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with 3:05 left. Memphis won its opener for the second straight year, a first in franchise history.

Anthony Davis had 33 points and 18 rebounds and DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 10 boards for New Orleans, but the frontcourt pair got little help. The Pelicans shot 38 percent, including 7 of 25 from 3-point range.

Memphis, which carried a 79-70 lead into the fourth, stretched the margin to 13 in the early stages of the final period.

Davis and Cousins helped the Pelicans build an early lead, but Memphis countered with nine straight points to open the second quarter and the game settled into a close one. The Grizzlies held a 54-52 lead at halftime.

Memphis made it 77-65 in the latter stages of the third and cruised from there (see full recap).

Imagine how good Sixers can be once this trio gets rolling

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Imagine how good Sixers can be once this trio gets rolling

As we collectively bask in the glow of the Southern California smackdown the Sixers administered to the Clippers and the Lakers to close out their road trip at 3-2, let’s take a little inventory of just what they’ve accomplished overall this season.

Through 14 games, they are 8-6. That’s two wins shy of their total amount of victories just two seasons ago and we’re still in November. The times they have a changed in Sixer-land.

The team has not one, but two transcendent stars who are capable of taking over games.

Joel Embiid’s last two performances have been pure dominance. 78 points, 31 rebounds, eight blocks and nine assists, while shooting 25 of 40 from the floor and averaging 35 minutes. He’s made whomever is guarding him look foolish, including one of the better defenders in the game, DeAndre Jordan.

From Game One, Ben Simmons has looked like a 10-year veteran. His poise belies his years. Simmons is a double-double machine and a triple-double threat every night. He’s posting gaudy early numbers of 20.3 points per game, 9.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists. Despite not being a threat beyond 12 feet, Simmons' ability to get to the rack and finish with either hand more than compensates for his outside shortcomings. That duo has been awesome.

Not to be overlooked is Robert Covington. The 26-year-old, who transformed himself into a top-10 defender in the league, is putting up monster offensive stats after an inconsistent season from the floor last year. Covington is scoring 18.3 points, while shooting 50 percent from the field and nearly 50 percent from three-point land. Couple that offensive production with his defensive prowess and the Sixers got a pretty good bargain for a reported four years, $62 million.  

But what’s even more remarkable when considering the Sixers' good start is who they are doing it without. First-overall draft pick Markelle Fultz has played in just four games this season as he continues to battle a shoulder issue. Take a look at the contribution the NBA’s best team thus far, the Celtics, have gotten from third-overall pick, Jayson Tatum. The 19-year-old is scoring nearly 14 points per game and pulling down more than 5.5 rebounds, while shooting close to 50 percent from the field and 48 percent from three. He’s been an integral piece in their 14-game winning streak. The Sixers have not had that luxury.

Beyond Fultz, Dario Saric has not been able to find a rhythm all season. Saric averaged 15.8 points per game over the final three months of last season. He hasn’t rebounded or shot it as well this season either. No doubt there were going to adjustments and growing pains incorporating with Simmons and with more availability from Embiid, but as the season progresses they will need more from Saric.

The other crazy thing about the wins against the Clippers and Lakers was the manner in which J.J. Redick struggled. He shot 7 of 25 from the floor and 1 for 15 from three-point land. He did make some late buckets inside in the Lakers game, but he’s here to knock down shots.

I believe Brett Brown will figure out a way to get more out of Saric. The Croatian works way too hard and cares far too much to not get going. With Redick, shooters can be streaky, it happens. And even when he is not making shots, he provides a lot in terms of leadership and example. How Fultz will fit in and what his shooting form will look like is anybody’s guess but they didn’t give up a lot to move up two spots for nothing. He wasn’t the consensus first-overall pick by accident. My sense is in addition to the shoulder issue, he is struggling mightily with his confidence. So it could be a process with him when he’s ready to return.

To be winning without much of a contribution from these players speaks volumes about how good the Sixers' big three (Embiid, Simmons, Covington) have been. And it’s been noticed nationally. The Laker win was a coming out party of sorts for those on the fringes. They are coming to the realization that we’ve known in this city for some time now.

This team is a playoff contender now. The question is how much better will they be at full compliment?

Best of NBA: Celtics surge past Warriors for 14th straight win

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Best of NBA: Celtics surge past Warriors for 14th straight win

BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving had 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws that put Boston ahead in the closing seconds, and the Celtics beat the Golden State Warriors 92-88 on Thursday night for their 14th straight victory.

Jaylen Brown had 22 points and seven rebounds, and Al Horford added 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Kevin Durant has 24 points for Golden State. The defending champion Warriors had won seven in a row.

Playing his second game since suffering a facial fracture, Irving shed his protective mask in the second quarter. Then, with the game tied at 88, he was fouled on his layup attempt and calmly made a pair of free throws. Durant then came up empty on his jumper on the other end.

Golden State led by as many as 17, but had to lean heavily on its reserves as its trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant struggled offensively.

Curry, who returned to action after missing a game with a bruised right thigh, was the most ineffective. He was 3 of 14 from the field -- 2 of 9 from the 3-point line -- and had nine points (see full recap).

Harden’s 48 points ignite Rockets’ rout of Suns
PHOENIX -- James Harden had 23 of his 48 points in the second quarter while the Houston Rockets scored 90 points in the first half en route to a 142-116 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

Houston dominated with Chris Paul back in the lineup after missing 14 games with a knee injury. The Rockets made 61 percent of their first-half shots to get the second-most points in a first half in NBA history.

Houston came up 14 points shy of the franchise record for points in a game. The Rockets knocked down 21 of 44 3-point attempts, and Harden made all 18 of his free throws (see full recap).

Harden, the NBA's leading scorer, had 33 points at halftime. Houston used a 13-1 over the final 3:08 of the first quarter to take control and was never threatened after that, leading 45-23 going into the second.

Paul, who hadn't played since the season opener, got the start and didn't miss a beat, scoring 11 points and handing out 10 assists in limited action.

Coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game that getting the two stars, Harden and Paul, in sync will "take care of itself over the next week or so." D'Antoni planned to play Paul for 20 minutes; Paul saw 21 minutes of action and sat out most of the fourth quarter.

Ryan Anderson added 24 points for the Rockets, who have won seven of eight (see full recap).