76ers

Best of NBA: Kevin Love's monster night keeps Cavaliers' streak rolling

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Best of NBA: Kevin Love's monster night keeps Cavaliers' streak rolling

CLEVELAND -- Kevin Love scored 32 of his 38 points in the first half, LeBron James was ejected for the first time in his career and the Cleveland Cavaliers extended their longest winning streak since 2015 to nine games by downing the Miami Heat 108-97 on Tuesday night.

Love had his way with every defender Miami put on him, finishing 10 of 16 from the field and 14 of 17 on free throws. He scored 22 in the first quarter and the Cavs opened a 27-point lead before halftime.

James added 21 points before he was slapped with two technical fouls by referee Ken Fitzgerald and tossed with 1:59 left in the third quarter and the Cavs leading by 23. It was the first time James was thrown out in 1,082 career games.

Dwyane Wade added 17 points for Cleveland, which has shaken off a slow start and is again playing like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

Dion Waiters scored 21 and Bam Adebayo had 19 for the Heat, who had won three in a row. Goran Dragic finished with just seven points -- 12 below his team-leading scoring average (see full recap).

Porter’s late jumper lifts Wizards to win
MINNEAPOLIS -- Otto Porter Jr. hit a 22-foot jumper with 25 seconds remaining to lift the Washington Wizards to a 92-89 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

Washington trailed for nearly the entire fourth quarter. After Porter's jumper, Minnesota had two shots at the other end but couldn't convert.

The Wizards got the ball back with 4.2 seconds remaining when the ball went out of bounds off Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson. Officials originally ruled that Minnesota maintained possession, but a review overturned the call and gave the ball to Washington.

Porter led Washington with 22 points, and Kelly Oubre had 16. Jodie Meeks and Mike Scott each scored 12 points.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 20 points and 15 rebounds for Minnesota for his league-leading 18th double-double (see full recap).

Booker’s big night carries Suns
CHICAGO -- Devin Booker scored 33 points, and the Phoenix Suns held off the Chicago Bulls for a 104-99 win on Tuesday night.

Booker looked just fine after sitting out a game because of inflammation in his right big toe, nailing five 3-pointers and grabbing nine rebounds.

T.J. Warren scored 25 for Phoenix, and Alex Len tied a career high with 18 rebounds. The Suns dominated on the glass 57-41 while snapping a three-game losing streak.

The rebuilding Bulls are a league-worst 3-16 after dropping their sixth straight.

Justin Holiday made six 3-pointers on his way to 25 points for Chicago. Kris Dunn added 24 points, hitting all four from long range, and eight assists.

Phoenix came out on top after Chicago cut a 15-point fourth-quarter lead to three in the final minute (see full recap).

How to manage Joel Embiid's health while pushing for playoffs

How to manage Joel Embiid's health while pushing for playoffs

CAMDEN, N.J. — In some ways, Joel Embiid is a dream to coach. You can go to him in the post whenever you need a bucket, rely on him to erase defensive mistakes, sit back and watch as he takes over games.

But in other ways, coaching Embiid is not an easy job. Brett Brown has to constantly weigh Embiid’s health with the immediate desire to win. That balancing act has never been more difficult for Brown, who commented Wednesday on how he plans to manage Embiid with the playoffs in sight.

“Everything is still, and it should be, delivering him to a playoff round,” Brown said. “It’s not cramming for the exam and doing whatever you can to get home court, it’s not that at all. And so I feel like the path that we’re all on is both professional and responsible. So it’s that more than trying to cram for an exam.”

The Sixers have six back-to-back sets in their final 27 games. Embiid played his first ever back-to-back on Feb. 2 vs. Miami and Feb. 3 at Indiana. Since then, he’s had an injury scare with his right knee (on Feb. 10 vs the Clippers) and missed the Sixers’ final game before the All-Star break with a sore right ankle.

That said, Embiid’s obviously taken major steps forward. After being sidelined for his first two NBA seasons and playing just 31 games (and only 25.4 minutes per game) in his rookie year, he’s played in 44 of the Sixers’ first 55 games, and is averaging 31.4 minutes per game.

But the Sixers are 3-8 when Embiid doesn’t play. Without Embiid, the Sixers don’t look like a playoff team. With him, they look like a team which could earn home-court advantage. The Sixers are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference at 30-25, two games behind the fourth-seeded Washington Wizards.

When asked how he’ll generally manage his players’ minutes in the final third of the season, Brown referred to his time as a Spurs assistant, implying that the Sixers will approach things more aggressively than a championship contender.

“In my old life, when you felt like you were going to be in the finals and win a championship, you definitely started managing stuff differently in this final third,” Brown said. “That’s not where we’re at now. We are fighting to get in the playoffs.

“And we’re in a fist fight, we want a little bit more than that. And we’re going to play with that in mind, and when the opportunity arises when I can rest some of our guys, I will. But it’s not about being conservative right now or feeling like we’re entitled and we’re in the playoffs; we aren’t. So we’re still fighting to do that, and I’ll coach it accordingly.”

It might sound like there’s a contradiction between that desire to fight for the postseason and Brown’s goal of “delivering [Embiid] to a playoff round.” The Sixers probably need Embiid to play the majority of their final 27 games to make the playoffs in the first place. On the other hand, nothing in Embiid’s past suggests that he’s capable of playing all six remaining back-to-backs and suiting up fully healthy in Game 1 of the postseason.

The key for Brown is finding the perfect middle ground between riding Embiid hard every night and babying his 7-foot-2 star to the detriment of the team. With the playoffs finally in sight after five seasons of processing, that’s going to be one of Brown’s greatest challenges in the home stretch.  

Rookie of the Year down to 2 and Ben Simmons' odds slipping

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Rookie of the Year down to 2 and Ben Simmons' odds slipping

Donovan Mitchell continues to creep closer to Ben Simmons in the NBA Rookie of the Year race, and the gap in Bovada's odds for the two is as close as it's been all season.

Simmons is now -250 to win the award, meaning a $250 wager is required to win $100. 

Mitchell is at +170, meaning a $100 wager wins you $170.

In the most recent odds update in January, Simmons was at -650; Mitchell was +400.

It's a clear two-man race at this point.
 
Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.9 blocks this season. No player in recorded history has hit all five criteria in the same season.

Mitchell, however, has been on fire for the NBA's hottest team. The Jazz have won 11 straight games to test the Pelicans for the 8-seed, and over that span, Mitchell has averaged 21.3 points, albeit on 41 percent shooting.

For the season, Mitchell is at 19.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals. He's made 35.4 percent of his threes and 83.6 percent of his free throws.

Both are stars in the making, but it's worth noting that the Jazz are playing better than they have all season and Simmons is still the favorite. Where Utah ends up will be a determining factor in the Rookie of the Year race — if the Jazz can somehow end up the 7-seed in a loaded West, arguments for Mitchell will grow louder.

Both Simmons and Mitchell were two of five guests this week on NBA TV's Open Court: Rookies Edition. Interesting talking points from the special: 

• Mitchell referenced former Sixer Jrue Holiday as an under-the-radar tough player to guard, saying he watches film of Holiday every day.

• Simmons recalled LeBron attacking him frequently in the first quarter of their first meeting, saying he wasn't surprised LeBron wanted to send a message by going right at him.

• The Morris twins were mentioned by Simmons and Jayson Tatum when asked about the most imposing players in the league. Everyone cited DeMarcus Cousins.

• Simmons downplayed the importance of his NBA redshirt season, saying you don't really know what it's like to play back to back and deal with the hectic travel schedule until you're involved in it every day.