76ers

Best of NBA: Suns put distractions to the side, beat Kings for 1st win

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AP Images

Best of NBA: Suns put distractions to the side, beat Kings for 1st win

PHOENIX -- Devin Booker scored 22 points, including two free throws with 9.8 seconds to play, and the Phoenix Suns beat the Sacramento Kings 117-115 on Monday night for their first win of the season in their first game under interim coach Jay Triano.

Phoenix fired coach Earl Watson on Sunday and guard Eric Bledsoe was sent home Monday morning after he sent out a tweet over the weekend that left the impression he no longer wanted to play for the Suns.

Despite the tumultuous stretch for the franchise, Phoenix shot 54.5 percent from the field and held on after Sacramento rallied in the final period. Marquese Chriss scored 19 points, and Mike James finished with 18.

The Kings have dropped three of four to begin the season. Garrett Temple scored 23 points for Sacramento, and rookie De'Aaron Fox had 19 (see full recap).

Grizzlies hold Harden, Rockets in check for victory
HOUSTON -- Marc Gasol scored 26 points to lead the Memphis Grizzles to a 98-90 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

Memphis has won its first three games for the first time since the 2014-15 season when the team won its opening six contests.

With the game tied at 88 with less than three minutes remaining, tempers flared after Memphis guard Mario Chalmers fell to the ground and tripped James Harden, who then shoved Chalmers as he tried to get off the ground. After a lengthy review, both players received technical and Harden was called with an offensive foul.

On the following play, James Ennis III made a shot where he was fouled and converted the free throw to put Memphis up three. After Clint Capela's dunk, Mike Conley hit a 3 to push the lead to 94-90.

Conley struggled for most of the game, shooting 3-for-10 from the field and scoring nine of his 17 points at the free throw line, where he was perfect. But he came on huge for Memphis down the stretch, making key shots and getting pivotal assists (see full recap).

Shorthanded Spurs hand Raptors 1st loss
SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and Dejounte Murray had 16 points and 15 rebounds and the San Antonio Spurs held on to beat the Toronto Raptors 101-97 on Monday night.

San Antonio was without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker and Toronto was without Jonas Valanciunas and their absences were noticeable in the flow of each team's offense.

The Spurs had a season-high 20 turnovers. They were averaging 11 turnovers in their first two games, but had four in the opening four minutes.

Toronto took advantage, keeping the game close despite being outrebounded 56-33.

DeMar DeRozan had 28 points and Serge Ibaka had 13 as the Raptors lost their first game of the season (see full recap).

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

LOS ANGELES —  From trash talking on the court to expressing himself on social media, Joel Embiid is a player of many (many) words. So if his fellow All-Stars had to describe him in just one, what would it be? 

Draymond Green: "'Funny.' He's hilarious. The stuff he says, he goes on TV talking about (Kevin Durant's) burner account, he's talking how he's a savage. His Instagram locations, pretty funny. He's a good guy." 

Andre Drummond: "I’d probably say 'charismatic,' 'funny,' 'savage.' He don’t care, he just does what he wants to.”

Paul George: “Personality,' in all caps."

(Why all caps?)

“Because he’s a big dude.”

John Wall: "He's just 'himself.' He's very confident."

Anthony Davis: “'Savage.' Cool dude, he lives by his own rules. He’s just enjoying life and having fun.”

Jimmy Butler: "'Remarkable' in the fact that his game on the court is insane. Then the way he's always saying something to somebody on social media is really 'remarkable.'"

Bradley Beal: “'Wild.' He has no filter, he doesn’t care. That’s my boy, but he just has no remorse, doesn’t care."

LaMarcus Aldridge: “'Entertaining,' because he’s always on TV expressing how he feels. So, entertaining.”

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

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USA Today Images

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

This week’s serving of Rob Rants focuses on the dichotomy of the 2018 NBA All-star Game and the show that comes with it. On the court, the game was a highly entertaining, competitive, tightly fought contest that incorporated a new concept that's a winner. The league also attempted something new prior to the game. That idea did not quite work as well. 

All-Star Games 
I generally am not a fan of All-Star Games. I haven’t watched the Pro Bowl in years. Same goes for the NHL All-Star Game. I find the MLB's midsummer classic to be the most watchable of the four. Plus, they have a captive audience as there are no other options that time of year. In recent years, I’ve taken more to the NBA three-point contest and skills competition rather than the dunk contest or the game itself. Full disclosure: I watched the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night for a few reasons. I wanted to see Joel Embiid’s first All-Star Game. I was curious about the new draft format of player selection. And my 16-year-old son who I was watching it with is a die-hard Sixers and NBA fan. So I watched all the way through. What I found were two polar-opposite productions. 

Premise
Along with ESPN’s College Gameday. I find TNT's Inside the NBA to be as good as it gets in terms of pregame shows. Ernie, Charles, Kenny, Shaq and crew were excellent as always. It’s what happened after they signed off that was a sight to be hold. 

Pregame show?
Philadelphia’s own Kevin Hart performed some type of musical/broadway play/comedy/is this really happening? Somehow Rob Riggle, the least funny man in the world, was involved. As were Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and Ludacris. And there were cheerleaders and wild west folk. There may have been others but at that point, I began slipping into some kind of hypnotic coma. It went on interminably long. It was the kind of thing that, if Hart was not so popular and talented, can kill a career. It was that bad. But I strangely could not pull myself away. It was car crash, rubber-necking kind of bad. 

That mercifully ended and you thought it was game time. But we still had the anthems. First, the Canadian anthem, which was followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Fergie decided that she would turn Francis Scott Key’s composition into a steamy, sultry, lounge act from back in the day. To put it kindly, she missed the mark. Charles Barkley said at halftime that he needed a cigarette after her performance. It wasn’t quite Carl Lewis or Roseanne Barr-level of terrible, but it just capped a half hour-plus of strangeness that anyone who watched was never getting back. All of this just reaffirmed why I don’t generally indulge in these exhibitions. But then something funny happened. 

The game
The NBA smartly changed formats for All-Star selection this year. The league went playground style, having two captains choose their teams. LeBron James and Steph Curry were the two captains in charge of selecting from the voted-in All-Stars. The game, unlike recent years, had a different kind of competitive feel from the jump. Yes, it had the usual array of dunks and incredible passes, which the game should have. But there was defense played and fouls taken. Strategy was employed. To the players and NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s credit, the changes were a home run. The game came down to the last possession with Team Steph having a chance to tie with a three. Team LeBron played great defense and Curry could not get a shot off, giving Team LeBron the 148-145 victory. The game had the best of both worlds — incredible athletes showing off their skills and a level of care and compete not seen in a long time. And Embiid had an excellent All-Star debut with 19 points, eight boards and a great sequence where he nailed a rainbow three-pointer and then swatted Russell Westbrook at the other end of the floor.

Lesson here: tune in at tip-off. And no more Rob Riggle. Ever.