76ers

Mitchell scores 40 in blowout Jazz win

usa-donovan-mitchell-joe-inglesutah-jazz.jpg
USA Today Images

Mitchell scores 40 in blowout Jazz win

PHOENIX — Donovan Mitchell scored 40 points, one shy of his career high, and the Utah Jazz won their fourth in a row with a 129-97 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

The Jazz rookie sensation made 14 of 19 shots and a career-best seven 3s in nine attempts. It was the sixth game of at least 30 points in his young NBA career.

Ricky Rubio had 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Jazz. Joe Ingles added 16 points, including 4-of-6 3s, and Derrick Favors had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Josh Jackson led the Suns with 20 points. Devin Booker, still bothered by bruised ribs, scored 18 points for Phoenix but on 7-of-24 shooting. He missed all seven of his 3s. Dragan Bender added 16 points and nine rebounds.

The Jazz, who hadn't played since their 30-point home win over Golden State on Tuesday night, opened a four-game trip in dominating fashion (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo scores game-winner in Parker's return to Bucks
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo made a driving layup with 1.9 seconds remaining after Jabari Parker chipped in with 12 points in his first game in nearly a year, lifting the Milwaukee Bucks over the New York Knicks 92-90 on Friday night.

Antetokounmpo, who sprained his left ankle late in Thursday night's loss to Minnesota, showed no ill effects and led all scorers with 29 points.

Parker hadn't played since tearing his left ACL on Feb. 8, 2017, in a game against Miami. He made 4 of 7 shots over nearly 15 minutes as a reserve.

Enes Kanter had 17 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Knicks, who were coming off a 103-73 loss to Boston on Wednesday night. Kristaps Porzingis also had 17 points (see full recap).

Walker's 41 points lead Hornets over Pacers
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kemba Walker had that look in the fourth quarter. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford has seen it before, and he knows not to question it or argue with his point guard when he sees it.

"He just had that look like, `I ain't coming out,'" Clifford said. "I thought it was a good idea and we went with it."

Walker played the entire fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his game-high 41 points in the final period as the Hornets rode a record-setting start to a 133-126 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

Walker made 11-of-22 attempts and helped fend off the Pacers' final rally after they had whittled away at what had been an 18-point Charlotte lead. Cory Joseph's free throws cut Indiana's deficit to 128-124 with 40 seconds left, but Charlotte hit five free throws after that to ice it (see full recap).

Davis scores 43 in Pelicans' win
OKLAHOMA CITY — Anthony Davis scored 43 points to help the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-100 on Friday night.

Davis made 17 of 34 shots and had 10 rebounds, and E'Twaun Moore added 26 points for the Pelicans.

New Orleans had lost two straight since All-Star DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season with a left Achilles tendon rupture. They righted the ship by shooting 51 percent from the field against the Thunder.

Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook had 16 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds for his 16th triple-double of the season. Steven Adams had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder, who lost their third straight after an eight-game winning streak (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?

usa-kevin-hart-joel-embiid-sixers.jpg
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.