76ers

Sixers haven't done this in 14 years

Sixers haven't done this in 14 years

BOX SCORE

SAN ANTONIO — The season sweep is complete.

The Sixers beat the Spurs, 97-78, Friday night at the AT&T Center to go a perfect 2-0 after years of struggle. They led by as many as 25 points in the surprisingly lopsided contest.

Prior to their first win of the season on Jan. 3, the Sixers had not defeated the Spurs in 12 games dating back to 2011. The victory was the Sixers’ first in San Antonio since Jan. 3, 2004.

The Spurs improved to 24-21, while the Spurs dropped to 32-19. 

The Spurs were shorthanded again, just like their last meeting with the Sixers. Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management), Manu Ginobili (right thigh contusion) and Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis) did not play. Still, veterans LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, three rebounds), Pau Gasol (11 points, four rebounds) and Danny Green (five points) were in the starting lineup.

The Sixers were without two veterans as well. JJ Redick (left fibula) and Jerryd Bayless (sore left wrist) remained sidelined. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (10 points) got his fourth straight start in their absences.

• Joel Embiid recorded his fifth double-double in seven games. He posted 18 points and 14 rebounds in 29 minutes.

• Ben Simmons (21 points, seven assists, five rebounds) outlined the keys to getting a win prior to the game. 

“Just got to go in and play tough, be consistent, take care of the ball, and rebound,” he said. “I think we'll be fine.” 

To those points, the Sixers out-rebounded the Spurs 50-36 and committed a season-low 10 turnovers, well below their season average.

• The Spurs entered the game a league-best 20-3 at home. Brett Brown emphasized to the Sixers that the Spurs are still the Spurs, especially at the AT&T Center, regardless of who isn’t playing.

• Gregg Popovich doesn’t like to lose, regardless of who he is coaching against. But in the case of Brown, who served on Popovich’s staff for more than 11 years, Popovich is happy for his success this season.

“He deserves it, the organization, the players, the owners, everybody deserves it,” Popovich said before the game. “They've gone through hell and kept their nose to the grindstone and just kept going and going on going. Now they're enjoying some of the benefits of everything that's been done along the way. Hopefully that'll continue.”

• T.J. McConnell was back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game to attend his father-in-law’s funeral. The backup point guard posted five points, three rebounds and four assists (22 minutes).

• Justin Anderson made the most of early playing time. He scored eight points in seven first-half minutes. He finished the night with 12 points.

• The Sixers held the Spurs to 31 points in the first half, the lowest by any opponent this season. The lack of offense, including 0 for 10 from three, was out of character for the Spurs. Their 31 points was the fewest they have scored in the first half at home since Feb. 25, 2008.

• The Sixers will travel to Oklahoma City Friday night to continue their four-game road trip with Sunday’s matchup against the Thunder (6 p.m./ESPN).

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid didn’t take home MVP honors as planned, but he leaves All-Star Weekend having made his mark on the NBA. 

While Embiid had a strong performance, he and Team Stephen fell to Team LeBron, 148-145, Sunday night.

Here are three things to know about Embiid’s first experience as an All-Star:

Hungry to make an impact
Embiid kicked off the game with a driving dunk. He drew a foul on Anthony Davis to complete the three-point play. Less than a minute later, he knocked down a jumper to score Team Stephen’s first five points.

Embiid finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes. He shot 8-for-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from three.

While he was eager to score, he also recognized the talent of his squad. So when had the ball with just seconds left on the clock and the game on the line, he passed it off instead of trying to be the hero (even if the shot didn’t go in).

"I wanted to shoot it but I felt like I had Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) on my team and (Paul George) was really pressuring me,” Embiid said. “But I felt like I had Steph and Klay on my team, so I felt like it was a better idea to pass them the ball because they’ve been doing that for years and I have a lot of respect for them, and that’s what I did.”

Embiid vs. Westbrook: Round 3
Just when it seemed like the next matchup between Embiid and Russell Westbrook would have to wait until next season, the two were crossed paths in the All-Star Game. Embiid hit a three over Westbrook and then swatted his shot (see video).

Embiid insisted it was all in good nature: “I kind of thought about staring at him and I kind of did. But you know it's all fun. I don't have anything against him. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a great competitor and I love to compete too. So I have a lot of fun playing against him.”

Westbrook, on the other hand, said he didn’t pay much mind to Embiid.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked his opinion of Embiid’s first All-Star performance. “I wasn’t really paying attention, honestly. I was paying attention to our team.”  

Let’s get the 2018-19 NBA schedule now to circle the calendars for their next meeting.

From trash talker to student
Embiid said from the time he was named a starter that he wanted to use this weekend as an opportunity to learn from his experienced teammates. And that he did. 

Check out this rundown of players on Team Stephen whose basketball know-how Embiid sought after.

“Steph, on the bench or during the game, I kind of asked him a couple questions,” Embiid said. “All the guys. (Karl-Anthony Towns) we talk a lot. Draymond (Green), of course, we talked a lot about him not being able to guard me. Of course he mentioned when we blew the lead against them, of course he had to mention that … Kyle (Lowry) was amazing. DeMar (DeRozan), always amazing. James (Harden), amazing. Al (Horford) was great; I love spending time with him. All those guys, they were great.”

Lowry was among many fellow All-Stars to appreciate Embiid’s talent so early in his career.

“(My advice is) continue to be him, and I think that’s his best trait,” Lowry said. “He’s a very hungry, humble guy, super talented, He’s just trying to figure it out and learn the game.”

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Embiid will return to Philadelphia from Los Angeles where he has one big to-do list after participating in the Rising Stars game, Skills Challenge and All-Star Game. Embiid plans to sleep.

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

ap-donovan-mitchell-jazz-dunk.jpg
AP Images

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

LOS ANGELES — Rookie Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz put on a show in the slam dunk contest to cap off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Mitchell edged Larry Nance Jr. by two points, sealing his victory with a close approximation of the 360-degree spin dunk that Vince Carter used to win the 2000 contest.

"I wanted this so badly," Mitchell said. "This is one of my favorite events of All-Star weekend. To not only be in it, but to win it, it's crazy."

Before making his winning dunk, Mitchell peeled off his Jazz jersey and wore a vintage Carter jersey from the Toronto Raptors.

Mitchell -- three inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Carter -- needed a score of 47 to beat Nance, and he got a 48 from the five judges: DJ Khaled, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Lisa Leslie.

Nance, who was trying to win the contest 34 years after his father won it, had earned a perfect 50 with a dunk off a double alley-oop off the glass.

Mitchell advanced to the finals with a creative dunk in the first round that used his sister, Jordan, as well as Kevin Hart and the comedian's son as props. For that dunk, Mitchell wore a Darrell Griffith Jazz jersey. Griffith participated in the first slam dunk contest in 1984.

"I appreciate Kevin Hart coming out there and helping me out," Mitchell said. "He's my favorite comedian."

Booker wins 3-point contest with record final round
Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns won the 3-point contest with a record 28 points in the final round. He beat 2016 champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Los Angeles Clippers.

"It feels really good," Booker said. "I wanted to go out there and make a name for myself."

Did he ever. He was sensational in the final round on Saturday, when he missed only five of 25 shots.

Each player shot five five-ball racks with a one-minute time limit. The final ball of each one was a "money ball" worth two points, and one of the racks, usually the last one, was all money balls. Booker made the money ball shot on his first four racks, and then made four of the five balls on the money ball rack.

Harris, Booker and Thompson advanced from the eight-man field to the finals. Harris scored 17 points before Booker scorched the nets for 28 points. Thompson followed and scored 25 points.

The previous record was 27 points, set by Stephen Curry in 2015 and matched by Thompson the following year.

Booker, the 21-year-old sharpshooter in his third season with Phoenix, is averaging 24.2 points per game this season as the NBA's 12th-leading scorer. Eleven months after the shooting guard dropped 70 points against Boston to become the youngest player in NBA history to score even 60 in a game, Booker added another accolade to his promising career with the 3-Point title.

Thompson beat the buzzer with his final shot of the first round to reach the finals with 19 points. Booker also scored 19 and Harris had 18.

Dinwiddie tops Markkanen in Skills Challenge final 
Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets won the skills challenge to kick off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Dinwiddie, who played at Taft High in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, beat Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls in the final round.

The skills competition consisted of two players going head to head. They dribbled around pylons, passed the ball into a net, dribbled to the other end of the floor for a layup and then dribbled back to the other end to take a pull-up 3-pointer.

Eight players started the competition, with Dinwiddie and Markkanen advancing to the final.

Markkanen struggled passing the ball into the net, giving Dinwiddie a big lead. Dinwiddie dribbled down the floor and missed his first 3, but drained the next one to win.