76ers

DeRozan puts Raptors on his back after Lowry injury

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USA Today Images

DeRozan puts Raptors on his back after Lowry injury

NEW YORK -- DeMar DeRozan scored 35 points, including a go-ahead three-point play with 26.1 seconds left in overtime, and the Toronto Raptors shook off a late injury to Kyle Lowry to beat the Brooklyn Nets 114-113 on Monday night.

The Raptors lost a 10-point lead in the final 4 1/2 minutes of regulation and then lost Lowry after a hard fall in OT, but at least won the game, just as they always do against the Nets.

Toronto beat Brooklyn for the 10th straight time and won its fifth in a row overall.

Jonas Valanciunas had 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors. Lowry finished with 18 points and 11 assists, but had to be carried off the court after landing on his lower back while going for a rebound.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored a career-high 31 points for the Nets, but his wild shot on a last drive went over the backboard.

Lowry had a run of seven straight Toronto points to keep a comfortable lead for the Raptors most of the fourth quarter. But suddenly the Nets got hot from 3-point range, and eventually tied it at 107 on Allen Crabbe's drive to the basket with 9.7 seconds remaining. He was hurt on the play and had to be helped off the floor (see full recap).

Timberwolves destroy Cavaliers at home
MINNEAPOLIS -- Andrew Wiggins had 25 points in three quarters, Jimmy Butler pitched in 21 points and tight defense on LeBron James, and the Minnesota Timberwolves cruised to a 127-99 victory over Cleveland on Monday night that stopped a 12-game home losing streak to the Cavaliers.

Karl-Anthony Towns (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Taj Gibson (16 points, 13 rebounds) were tenacious around the basket for the Timberwolves, who outrebounded the Cavs 56-37 and had a 60-42 advantage in points in the paint.

James had just 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting, taking his first loss at Minnesota since Feb. 17, 2005. Cleveland fell behind by as much as 41 points in the third quarter after a dunk by Wiggins set up by a driving pass by Tyus Jones, who had grabbed his own miss from 3-point range. That matched the largest deficit James has ever faced in the regular season, since a game at Orlando on April 3, 2009.

Butler had plenty to do with that, contributing nine assists and eight rebounds before resting during the fourth quarter, too. The Wolves led 69-42 at halftime, matching their largest first-half score from just two nights ago, after a rainbow 3-pointer from the top of the key by Butler brought the fans to their feet. That also tied the most points allowed by the Cavs in a half this season.

Butler made sure the Wolves didn't slip after the break, knocking down a mid-range fadeaway, stealing the ball back and then swishing a pull-up 3-pointer on the other end to push the lead to 31 points early in the third quarter (see full recap).

Paul, Gordon lift Rockets over Bulls
CHICAGO -- Eric Gordon and Chris Paul each had 24 points and nine assists, Gerald Green scored 22 and the Houston Rockets beat the Chicago Bulls 116-107 on Monday night.

Trevor Ariza hit six 3-pointers and scored 18 to go with nine rebounds. Clint Capela added 15 points and 16 rebounds, and the Rockets won for the third time in 10 games despite blowing a 21-point lead.

Bobby Portis led the Bulls with 22 points. Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn each scored 19, but Chicago lost for the fifth time in six games.

With NBA scoring leader James Harden missing his fourth consecutive game because of a strained hamstring, the Rockets regained control after falling behind early in the third.

They scored eight straight to stretch a two-point edge to 10 late in the quarter and took an 87-76 lead into the fourth after Green and Paul nailed back-to-back 3s. Houston was in charge the rest of the game.

What Sixers need more and less of in second half

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What Sixers need more and less of in second half

Now that the dust has settled on the NBA's All-Star festivities, the Sixers will reconvene this week and turn their attention back to the playoff push.

With 27 games remaining in the regular season over a 49-day stretch, it will be a sprint to the finish.

So how can the Sixers capture their first postseason berth in six seasons? Let's take a look at what the team needs more and less of down the stretch.

More: Healthy Embiid
What injury? Joel Embiid shook off right ankle soreness to participate in three events during All-Star weekend as a shining representation of the up-and-coming Sixers.

"There was never really a thought about missing out on any of these events," Embiid said Friday after the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game. "It's my first time, so I'm going to have fun."

The big man is always about having fun, but now it's time to get down to business. Even though the Sixers' competition appears to lighten up after the break, the schedule does not (27 games with six back-to-back sets).

The Sixers are 27-17 when Embiid plays and just 3-8 when he doesn't suit up. They need the center healthy and on the court.

Less: Turnovers
Way less, actually. 

As you know by now, the Sixers have a bit of an issue holding onto the basketball. They simply don't respect each possession enough, evidenced by their 17.5 turnovers per game. That's good enough for dead last in the NBA and it's a full 1.5 turnovers more than the closest team (Los Angeles Lakers).

And it's not just the miscues. Teams are capitalizing, too — the Sixers also rank 30th in opponents' points off turnovers (19.4).

Of the "Four Factors" statistic on the offensive end, which breaks down weighted factors that help a team win a game — shooting (40 percent), turnovers (25 percent), rebounding (20 percent) and free throws (15 percent) — the only category that the Sixers rank outside of the NBA's top 10 in is turnovers.

If they can cut down on the giveaways just a little, it will go a long way toward their goal.

More: Early execution
However, not all of those possessions end up with the Sixers running back on defense after a turnover.

With more legit scoring options on the roster this season than any previous time during Brett Brown's tenure, they have shown the ability to execute a play to perfection for a bucket.

It's a stark contrast to the days when they couldn't even get the ball in on an inbounds play.

That level of scoring punch has been particularly evident at the start of games. The Sixers are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for fourth in the league in first-quarter points per game (28.7) and are even with the L.A. Clippers for seventh in first-half points a night (55.2).

The Sixers must continue to apply that pressure on teams at the outset of games, especially if their woes finishing off opponents is going to persist.

Less: Bad Covington
Ah, the curious case of Robert Covington.

Has any player in NBA history ever looked like they could make a push for an All-Star spot for two months only to appear as if they belong in the G League the next few months?

Covington has always been a streaky shooter, but this season has been extreme. He shot 44.7 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from three-point range in October and November to help secure his multiyear extension. 

Since that point, the swingman has connected on just 37.6 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from long distance.

Whether it's the weight of the big contract or the nasty spill he took against the Cavs in December, Covington hasn't looked the same on the floor in several months. The team needs him to get it together and the sooner the better.

More: Killer D's
While Embiid's presence on both ends and Ben Simmons' wizardry at the point have put the Sixers in position to snag a playoff bid, the team didn't really hit its stride until a certain pairing found its footing: Dario Saric and defense.

Much like his rookie season, Saric struggled to find his role at the start. But that's long in the rearview mirror now. The second-year forward has increased his production each month and has been rolling so far in February (18.6 points, 51.7 percent field goals, 46.3 percent threes, 6.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game).

That surge has coincided with the Sixers' tightened grip on defense. In seven games this month, they've allowed 96.1 points per game on 41.4 percent shooting.

The type of balance Saric offers offensively and the overall lockdown defense won't only make the Sixers a postseason team, it will also make them a tough out. 

Less: Fultz speculation
This is a big deal that the Sixers could make very small with a clear decision on the No. 1 pick's immediate future.

Markelle Fultz reportedly continues to ramp up his rehab workouts for his ailing shoulder, even after team president Bryan Colangelo said earlier this month that the guard could return soon or be shut down for the season.

The franchise should obviously give Fultz every chance to come back and contribute, but that ruling should be made at the first opportunity.

It's after the All-Star break and having that type of deliberation hovering over the team isn't exactly fair to the other players. Not to mention, for a guy that has apparently dealt with questions regarding his confidence, possibly dropping him into the thick of a playoff race doesn't really do him any favors either.

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.”