76ers

Episcopal Academy's own Wayne Ellington for the win

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Episcopal Academy's own Wayne Ellington for the win

TORONTO -- Wayne Ellington made a go-ahead driving layup with less than a second remaining, and the Miami Heat stopped Toronto's 12-game home winning streak with a 90-89 victory over the Raptors on Tuesday night.

It was the only basket of the second half for Ellington, who finished with 15 points.

Goran Dragic had 24 points and 12 rebounds as Miami extended its season-best winning streak to five. Bam Adebayo had 16 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and Hassan Whiteside collected 13 points and 15 boards for the Heat, who had dropped their previous five visits to Toronto.

The Raptors were without point guard Kyle Lowry after the three-time All-Star bruised his tailbone during Monday's overtime win at Brooklyn.

DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points as the Raptors lost for the first time in six games and failed to break the franchise record for consecutive home victories. Serge Ibaka finished with 11 after he was ejected in the second half.

It was Toronto's first home loss since Nov. 5 against Washington, a game in which Lowry was ejected early in the second quarter. The Raptors are 14-2 at home.

Ibaka and Miami's James Johnson were ejected after trading punches at 7:50 of the third quarter. The skirmish began when the two started shoving one another while waiting for the ball to be inbounded under the Miami basket. Officials reviewed the incident before giving both players technical fouls and ejections (see full recap).

McCollum, Blazers open road trip with victory
OKLAHOMA CITY -- CJ McCollum had 27 points and seven assists, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 117-106 on Tuesday night in the opener of a four-game trip.

Shabazz Napier added 21 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 20 points and eight rebounds for Portland, which moved past Oklahoma City into second in the Northwest Division standings with its seventh win in its last nine games against the Thunder.

Portland has won four of five overall despite playing most of that stretch without star guard Damien Lillard, who sat out for the seventh time in the last nine games with a left calf strain.

Russell Westbrook had 22 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for Oklahoma City, which has dropped off after playing well for most of December. The Thunder have dropped four of six, with three of those losses coming at home.

Oklahoma City shot 44 percent from the field while Portland made 53.1 percent of its shots. Paul George scored 22 points for the Thunder, and Carmelo Anthony had 19.

The Thunder closed to 83-76 with 1:39 remaining in the third quarter on a basket by Anthony, but Portland answered with a 13-1 run and led 96-77 after a 3-pointer by Al-Farouq Aminu with 10:25 left (see full recap).

Mavericks top Magic to snap 3-game skid
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki and rookie Dennis Smith Jr. each scored 20 points, and Dallas Mavericks stopped a three-game slide by beating the Orlando Magic 114-99 on Tuesday night.

Wesley Matthews had 16 points for Dallas, which got its first win since Dec. 31 against Oklahoma City. Harrison Barnes and Yogi Ferrell scored 15 points apiece, and J.J. Barea had 12 assists and eight points.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle earned his 708th career win, moving past John MacLeod for 17th in NBA history. Next up for Carlisle is Gene Shue, who has 784 wins.

Aaron Gordon scored 19 points for Orlando, which has lost five in a row. D.J. Augustin had 18 points, and Marreese Speights finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The Magic led 48-43 at halftime, but Nowitzki and Smith helped the Mavericks rally with 15 points apiece in the second half.

Leading 66-64 with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter, Ferrell made a pull-up jumper and Barnes followed with another jump shot. The Mavs carried an 82-75 lead into the fourth.

The Magic pulled within four in the final period before the Mavericks closed out the game with a 14-3 run in the final four minutes (see full recap).

How Sixers plan to replace JJ Redick

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How Sixers plan to replace JJ Redick

CAMDEN, N.J. — After Sixers’ practice Wednesday, a reporter asked coach Brett Brown, “Are you concerned about the shooting without [JJ Redick] in there?”

Brown responded, “What do you think?”

Clearly, JJ Redick’s left knee injury is a blow for the Sixers (see story). With Redick sidelined, a combination of Jerryd Bayless, Justin Anderson, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and possibly the recently acquired James Young will have to fill a huge shooting void. Brown said Bayless will start in Redick’s place.

Brown noted the Sixers' offense won’t change radically, but that the other guards will need to focus on off-ball movement without Redick in the lineup.

“JJ is amongst the league’s elite movers,” Brown said. “We need to move Jerryd more. [Robert Covington] is a little bit ground-bound at times. You’ve all sort of seen our structure enough to know almost what we’re hoping to do. And it’s movement. We don’t have to change anything, we just have to do what we do.

"Historically, [Bayless’] role has been stuck in a corner and spotting up, or loop him up to the top and put him in a rub. We’re trying to do more than that, and I think he can shine in that environment.”

Outside of his shooting, the threat of Redick’s jumper draws defenders away from the lane. His absence may make getting to the basket harder work for Ben Simmons.

“I think everybody just has to step up and fill that role,” Simmons said. “We need scoring. He helps us get a lot of shots by being a great shooter, so we need to work on getting our own shots.”

Redick has made more three-point shots (98) than Bayless, Anderson, and Luwawu-Cabarrot combined (95) this season in 34 fewer attempts. Bayless has shot better as a starter (40.4 percent from three-point range) than when he comes off the bench (35.3 percent).

According to Brown, Bayless’ most productive recent game, on Dec. 30 at Denver, may be a blueprint the team uses moving forward. Bayless scored 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting (2 of 3 from three-point territory) in a 107-102 Sixers’ win. Brown said he made a concerted effort to call plays for Bayless, and that the veteran guard responded by making big shots.

It also seems likely that, without Redick’s 17.3 points per game in the lineup, the Sixers will have to lean more heavily on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for scoring. But while those two are always front and center, Redick’s injury means Bayless will shift into the spotlight.

Markelle Fultz still 'hesitant' with his shot

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Markelle Fultz still 'hesitant' with his shot

CAMDEN, N.J. — Markelle Fultz was clutch today. No, not in a game situation. But he delivered when Sixers coach Brett Brown ratcheted up the pressure on him.

“Today, six times I put him to the free throw line and say, ‘Hey, Markelle, if you make it, you keep it. If not, it’s the other team’s ball. It’s 92-91.’ And he goes 5 for 6, and he looked good doing it,” Brown said.

Brown explained after practice Wednesday he’s trying to put as much pressure on Fultz’s shot as possible in a practice setting. He said that while he likes what he’s seen from Fultz recently in practice, he doesn’t feel the rookie’s shot is ready for NBA action yet.

“He looks good,” Brown said. “You can see why he was the first player chosen. Stuff he does with the ball, his ability to get into the lane and find people. The hesitancy at times we see with his shot is true, it’s real. He can still impact an NBA game without having to shoot, he really can impact an NBA game without having to shoot.

“And so that doesn’t make him whole, though. It doesn’t make him whole. So finding what that next step is where he can go into an NBA game and feel more whole than he currently does, is the next timeline of, ‘OK, well when does he go play?'”

How “whole” Fultz needs to be to return to action appears to be subjective. One encouraging sign is Fultz’s free throw form, which appears hitch-free. Fultz shot 6 of 12 from the foul line in his four regular season games prior to being shut down, with a bizarre tilt of the head to the left and a long pause right before releasing the ball. Those issues weren’t visible when Fultz shot free throws after practice.

 

However, the Sixers don’t want Fultz back if he’s still hesitant to shoot jumpers, as Brown acknowledged. The Sixers are taking their time with the rookie — Brown confirmed they’re not going to rush his return because of JJ Redick’s left knee injury (see story). Instead, Brown will continue to have Fultz run the point for the second team at practice, and continue to try to coax Fultz into regaining full confidence in his shot.

In other injury news, Richaun Holmes will miss a second straight game Thursday night against Boston with gastroenteritis.