76ers

Harrison Barnes leads Mavericks to 4th straight win

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Harrison Barnes leads Mavericks to 4th straight win

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Harrison Barnes scored 24 points, Dennis Smith Jr. got 11 of his 19 points in the final 1:39 and the Dallas Mavericks closed 2017 with their season-best fourth straight win, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-113 on Sunday night.

Dirk Nowitzki added 13 points for Dallas, which had lost four straight in Oklahoma City and seven of nine overall against the Thunder.

Dallas won despite Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook recording his 12th triple-double of the season with 38 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists. The Thunder had been 11-3 in December before consecutive home losses to Milwaukee and Dallas to end the month.

Paul George scored 25 points and Carmelo Anthony had 21 for Oklahoma City, combining to go 8 of 14 from 3-point range. Despite their hot shooting, Westbrook took the big shots late for OKC and missed a trio of 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds. He was 0 for 4 from deep for the game.

The teams matched each other shot for shot during a first half in which the Thunder hit 8 of 17 3-pointers while the Mavericks made 8 of 18. Oklahoma City emerged with a 63-57 lead. Westbrook fed rookie Terrance Ferguson for a buzzer-beating layup in the third quarter to put the Thunder up 85-84 (see full recap).

Paul helps Rockets past Lakers in double OT
HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 40 points before leaving with a hamstring injury late in the fourth quarter, and Chris Paul scored 15 of his 28 points in overtime as the Houston Rockets snapped a five-game skid with a 148-142 double-overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.

Los Angeles led by as many as 17, but couldn't hold on as the team's season-long losing streak stretched to six games.

Paul made a pair of free throws to tie it at 142 with about a minute left in the second overtime before Tarik Black blocked Kyle Kuzma's shot on the other end to give Houston the ball back. P.J. Tucker grabbed a rebound on a miss by Paul and put it back up to put Houston on top.

Tucker blocked a 3-point attempt by Kuzma, and Paul added two more free throws to make it 146-142 with three seconds left. Paul made two more free throws after that to secure the win.

The Rockets had hoped to limit Paul's playing time in his second game back after missing three games with a groin injury. But with Harden out, he ended up playing 42 minutes.

Julius Randle set season highs with 29 points and 15 rebounds, but fouled out with about three minutes left in overtime (see full recap).

Irving scores 28 for Celtics in win over Nets
BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving scored 28 points, Al Horford had 10 points and 10 rebounds and the Boston Celtics held off the Brooklyn Nets 108-105 on Sunday.

Marcus Morris added 15 points, Terry Rozier scored 14 and Jaylen Brown finished with 13 points as Boston closed 2017 by winning three straight and four of five.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Caris LeVert scored 16 for the Nets, who could not overcome 10 turnovers in the second half.

The Celtics won their seventh straight against the Nets, although Boston didn't have the game in hand until Irving made a pair of free throws with 7.7 seconds remaining. Boston went the final 4:27 without a field goal and struggled from the foul line, going 13 of 21 in the second half and missing several opportunities to put Brooklyn away.

Hollis-Jefferson pulled the Nets within 103-95 on a dunk, and then converted a three-point play with 2:05 left to cut the margin to 103-98. Quincy Acy hit a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left after the Nets grabbed two offensive rebounds and Brooklyn was within 105-103.

Marcus Smart made 1 of 2 free throws with 15.2 seconds left, and then Irving -- who went 4-for-4 from the foul line -- added two more to seal it.

Acy scored 14 for the Nets, DeMarre Carrol and Allen Crabbe scored 12 points apiece and Spencer Dinwiddie had 10 points and nine assists (see full recap).

Sixers have already embraced key aspects of NBA postseason

Sixers have already embraced key aspects of NBA postseason

Perhaps the Sixers have been underestimated a bit.

Outside of Joel Embiid’s health, all of the chatter going into the playoffs was about how the relatively inexperienced roster would handle the big stage. 

Sure, the team has a crop of veterans that have been there and done that. However, young impact players such as Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric were all getting their first taste of the postseason.

So how are they feeling about it to this point?

“I love it,” Embiid said at Friday’s practice. “I live for these moments. I thrive in this type of atmosphere. I think I was built for this, especially playoff basketball.”

Embiid appears particularly fond of the postseason in environments where the Sixers are short on support.

After missing the first two games of the series in Philadelphia while still recovering from orbital fracture surgery, Embiid stepped back into the starting lineup on the road in Miami.

Was getting barked at by rowdy fans in hostile territory going to be a problem? Not for the villain now known as “The Phantom of the Process.”

“I actually think I play better on the road because I just love the atmosphere,” Embiid said. “I just love looking around the arena, people booing, people going against us. That just takes my game to another level.”

The Sixers’ performance isn’t the only thing that has been taken up a notch. Their intensity level and physicality have jumped in this first-round matchup with the bruising Heat.

“I said it before, I wish it was like this all season,” said Simmons, who is averaging 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game in the series. “I’m enjoying it. It’s very competitive and that’s the type of basketball I want to play.”

“It’s basketball. It’s fun,” Justin Anderson said. “Playing like that is fun. Every possession matters. You can tell there’s not a lot of empty possessions. Guys are getting shots up on every possession.

“… It’s intensified. It’s just basketball. It’s the best basketball in the world, and we’re putting ourselves in a position to hopefully go and get another one in Game 4.”

Heat's Justise Winslow fined $15K for stepping on Joel Embiid's mask

Heat's Justise Winslow fined $15K for stepping on Joel Embiid's mask

The NBA dished out some swift justice on Friday night.

Heat swingman Justise Winslow was fined $15,000 by the league for unsportsmanlike conduct after intentionally stepping on and attempting to damage Joel Embiid’s mask during the Sixers’ Game 3 win in Miami (see story).

With 7:51 remaining in the second quarter, the goggles portion of Embiid’s mask fell onto the court. Winslow stepped on the goggles with his left foot before picking them up and trying to break them with his hands.

“He kept throwing it on the ground, so I don’t know if he didn’t like it or what,” Winslow said. “But I was talking to JoJo, we were smack talking, trash talking, going back and forth. No love lost.”

The incident definitely didn’t stop Embiid in his postseason debut. The big man returned from orbital surgery to put up 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the Sixers’ 128-108 victory.

“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands,” Embiid said. “But little do they know is that I have about 50 of them. So it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of the series. 

“I’m going to be a nightmare for them, too.”