76ers

John Wall-less Wizards streaking into Philadelphia

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John Wall-less Wizards streaking into Philadelphia

INDIANAPOLIS -- All-Star guard Bradley Beal scored 21 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 15 on Monday night to help the Washington Wizards hold on for a 111-102 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

The Wizards have won five straight overall, all without John Wall, and four in a row over the Pacers.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 29 points for the Pacers, trying to spur a fourth-quarter rally. Joe Young added 17 as Indiana's six-game home winning streak ended.

Without starting guards Victor Oladipo (illness) and Darren Collison (left knee surgery), the Pacers were out of sync all night.

The Wizards took full advantage.

Indiana missed its first six shots, allowing Washington to jump out to a 17-8 lead. The Wizards took control with a 13-0 run to make it 55-39 with 3:13 left in the first half.

The Pacers never got closer than seven again.

They cut the deficit to 58-50 at the half, then Washington scored the first two baskets of the second half to make it a 12-point game. A 9-0 run late in the third gave the Wizards a 79-62 lead, forcing the Pacers to scramble the rest of the night.

They never got closer than eight again (see full recap).

Pistons hammer Blazers for 4th straight win
DETROIT -- Andre Drummond had 17 points and 17 rebounds, and the Detroit Pistons beat the Portland Trail Blazers 111-91 on Monday night for their fourth straight victory.

Detroit has won three in a row with Blake Griffin in the lineup after acquiring him in a trade last week. The victory Monday pulled the Pistons back to .500 and even with Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Griffin had 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and did a good bit of his offensive damage from the perimeter, making three 3-pointers. Anthony Tolliver added 15 points for Detroit, and Reggie Bullock and Langston Galloway contributed 13 apiece.

Damian Lillard scored 20 points and C.J. McCollum added 14 for the Blazers, who lost again after falling at the buzzer at Boston on Sunday. Portland was without Evan Turner on Monday because of a left calf injury.

Detroit led by 13 in the second quarter and was up 49-43 at halftime. The Pistons pushed the lead to double digits again in the third. A 9-0 run capped by Luke Kennard's 3-pointer made it 75-57.

Detroit was never seriously threatened in the fourth, and the game ended with several seldom-used reserves on the court (see full recap).

Hood scores 30 in victory for streaking Jazz
NEW ORLEANS -- Rodney Hood scored 30 points in his second game back from a lower leg bruise and the surging Utah Jazz extended their winning streak to six with a 133-109 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night.

Ricky Rubio had 20 points and 11 assists, and Rudy Gobert added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz, who made 14 of 21 3-point attempts and shot 58.4 percent (52 of 89) overall their highest-scoring game this season.

Jrue Holiday scored 28 points, and Anthony Davis had 15 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, which has lost four of five since losing All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending left Achilles tear on Jan. 26.

The Jazz led by double digits most of the way and led by as many as 20 when Rubio's driving layup made it 116-96 in the middle of the fourth quarter.

Utah had six players score more than 10, including Derrick Favors with 19, Joe Ingles 18 and Royce O'Neale with 13.

Utah took its first double-digit lead less than four minutes into the game and was only briefly threatened after that. The Jazz led by 16 when O'Neale and Rubio hit back-to-back 3s to make it 52-36 early in the second quarter.

The Jazz hit 10 of 11 3-point shots in the half, when they shot 61.4 percent overall (27 of 44) (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?

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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.