76ers

The judges give Raptors a perfect 10

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The judges give Raptors a perfect 10

INDIANAPOLIS -- DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points, Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and 17 rebounds, and the Toronto Raptors rallied late to get past the Indiana Pacers 106-99 on Thursday night for their 10th straight victory.

The Raptors need one more win to tie the franchise's longest winning streak. They haven't lost since Feb. 23 and broke a tie with the 2016-17 squad for longest road winning streak, which is now at eight.

But it sure wasn't easy on a night Darron Collison scored 22 points and Al Jefferson had a season-high 20 for Indiana.

The Pacers took the lead late in the first quarter and didn't trail again until midway through the fourth.

Toronto finally seized control when C.J. Miles made three 3-pointers during a 12-3 spurt that turned an 85-81 deficit into a 93-88 lead with 5:21 to play. The Raptors never trailed again and led by as much as eight twice in the final eight minutes.

Indiana got within 102-99 in the final minute, but the Raptors closed it out when DeRozan stole an inbounds pass and scored on a breakaway dunk with 10.5 seconds left (see full recap).

Spurs edge Pelicans, move into 8th seed
SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points, Dejounte Murray had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame another late rally to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 98-93 on Thursday night.

New Orleans was playing hours after learning Pelicans owner Tom Benson had died. Benson was hospitalized with the flu on Feb. 16 and never recovered. The 90-year-old native of San Antonio owned both the Pelicans and the Saints.

"For us, the motivation is that we still want to try to do everything we possibly can to try to accomplish the goal that he set out for us. That's to try to put ourselves in a position to win a championship," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.

Anthony Davis finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, but fouled out after playing 36 minutes. New Orleans remained in fifth in the West.

San Antonio moved into eighth in the West, holding the final playoff berth after sitting in 10th earlier this week.

The Spurs had dropped out of playoff position in part after blowing a 17-point lead to the Los Angeles Lakers and a 15-points advantage against New Orleans.

New Orleans again erased a 15-point deficit to pull within 91-90, but Davis fouled out soon after.

Jrue Holiday added 24 points for New Orleans (see full recap).

Harden, Gorden help Rockets hold off Clippers
HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 24 points, Eric Gordon added 23 and the Houston Rockets outlasted the Los Angeles Clippers for a 101-96 victory on Thursday night.

The Clippers scored six straight points, with four from Austin Rivers, to cut the lead to a basket with less than a minute left. But on the next possession, Harden stepped back and knocked down a long 2-pointer with Rivers in his face to make it 100-96.

Rivers missed a 3-pointer after that before Harden made one of two free throws with 6.2 seconds left to secure the victory.

It's Houston's third straight win and snaps a three-game winning streak for the Clippers.

Tobias Harris led the Clippers with 29 points and Rivers had 20 (see full recap).

Ben Simmons dominating NBA playoffs as a rookie

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Ben Simmons dominating NBA playoffs as a rookie

July 20, 1996.

Watching Ben Simmons play in the postseason, it’s easy to forget the Sixers rookie point guard is only 21. 

Simmons has been handling the pressures of his first playoff run with a maturity beyond his years and a basketball savvy that’s putting his achievements among elite players that came before him in the NBA. 

The postseason stage did not prove to be too big for Simmons in the first round, and he’s just getting started. 

“On to the next series,” Simmons said after the Sixers eliminated the Heat in Game 5. “We've got to focus on that. For me, this is my first season playing so this is what I'm going to expect now.”

Simmons averaged 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 2.4 steals and 4.0 turnovers in 37.4 minutes during the first round. He recorded a triple-double in Game 4, the first Sixer to do so since Charles Barkley on April 27, 1991. Simmons also became the youngest player with a playoff triple-double since LeBron James on May 13, 2006.

Simmons is tied with James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and LaMarcus Aldridge for the most double-doubles so far in the postseason. The last rookie to reach at least four double-doubles in his first five playoff games was Tim Duncan during the 1997-98 season.

“He didn’t have a bad game,” Dwyane Wade said after the Heat’s Game 5 loss. “You knew from the first time you saw him in summer league that he was special … I think the thing that was impressive about him all year is he just continued to get better and better and better. To the point where it’s like that guy in Cleveland — doesn’t have bad games. The imprint that [Simmons and James] put on the game is more than just scoring. [Simmons] does so much.”

Simmons’ poise and composure was tested by the Heat in the opening round. He was on the receiving end of tough plays during an extremely physical series. 

During the Sixers’ closeout game, Simmons was taken out at the legs by Josh Richardson and slammed into the ground with a bruise on his back to show for it. Later in the game, Goran Dragic was whistled for a technical after swiping Simmons in the head. Unnerved, Simmons took both incidents in stride.

“First play when I fell, he (Richardson) didn’t see me. It was just a hard fall,” Simmons said. “The second one, I think I just got under Dragic’s skin. But I’ve got nothing but respect for those guys. They play hard every night and they made us a better team.” 

Simmons has escalated his game all season through adversity and challenges, from stepping up in the absence of an injured Joel Embiid to being looked over for the All-Star team to shaking off criticism of his eligibility for Rookie of the Year. He remains unfazed amid it all, keeping a calm expression on his face that translates into a collected style of play. 

“It’s just the way I am,” Simmons said. “Nothing really bothers me on the floor. I might get frustrated but I never let it take over what I’m doing on the floor.”

Spoken like a player who's been to the postseason before; only he hasn't. 

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

This wasn’t Dwyane Wade’s first rodeo. 

The three-time NBA champ and former Finals MVP has played with and against the best players of the last 15 years. After his Heat team suffered a Game 5 and 4-1 series loss Tuesday night, the future Hall of Famer heaped praise upon the Sixers’ young stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

“They’re the future of the NBA,” Wade said. “The NBA is in great hands with Ben and Joel and those kind of individuals.”

The young Sixers delivered at home, closing out their series in five games with a 104-91 win. Simmons (14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and Embiid (19 points, 12 boards) shined once again. 

As the Sixers look forward to an Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with either Boston or Milwaukee, the question is simple: how far can these kids go?

“When you’ve got great individual players — no matter how old they are — they can do some special things,” Wade said. “These guys believe it. You can see it in their eyes. Embiid is not just talk. He’s not just a Twitter rat kind of person. He’s a player. He’s very good. 

“I believe in those guys. I believe they’re going to be special for awhile, but also, if they believe they can do it now, they can.”

Wade won two NBA titles with the greatest player on the planet, LeBron James. While the Sixers focus on now, there’s been a lot of talk from fans and media of King James' jumping ship and coming to Philly.

According to Wade, the Fresh Prince may be the only royalty the Sixers need.

“I don’t think he had a bad game,” Wade said of Simmons. “A young player like that, in his first playoffs — he didn’t have a bad game. You knew from the first time you saw him in summer league that he was special. If you know basketball, if you know talent, you know someone is special. 

“I think the thing that was impressive about him all year, is he just continued to get better and better and better. To the point where it’s like that guy in Cleveland — doesn’t have bad games. The imprint that [Simmons and James] put on the game is more than just scoring. [Simmons] does so much. The sky is the limit obviously for him and this organization. “

The Sixers have become a trendy pick to win the East and advance to the finals. Sure, they have youth, but Wade believes the organization has done an excellent job adding veteran players like JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to complement Simmons and Embiid.

Wade experienced success at a young age and sees no reason this Sixers team can’t do the same.

“It’s definitely possible,” Wade said of the Sixers going on a deep playoff run. “Sometimes an organization, they get lucky and draft someone special. And these guys got to draft more than one person special and you were able to build around that. 

“That’s what these guys have the ability to do. I was lucky enough in my first year to go to the second round. And then the next year go to the Eastern Conference Finals and the next year win it all. It definitely can happen right away.”