76ers

LeBron to the rescue for struggling Cavaliers

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LeBron to the rescue for struggling Cavaliers

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James hit a jumper over Jimmy Butler at the buzzer in overtime, giving the Cleveland Cavaliers a 140-138 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Moments after James blocked Butler's potential game-winning shot with 1.3 seconds left, he caught a long pass from Jeff Green, created some space from Butler near the foul line and sank his fade-away shot to end Cleveland's eight-game losing streak on national television.

The crowd erupted and James was mobbed by his teammates as the Cavs got a much-needed win to ease tensions during a prolonged slump. Cleveland has won just seven of its last 20.

James finished with 37 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in 48 minutes. He also passed Zydrunas Ilgauskas (5,904) on Cleveland's all-time rebounds list.

Butler scored 35, and Karl-Anthony Towns 30 for the Timberwolves, who were in position to win in OT before James came to Cleveland's rescue (see full recap).

Harden scores 41 as Rockets hold off Heat
MIAMI -- James Harden scored 41 points and the Houston Rockets beat the Miami Heat 109-101 on Wednesday night for their sixth straight victory and 10th in 11 games.

Chris Paul added 24 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds for the Rockets.

Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson each had 30 points for Miami. The Heat have a five-game losing streak, their longest slide of the season.

Harden eclipsed the 40-point mark for the eighth time this season. He was 13 of 25 shots from the field, going 5 of 12 from 3-point, and hit 10 of 12 free frees. He also had six assists and rebounds.

Harden scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and the Heat were unable to get any closer than 94-90 with five minutes left.

Clint Capela added 13 points for the Rockets, who are 24-1 when Harden, Paul, and Capela play.

Harden scored 16 points in the opening quarter to help the Rockets take a 35-24 lead.

The Rockets led by as many as 17 points in the first half at 53-36, but Dragic scored Miami's final 10 points of the half to help cut it to 61-57 lead at the break (see full recap).

Drummond, Griffin lead Pistons to 5th straight win
DETROIT -- Andre Drummond had 17 points and 27 rebounds, and the Detroit Pistons extended their winning streak to five with a 115-106 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Blake Griffin scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter for the Pistons, who have not lost since acquiring him in a trade last week. Griffin will face his old team Friday night when the Los Angeles Clippers are in town.

Allen Crabbe had 19 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter for the Nets. They have lost four in a row and eight of nine.

Crabbe scored 16 of Brooklyn's points in a row during one fourth-quarter stretch, capped by a 3-pointer that cut Detroit's lead to three at 91-88. The Pistons put the ball in Griffin's hands after that, and he scored nine of their next 11.

Drummond had 12 rebounds in the first half and added 11 more in the third quarter. He finished with a season high, just two shy of his career best. It was the third time in the last five games he reached 20 rebounds.

He shot only 5 of 17 from the field, but that just meant more opportunities for offensive rebounds. He had seven of those. Despite all that, the Pistons were actually outrebounded as a team, 50-46 (see full recap).

Pelicans-Pacers postponed over concerns from roof leak
NEW ORLEANS -- The NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans was postponed Wednesday mnight after nearly two-hour delay because of a roof leak that briefly allowed rain water to puddle near one of the foul lines.

While Smoothie King Center crews fashioned a fabric catch basin in the rafters to stop water from dripping on the court, Pacers coach Nate McMillan said coaches and players on both teams didn't want to risk an injury in the event the make-shift fix didn't hold up for the duration of Wednesday night's game.

"It's not a chance you want to take," McMillan said. "Both coaches went out and looked at the floor and looked at the conditions and just really felt that you didn't want to take a chance of these players going out there playing on the floor with the possibility of a leak happening in the course of a 2 1/2-hour game in an area where there's going to be a lot of action right around the free throw line.

"All it takes is one spot for a player to slip on," McMillan added. "Mentally, guys really wouldn't have been able to go out there and play, knowing that situation."

A number of fans left before a public address announcement was made that the game would not be played. Many of those who remained booed.

Officials have not yet announced when the game will be made up (see full recap).

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

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USA Today Images

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.

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid didn’t take home MVP honors as planned, but he leaves All-Star Weekend having made his mark on the NBA. 

While Embiid had a strong performance, he and Team Stephen fell to Team LeBron, 148-145, Sunday night.

Here are three things to know about Embiid’s first experience as an All-Star:

Hungry to make an impact
Embiid kicked off the game with a driving dunk. He drew a foul on Anthony Davis to complete the three-point play. Less than a minute later, he knocked down a jumper to score Team Stephen’s first five points.

Embiid finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes. He shot 8-for-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from three.

While he was eager to score, he also recognized the talent of his squad. So when had the ball with just seconds left on the clock and the game on the line, he passed it off instead of trying to be the hero (even if the shot didn’t go in).

"I wanted to shoot it but I felt like I had Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) on my team and (Paul George) was really pressuring me,” Embiid said. “But I felt like I had Steph and Klay on my team, so I felt like it was a better idea to pass them the ball because they’ve been doing that for years and I have a lot of respect for them, and that’s what I did.”

Embiid vs. Westbrook: Round 3
Just when it seemed like the next matchup between Embiid and Russell Westbrook would have to wait until next season, the two were crossed paths in the All-Star Game. Embiid hit a three over Westbrook and then swatted his shot (see video).

Embiid insisted it was all in good nature: “I kind of thought about staring at him and I kind of did. But you know it's all fun. I don't have anything against him. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a great competitor and I love to compete too. So I have a lot of fun playing against him.”

Westbrook, on the other hand, said he didn’t pay much mind to Embiid.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked his opinion of Embiid’s first All-Star performance. “I wasn’t really paying attention, honestly. I was paying attention to our team.”  

Let’s get the 2018-19 NBA schedule now to circle the calendars for their next meeting.

From trash talker to student
Embiid said from the time he was named a starter that he wanted to use this weekend as an opportunity to learn from his experienced teammates. And that he did. 

Check out this rundown of players on Team Stephen whose basketball know-how Embiid sought after.

“Steph, on the bench or during the game, I kind of asked him a couple questions,” Embiid said. “All the guys. (Karl-Anthony Towns) we talk a lot. Draymond (Green), of course, we talked a lot about him not being able to guard me. Of course he mentioned when we blew the lead against them, of course he had to mention that … Kyle (Lowry) was amazing. DeMar (DeRozan), always amazing. James (Harden), amazing. Al (Horford) was great; I love spending time with him. All those guys, they were great.”

Lowry was among many fellow All-Stars to appreciate Embiid’s talent so early in his career.

“(My advice is) continue to be him, and I think that’s his best trait,” Lowry said. “He’s a very hungry, humble guy, super talented, He’s just trying to figure it out and learn the game.”

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Embiid will return to Philadelphia from Los Angeles where he has one big to-do list after participating in the Rising Stars game, Skills Challenge and All-Star Game. Embiid plans to sleep.