Look out, East — Sixers have new 'firepower'

Look out, East — Sixers have new 'firepower'

Marco Belinelli has built a reputation during his career of needing to be watched with a close eye.

On Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center, his skills were on full display during the Sixers' unbelievable 104-102 comeback over the Heat (see observations).

"What a great introduction to the city for him," head coach Brett Brown said. "That's why we brought him in."

The Sixers have lacked two things during the first half of the season: perimeter shooting and bench scoring. Belinelli provided both Wednesday, scoring 13 of his 17 points during the Sixers' second-half comeback. He shot 7 of 12 from the field and hit on 3 of his 5 threes in 28 minutes off the bench.

The Sixers had a need and president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo filled it. Not with a trade, but by picking up the 11-year veteran shooting guard after he had been bought out by the fledgling Atlanta Hawks.

On Wednesday, Belinelli made Colangelo look like a genius.

"I think the firepower that we needed from somebody was provided by him," Brown said. "I give tremendous credit to Bryan Colangelo for making this happen. We gave up no assets to bring him in and we bring in somebody that can change a game like that. Bryan deserves a lot of credit."

Before spending the early portion of this season with the 18-40 Hawks, Belinelli toiled away on a 36-46 Charlotte team last season and a 33-49 Kings team the year before. At the All-Star break, the Sixers already have 30 wins and are right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

"I wanted to be on this team so bad," Belinelli said. "Just play with guys who go on the court and try to be better, try to play together and they want to win so bad and that's one thing I've been missing the last couple years, so I'm really happy."

With the Sixers trailing by 23 at the half and with no Joel Embiid on the floor (see story), it was not what Belinelli had signed up for. But thanks in large part to the firepower he provided, the Sixers outscored the Heat, 65-40, in the second half to secure a perfect 5-0 homestand (see story).

The atmosphere during the comeback was electric.

And Belinelli felt it.

"I need that," Belinelli said. "The last couple years — Sacramento, Charlotte and Atlanta — it's not easy to go out on the court and win games with the young guys. Just to be able to be a part of this team, that's what I need." 

And if his performance Wednesday wasn't enough to endear him to Sixers fans, this should only help:

"I want to win so bad and I really trust this process," Belinelli said. "That's the truth."

Sixers clobber Magic to push win streak to 5

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Sixers clobber Magic to push win streak to 5


ORLANDO, Fla. — Joel Embiid threw up a three in the waning seconds of the first half and didn’t even bother to see if the shot went in.
He took off fist-pumping his way down the court as the ball swished in, giving the 76ers their 70th point of the half. You can’t blame him because the game wasn’t worth watching anyway.
The Sixers led by nine after one quarter, 21 after two, 30 after three and essentially dribbled the clock out in the fourth to a 118-98 win over the Orlando Magic.

The victory was the Sixers’ fifth in a row to move their record to 41-30 and guarantee their first season of at least .500 ball since 2010-11.

• Six different players scored in double figures led by Ersan Ilyasova’s 17. Ben Simmons barely missed out on another triple-double. He had six points (on just four shot attempts) to go along with 11 rebounds and 10 assists in only three quarters of action. Embiid added 17 points and nine rebounds in only 20 minutes.

• The Magic were led by Rodney Purvis’ 19 points off the bench.

• The Sixers are now only one game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
• When the 76ers showed up for breakfast Thursday morning in Orlando, there was a giant poster of the Eastern Conference standings on the wall.
Coach Brett Brown put it there and said his players knew it's significance. "We're aware of where we're at," Brown said. "We control our own destiny. We aren't reliant on other events. I see the goal of home-court and winning in the playoffs a lot more clearly."
Brown said the goal is to keep the current run of five straight wins going through the remaining three weeks of the season.
"We don't intend on letting what we built so far go easily." Brown said. "We want to go into the playoffs in rhythm and trending in the form that can equate to trying to win in the playoffs."
• Brown was asked a simple question in pregame, “Are rookies coming in better prepared on defense?”
He gave a simple answer.
Brown then elaborated saying that with the arrival of sports science and analytics, NBA rookies are overwhelmed.
“So, you take a 19-year-old kid and throw him into a man’s world with the strength and analytics and scouting and preparation, and they are floored. It’s a different sport, the language, the rules, the duration of the game. It’s not the NCAA, and it’s not FIBA, so no — and like an adamant no.”
• The Sixers play seven of their final 11 games against teams with losing records, but next up is Minnesota (41-31) on Saturday. It will be the second leg of a back-to-back for the Timberwolves, who travel to New York to play the Knicks Friday.

Western Conference streaks give Sixers a boost

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Western Conference streaks give Sixers a boost

SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and nine rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth straight, 98-90 over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

San Antonio remained in sixth place in the Western Conference, one-half game behind fourth-place Oklahoma City. The Spurs close out a six-game homestand on Friday against Utah, which is 1 games behind San Antonio in eighth place.

Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. each had 21 points to lead the Wizards, who dropped into sixth in the Eastern Conference.

San Antonio's winning streak follows a 3-11 skid that briefly dropped the Spurs out of playoff position.

Aldridge has been critical to the turnaround, averaging 29.6 points and 9.2 rebounds during the streak.

Against Washington, Aldridge scored nine points during a 23-9 run that gave San Antonio a 17-point lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.

Without injured All-Star John Wall, the Wizards were unable to answer (see full recap).

Davis, Pelicans outlast Pacers for 3rd straight win
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis capped a 28-point, 13-rebound, five-block performance with a 15-foot baseline fade, a gritty put-back and two free throws in the final minute, and the New Orleans Pelicans outlasted the Indiana Pacers 96-92 on Wednesday night.

E'Twaun Moore scored 23 for New Orleans, which had to overcome a scrappy defensive effort by Indiana to win its third straight.

The Pelicans, who average nearly 112 points per game, were limited to 43 percent (34 of 79) accuracy by the Pacers, who also turned 20 New Orleans turnovers into 15 points.

The Pacers shot only 36.6 percent (34 of 93), but kept the game close with 15 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points.

Neither team led by more than six, and the game was tied at 87 with 1:49 left, after Victor Oladipo's block of Jrue Holiday sent Darren Collison away for a fast-break layup as he was fouled by Moore.

Moore put back his own miss with 1:24 to play to put the Pelicans back in front, and after Oladipo was called for a travel with 1:12 to go, Davis hit his clutch fade in front of the Pacers' bench, holding his right arm up triumphantly as the shot went down (see full recap).

Howard has historic night in Hornets’ comeback
NEW YORK -- Dwight Howard had 32 points and 30 rebounds, becoming the first player with a 30-30 game against the Nets since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1978, and the Charlotte Hornets stormed back to beat Brooklyn 111-105 on Wednesday night.

Kemba Walker scored 10 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter for the Hornets, who trailed by as many 23 points in the second half to win in front of an announced crowd of 10,231 at Barclay Center while a heavy snowfall outside blanketed the New York City area.

Trailing 105-102 with 2:14 left in regulation, the Hornets went on a 9-0 run to pull off the impressive comeback.

Jeremy Lamb, who had 17 points to help end Charlotte's two-game losing streak, made a layup to cut the deficit to 105-104. The Hornets then called a timeout after a miss by Caris LeVert with 23 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Walker spun around Quincy Acy and capped a three-point play to put Charlotte up 107-105, the Hornets' first lead of the night since a 16-15 advantage with 5:46 in the opening quarter.

LeVert missed a chance to tie it when he was met by Howard under the basket. Howard then hit a pair of free throws to make it 109-105.

D'Angelo Russell scored 19 points and LeVert added 11 for the Nets, whose two-game winning streak was cut short. They have yet to have won three consecutive this season (see full recap).