Lakers can't be stopped in Miami

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Lakers can't be stopped in Miami

MIAMI -- Isaiah Thomas scored a season-high 29 points, Julius Randle added 25 and the Los Angeles Lakers continued their surge by topping the Miami Heat 131-113 on Thursday night.

Brandon Ingram added 19, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 18 and Kyle Kuzma finished with 16 for the Lakers, who won in Miami for the first time since Feb. 10, 2008. The Lakers shot 59 percent and were 16 of 29 from 3-point range.

It was the most points allowed by the Heat this season.

Thomas, whose previous season best was 24, connected on 11 of 20 shots and 6 of 11 3-point tries. Randle had 21 points in the first half for the Lakers, who are 16-7 since an 11-27 start -- and at 27-34, have now passed last season's win total.

Dwyane Wade scored 25 points for Miami. Goran Dragic had 19, Justise Winslow scored 17 and Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo each added 15 for the Heat (see full recap).

Blazers rally for 5th straight victory
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard scored 35 points after a slow start and the Portland Trail Blazers rallied to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-99 on Thursday night for their season-high fifth straight win.

CJ McCollum had 19 points and Jusuf Nurkic added 16 for Portland, which improved to 36-26. It was the first time Portland was 10 games over .500 since the end of the 2014-15 season.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 34 points and 17 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who lost their fourth straight in the Moda Center.

Lillard was 0 for 7 in the first quarter but after struggling in the first half, Portland mounted a comeback in the second and pulled ahead 84-82 on Shabazz Napier's running jump shot with 8:07 left.

Al-Farouq Aminu and McCollum hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Portland a 92-86 lead with 3:48 left. Lillard's 3 extended it and the Timberwolves couldn't catch up.

The teams split the season series 2-2 (see full recap).

Bogdanovic, Kings outlast Nets in overtime
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Bogdan Bogdanovic made a go-ahead short runner from the baseline with 1:06 left in overtime, then added a pair of free throws and the Sacramento Kings beat the Brooklyn Nets 116-111 on Thursday night.

The Kings blew a lead late in the fourth quarter but outscored the Nets 16-11 in the extra period to end a five-game losing streak.

Spencer Dinwiddie's bucket with 1:22 left gave Brooklyn a 111-110 lead before Bogdanovic drove into traffic near the baseline then pulled up for the basket that gave the Kings the lead for good.

After Dinwiddie missed a 3-pointer, Buddy Hield made a pair of free throws to make it 114-111. Bogdanovic sank two free throws after D'Angelo Russell also missed a 3-pointer.

Final statistics were not available from the game, the second time in eight days that has occurred in Sacramento. The Kings blamed a malfunction of the NBA's scoring program which locked up near the end of the fourth quarter.

Even the giant scoreboard that hangs over center court at Golden1 Center had the final score wrong, listing the Kings winning 116-100 (see full recap).

Sixers crush Grizzlies for 40th win of season

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Sixers crush Grizzlies for 40th win of season


The Sixers turned up the heat against the Grizzlies on a snowy Wednesday night to win, 119-105, and improve to 40-30. 

The Sixers built a 30-point lead by the end of the third quarter, allowing the starters to rest in the fourth. Brett Brown cleared the bench, including both two-way contract players: James Young and Demetrius Jackson. 

This extra time off comes at the perfect moment for the Sixers, who will travel to Orlando for a back-to-back Thursday. Brown has been trying to find ways to give the high-minute players, especially Joel Embiid, a break amid the packed game schedule. 

• Talk about a balanced effort. The Sixers got nearly identical offensive contributions from Robert Covington, Dario Saric, JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli (15 points each), Embiid (14 points) and Ben Simmons (13 points). 

• Inconsistently-utilized players like Richaun Holmes and Justin Anderson are hungry to play and exhibit that on the floor with high energy. Holmes threw down dunks, causing the bench to react like this: 

• The opponent’s starting center struggled for the second straight game. Like Dwight Howard of the Hornets, Marc Gasol scored well below his season average with just five points. Gasol is posting 17.7 points per game this season.

• A win over the subpar Grizzlies wasn’t a guarantee. The Grizzlies beat the Sixers, 105-101, back on Jan. 22 in Memphis. That night, Tyreke Evans scored 10 points in the fourth quarter as they staged their biggest comeback victory of the season. The Chester, Pennsylvania, native was inactive Wednesday.

• Amir Johnson did his best Simmons impression with a behind-the-back pass to, appropriately, Simmons. 

• The Sixers gave away two free hot dogs at halftime for all those who came to the game in the snow. Fans filed out of their seats with 30 seconds left in the first half to get ahead of the lines on the concourse. 

Ben Simmons' rookie season vs. other Sixers greats

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Ben Simmons' rookie season vs. other Sixers greats

Ben Simmons has been better than advertised. That's not easy to do when you were the No. 1 overall pick in your draft class, and when you consider he’s been on the national radar since he was in grade school in Australia. Not to mention being the subject of a documentary his lone year in college. So it’s pretty remarkable to be somewhat taken aback at just how good he’s been his rookie season.

He's the ultimate stat-sheet stuffer at the ripe old age of 21. Simmons is averaging 16.2 points — not bad for a guy with a range of about seven feet and in. He’s dishing out 7.9 assists per contests while corralling 7.8 rebounds. He’s been better defensively than many anticipated, picking up 1.7 steals per game. And he’s shooting 53.5 percent from the floor.

So let’s put Simmons' rookie season in historical perspective with other Sixers rookies of note to see how he measures up. Keep in mind, organizational greats like Julius Erving and Moses Malone began their careers elsewhere.

And Wilt Chamberlain's rookie and career stats are so far and away superior that he can only exist in his own stratosphere. He is the hands-down G.O.A.T. So excluding him, here are my rankings of the other Sixers rookies on the list. This is clearly subjective, but my order is based in part on immediate impact on the team, league, wins from the previous season, and the eye test, having watched all but Wilt play in their first seasons. This is not based on body of career. 

5. Michael Carter-Williams
His numbers were in large part a product of no one else on the team being able to do anything. Not special. 

4. Charles Barkley
Having two Hall of Famers and three others who were phenomenal NBA players hurts Charles a bit in this ranking. His role was somewhat limited that season. But you could see what was coming. 

3. Joel Embiid
The 31 games played impacts him. He very likely would rank first had he played more ... his production was that mind-blowing. Even more remarkable is the fact that he sat out essentially two and a half seasons prior to last year. 

2. Allen Iverson
Yes, he also played on a bad team his first season, but you could see from the jump that he was a game-changer. Despite his tiny frame, he was the guy opposing coaches game planned to stop. The NBA culture changed the moment he stepped on the floor. A dominant force. 

1. Ben Simmons
He's the choice for top rookie season from a Sixer because of the across the board impact. Scoring, rebounds, assists, defense. He plays every night. And the turn-around in his club from 28 wins last year to potentially 48 this year can't be overlooked.