76ers

Mavericks put an end to Raptors' win streak at 6

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Mavericks put an end to Raptors' win streak at 6

DALLAS -- J.J. Barea scored 20 points, including a clinching layup in the final seconds, and the Dallas Mavericks ended another six-game winning streak by Toronto with a 98-93 victory over the Raptors on Tuesday night.

The Mavericks held DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors to season lows in shooting percentage as Toronto lost for just the second time in 14 games, with each loss coming after six straight wins.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points and fellow German Maxi Kleber had 15 points and matched his rookie season best with five blocks. Harrison Barnes had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 23 points but didn't score in the fourth quarter, while DeRozan couldn't get going at all after averaging 37 points on a three-game road winning streak that ended.

DeRozan scored eight points while shooting 19 percent (3 of 16). His previous low was 20 percent (1 of 5) in his only other single-digit game this season -- two points in a 112-78 win at Atlanta in November.

The teams combined to make just five of 31 shots in the final 8 minutes -- including two misses by Serge Ibaka with the Raptors trailing by three before Barea hit a layup with 10 seconds left after dribbling out most of the shot clock (see full recap).

Leonard, Aldridge lift healthy Spurs to victory
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Brooklyn Nets 109-97 on Tuesday night in their first game of the season with every player healthy and available.

San Antonio is third in the Western Conference at 24-11 despite being without Leonard and/or Tony Parker for 30 games this season.

Playing with a full roster for the first time led to some hesitation, as the Spurs scored just 19 points in the opening quarter while trying to involve all their scoring options. San Antonio settled into a rhythm, shooting 51 percent overall in capturing its 15th straight win at home over Brooklyn.

Pau Gasol added 15 points, Parker had 14 and Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili each had 11 for the Spurs.

Playing in just his fifth game, Leonard was 8 for 17 from the field in scoring a season high.

The Nets were able to keep pace early despite injuries to their top two point guards, D'Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin.

Caris LeVert led Brooklyn with 18 points and Allen Crabbe added 15 (see full recap).

Mirotic leads Bulls to yet another win
MILWAUKEE -- Nikola Mirotic came off the bench to score 24 points in 28 minutes and the Chicago Bulls won for the eighth time in 10 games, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 115-106 on Tuesday night.

Chicago's surge coincides with the return of Mirotic, who missed the beginning of the season after suffering facial fractures in an October fight with teammate Bobby Portis.

Kris Dunn rebounded from a 1-for-12 shooting game Saturday against Boston with 20 points and 12 assists in 33 minutes for the Bulls.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points and Eric Bledsoe had 22 to pace Milwaukee, which has lost five of seven.

Mirotic led Chicago's bench in outscoring Milwaukee's reserves 54-25. It was the second time the Bulls won at Milwaukee in 12 days, including a 115-109 victory on Dec. 15.

David Nwaba tipped in a rebound to cap an 8-2 run that gave the Bulls a 100-92 lead with 6:16 to go. The closest Milwaukee got the rest of the way was 109-104 with 1:11 left.

Chicago took the lead for good, 86-85, on a 3-pointer by Mirotic with 10:59 left (see full recap).

Ben Simmons keeps getting linked with Magic — and for good reason

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Ben Simmons keeps getting linked with Magic — and for good reason

Ben Simmons and Magic Johnson. It’s not such a crazy comparison.

With 17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists in the Sixers’ 106-102 Game 4 win Saturday, Simmons became the first rookie to record a playoff triple-double since Johnson in 1980.

It’s not the first time Simmons has been linked with Magic, nor will it be the last. At 6-10, Simmons’ elite passing ability, versatility and flair in the open court mirror the 6-9 Johnson. With 12 regular-season triple-doubles, Simmons passed Johnson for second on the all-time rookie list, behind only Oscar Robertson’s 26.

Oh, and without Joel Embiid in Game 2 of this series, the point guard Simmons jumped for the opening tip, just as Johnson famously did with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Sixers.

You can chalk up some of the early comparisons with Johnson to the natural tendency to see parallels when looking at graceful point guards in big bodies or just insane statistical coincidences, but there’s one important similarity it looks like Simmons might have with Magic — an affinity for big games.

Simmons guided the Sixers to a massive win Saturday, helping his team take a 3-1 series edge over the Heat despite a season-high 26 turnovers. Though Simmons posted seven turnovers himself, he directed the offense masterfully in the second half.

In the fourth quarter, the Sixers had just three turnovers and executed well in their half-court offense despite the extremely physical Heat defense. Simmons scored 15 of his points after halftime, including a powerful drive and dunk with 58.2 seconds left to give the Sixers a 102-99 lead after Dwyane Wade had cut the deficit to one.

As he typically does, Simmons deflected the attention away from himself after the game when asked about joining Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry Lucas and Tom Gola on the list of rookies with playoff triple-doubles.

“I think it just means I’m doing my job,” Simmons told reporters. “The stats I’ve averaged all season have been up there, so it’s not really anything new for the team or myself. As long as we’re winning, I’m happy. All those accolades will come if we’re all doing the right thing.”

Joel Embiid, however, wasn’t shy in talking up his point guard’s accomplishment.

“He was a monster,” Embiid said. “I think that’s the first time the Sixers had a triple-double [in the playoffs] since Charles Barkley, so that’s big-time.”

Embiid knows his Sixers history. Barkley was indeed the last Sixer to record a postseason triple-double. He recorded 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists on April 27, 1991, in a 116-112 OT win in Milwaukee.

JJ Redick was also impressed with Simmons, though he’s getting used to these sort of historic games.

“Ben is Ben,” Redick said. “It’s almost become expected now that he’s gotta go average a triple-double. He’s very tough physically, but he’s even tougher mentally. The last four games have been as vocal and demonstrative as I’ve seen him all season. He’s been fantastic. He’s coming out of his shell in regards to leadership, and that’s huge for us.”

Simmons is averaging 19.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists through the first four games of his playoff career. He’s not quite averaging a triple-double, but he’s about as close as you can get.

And for the record, Magic had five triple-doubles in that incredible 1980 postseason with the Lakers. With Simmons' immense talent and poise under pressure, that’s another Magic milestone within his reach.

Sixers-Heat reaches new level of physicality as stakes heighten

Sixers-Heat reaches new level of physicality as stakes heighten

BOX SCORE 

MIAMI — Just when it seemed like the Sixers-Heat first-round series couldn’t get any more physical, guess what? It did. 

Whichever teams win this series isn’t going to do so without a fight, and now the Sixers are one victory away from advancing to the second round. 

“I love the physicality,” Joel Embiid said following the Sixers' 106-102 Game 4 win

The Sixers and Heat have had no choice but to embrace it. Each squad has come out swinging (not literally, though at times it has felt close to that) in a fervent battle for postseason survival.

The tone of the series was encapsulated in a sequence that began with a turnover and subsequent fight for a loose ball and ended with players being separated on the other end of the court. 

With under five minutes to play in the second quarter, Goran Dragic stole the ball from Dario Saric. Sixers and Heat players hit the floor grappling for possession, during which Josh Richardson suffered a shoulder injury and Justise Winslow suffered a cut to his face. 

Dragic ran the fast break across half court, where he was fouled by Ben Simmons. As he continued to go up toward the basket, Covington pushed off on him. 

“He just kept playing,” Covington said. “In order to not allow him to run into me or run me over, I braced myself. That’s just how that play happened. His momentum took him to where I braced myself and he just bounced off of me.”

James Johnson then pushed Covington into the stanchion. Simmons interjected to get Johnson away from Covington. Embiid ran down from the other end of the floor, too, as whistles sounded and players were tangled up. Double technical fouls were called on Covington and Johnson.

“He was protecting his guy,” Covington said of Johnson. “Ben did the same exact thing. I was protecting myself in the first place. If he’s going to keep playing and keep playing on, there’s consequences. Overall, it wasn’t a means to try to hurt him or anything, but I was bracing myself.” 

The first-round matchup has been a crash course in the importance of chemistry. Players hurried over to their teammates during the tie up and on other plays throughout the afternoon. 

"If someone is going to push my teammate, I'll be there for them," Simmons said. "Everyone's got my back on my team. I think vice versa, it's the same with everybody on the Heat. They have each other's back and that's the way we want to play. We play as a team." 

There have been 10 technical fouls called on the Sixers and Heat in Games 3 and 4 combined. Will that number increase by the end of the series? The Heat are on the brink of elimination and plan to bring an unrelenting attitude to the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday. 

"We still have a chance," Dragic said. "So we're not going to go home and feel sorry about it and just come to Philly with the white flag. That's not us."

That wouldn't be characteristic of the series, either.