Sixers-Cavaliers observations: No match for kings of the East

Sixers-Cavaliers observations: No match for kings of the East


LeBron James took the steam out of any anticipation of a matchup between him and Ben Simmons in a matter of minutes in the Cavaliers’ 113-91 win over the Sixers on Monday.

Simmons began the night defending James and ended it leaving the game late in the fourth with a right ankle sprain. Postgame X-rays came back negative and Simmons will be reevaluated Tuesday morning.

James scored 15 — yes, 15 — points in the first seven minutes of the game. He drove the basket early on and set the tone that he was going to attack often. 

James has a good relationship with Simmons, who considers James like an older brother through being represented by the same agency. However, there was no way he was going to go easy on the rookie. 

James made 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists look easy in 31 minutes. 

Simmons, who attempted just 11 shots, had a quiet night with 10 points, eight rebounds and only two rebounds (see story). He entered the game averaging nearly eight dimes. Simmons did not get to the free throw line and went scoreless in the third. 

The loss snapped the Sixers’ win streak at three and dropped their record to 11-8. Meanwhile, the streaking Cavs (13-7) ran their win streak to eight straight.

• The Sixers didn’t do themselves any favors with their long-range woes: 3 for 28 (10.7 percent). They shot 0 for 11 from three in the first half and did not drain a trey until over four minutes into the third quarter. Robert Covington, who entered the game shooting 46.2 percent from long range, went 0 for 9 (more on why here).

• In a flashback to their days with the Heat, James (22) and Dwyane Wade (12) combined for 34 of the Cavs’ 53 points in the first half. No one else on the Cavs had more than six points through that point. 

• Joel Embiid said my turn in the third. He exploded for 16 points in 11 minutes after scoring 12 total in the first half. Embiid was an efficient 5 for 6 from the field and much more aggressive getting to the line (6 for 7) during the quarter. He matched James’ scoring total with 30 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes (see highlights).

• The game got out of the Sixers’ control in the fourth. They trailed by just three, 72-69, with 3:06 to play in the third. Fast-forward to the final quarter and they were down by as many as 29 points. 

• The Sixers had reached 100-plus points in their previous 14 games. The last time they scored in double digits was Oct. 23 against the Pistons, their fourth game of the season. 

• The Cavs’ bench outscored the Sixers’ bench, 57-30. Wade (15), Jeff Green (14) and Channing Frye (12) led Cleveland's reserves. 

• Injury update: Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) did not play for the Sixers. Derrick Rose (left ankle), Isaiah Thomas (right hip) and Tristan Thompson (left calf) were sidelined for the Cavs. 

• Eagles LeGarrette Blount and Malcolm Jenkins rang the ceremonial bell pregame. Blount sat courtside across from the Cavs’ bench where Thomas, dressed in an Allen Iverson shirt, watched the game. Before they were on the Eagles and Cavs, Blount and Thomas were friends from their time with the Patriots and Celtics. 

Russell Westbrook hits dagger at the buzzer

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Russell Westbrook hits dagger at the buzzer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Russell Westbrook made a 3-pointer as time expired, lifting the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 110-107 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.

The Thunder blew a 23-point lead and trailed 105-102 with 4 minutes remaining before closing the game on an 8-2 run.

Westbrook, who notched his 18th triple-double of the season, made three free throws sandwiched around a bucket in the paint by Steven Adams to put Oklahoma City up 107-105.

Justin Jackson's 6-foot jumper off an offensive rebound tied the game. After a timeout, the Thunder got the ball in front of Sacramento's bench and Carmelo Anthony found Westbrook atop the 3-point line for the winner.

Westbrook lifted the Thunder from what would have been a devastating loss after a fast start in their first game since the All-Star break. They set a season high with 44 points in the first quarter and made 12 3-pointers but still had to rally in the final minutes to win.

Anthony matched his season high of seven 3-pointers and Paul George had three from beyond the arc, ending his five-game streak with five or more 3s. It was the second-longest streak in NBA history behind George McCloud's six-game streak in 1996 (see full recap).

Curry scores 44 as Warriors hold off Clippers
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry swished a beautiful buzzer-beater from way back early and hit another timely 3-pointer late on the way to scoring 44, and the Golden State Warriors returned from the All-Star break and had to hold off the Los Angeles Clippers 134-127 on Thursday night.

Kevin Durant had 21 points and eight assists, Klay Thompson added 19 points, and Draymond Green contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Curry shot 14 for 19, including 8 of 11 from deep, in his third 40-point game of the season.

Coach Steve Kerr challenged the defending champions to begin games better on the defensive end, which they did. Then the Clippers nearly came back with a surge down the stretch in what became an entertaining back-and-forth in the closing minutes (see full recap).

Wizards spoil home debut for new-look Cavs
CLEVELAND -- Bradley Beal scored 18 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. added 17 and tried to untie the sneakers of one of Cleveland's new players, and the Washington Wizards withstood a late assault by LeBron James to beat the new-look Cavaliers 110-103 on Thursday night.

The Wizards nearly blew a late 11-point lead as James scored 14 straight points to pull the Cavs within 106-103. But Beal hit a driving layup and James missed a free throw and committed a lane violation while intentionally missing the second one and the Wizards held on.

Washington is 8-2 since star guard John Wall went down with a knee injury. Tomas Satoransky, who has been starting in Wall's spot, added 17 points and eight assists.

James, back from winning MVP honors at the All-Star Game, scored 32 -- 14 in the fourth -- for the Cavs, who dropped to 2-1 since acquiring four new players before the trade deadline. J.R. Smith added 15 for Cleveland.

The Wizards spoiled the home debuts for Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, four new faces the Cavs are hoping can get them back to the NBA Finals (see full recap).

Sixers close in on 'something special' with great escape

Sixers close in on 'something special' with great escape


CHICAGO — If the Sixers end their playoff drought this season, it’ll be because of the franchise’s big two.

All-Star Joel Embiid and rookie Ben Simmons showed just how much fun that could be Thursday night.

Embiid forced a turnover in the final seconds, Simmons scooped up the ball and made a pair of free throws with 5.6 seconds to play and the Sixers scratched out their sixth straight victory, 116-115, over the Bulls (see observations).

The win halted a four-game road skid but, more important to the Sixers’ fortunes, had Embiid and Simmons’ fingerprints all over it.

Simmons finished with a career-high 32 points and had 11 assists and seven rebounds to come close to his second straight triple-double while Embiid added his ninth straight double-double — 30 and 13 rebounds with four blocks — to pace the Sixers on a night when they didn’t get much else.

“Joel and Ben carried us,” coach Brett Brown said after his team won on the road for the first time since Jan. 26. “I thought everyone else really had subpar performances. You felt like we came out of a break.”

The tanking Bulls — starting center Robin Lopez was a healthy scratch as Chicago joins the dash for better NBA draft odds — made 18 three-pointers in both teams’ return from the All-Star break and appeared to have the Sixers on the ropes after Zach LaVine’s triple with 1:02 to play made it 115-110.

That was the last time Chicago scored.

Simmons followed his miss with a layup and JJ Redick made a pair of free throws with 8.0 seconds left to set up the final defensive sequence that put Simmons at the line.

“First of all, we needed a steal and I saw Joel get it and he kind of lobbed it to me and I said, ‘S---, I better get it,’” Simmons said. “Stepping up to the line, I knew I was going to knock ‘em down. You have to have that mentality. I was put to the line and I can’t be thinking I’m going to miss ‘em.” 

With 26 games to play, the Sixers can move into the upper half of the Eastern Conference with a late surge, but will need solid play — and the workloads that come with it — from Embiid and Simmons. If their contributions Thursday (both players were on the court for at least 30 minutes) are any indication, Sixers fans might have more postseason success to celebrate in the spring.

“We stole that win. Sometimes you need those and that’s what we did tonight,” Embiid said. “It’s fun when you win games like that.”

It’ll be even more fun when games like that happen in the postseason … which looks much more plausible every game lately thanks to the big two.

“They feel something special is close. They feel something special that we’ve worked hard for for four years is just around the corner and no one is taking that for granted,” Brown said.

“There’s no entitlement. We just fight for everything we can get.”