76ers

Sixers-Celtics in London should be good to last drop

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Sixers-Celtics in London should be good to last drop

There will be unique performances, rousing introductions, celebrity sightings and much more.

You can expect a little bit of everything during the start as the Sixers tip off Thursday against the Boston Celtics at London’s O2 Arena.

And while there will be plenty of scenes to soak up at the outset of the matchup, things will likely come down to the very end on the court.

In the two prior Sixers-Celtics meetings this season, the games have been decided in the fourth quarter. Boston has won that battle — and the game — in both instances.

“It's go time, man,” Kyrie Irving said of his mindset in the fourth quarter after the Celtics’ 108-97 win over the Sixers on Nov. 30. “Especially when the game is in the balance. It's the best time to play. It's just ultimate freedom.”

That’s a freedom that apparently hasn’t been extended to the Sixers’ side. 

The Sixers were outscored 32-26 by the C’s during the final frame of that loss on Nov. 30 and a whopping 33-20 in the fourth quarter of a 102-92 defeat in their home opener back on Oct. 20.

Outside of missing Joel Embiid in the most recent clash, the normal problems plagued the Sixers in those troublesome fourth periods — missed shots and turnovers. They shot a combined 38.4 percent and committed nine total turnovers in the two fourth quarters against the Celtics this season.

That falls in line with the Sixers’ inability to finish games for most of the season … until now. The team has won four straight and found what it hopes is a closer in rookie sensation Ben Simmons.

“It’s always stuff that keeps coaches up at night,” head coach Brett Brown said of finishing games after the Sixers’ 123-110 win over the Phoenix Suns on New Year’s Eve. “We spend countless hours, like all coaching staffs do, on figuring out the best way to close out a game — offensively, defensively.”

We'll see if the Sixers have benefited from any of that homework when the clock starts ticking down in London.

Sixers swag flying off the shelves this season

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AP Images

Sixers swag flying off the shelves this season

Don’t be surprised if you are seeing more and more people wearing Sixers gear.

This season Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have burst onto the list of the top 15 most popular NBA jerseys, according to NBAStore.com sales from October-December 2017.

Embiid ranks sixth, one spot ahead of the reigning league MVP, Russell Westbrook, with Simmons close behind at No. 8 as both of the Sixers make their debut on this list:

1. Stephen Curry
2. LeBron James
3. Kevin Durant
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
5. Kristaps Porzingis
6. Joel Embiid
7. Russell Westbrook
8. Ben Simmons
9. Kawhi Leonard
10. James Harden
11. Lonzo Ball
12. Kyrie Irving
13. Klay Thompson
14. Damian Lillard
15. Jimmy Butler

The Sixers rank No. 3 in most popular team merchandise, their first time in that position since the 2003-04 season. They trail only the Warriors and Cavaliers:

1. Warriors
2. Cavaliers
3. 76ers
4. Lakers
5. Knicks
6. Bucks
7. Celtics
8. Spurs
9. Bulls
10. Thunder

Even Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz got his own Sixers jersey this season:

A real fight (not an NBA one) breaks out in Magic win

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USA Today Images

A real fight (not an NBA one) breaks out in Magic win

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Evan Fournier scored a season-high 32 points to help the Orlando Magic break a seven-game losing streak with a 108-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

D.J. Augustin added 11 points and three assists in the fourth quarter, when the Magic scored 35 points after trailing by two through three.

Jimmy Butler had 28 points and seven rebounds for the Timberwolves, who had won five straight games by an average of 18.8 points.

Bismack Biyombo had 16 rebounds for the Magic, leading the team with the NBA's worst rebound percentage to a 51-37 advantage.

Fournier and Augustin hit 3-pointers during a 14-4 fourth-quarter run that put Orlando ahead to stay, and Augustin's three free throws with 2:10 left gave the Magic a nine-point lead, the biggest of the game for either team.

Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns answered with 3-pointers to keep the Timberwolves (29-17) in it, but Biyombo scored five straight Magic points to regain an eight-point lead with 50 seconds left.

A loss would have dropped Orlando (13-31) to the worst record in the NBA.

Magic guard Arron Afflalo and Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica were ejected with 7:58 left in the second quarter when they got into a fight while the game was being played.

Afflalo threw at least one punch in the fight, which came four minutes after both players had been assessed technical fouls (see full recap).

Davis scores 45 as Pelicans top C’s in overtime
BOSTON -- Anthony Davis had 45 points and 16 rebounds to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 116-113 overtime victory over Boston on Tuesday night, ending the Celtics' seven-game winning streak.

Davis, who scored 48 on Sunday in an overtime win in New York, had four points in overtime and blocked two shots for the Pelicans, who overcame a sluggish start to the fourth quarter and erased a five-point deficit in the final few minutes of regulation.

DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Jrue Holiday added 23 points and seven assists. Ian Clark added 15 points for the Pelicans, whose size inside ended up prevailing in overtime when Boston's barrage of 3-pointers stopped falling.

Kyrie Irving led Boston with 27 points and Al Horford had 14 points and nine rebounds. Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown added 16 points apiece for the Celtics, who attempted a season-high 50 3-pointers.

Rather than challenge Davis and Cousins inside, the Celtics lived outside and it cost them in overtime when they went just 1 for 4. Horford's 3-pointer early in OT gave Boston a 107-106 lead and Boston went up 113-110 before the Pelicans away put the game.

A jumper by Cousins cut the lead to 113-112, then Holiday added two more field goals and Boston couldn't catch up from there (see full recap).

Jokic’s big night helps Nuggets slip past Mavs
DENVER -- Nikola Jokic scored 29 points and grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds, Gary Harris hit two late free throws and the Denver Nuggets led by as many as 23 points before holding on for a 105-102 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Harris finished with 25 points and Will Barton added 22 for the Nuggets, who won for just the second time in six games.

The Nuggets led 82-59 with 4:04 left in the third before Dallas staged a massive comeback. The Mavericks cut the deficit to one on a three-point play by Dennis Smith Jr. with 10.4 seconds remaining. After Harris made two free throws, the Mavericks had a chance for a last-second shot, but Dwight Powell couldn't corral a long pass as the buzzer sounded.

Smith had 25 points for the Mavericks, while Harrison Barnes contributed 17.

Trying to address the issue of slow starts, Nuggets coach Michael Malone tweaked the starting lineup by inserting Barton and sending Mason Plumlee to the bench. The change worked as Denver led at halftime. That's significant because it halted a streak of seven straight games in which the Nuggets trailed at intermission (see full recap).