Sixers-Celtics observations: Too much Kyrie Irving

Sixers-Celtics observations: Too much Kyrie Irving


BOSTON — No Joel Embiid. No T.J. McConnell. No day off in between games. No home-court advantage.

With all those factors against them Thursday, the Sixers still made their matchup against the NBA-best Celtics competitive even if the 108-97 final score doesn’t reflect that fact.

The Sixers overcame a 10-point halftime deficit as they opened the second half on a 22-10 burst to lead by two. However, they still ended up trailing, 76-71, after three quarters. Despite several pushes by the Sixers, the Celtics were able to turn their advantage back into a double-digit lead to put the game away.

The Sixers dropped to 12-9 on the season and 1-2 without Embiid, while Boston improved to 19-4.

• Let’s get to the hot topic: would there be Round 2 of Hack-a-Ben? Ben Simmons actually attempted just four free throws (3 for 4). The Celtics, unlike the Wizards, weren’t in a position where they needed to stall the Sixers’ offense to dig out of a 20-point hole. Simmons posted 15 points, six assists and seven rebounds in another 40-minute night. 

• Dario Saric thrives when he gets the opportunity for more touches. That’s the case without Embiid. Saric recorded an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, and added four assists in 35 minutes. 

• Robert Covington struggled to find an offensive groove. He went 3 for 10 from long range with two of those makes not coming until the final 6:05 of play. JJ Redick, on the other hand, was an efficient 4 for 6 from long range (17 points). 

• Kyrie Irving got the job done for the Celtics all over the court. Of his 36 points, 15 were on threes and seven were at the line. Al Horford poured in another 21 points. Jayson Tatum, who will be linked to the Sixers because of the No. 1 pick swap, added 15 points. The rookie has settled in nicely with the Celtics’ starting five. 

• Brett Brown started Amir Johnson in place of Embiid. He went with the veteran over Richaun Holmes because Johnson has been the backup center for most of the season. Johnson had six points, six rebounds and four assists. 

• Holmes was focused on using his athleticism to bring energy off the bench. He connected on hustle plays fighting at the basket and finished with nine points and seven boards. Holmes did not play in the previous game against the Wizards. 

• Johnson took a loud spill and stayed down on the ground in the second quarter. The veteran got up and stayed in the game. Later, Johnson came up walking gingerly after getting tripped up and fouled by Daniel Theis while running the break off his own steal. The Sixers can count on Johnson to battle through whatever he can. He came into the league on the Pistons with tough-minded players like Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace to show him the NBA ropes. 

• The Sixers traveled light to Boston. Four players were not with the team. Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) is in Kentucky for physical therapy. Embiid stayed back as part of his back-to-back restriction. McConnell, who suffered a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder on Wednesday, expectedly remained in Philadelphia. Jahlil Okafor did not make the trip either, listed as individualized training. 

• Simmons looked like he was trying out for the Sixers’ Dunk Squad with this move:

• Injury updates: In addition to those noted above, Justin Anderson remains out (left leg). Boston’s Gordon Hayward (left ankle) has been out since opening night. 

• Former Sixer (and former Celtic) Dana Barros was in attendance. Barros is a community relations consultant for the Celtics. 

76ers Gaming Club to participate in NBA 2K League

NBA 2K League

76ers Gaming Club to participate in NBA 2K League

The 76ers Gaming Club is Philadelphia’s latest professional esports brand. 

Set to compete in the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League, the fresh new esports brand —  which was officially released on Thursday by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment — maintains the Sixers' classic style, which includes seven stars circling around a bell made up of the numbers seven and six. 

“We are excited to unveil 76ers GC’s new brand identity as we welcome another dynamic sports property to the Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment family,” said Chris Heck, Philadelphia 76ers President of Business Operations. “Working alongside the NBA 2K League, we developed a brand identity that pays homage to the revolutionary origins of this city, speaks to the new Philadelphia fan and exemplifies the edge of the esports audience.”

Aggressive in its pursuit of esports investment opportunities, HBSE, already owners of Team Dignitas, a highly respected competitive esports club, bought into NBA 2K League with 16 other NBA franchises back in May. 

76ers GC joins Kings Guard Gaming (Sacramento Kings), Pistons GT (Detroit Pistons), Pacers Gaming (Indiana Pacers), Mavs Gaming (Dallas Mavericks), Cavs Legion GC (Cleveland Cavaliers), Wizards District Gaming (Washington Wizards), Magic Gaming (Orlando Magic), Jazz Gaming (Utah Jazz), Blazer5 Gaming (Portland Trailblazers) and Celtics Gaming (Boston Celtics). Also included will be the Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks.

While 76ers GC was born to participate in NBA 2K League, it should be noted that the name “76ers Gaming Club” is void of any mention or image of basketball or NBA 2K. This leaves open the possibility of 76ers GC adding more competitive games and gamers under its brand in the future.

NBA 2K League is a professional esports league co-founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., the creator of North America’s most popular sports title, NBA 2K. Players will receive a competitive salary and benefits. The league will begin its inaugural season, featuring five-on-five competition in May, following official player tryouts and a live player draft set for March. 

Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

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Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left but committed a turnover and then fouled George.

The Pacers' winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer's blockbuster trade, didn't go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn't have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists (see full recap).

Wizards top Grizzlies in Wall’s return
WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 18 points and John Wall had 13 in his return from a sore knee to help the Washington Wizards hold off the Memphis Grizzlies 93-87 on Wednesday night.

Beal scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, hitting three 3-pointers. Otto Porter Jr. added 14 points, and Marcin Gortat had 12.

Wall missed nine games, with Washington going 4-5 in his absence.

After the Grizzlies took their first lead of the night, 67-65, on James Ennis III's 3-pointer with 8:53 left to play, Washington responded with a 13-0 run and Memphis got no closer than 83-80 the rest of the way.

Andrew Harrison led Memphis with 20 points, JaMychal Green had 15 points and15 rebounds, and Marc Gasol had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies have lost five straight and 16 out of 17 (see full recap).

Lillard leads way as Blazers rally past Heat
MIAMI -- Damian Lillard scored seven of his 18 points in the final 3:16, and the Portland Trail Blazers overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to break their five-game losing streak, beating the Miami Heat 102-95 on Wednesday night.

Lillard, who came into the game averaging 26.6 points, had only one field goal in the first 31 minutes. But he converted a three-point play put the Trail Blazers ahead to stay, 98-95, and sank two free throws on their next possession for a five-point lead.

CJ McCollum scored 28 points for the Trail Blazers (14-13). They climbed back above .500 and improved to 7-5 on the road. The Heat (13-14) fell below .500 and dropped to 5-7 at home.

Miami reserve Wayne Ellington sank seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 24 points. Dion Waiters added 17 points for the Heat, who were hurt by three missed free throws down the stretch.

Both teams were short-handed. Heat forward Justise Winslow left the game in the first half with a left knee strain and did not return, and guard Tyler Johnson sat out because of a migraine.

Miami was also without center Hassan Whiteside for a seventh consecutive games because of a bone bruise in his left knee (see full recap).