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Sixers-Celtics thoughts: Blockbuster trade subjects highlight home opener

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Sixers-Celtics thoughts: Blockbuster trade subjects highlight home opener

Sixers (0-1) vs. Celtics (0-2)
7 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports app. Pregame Live at 6. 

The Sixers (0-1) lost their season opener to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday in a fashion that has become quite familiar in recent years.

The Sixers stood toe-to-toe with the Wiz for most of the night, fell behind late, and then made a run in the final minutes only to come up short in a 120-115 defeat.

While an admirable effort against one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams, JJ Redick made it clear that moral victories are no longer acceptable (see story).

Now the Sixers are ready to host the Boston Celtics in front of what is expected to be a raucous crowd for their home opener at the Wells Fargo Center (see story).

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

• What was all that chatter about a minutes restriction? Joel Embiid went well over what was expected to be his allotted time limit in the season opener when he played 26:57.

Afterward, both Embiid and Sixers head coach Brett Brown explained that this season, the center’s minutes will be within more of a “range” and follow a “plan.” Essentially, how much the big man plays will depend on his stamina and the flow of the game.

Embiid managed 18 points, 13 rebounds and three assists in the opener. However, he admitted there were areas that need improvement (he did commit four turnovers and was late on some defensive rotations).

• You had to like what you saw from Ben Simmons against the Wizards. He scored 18 points on 7 of 15 shooting to go along with 10 boards, five assists, two steals, one block and a single turnover.

More importantly, the point guard played with poise and conviction as he set up the Sixers’ offense.

Sixers fans might not like the fact that several of the team’s young players have missed what would have been their rookie seasons. However, there is something to be said about the advancement of a guy that has been around an NBA team for an entire year before playing a game.

• Before we get any further, let’s hope for a speedy and healthy recovery for Gordon Hayward.

By now you know the All-Star forward suffered a gruesome leg injury just minutes into his Celtics' debut.

The C’s will certainly miss his production and leadership this season.

• With Hayward now sidelined, there has been even more attention focused on Kyrie Irving’s transition to the Celtics. 

The star point guard started with a much-hyped return to face his former Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving played well in that one with a double-double of 22 points and 10 assists, but he couldn’t connect on a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer.

Irving followed that effort up with a dud in a loss to the Bucks. He scored 17 points on a rough 7 of 25 shooting, in addition to just three assists and three turnovers.

The Sixers can expect the scoring machine to try and regain his offensive rhythm right from the opening tip.

• Hey, remember when the Sixers and Celtics made a blockbuster trade involving multiple first-round picks and it was all anyone could talk about? Yeah, seems like forever ago now.

Just before June’s draft, the Sixers sent the No. 3 pick and a future first-rounder to the Celtics in exchange for the No. 1 selection. The Sixers took that opportunity to select Markelle Fultz while Boston snagged Jayson Tatum, and the rest is history.

Well, much-scrutinized history. The two rookies will forever be linked and their production compared.

After an injury-filled offseason and camp, Fultz acquitted himself well in his debut. He shot 5 for 9 from the field for 10 points with three rebounds, an assist and a highlight block. Of course, there were also those awkward looking free throws (see story).

On the other side, Tatum has had it about as rough as possible in his first pair of NBA games when it comes to matchups. He started off with LeBron James in the Celtics’ opener before coming back the next night and facing Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

That hasn’t been the best experience defensively, as both James and Antetokounmpo went off. But few men on the planet can handle those players.

Tatum has been productive in his first two games, particularly on the backboard. He’s gobbled up an impressive 22 rebounds to pair with 22 points in two games.

With Fultz playing limited minutes off the bench, it would appear Tatum has the upper hand when it comes to opportunity. But we’ll see what the No. 1 pick has in store for his first regular-season game in front of the home fans.

• Robert Covington made sure that you won’t forget about him this season.

In search of a contract extension, Covington opened the 2017-18 season with a 29-point outburst against the Wizards that included seven threes. 

We’ll see what he can do for an encore.

• The Sixers took one of the four matchups last season with the top-seeded Celtics. Their lone win came in the final meeting, a 105-99 victory on March 19. Dario Saric led the way in that one with 23 points.

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

BOX SCORE

Ben Simmons scored a career-high, Joel Embiid recorded a double-double, and still, the highest praise was directed to an unlikely player after the Sixers’ 107-86 win over the Jazz: Amir Johnson.

“He was the MVP of tonight,” Embiid said. 

Johnson embraced the ultimate role player mentality. He didn’t know until shortly before the game if he was going to start in place of Embiid or come off the bench. Embiid, who had been dealing with left knee soreness, ended up playing. So Johnson waited for his name to be called and stepped right into action. 

Johnson began the game with five rebounds in four first-quarter minutes. He finished with 13 boards, eight points and four blocks in 21 minutes. Johnson pulled down 10-plus rebounds for the 98th time in his career (see observations)

“I feel like my job is just to find ways I can help my teammates,” Johnson said. “Knowing Joel, Ben and those guys are going to get the majority minutes, but when I come in I want to be effective at the same time.”

The 13-year veteran has been studying game film. Even though he didn’t get on the court in either of the Sixers’ matchups against the Warriors and played a combined 28 minutes in three road games in California, Johnson has been staying ready. 

“It’s huge for us,” Simmons said of Johnson’s defense. “Having a guy come off the bench and play a role like that. As a vet, he’s one of the leaders. He comes in, plays hard, doesn’t ask for more minutes or anything like that. He’s a great player.”

The Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year, $11 million contract this summer. He proved what he could do on the court since entering the league out of high school in 2005, but the even bigger draw was what he could add to the locker room. Brett Brown reached out to some of Johnson’s former teammates and the assessments echoed one another. Now the Sixers are seeing what those who played with Johnson were talking about. 

“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were,” Brown said. “People skills, work his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. 

“To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

Redick bounces back in 2nd half
JJ Redick is at a point in his career where he isn’t worried about a slow start. He went scoreless in the first half and still ended up with 20 points. 

“Maybe five or six years ago I probably would have been a little more stressed at halftime,” Redick said. “But I just knew there would be some opportunities and stayed patient.”

Brown noticed Redick getting better looks after halftime. He evenly distributed his scoring with 10 points in both the third and the fourth quarters. He shot a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in the third. 

“I’m always going to be aggressive. There just weren’t opportunities to get shots off in the first half,” Redick said. “I scored 20 in the second half, but didn’t feel like I was forcing anything. The opportunities were there. Sometimes that happens within a game.”

Simmons, too
Simmons showed the same kind of poise, even more notable because he is a rookie. Simmons shot 2 for 9 in the first half, shook off the early struggles, and scored a career-high 27 points. He scored half of the Sixers’ 28 points in the third quarter off an efficient 7 for 9 shooting stretch. 

“I thought I was going to have more, honestly,” Simmons said. 

Simmons took advantage of the Jazz missing center Rudy Gobert in the middle. He became the only Sixer since 1963-64 to score in double digits in each of his first 16 games. Simmons is averaging 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Best of NBA: Kyrie Irving helps Celtics rally for 16th straight win

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Best of NBA: Kyrie Irving helps Celtics rally for 16th straight win

DALLAS  -- Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team's first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters (see full recap).

Cavs rout Pistons for 5th straight win
DETROIT -- LeBron James scored 16 of his 18 points in the first quarter and the Cleveland Cavaliers made 11 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a 116-88 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

Cleveland led 73-46 at halftime thanks to an overwhelming shooting performance, an indication that Detroit's stay atop the Central Division might not last much longer. The Pistons still lead the Cavs by a game, but Cleveland has won five straight and scored at least 110 points in eight of its last nine.

The Cavaliers led 27-22 when James went to the bench late in the first quarter. By the time he came back in, it was 50-30. Cleveland's reserves ended up outscoring Detroit's 26-8 in the first half.

The Cavs shot 62 percent from the field in the first two quarters and 11 of 17 from 3-point range. They finished the game 16 of 33 from beyond the arc. Cleveland led 101-62 after three, and the top players for both teams had plenty of time to rest in the final period (see full recap).

Knicks push Clippers' skid to 9 straight
NEW YORK -- Kristaps Porzingis scored 25 points and the New York Knicks extended the Los Angeles Clippers' losing streak to nine games with a 107-85 victory Monday night.

Porzingis outplayed a frustrated Blake Griffin and helped the Knicks snap a 10-game skid in the series with their first victory over the Clippers in five years.

Doug McDermott added 16 points for the Knicks, including a 3-pointer that swung the momentum for good midway through the third quarter.

Griffin scored 21 points but shot just 6 for 17, picked up a technical foul and fouled out with 4:46 remaining. The Clippers (5-11) still haven't won since Nov. 1 at Dallas, when they improved to 5-2.

Patrick Beverley returned after missing five games with a sore right knee and had nine points and six rebounds. But the Clippers are still without fellow guard Milos Teodosic and the rest of their backcourt play was mostly dismal (see full recap).

Oladipo's 29 leads Pacers over Magic for 4th straight win
ORLANDO, Fla.  -- Victor Oladipo had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven steals to lead the Indiana Pacers to their fourth straight win, 105-97 over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.

Oladipo, who played his first three NBA seasons in Orlando, and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for 40 points in the second half, 14 of them during a 16-3 third-quarter run that put the Pacers in command.

Bogdanovic scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half.

Nikola Vucevic had 25 points and 13 rebounds for the Magic, who lost their fifth straight. Aaron Gordon had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Magic finished with 22 turnovers and shot 33 percent in the second half to fall below .500 for the first time this season (see full recap).