76ers

Sixers-Clippers observations: Young guns help snap skid

Sixers-Clippers observations: Young guns help snap skid

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — Welcome back to Philadelphia. I mean, Los Angeles. It was hard to tell by how loud the fans for the opposing team were at the STAPLES Center. 

There were tussles, dunks and back-and-forth basketball in front of a divided crowd Monday night in the Sixers’ 109-105 win. 

• The Sixers started off hot in California. Early on, Robert Covington and Ben Simmons combined to outscore all of the Clippers 17-16. The Sixers dominated the first quarter, 36-28, as only Lou Williams was in a rhythm for the Clippers. 

• You could feel the tension brewing between Joel Embiid and Willie Reed less than two minutes into the second quarter, and it was no surprise things got chippy. Reed took exception to Embiid’s defense when he was called for a traveling violation. Embiid pointed at Reed and smiled it off, which didn’t exactly squash the issue. Quite the opposite, actually. 

On the next trip down the court, Reed pulled Embiid down by the shoulder as the Sixers’ center went up at the basket. Embiid hit the ground, bounced back up and got in Reed’s face (see video). The big men were separated and Reed was issued a Flagrant 1 foul.

• The Sixers pushed their lead up to 14 points five minutes into the second quarter. The Clippers kept chasing, though, and finished the half on a 9-2 run while the Sixers missed four shots and committed three turnovers. The Sixers led 55-53 at halftime, fueled by 19 points by Embiid. 

• The third was another problematic quarter for the Sixers, just like their last game against the Warriors. They squandered a nine-point lead with just over seven minutes to go and found themselves trailing after the Clippers went on a 12-2 spurt. Embiid scored just four points in the third. 

• This was the type of game that felt like it would come down to the buzzer. Embiid tied the game 100 apiece off a cutting layup from Simmons with 1:18 to play. Embiid tried to take the lead at the basket against Reed, who grabbed the rebound off the miss and this time drew the foul on Embiid. Reed gave the Clippers a 101-100 edge off a free throw, but Dario Saric found Covington for three on the other end. Simmons grabbed a Williams miss and drained both his free throws after getting fouled. Austin Rivers reacted with his own trey and it was a one-point game with 11.9 seconds remaining. Covington sealed the win with four free throws in the final 10 seconds. 

• Time to update Embiid’s career notables. Embiid played a career-high 36 minutes (what minute restrictions?), grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds, and scored a season-high 32 points. Covington also set a new career high with 31 points off only 12 field goal attempts. 

• Simmons continues to make double-doubles routine. He recorded his eighth of his rookie season with 22 points and 12 rebounds (see video). Simmons also put on a dunk spectacular throughout the night.

• Remember that note earlier about Williams being in a rhythm in the first? He more than doubled his scoring total in the fourth and finished the game with 31. Brett Brown couldn’t have been that surprised. Earlier in the day he said, "I’m a personal fan of Lou Williams. I just can’t believe he scores still like he scores. He really can score the ball." 

• JJ Redick, who played four seasons for the Clippers, faced his former team for the first time. He struggled on the familiar court, shooting 1 for 7 from three and 3 for 10 overall from the field (10 points). The Clippers thanked Redick with a tribute video in the first quarter. 

• Injury updates: Jerryd Bayless (left wrist), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) remained sidelined for the Sixers. Jahlil Okafor (upper respiratory) also was ruled out. Patrick Beverley (right knee), Danilo Gallinari (left glute) and Milos Teodosic (left foot) were out for the Clippers. 

• Fultz (not in uniform) joined the Sixers on the court as they warmed up out of halftime. The team may have found an unofficial addition to the coaching staff as the rookie was rebounding and assisting on three-point drills after shootaround earlier in the day.

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid didn’t take home MVP honors as planned, but he leaves All-Star Weekend having made his mark on the NBA. 

While Embiid had a strong performance, he and Team Stephen fell to Team LeBron, 148-145, Sunday night.

Here are three things to know about Embiid’s first experience as an All-Star:

Hungry to make an impact
Embiid kicked off the game with a driving dunk. He drew a foul on Anthony Davis to complete the three-point play. Less than a minute later, he knocked down a jumper to score Team Stephen’s first five points.

Embiid finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes. He shot 8-for-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from three.

While he was eager to score, he also recognized the talent of his squad. So when had the ball with just seconds left on the clock and the game on the line, he passed it off instead of trying to be the hero (even if the shot didn’t go in).

"I wanted to shoot it but I felt like I had Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) on my team and (Paul George) was really pressuring me,” Embiid said. “But I felt like I had Steph and Klay on my team, so I felt like it was a better idea to pass them the ball because they’ve been doing that for years and I have a lot of respect for them, and that’s what I did.”

Embiid vs. Westbrook: Round 3
Just when it seemed like the next matchup between Embiid and Russell Westbrook would have to wait until next season, the two were crossed paths in the All-Star Game. Embiid hit a three over Westbrook and then swatted his shot (see video).

Embiid insisted it was all in good nature: “I kind of thought about staring at him and I kind of did. But you know it's all fun. I don't have anything against him. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a great competitor and I love to compete too. So I have a lot of fun playing against him.”

Westbrook, on the other hand, said he didn’t pay much mind to Embiid.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked his opinion of Embiid’s first All-Star performance. “I wasn’t really paying attention, honestly. I was paying attention to our team.”  

Let’s get the 2018-19 NBA schedule now to circle the calendars for their next meeting.

From trash talker to student
Embiid said from the time he was named a starter that he wanted to use this weekend as an opportunity to learn from his experienced teammates. And that he did. 

Check out this rundown of players on Team Stephen whose basketball know-how Embiid sought after.

“Steph, on the bench or during the game, I kind of asked him a couple questions,” Embiid said. “All the guys. (Karl-Anthony Towns) we talk a lot. Draymond (Green), of course, we talked a lot about him not being able to guard me. Of course he mentioned when we blew the lead against them, of course he had to mention that … Kyle (Lowry) was amazing. DeMar (DeRozan), always amazing. James (Harden), amazing. Al (Horford) was great; I love spending time with him. All those guys, they were great.”

Lowry was among many fellow All-Stars to appreciate Embiid’s talent so early in his career.

“(My advice is) continue to be him, and I think that’s his best trait,” Lowry said. “He’s a very hungry, humble guy, super talented, He’s just trying to figure it out and learn the game.”

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Embiid will return to Philadelphia from Los Angeles where he has one big to-do list after participating in the Rising Stars game, Skills Challenge and All-Star Game. Embiid plans to sleep.

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

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AP Images

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

LOS ANGELES — Rookie Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz put on a show in the slam dunk contest to cap off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Mitchell edged Larry Nance Jr. by two points, sealing his victory with a close approximation of the 360-degree spin dunk that Vince Carter used to win the 2000 contest.

"I wanted this so badly," Mitchell said. "This is one of my favorite events of All-Star weekend. To not only be in it, but to win it, it's crazy."

Before making his winning dunk, Mitchell peeled off his Jazz jersey and wore a vintage Carter jersey from the Toronto Raptors.

Mitchell -- three inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Carter -- needed a score of 47 to beat Nance, and he got a 48 from the five judges: DJ Khaled, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Lisa Leslie.

Nance, who was trying to win the contest 34 years after his father won it, had earned a perfect 50 with a dunk off a double alley-oop off the glass.

Mitchell advanced to the finals with a creative dunk in the first round that used his sister, Jordan, as well as Kevin Hart and the comedian's son as props. For that dunk, Mitchell wore a Darrell Griffith Jazz jersey. Griffith participated in the first slam dunk contest in 1984.

"I appreciate Kevin Hart coming out there and helping me out," Mitchell said. "He's my favorite comedian."

Booker wins 3-point contest with record final round
Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns won the 3-point contest with a record 28 points in the final round. He beat 2016 champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Los Angeles Clippers.

"It feels really good," Booker said. "I wanted to go out there and make a name for myself."

Did he ever. He was sensational in the final round on Saturday, when he missed only five of 25 shots.

Each player shot five five-ball racks with a one-minute time limit. The final ball of each one was a "money ball" worth two points, and one of the racks, usually the last one, was all money balls. Booker made the money ball shot on his first four racks, and then made four of the five balls on the money ball rack.

Harris, Booker and Thompson advanced from the eight-man field to the finals. Harris scored 17 points before Booker scorched the nets for 28 points. Thompson followed and scored 25 points.

The previous record was 27 points, set by Stephen Curry in 2015 and matched by Thompson the following year.

Booker, the 21-year-old sharpshooter in his third season with Phoenix, is averaging 24.2 points per game this season as the NBA's 12th-leading scorer. Eleven months after the shooting guard dropped 70 points against Boston to become the youngest player in NBA history to score even 60 in a game, Booker added another accolade to his promising career with the 3-Point title.

Thompson beat the buzzer with his final shot of the first round to reach the finals with 19 points. Booker also scored 19 and Harris had 18.

Dinwiddie tops Markkanen in Skills Challenge final 
Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets won the skills challenge to kick off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Dinwiddie, who played at Taft High in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, beat Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls in the final round.

The skills competition consisted of two players going head to head. They dribbled around pylons, passed the ball into a net, dribbled to the other end of the floor for a layup and then dribbled back to the other end to take a pull-up 3-pointer.

Eight players started the competition, with Dinwiddie and Markkanen advancing to the final.

Markkanen struggled passing the ball into the net, giving Dinwiddie a big lead. Dinwiddie dribbled down the floor and missed his first 3, but drained the next one to win.