Sixers get most improbable win of all on road trip

Sixers get most improbable win of all on road trip


CLEVELAND — Of the games on the Sixers’ three-stop road trip, a win over the Cavaliers seemed the least likely. The Wizards and Heat? Sure, that should have been doable. A victory in Cleveland? The Sixers hadn’t achieved that since March 29, 2013. 

Yet it was in the more improbable matchup against the third-seeded team in the Eastern Conference that they came out on top, 108-97 (see observations)

"We won't get too ahead of ourselves,” Brett Brown said. “We're proud of the win. Anytime you can beat a team that LeBron James plays on, you must have done something fairly decent."

The Sixers knew from their previous two losses they would have to clamp down defensively, especially with the new-look Cavs averaging 114.6 points since the trade deadline roster overhaul.

Cutting back on turnovers was critical; they committed 10 against the Cavs compared to 23 against the Heat on Tuesday. They also had to take advantage of the Cavaliers’ missing pieces — Kevin Love (left hand fracture) and J.R. Smith (team suspension). 

And then there’s containing James. He’s capable of going for 40, 50 points any given night. On Thursday, that number was 30. James led all players in scoring while adding nine rebounds and eight assists. 

James, the potentially soon-to-be free agent who wore blue sneakers amid rumors of him touring Philadelphia-area schools (which he denied), was complimentary of the ascending Sixers. 

“You give credit where credit is due,” James said. “I think Philly played well.”

This matchup always is a good measuring stick on both ends of the floor for Ben Simmons, who now has faced James three times his rookie season. Simmons neared a triple-double (18 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) while learning from facing his big brother-type.

“It’s fun because I know he’s a great, competitive player and I’m the same way,” Simmons said. “Playing against him, obviously one of the best to play the game, so it’s a great vibe out there. The whole team is into it and it’s very competitive. That was a big win for us.”

The game wasn’t all handshakes and smiles. With the Sixers up eight and 12.2 seconds to play, Dario Saric dunked to push the lead. Jordan Clarkson took exception to Saric scoring rather than holding the possession and threw the ball off Saric’s back. Clarkson was ejected.

“Basketball," Clarkson said. "That’s it. Part of the game. If anybody says different or they want to think they would’ve done something different or anything else, they’re lying, especially if it was that point in the game.”

Saric was taken aback by Clarkson’s reaction but offered an apology on the play. 

"I thought we are NBA players," Saric said. "To be mad on something like that, for me, is like a little bit weird. But I want to apologize to the organization, to them, to fans. It's not against somebody. It's not like intentional."

The Sixers are looking to bring this momentum back to the Wells Fargo Center for Friday’s game against the Hornets before heading back on the road to face another series of playoff teams, starting Sunday in Milwaukee. 

Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Raptors' win streak

USA Today Images

Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Raptors' win streak

TORONTO — Russell Westbrook had 37 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds for his fifth straight triple-double, Steven Adams scored 25 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Raptors 132-125 on Sunday, snapping Toronto's winning streak at 11.

Paul George scored 22 points and Carmelo Anthony had 15 as the Thunder extended their winning streak to six. Corey Brewer scored 10 points for Oklahoma City.

DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points and Kyle Lowry fouled out with 22 points and 10 assists as the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors suffered just their sixth home loss of the season. Toronto is 29-6 at Air Canada Centre, the best home record in the NBA.

DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and Raptors coach Dwane Casey were all ejected in the final minute for complaining to the officials. DeRozan was incensed after not getting a call on his drive with 30 seconds left, and picked up two technicals in the following 22 seconds (see full recap).

Davis leads Pelicans past Celtics
NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis had 34 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the banged-up Boston Celtics 108-89 on Sunday night.

Second-year pro Cheick Diallo had a season-high 17 points and Nikola Mirotic added 16 for New Orleans, which was desperate to win after dropping four of its previous five while in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

Davis capped his night by hitting a baseline fallaway as he was fouled by Abdel Nader to make it 106-85 with 3:35 to go. The shot brought the crowd to its feet as Davis stumbled toward the sideline, where he exchanged high-fives with several fans before walking to the foul line to hit his foul shot.

The play capped a 22-6, fourth-quarter run to blow open what had been a tight game for most of the first three quarters (see full recap).

Harden scores 34 as Rockets hold off Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, and Houston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-120 on Sunday night for the Rockets' 26th win in 28 games.

The West's top team led by as many as 25 before the Timberwolves, holding on for dear life in a tightening playoff race, pulled within five in the fourth. The loss dropped the Wolves into the eighth playoff spot after they started the day in a three-way tie for fifth.

Harden had 11 points in the final 6:34, including a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that effectively secured the win.

Chris Paul and Clint Capela each had 16 points for the Rockets.

Jeff Teague led Minnesota with 23 points, Andrew Wiggins had 21, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Jamal Crawford each added 20 (see full recap).

Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

USA Today Images

Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal scored 19 points, Marcin Gortat had 18 and the Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night in a possible playoff preview.

Washington (40-30) earned its second straight win to move into a tie with Indiana for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. The Wizards also claimed the first tiebreaker by taking two of three in the season series.

Gortat was 6 for 8 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. He scored a total of 17 points in his previous four games.

Washington went 10 for 20 from 3-point range and shot 54.8 percent from the field overall. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had 16 points for the Wizards, and Markieff Morris added 15 (see full recap).

Giannis' double-double helps Bucks hold on to beat Hawks
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 12 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 23 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held on for a 122-117 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

The Bucks finished off the Eastern Conference's worst team with a game-ending 11-5 run, pushing the pace after the Hawks lost ball-handler Dennis Schroder. The guard fouled out with 2:46 left, and was called for a technical foul after exchanging words with an official on the way to the sideline.

Middleton hit the free throw that started the run. The Hawks looked rushed on their next two possessions with a turnover and a blocked shot, allowing the Bucks to brush past them.

Trailing by 13 at one point, Atlanta put up a spirited fight before losing its 50th game of the year. Taurean Prince scored 38 points, while Schroder finished with 18 (see full recap).

LeBron gets 33 points in triple-double as Cavs beat Bulls
CHICAGO — LeBron James scored 33 points as part of a triple-double, Jordan Clarkson had a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:27 left and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls 114-109 on Saturday night.

James had 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his 15th triple-double of the season, and Jeff Green added 21 points. Clarkson finished with 19 points to help the Cavaliers salvage a six-game split on their season-high six-game trip.

Denzel Valentine led Chicago with a career-high 34 points, hitting 8 of 11 from long range. The Bulls wiped out a 17-point halftime deficit even though they held out banged-up core players Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, only to come up short in the closing minutes.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue spent the second half in the locker room with an illness, another hit for an already short-handed team (see full recap).