Sixers-Jazz observations: A rare sweep of Utah

Sixers-Jazz observations: A rare sweep of Utah


It wasn’t a high-scoring performance like Saturday’s game against the Warriors, but the Sixers got the job done with a 107-86 win on Monday over the Jazz.

The Sixers improved to 9-7 as they swept the season series and beat the Jazz at home for the first time since Nov. 16, 2012. 

• Let’s go to the end of the game and start with the push. 

With four minutes to go, Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell’s drive and then yelled to the rookie as the Utah guard was on the ground. Mitchell bounced up and shoved Embiid, who fell as they started to run back down the court. Was Embiid fazed? Not at all. He made the “T” motion from the floor as Mitchell was whistled for a tech. The crowd broke out in a “Trust the Process” chant and Embiid smiled and waved his arms. Yes, Embiid was in his element. 

• Embiid, who was a game-time decision because of left knee soreness, played 27 minutes. He posted 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Embiid started to hit his stride in the second quarter (seven points, four rebounds in 6:22). The big man, who wants to live at the foul line, didn’t attempt his first free throw until three minutes into the quarter.

• Ben Simmons broke out of a quiet first half in which he shot 2 for 9 from the field (five points). He scored 14 points in the third and finished with a career-high 27 (13 for 24 from the field, 1 for 4 from the line). Simmons had his 11th double-double with 10 rebounds. He had a season-low two dimes. The rookie point guard (four steals) joined Paul George, Steph Curry and Kent Bazemore as the only players with 30 steals so far this season. 

• JJ Redick scored all 20 of his points in the second half. After going 0 for 3 from the field through two quarters, he wrapped up the game by going 6 for 10 from the field (2 for 2 from three).

• The game was in the Sixers’ control the entire way. They held the Jazz to 15 points in the first quarter, the least amount of points scored by a Sixers’ opponent in any quarter this season. That’s what shooting 25 percent from the field will do. The Jazz have had trouble keeping up with the Sixers early on. They actually held the mark for fewest first-quarter points (21) by a Sixers’ opponent in their first matchup on Nov. 7. 

• The starters combined for just nine of the Sixers’ 25 first-quarter points. Robert Covington and Redick were scoreless while T.J. McConnell led all players after one frame with eight points. 

• Amir Johnson impressed with 8 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.

• Two-way contract player Jacob Pullen made his NBA debut in the final minute of the game.

• Injury updates: The Sixers’ Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) were sidelined. Dante Exum (left shoulder), Rudy Gobert (right leg) and Joe Johnson (right wrist) were out for the Jazz. 

• Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery were in attendance. You can imagine what happened.

• The Sixers had a very special guest as the ceremonial bell ringer. Seventeen-year-old Mike Shelly won the Chick-fil-A half-court shot contest on Saturday with a jaw-dropping basket. When the Sixers later learned his story of battling Stage 4 Lymphoma and losing his brother in a motor vehicle accident, they decided to bring him back for a memorable night (see video). In addition to the pregame ceremony, Shelly also will fly with the Sixers to Atlanta in March and tour the Chick-fil-A facility. 

• The Sixers served up Four’N Twenty beef pies at halftime in honor of their first international partnership with the Australian company. My verdict: not bad. NBC Sports Philadelphia video producer Christina Betz has an in-depth review here

Marcus Morris' last-second shot gives Celtics win

AP Images

Marcus Morris' last-second shot gives Celtics win

BOSTON -- Marcus Morris made a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left and the Boston Celtics stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-99 on Tuesday night.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Morris added 21 points as Boston snapped the Thunder's six-game win streak.

Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City, which fell apart in the closing minute.

Boston took an 82-81 lead in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Shane Larkin, who finished with 17 points off the bench.

The Thunder missed 15 of their first 21 3-point attempts before making four straight to go back in front 93-89.

Boston closed to 99-97 on a 3 by Terry Rozier, and quickly fouled Carmelo Anthony with 7.7 seconds remaining. Anthony missed both attempts and the Celtics gathered the rebound.

Out of the timeout, Tatum dribbled across the lane and found Morris on the wing for the go-ahead 3.

Westbrook was able to get off a long 3-pointer on the Thunder's final possession, but it came up short at the buzzer (see full recap).

Schroder’s career night helps Hawks upset Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 41 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, and the Atlanta Hawks stunned the Utah Jazz 99-94 on Tuesday night.

Dewayne Dedmon had 15 points and 15 rebounds to help the Eastern Conference-worst Hawks snap their six-game losing skid and end Utah's winning streak at nine. Taurean Prince made four free throws in the final 11 seconds to clinch the victory.

The Jazz, who won 21 of 23 games in between losses to the Hawks, made their final field goal on Gobert's basket with 2:33 to play and missed their last five shots.

Schroder on a variety of drives and bested his previous career high of 34 points, set in a 110-105 loss to Brooklyn on Jan. 12.

With 2:07 to play and after another of his driving layups, Schroder flailed his arm and caught Ricky Rubio with a hand to the face. He was assessed a flagrant-1 foul and Rubio hit both free throws. Joe Ingles followed with two foul shots for Utah's final lead.

Donovan Mitchell scored 24 points and Rubio had 23 for the Jazz (see full recap).

Towns, Wiggins lead Timberwolves to victory
MINNEAPOLIS -- Karl-Anthony Towns racked up 30 points and 10 rebounds for his NBA-best 60th double-double and Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points in an all-around performance, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 123-109 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night that was critical for their push for the playoffs.

Jeff Teague pitched in 20 points and 12 assists for the Timberwolves, who swept the four-game season series and sent the weary Clippers to their fourth consecutive loss on the commencement of a four-game, six-night trip.

Jamal Crawford scored 20 points and Taj Gibson had 15 points and eight rebounds as the Timberwolves pushed their lead over the Clippers (37-33) to three games. With five losses in their last seven games, the Wolves (41-31) had fallen into eighth place in the Western Conference. Denver (38-33) is in ninth.

DeAndre Jordan led the way for the Clippers with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but Tobias Harris played with flu-like symptoms and finished with only 10 points on 5-for-16 shooting, missing all five of his 3-point tries. Lou Williams and Sean Kilpatrick each had 15 points off the bench (see full recap).

These players could come 'out of left field' for Sixers

These players could come 'out of left field' for Sixers

Brett Brown’s witnessed many playoff battles during his days as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.

That’s when the stars shine brightest in an attempt to help their team hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. It’s also when role players get an opportunity to change the course of a series and leave an imprint that lasts a lifetime.

Think Kenny Smith’s seven three-pointers in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, Steve Kerr’s series-sealing jumper in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals and Robert Horry in, well, too many games to count.

“Every one of my years with San Antonio, 12 of them, somebody came out of left field in one of the games for six minutes, maybe more, and had a significant impact on a win,” Brown said last week.

Sure, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are going to do the heavy lifting. But the real question is who else will make a significant contribution during those crucial postseason moments?

Robert Covington is certainly not planning to shy away from the big stage.

After three months of sliding production, the swingman has regained his shooting form at just the right time as the Sixers appear headed for their first postseason berth since 2011-12. Covington is shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from three-point range with an offensive rating of 128 in March.

“My teammates have been pretty much finding me the same shots, but I just changed up a little bit of my workout, switched it up,” Covington said after scoring 18 points (6 for 12 shooting) in the Sixers’ 108-94 win over the Hornets on Monday. “That’s what allowed me to get where I’m at now. My teammates have been finding me open spots. We’ve been moving the ball really well.

“That’s just doing the right things and waiting on that moment.”

Marco Belinelli knows all about seizing that moment. He’s played — and played very well at times — over the course of 48 career playoff games.

The Sixers got a taste against the Hornets of just how much of a boost Belinelli can give a team when he’s on target. The 10-year veteran scored 21 points off the bench and contributed five of the Sixers’ 18 threes as he sharpens his game for the major challenge on the horizon.

“It’s huge,” Simmons said of finding shooters such as Belinelli and Covington in addition to JJ Redick in close games. “It’s just the way we’ve been playing all year.”

With Justin Anderson now back in the rotation and contributing, it could be the performance of secondary guys that keep the Sixers playing longer than anyone expected before the season started.