76ers

Sixers-Jazz observations: Road trip opens with 5th straight win

Sixers-Jazz observations: Road trip opens with 5th straight win

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SALT LAKE CITY – Winning on the road is becoming a habit for the Sixers this season.

Buoyed by a season-high 25 points from Dario Saric and 20 points from JJ Redick, the Sixers knocked off the Utah Jazz 104-97 on Tuesday night. The Sixers shot 12 of 27 from three-point range and out-rebounded the Jazz 56-45.

It helped the Sixers snap a nine-game losing streak in the series and a 12-game road losing streak to Utah. They notched their first win in Salt Lake City since 2005.

The Jazz shot just 30.3 percent from the field and trailed by double digits through much of the game. They made runs to close out each half, pulling within two at halftime and cutting the Sixers' lead to 100-97 on a layup from Rudy Gobert with 10.2 seconds left. Ben Simmons and Saric each hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.

• Simmons continues to pepper the stat sheet with all sorts of impressive numbers. He tallied 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks for the Sixers on Tuesday night. It marked the seventh double-double for Simmons this season. That's the most for an NBA rookie through 10 games since Shaquille O' Neal opened his NBA career with 11 straight double-doubles in the 1992-93 season.

• Robert Covington did damage from the perimeter as usual, but he was also active on the boards in helping the Sixers finish with a 56-45 edge on the glass over the Jazz. Covington tallied a season-high 12 rebounds to go along with 14 points. It is his first double-double of the season.

• The Jazz proved lifeless on offense through much of the first quarter to open the door for the Sixers to carve out an early double-digit lead. Utah shot just 23.8 percent from the field and made only five total field goals. Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio each missed five shot attempts in the quarter.

• A tough second quarter erased a double-digit lead for the Sixers. Utah went on a 13-0 run and tied it at 41-41 on a pair of free throws from Raul Neto. A 5½-minute scoring drought was the biggest culprit for the Sixers. They missed 11 straight shots and committed a pair of turnovers in that stretch.

• Rookie guard Mitchell started the second half in place of Rodney Hood after Hood started the game at two guard for the Jazz. Mitchell could make a permanent move to the starting lineup soon with how he's playing off the bench. He totaled 135 points in Utah's first 10 games, becoming just the second rookie to achieve that feat for the Jazz.

• Is there anyone for the Sixers who can provide instant offense from the perimeter the way Redick does? Redick came out on fire in the third quarter. He hit three three-pointers in the first five minutes to help the Sixers push their lead to 15 points. Redick scored 13 of his 20 points in the quarter.

• Saric also proved to be fearless from the perimeter. The second-year forward sank a career-high five three-pointers en route to a season-high 25 points and also had 10 rebounds to earn his first double-double of 2017-18. He averaged just 8.2 points on 36.4 percent shooting in the Sixers' first nine games.

• With Joel Embiid sitting out for “load management,” Richaun Holmes got the start at center. Holmes tallied six points and five rebounds in 15 minutes against the Jazz. It is just the second game back in the lineup for Holmes after he missed eight games with a wrist injury. He looked sharp and played aggressive during the first quarter, scoring on a dunk and a layup to help the Sixers carve out an early 26-10 lead.

• In addition to Embiid, Jerryd Bayless (left wrist contusion) and Markelle Fultz (right shoulder soreness/scapular muscle imbalance) were sidelined for the Sixers. Joe Johnson (right wrist tendon instability) and Dante Exum (left shoulder surgery) were the only players out for the Jazz.

• Sixers coach Brett Brown paid tribute to Roy Halladay before the game, calling him an incredible worker and fierce competitor. “Our organization respects the legacy that he has left behind,” Brown said. Halladay died in a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.

Best of NBA: Magic embarrassed by Celtics before Sixers game

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Best of NBA: Magic embarrassed by Celtics before Sixers game

BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving scored 17 of his 30 points in a blistering first half and the Boston Celtics jumped to an early lead and coasted to a 118-103 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

One game after ending their streak of 16 consecutive victories, the Celtics scored 40 points in the first quarter and 73 by halftime -- both season highs -- to send the Magic to their seventh straight loss. Aron Baynes finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Al Horford had 10 assists.

Still wearing a mask after breaking a bone in his face on Nov. 10, Irving was 9 for 15 from the floor and sank all 10 of his free throw attempts, many with the sold-out crowd chanting "M-V-P!"

Orlando scored the first four points of the game and trailed by just four with less than four minutes left in the first before Boston scored 16 of the next 20 points to take a 40-24 lead. Leading 42-30 early in the second, the Celtics went on an 11-2 run and later got back-to-back 3-pointers from Rozier to open a 28-point lead.

Rozier had a career-high 23 points for Boston, which also topped its season-high for points.

Jonathon Simmons scored 14 points for Orlando, and Nikola Vucevic had 12 points and 11 rebounds (see full recap).

James has triple-double, Cavs beat Hornets for 7th straight
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James had 27 points, 16 rebounds and 13 assists, J.R. Smith made the tiebreaking free throw with 48 seconds left, and the Cleveland Cavaliers extended their winning streak to seven straight with a 100-99 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

James had season highs in rebounds and assists in his 57th career triple-double. He's 41-6 in the regular season against Charlotte and the Cavaliers have won 12 of 13, including eight straight against the Hornets.

After Smith split a pair from the line, both teams missed 3-point attempts and Charlotte called time with 11.1 seconds left. Jeremy Lamb missed a 3-pointer after the Hornets inbounded at midcourt and the rebound was tapped out to Kemba Walker, but his 3-point attempt fell well short.

For Black Friday, the Cavaliers wore black uniforms. Cleveland also wore black jerseys when it won the first championship in franchise history, but the current edition is minus the sleeves from Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

James also switched from yellow to black shoes after scoring six points in the first half.

Smith had 16 points, while Kevin Love had 11 points and 13 rebounds for Cleveland (see full recap).

Pistons overcome 15-point deficit to beat Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Andre Drummond had 17 points and 14 rebounds and the Detroit Pistons overcame a 15-point deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-98 on Friday night.

Russell Westbrook had his sixth triple-double of the season for Oklahoma City with 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds. He missed a long 3-point attempt on the final possession to finish 1 of 10 from 3-point range and 10 of 29 from the field.

Down 10 at the half, the Pistons took their first lead on Ish Smith's jumper in the fourth and expanded it to four on Luke Kennard's only basket of the night, a 3-pointer that made it 88-84.

Oklahoma City had numerous chances, missing three shots on one possession in the final minute. The Thunder had the final possession and Westbrook's 26-footer bounced off the rim.

It was the eighth double-digit lead given up by the Thunder this season on their way to a loss (see full recap).

Joel Embiid credits partying in L.A. for torrid stretch

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Joel Embiid credits partying in L.A. for torrid stretch

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid sometimes looks like he’s having a party on the basketball court. It’s no surprise, then, he credits some actual partying with turning around his season.

Yes, that’s right. After Sixers practice Friday afternoon, Embiid said hitting the town in Los Angeles on the team's recent road trip helped him out of a funk.

“All my close friends live in L.A., so before that, I wasn’t really doing anything, I was frustrated because I wasn’t in basketball shape and I wasn’t having fun on the court,” Embiid said. “So I won’t lie, I decided to go out, have fun a little bit. And that just kind of gave me the energy back, and the next game against the Clippers, I had more than 30 points [32], and then the following game I had more than 40 [46], so I think it’s just about having fun and making sure I can control what I can.”

For what it’s worth, Embiid is averaging 25.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks since the Sixers arrived in Los Angeles. The Sixers are 5-1 in those six games.

As the Sixers keep winning, the expectations keep growing. Is this a legit playoff team? Contenders in the near future? Embiid deals with the pressure that sort of attention can bring the same way he does just about everything else.

“Just be myself," Embiid said. "Have fun on the court. You know, just be myself, and I know it’s going to come, I know the guys are going to find me whenever they have to find me, I know coach is going to call plays for me. I think I kind of figured out if I’m not having fun on the court, I’m not going to play well, so I really need to have fun, and that’s the main thing for me. From there, I’m going to be dominant.”

A big part of having fun on the court for Embiid is trash talk. He insists he doesn’t initiate it, but he’s more than happy to give it back. He’ll be without Ben Simmons Saturday night against Orlando, but he’s eager for some banter with the Magic.

“Me talking trash, it doesn’t usually happen because I want to, it’s because the other guys start talking trash. So if any of the guys want to, I’m up for it. It elevates my game, it makes me play better because I know if you talk trash to me I’m going to talk back, and I’m going to back it up, and that’s going to make me play better. I can’t wait, I really hope they do [trash talk]. It’s going to be exciting.”