Sixers-Magic observations: No Ben Simmons, no problem

Sixers-Magic observations: No Ben Simmons, no problem


It had all the makings of a letdown.

No Ben Simmons.

A sick Joel Embiid.

A Magic team hungry to break a seven-game losing streak. 

Don’t be fooled by the slow start. The Sixers (11-7) took care of business Saturday night and dealt the Magic (8-12) their eighth straight loss, 130-111, at the Wells Fargo Center.

• The Sixers lagged early on. They didn’t get on the board for nearly the first two minutes and committed four turnovers in less than five minutes. Meanwhile, the Magic jumped out to an eight-point lead by bigs (and former Sixers) Nikola Vucevic and Mo Speights taking advantage of a visibly hampered Embiid, who had been probable earlier in the day because of a cold. The Magic missed six field goal attempts late in the first, however, and the Sixers outscored them, 15-7, in the final 4:30 of the quarter to lead 31-28.

• Embiid looked … tired. The cold seemed to be getting to him, as he shot 1 for 5 and committed three turnovers in the first quarter. That quick rest lying on the ground next to the Sixers' bench did him some good, to say the least.

Embiid scored 10 points in the first three minutes of the second quarter. He ran up the scoreboard with a mix of threes, jumpers, and-ones and layups. Embiid set a new mark for most points by a Sixer in the second quarter (12) in just the first 4:30.

He easily tallied his ninth double-double of the season: 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in over 28 minutes. 

• T.J. McConnell recorded his sixth career double-double filling in for Simmons, who injured his left elbow Wednesday (see story). The do-all point guard posted 15 points (7 for 12 from the field), 13 assists, seven rebounds, three steals and a block. McConnell notably did this while committing just one turnover in 37 minutes.

• JJ Redick said so much time has passed and so many faces have changed since he played his first six-plus seasons on the Magic, this was like another game for him. The Sixers would like to see another performance like this in another game … and another … and another. Redick scored 29 points shooting 8 for 12 from three. He set a Wells Fargo Center record with six three-pointers made in the first half, the most by any player in any half in the building. He had an obvious chemistry with McConnell, who assisted on five of Redick’s baskets.

• Remember that big-big experiment, the one that didn’t pan out so well in the past? On Saturday, it showed potential. Richaun Holmes played alongside both Embiid and Amir Johnson. Holmes, who has played power forward in his career, is athletic enough to slide over to the four spot and spread the floor for the other centers who like to shoot from long range.

• Brett Brown said, as of early Saturday evening, there had not been a decision made about Simmons' availability for Monday against the Cavaliers. Simmons began his rehab and treatment on Thanksgiving, the day after the injury occurred. 

• The Magic began the season 6-2 but lost seven straight, their last victory on Nov. 10. The Sixers became the fourth team to score more than 120 points in the Magic’s last eight games. 

• Injury updates: In addition to Simmons, Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) did not play. The Magic were without sixth overall pick Jonathan Isaac (right ankle).

• New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler rang the bell to kick off the game.

Actor and Delaware native Ryan Phillippe sat courtside near Kapler. Rapper Lil Dicky, who grew up in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, also was seated in the same row. 

• For all the jerseys worn to Sixers games, this one really stood out on Twitter:

Markelle Fultz named in NCAA corruption scandal

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Markelle Fultz named in NCAA corruption scandal

Markelle Fultz is one of many players named in a Yahoo report exposing high-profile athletes who accepted loans or bribes from former NBA agent Andy Miller, associate Christian Dawkins and Miller's agency, ASM Sports.

Fultz received a loan of $10,000 at some point before attending the University of Washington, according to the report, which utilized documents and bank records found during the discovery process of the federal investigation into Miller.

Other named players include Dennis Smith Jr., Isaiah Whitehead, Tim Quarterman (a teammate of Ben Simmons' at LSU), Bam Adebayo, Kyle Kuzma, Fred VanVleet and P.J. Dozier.

The records also show that Dawkins, 24, sought reimbursement after having dinner with prominent figures such as Fultz, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and unnamed "Villanova coaches." The dinners themselves are one thing, the payment is another.

For more details, here is the Yahoo report, which points out that the findings are so widespread and involve so many universities that punishment will be difficult for the NCAA. 

Russell Westbrook hits dagger at the buzzer

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Russell Westbrook hits dagger at the buzzer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Russell Westbrook made a 3-pointer as time expired, lifting the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 110-107 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.

The Thunder blew a 23-point lead and trailed 105-102 with 4 minutes remaining before closing the game on an 8-2 run.

Westbrook, who notched his 18th triple-double of the season, made three free throws sandwiched around a bucket in the paint by Steven Adams to put Oklahoma City up 107-105.

Justin Jackson's 6-foot jumper off an offensive rebound tied the game. After a timeout, the Thunder got the ball in front of Sacramento's bench and Carmelo Anthony found Westbrook atop the 3-point line for the winner.

Westbrook lifted the Thunder from what would have been a devastating loss after a fast start in their first game since the All-Star break. They set a season high with 44 points in the first quarter and made 12 3-pointers but still had to rally in the final minutes to win.

Anthony matched his season high of seven 3-pointers and Paul George had three from beyond the arc, ending his five-game streak with five or more 3s. It was the second-longest streak in NBA history behind George McCloud's six-game streak in 1996 (see full recap).

Curry scores 44 as Warriors hold off Clippers
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry swished a beautiful buzzer-beater from way back early and hit another timely 3-pointer late on the way to scoring 44, and the Golden State Warriors returned from the All-Star break and had to hold off the Los Angeles Clippers 134-127 on Thursday night.

Kevin Durant had 21 points and eight assists, Klay Thompson added 19 points, and Draymond Green contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Curry shot 14 for 19, including 8 of 11 from deep, in his third 40-point game of the season.

Coach Steve Kerr challenged the defending champions to begin games better on the defensive end, which they did. Then the Clippers nearly came back with a surge down the stretch in what became an entertaining back-and-forth in the closing minutes (see full recap).

Wizards spoil home debut for new-look Cavs
CLEVELAND -- Bradley Beal scored 18 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. added 17 and tried to untie the sneakers of one of Cleveland's new players, and the Washington Wizards withstood a late assault by LeBron James to beat the new-look Cavaliers 110-103 on Thursday night.

The Wizards nearly blew a late 11-point lead as James scored 14 straight points to pull the Cavs within 106-103. But Beal hit a driving layup and James missed a free throw and committed a lane violation while intentionally missing the second one and the Wizards held on.

Washington is 8-2 since star guard John Wall went down with a knee injury. Tomas Satoransky, who has been starting in Wall's spot, added 17 points and eight assists.

James, back from winning MVP honors at the All-Star Game, scored 32 -- 14 in the fourth -- for the Cavs, who dropped to 2-1 since acquiring four new players before the trade deadline. J.R. Smith added 15 for Cleveland.

The Wizards spoiled the home debuts for Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, four new faces the Cavs are hoping can get them back to the NBA Finals (see full recap).