Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid's X-rays negative; Simmons starstruck in win

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid's X-rays negative; Simmons starstruck in win


DALLAS — Joel Embiid wrapped up his Saturday night with an X-ray and the results were positive … for both him and the Sixers.

Embiid suffered a right-hand contusion during the Sixers' 112-110 win over the Mavericks and the team got a closer look at the hand afterward. The results of the x-ray came back negative.

In the win — the Sixers' first in Dallas since Jan. 29, 2005 — Embiid played more than 39 minutes, including eight in the fourth quarter, and was on the court at the end for the game. He scored 23 points, with nine rebounds and four assists.

The Sixers practice Sunday and more information about Embiid's hand will be available then.

No spoilers this time
The Sixers were just days removed from a buzzer-beating loss to the Rockets and after extensively studying late-game film, they weren’t about to let it happen again against the Mavericks.

Again, the Sixers found themselves trying to cling to the lead as time wound down. This time, it was different.

The Sixers were forced to clamp down on defense as seconds ticked away and then pulled away with the win.

“It was one of the same types of situations that we let them get back into the game instead of finally putting them away,” Robert Covington said. “That’s a game of runs, but in this game, we learned how to close. We knew that we had to lock in and get the stops that we needed. It’s unfortunate that we put ourselves in that situation, but it’s part of what’s going to help us grow as a team.” 

Brett Brown saw progress in specific areas from Wednesday’s loss, including finding Embiid more often and improving inbounding the ball. He recognized there still is much work to be done with the experience on the roster.  

“It’s the evolution of this young team,” Brown said. “You’re never satisfied. Somewhere probably tomorrow you’re going to realize you won, but there’s always things you wish you could have done better.”

Unconventional defense
In addition to Embiid’s statistical highlights, he also committed seven turnovers and accounted for half of the Sixers’ team total.

The Mavericks stifled Embiid with a zone defense that factored into some of those errors. That approach posed different challenges than when he was guarded one-on-one by Nerlens Noel. 

“Against Dirk (Nowitzki), it was more of a zone,” Embiid said. “That’s something I haven’t seen since college. I wouldn’t say that was the cause of all my turnovers, but I just got to do a better job of it. It was different.”

Appreciating a future Hall-of-Famer 
Ben Simmons is only 21 years old, but he doesn’t get taken aback by a lot of players in the league. After all, he has developed a close relationship with LeBron James and sees his opponents as his peers.

Nowitzki, however, is one of the exceptions.

“That’s awesome,” Simmons said of competing against the 20-year veteran. “I kept telling JJ (Redick) actually when he was on the bench, ‘That’s Dirk. That’s Dirk.’ That’s special.”

Embiid has his own kind of appreciation for Nowitzki, too. They got to know each other through a Basketball Without Borders trip and are in a group text together. The last time they spoke before the Sixers' trip to Dallas was just one week ago. 

“He’s a good friend,” Embiid said. “I call him one of my big brothers. … That was my first time playing against him and playing against a legend like him is always good. I wanted to do his move against him. I almost did it, but the ball got stripped. But it was a great battle.”

Raining threes
The Sixers and Mavericks weren’t shy from the three-point line. The Sixers made 16 (45.7 percent) while the Mavericks netted 19 (47.5 percent). Those were the top-two totals around the league Saturday. Harrison Barnes hit 7 of 12. Dario Saric led the Sixers with four treys and Covington and Embiid were right behind with three apiece. 

The long-range shooting makes it easier for the Sixers’ point guards to find recipients of open looks. 

“It opens up the floor so much more, gives you driving lanes,” T.J. McConnell said. “Then when people collapse, you’re reversing the ball and that’s when the ball starts moving and it becomes easier.”

Not just a reunion for Noel
Justin Anderson returned to the American Airlines Center for the first time since being traded for Noel in February.

The game was overshadowed by Noel’s matchup with Embiid, but Anderson was dealing with his own feelings about facing his former team. 

“Man, it was weird,” Anderson said. “The biggest thing I kept beating myself up about is, it’s not about me. As much as I wanted to make it about me, as much I felt as though I made so many relationships, so many friends here, and people were like, ‘Justin’s coming back to play in Dallas,’ well, Nerlens was playing against his old team. It wasn’t about me.

"On my way to the gym, I let it all go and said I’m going to go out there and do everything I can to help our team win. Sure enough, we came out with a W.” 

Anderson appeared in 106 games for the Mavericks over parts of his first two seasons. 

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz


Ben Simmons scored a career-high, Joel Embiid recorded a double-double, and still, the highest praise was directed to an unlikely player after the Sixers’ 107-86 win over the Jazz: Amir Johnson.

“He was the MVP of tonight,” Embiid said. 

Johnson embraced the ultimate role player mentality. He didn’t know until shortly before the game if he was going to start in place of Embiid or come off the bench. Embiid, who had been dealing with left knee soreness, ended up playing. So Johnson waited for his name to be called and stepped right into action. 

Johnson began the game with five rebounds in four first-quarter minutes. He finished with 13 boards, eight points and four blocks in 21 minutes. Johnson pulled down 10-plus rebounds for the 98th time in his career (see observations)

“I feel like my job is just to find ways I can help my teammates,” Johnson said. “Knowing Joel, Ben and those guys are going to get the majority minutes, but when I come in I want to be effective at the same time.”

The 13-year veteran has been studying game film. Even though he didn’t get on the court in either of the Sixers’ matchups against the Warriors and played a combined 28 minutes in three road games in California, Johnson has been staying ready. 

“It’s huge for us,” Simmons said of Johnson’s defense. “Having a guy come off the bench and play a role like that. As a vet, he’s one of the leaders. He comes in, plays hard, doesn’t ask for more minutes or anything like that. He’s a great player.”

The Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year, $11 million contract this summer. He proved what he could do on the court since entering the league out of high school in 2005, but the even bigger draw was what he could add to the locker room. Brett Brown reached out to some of Johnson’s former teammates and the assessments echoed one another. Now the Sixers are seeing what those who played with Johnson were talking about. 

“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were,” Brown said. “People skills, work his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. 

“To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

Redick bounces back in 2nd half
JJ Redick is at a point in his career where he isn’t worried about a slow start. He went scoreless in the first half and still ended up with 20 points. 

“Maybe five or six years ago I probably would have been a little more stressed at halftime,” Redick said. “But I just knew there would be some opportunities and stayed patient.”

Brown noticed Redick getting better looks after halftime. He evenly distributed his scoring with 10 points in both the third and the fourth quarters. He shot a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in the third. 

“I’m always going to be aggressive. There just weren’t opportunities to get shots off in the first half,” Redick said. “I scored 20 in the second half, but didn’t feel like I was forcing anything. The opportunities were there. Sometimes that happens within a game.”

Simmons, too
Simmons showed the same kind of poise, even more notable because he is a rookie. Simmons shot 2 for 9 in the first half, shook off the early struggles, and scored a career-high 27 points. He scored half of the Sixers’ 28 points in the third quarter off an efficient 7 for 9 shooting stretch. 

“I thought I was going to have more, honestly,” Simmons said. 

Simmons took advantage of the Jazz missing center Rudy Gobert in the middle. He became the only Sixer since 1963-64 to score in double digits in each of his first 16 games. Simmons is averaging 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Best of NBA: Kyrie Irving helps Celtics rally for 16th straight win

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Best of NBA: Kyrie Irving helps Celtics rally for 16th straight win

DALLAS  -- Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team's first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters (see full recap).

Cavs rout Pistons for 5th straight win
DETROIT -- LeBron James scored 16 of his 18 points in the first quarter and the Cleveland Cavaliers made 11 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a 116-88 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

Cleveland led 73-46 at halftime thanks to an overwhelming shooting performance, an indication that Detroit's stay atop the Central Division might not last much longer. The Pistons still lead the Cavs by a game, but Cleveland has won five straight and scored at least 110 points in eight of its last nine.

The Cavaliers led 27-22 when James went to the bench late in the first quarter. By the time he came back in, it was 50-30. Cleveland's reserves ended up outscoring Detroit's 26-8 in the first half.

The Cavs shot 62 percent from the field in the first two quarters and 11 of 17 from 3-point range. They finished the game 16 of 33 from beyond the arc. Cleveland led 101-62 after three, and the top players for both teams had plenty of time to rest in the final period (see full recap).

Knicks push Clippers' skid to 9 straight
NEW YORK -- Kristaps Porzingis scored 25 points and the New York Knicks extended the Los Angeles Clippers' losing streak to nine games with a 107-85 victory Monday night.

Porzingis outplayed a frustrated Blake Griffin and helped the Knicks snap a 10-game skid in the series with their first victory over the Clippers in five years.

Doug McDermott added 16 points for the Knicks, including a 3-pointer that swung the momentum for good midway through the third quarter.

Griffin scored 21 points but shot just 6 for 17, picked up a technical foul and fouled out with 4:46 remaining. The Clippers (5-11) still haven't won since Nov. 1 at Dallas, when they improved to 5-2.

Patrick Beverley returned after missing five games with a sore right knee and had nine points and six rebounds. But the Clippers are still without fellow guard Milos Teodosic and the rest of their backcourt play was mostly dismal (see full recap).

Oladipo's 29 leads Pacers over Magic for 4th straight win
ORLANDO, Fla.  -- Victor Oladipo had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven steals to lead the Indiana Pacers to their fourth straight win, 105-97 over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.

Oladipo, who played his first three NBA seasons in Orlando, and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for 40 points in the second half, 14 of them during a 16-3 third-quarter run that put the Pacers in command.

Bogdanovic scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half.

Nikola Vucevic had 25 points and 13 rebounds for the Magic, who lost their fifth straight. Aaron Gordon had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Magic finished with 22 turnovers and shot 33 percent in the second half to fall below .500 for the first time this season (see full recap).