76ers

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

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

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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. 

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

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Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

LOS ANGELES — Rookie Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz put on a show in the slam dunk contest to cap off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Mitchell edged Larry Nance Jr. by two points, sealing his victory with a close approximation of the 360-degree spin dunk that Vince Carter used to win the 2000 contest.

"I wanted this so badly," Mitchell said. "This is one of my favorite events of All-Star weekend. To not only be in it, but to win it, it's crazy."

Before making his winning dunk, Mitchell peeled off his Jazz jersey and wore a vintage Carter jersey from the Toronto Raptors.

Mitchell -- three inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Carter -- needed a score of 47 to beat Nance, and he got a 48 from the five judges: DJ Khaled, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Lisa Leslie.

Nance, who was trying to win the contest 34 years after his father won it, had earned a perfect 50 with a dunk off a double alley-oop off the glass.

Mitchell advanced to the finals with a creative dunk in the first round that used his sister, Jordan, as well as Kevin Hart and the comedian's son as props. For that dunk, Mitchell wore a Darrell Griffith Jazz jersey. Griffith participated in the first slam dunk contest in 1984.

"I appreciate Kevin Hart coming out there and helping me out," Mitchell said. "He's my favorite comedian."

Booker wins 3-point contest with record final round
Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns won the 3-point contest with a record 28 points in the final round. He beat 2016 champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Los Angeles Clippers.

"It feels really good," Booker said. "I wanted to go out there and make a name for myself."

Did he ever. He was sensational in the final round on Saturday, when he missed only five of 25 shots.

Each player shot five five-ball racks with a one-minute time limit. The final ball of each one was a "money ball" worth two points, and one of the racks, usually the last one, was all money balls. Booker made the money ball shot on his first four racks, and then made four of the five balls on the money ball rack.

Harris, Booker and Thompson advanced from the eight-man field to the finals. Harris scored 17 points before Booker scorched the nets for 28 points. Thompson followed and scored 25 points.

The previous record was 27 points, set by Stephen Curry in 2015 and matched by Thompson the following year.

Booker, the 21-year-old sharpshooter in his third season with Phoenix, is averaging 24.2 points per game this season as the NBA's 12th-leading scorer. Eleven months after the shooting guard dropped 70 points against Boston to become the youngest player in NBA history to score even 60 in a game, Booker added another accolade to his promising career with the 3-Point title.

Thompson beat the buzzer with his final shot of the first round to reach the finals with 19 points. Booker also scored 19 and Harris had 18.

Dinwiddie tops Markkanen in Skills Challenge final 
Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets won the skills challenge to kick off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Dinwiddie, who played at Taft High in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, beat Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls in the final round.

The skills competition consisted of two players going head to head. They dribbled around pylons, passed the ball into a net, dribbled to the other end of the floor for a layup and then dribbled back to the other end to take a pull-up 3-pointer.

Eight players started the competition, with Dinwiddie and Markkanen advancing to the final.

Markkanen struggled passing the ball into the net, giving Dinwiddie a big lead. Dinwiddie dribbled down the floor and missed his first 3, but drained the next one to win.

Skills Challenge sparks Embiid's inner point guard

Skills Challenge sparks Embiid's inner point guard

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid loves the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean the Sixers' big man is unfazed by the magnitude of the stage on which he is competing.

“I was actually extremely nervous,” Embiid said after the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. "I don’t know why. My heart was beating so fast. I have no idea why. But I thought it was fun.”

Embiid was one of eight players to test their versatility in dribbling, passing and shooting drills. Embiid defeated Al Horford in the first round and lost in the second to Lauri Markkanen. Spencer Dinwiddie took home the trophy.

Embiid pulled off a comeback victory Horford. He trailed after the dribbling and passing drills but beat out the Celtics' veteran at the three-point line to advance.

“That was wild,” Embiid said. “I lost the ball, I didn’t make the first pass and then I just threw the other two balls. That’s a good way to do it instead of wasting time. Then I was way behind and I came back and I ended up making that three and won.”

Horford was stifled when he thought his first three-point shot attempt was going in … and it didn’t. That miss opened the opportunity for Embiid to claim the round.

“The shot, which I was making before, I felt good, and then I think the pressure got to me a little bit,” Horford said. “I just wasn’t expecting that (to miss). I thought I was good. So then by that time, Joel caught up to me.”

Markkanen, the Bulls' rookie, got the best of Embiid in the next round. Embiid tried to rush through the passing drill to catch up to Markkanen, who ended up crossing in front of him at halfcourt for the clinching trey.

“After he made the layup he was a little bit in front of me,” Markkanen said. “But we couldn’t switch sides, so I had to get to the other side someway. So I tried to sprint and get in front of him and distract him a little bit. I think that worked.”

Embiid said with a big smile, "I kind of thought Lauri kind of cheated a little bit. He went in front of me, but it’s all good. It's all fun."

Even if Embiid didn’t win this contest, it wasn’t a total loss. The 7-foot-2 center has long claimed he wants to be a guard one day, and he showed off those backcourt skills. 

“I think I can still be a point guard in my future,” Embiid said.

All-Star Weekend does not end for Embiid with the Skills Challenge. After competing in the Rising Stars game Friday and this contest on Saturday, Embiid has been making sure to preserve his energy for the All-Star Game Sunday. He will start for Team Stephen.