76ers

Sixers-Pistons observations: Surviving after disastrous 3rd quarter

Sixers-Pistons observations: Surviving after disastrous 3rd quarter

BOX SCORE

The Sixers were playing the Pistons, but they looked like their own toughest opponents. Not Andre Drummond. Not Tobias Harris. The Sixers were beating themselves.

The Sixers had been skating their way to a victory with a 16-point halftime lead. A second win of the season against the Pistons seemed easy enough.

Then the turnovers began to pile up in the third, and after committing nine, the Sixers found themselves tied at the end of the quarter. The Pistons outscored the Sixers 33-17 in the quarter while shooting 52.9 percent from the field. The Sixers didn’t make a trip to the line, contrasted with 11 for 13 shooting there by the Pistons in the third.

It was back to the drawing board in the fourth, where the Sixers had 12 minutes to try to reclaim everything they had worked for in the first half. They broke an 89-89 tie with seven minutes remaining and stayed ahead of the Pistons for the rest of the game. Drummond fouled out with 2:35 to go and less than a minute later, Dario Saric drew the entire arena to its feet for an eruption of cheer with a key three to push the lead to eight.

The Sixers improved to 13-9 while the Pistons stand at 14-8.

• The Joel Embiid vs. Drummond matchup didn’t turn out to be as heated as expected, but in the end, Embiid drew Drummond’s sixth foul and sent him to the bench for the final 2:35. Pistons reserve Eric Moreland actually committed one of the more physical fouls against Embiid. Sixers fans clearly were aware of Drummond’s comments about Embiid (see story). They booed him every time he touched the ball early on and gave him a standing ovation for fouling out. Embiid finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Drummond had 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals.

• Ben Simmons scored only five of the Sixers' 108 points. He attempted a mere six field goal attempts (2 for 6) and did not get to the line until the fourth. His previous season low was 10 points, having scored in double-digits every other game. Simmons still contributed with 10 rebounds and six assists. He picked up a Flagrant One foul in the fourth period after his elbow caught Stanley Johnson in the face (see video).

• Robert Covington overcame his three-point shooting skid (6 for 13). He drained a pair of treys in the first quarter, key in establishing rhythm for the remainder of the game. Covington, who had been above 50 percent this season, shot 9 for 36 in his previous three games.

• Harris and Reggie Jackson continue to have standout seasons for the Pistons. They combined for 52 points.

• Drummond’s free throw form is effective and certainly unique with a low squat before the release. But hey, it works for the 6-foot-11 big man (6 for 8 from the line). His average is up to 63.9 percent from 38.6 percent last season.

• Injury update: Markelle Fultz (shoulder) is receiving physical therapy in Kentucky. Justin Anderson (left leg) and T.J. McConnell (left shoulder) remain out. Jahlil Okafor was inactive again. Jon Leuer (left ankle) was out for the Pistons.

• The Sixers surprised Philadelphia basketball pioneer Sonny Hill with a tribute during halftime. Allen Iverson made a special appearance to escort Hill to center court for the presentation, which commemorated his nearly 60 years of involvement with the game. The Sixers announced the new Sonny Hill Legacy Award, established to recognize youth who show high character on and off the court.

• Phillies J.P. Crawford and Rhys Hoskins rang the ceremonial bell, donning personalized Sixers jerseys. They met and talked with Simmons before the game in the locker room.

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

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Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

UPDATED: 2:10 P.M.

The Sixers might get some reinforcements back to help try to halt their losing streak.

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell are listed as questionable tonight in Minnesota (9:30 p.m./NBCSP+).

Embiid (back tightness) sat out Saturday night’s loss because of load management and then was a last-minute scratch against the Pelicans Sunday. Covington (lower back contusion), who was injured diving into the stands for a loose ball against the Cavs Saturday, also missed Sunday night’s loss. McConnell suffered a sprained AC joint in the Sixers’ win over the Wizards back on Nov. 29. He came back and played 18 minutes in the team’s loss to the Lakers, but then missed the first two games of the road trip in Cleveland and New Orleans.

Embiid’s injury is not believed to be serious. The big man himself didn’t seem too concerned.

“If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone,” Embiid said Sunday. “But we've got 82 games and they don't want me to push if I'm not a hundred percent, so that's what I did.”

The Sixers will look to snap a four-game losing streak — their longest of the season — against the reloaded Timberwolves (16-11). 

Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

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Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

HOUSTON -- Clint Capela had a career-high 28 points and James Harden scored 12 straight points for Houston in the fourth quarter as the Rockets rallied for a 130-123 victory to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Monday night.

The game was tied with about three minutes remaining after Harden made two free throws. Those were the first of seven straight points by Harden that put Houston's up 124-119 with 1:30 left.

Jrue Holiday made a basket after that, but Harden hit a 3-pointer seconds later to push the lead to 127-121. Harden stole the ball from E'Twaun Moore after a timeout by New Orleans. He was fouled and made both free throws to make it 129-121 with 34 seconds left.

After scoring 48 points in Houston's last game, Harden finished with 26 on Monday, but he tied a career-high with 17 assists, finding the 6-foot-10 Capela under the basket again and again.

Holiday had a season-high 37 points for the Pelicans. Moore had a career-high 36 points and made a career-most six 3-pointers on a night New Orleans set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers (see full recap).

Mirotic, Portis help Bulls blow out Celtics
CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points, Bobby Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA's worst record, the Bulls built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms. The 6-foot-10 forward hit 9 of 14 shots and grabbed eight rebounds in his third appearance.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Before Monday night, Mirotic and Portis had only made headlines together this season for the wrong reasons. Mirotic missed the first 23 games with facial fractures he suffered in a fight at practice with Portis.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics' most lopsided loss of the season (see full recap).

Howard, struggling Hornets roll past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Dwight Howard scored 23 points to help the Charlotte Hornets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-103 on Monday night.

Kemba Walker had 19 points for the Hornets, who had lost seven of eight. Marvin Williams scored 18, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 17 points.

It was Charlotte's second road win of the season in 12 tries.

Russell Westbrook had 30 points and seven assists and Paul George scored 20 points for the Thunder after missing the previous two games with a right calf contusion.

Charlotte shot 53 percent from the field against one of the league's best defensive teams. The Bobcats made 13 of 25 3-point attempts (see full recap).