Sixers-Rockets observations: Collapse on D ends with buzzer-beater

Sixers-Rockets observations: Collapse on D ends with buzzer-beater


When the buzzer sounded, all of the Sixers’ efforts leading up to the last five seconds of the game had been erased. 

The Rockets stole a 105-104 victory Wednesday off a three by Eric Gordon as time expired. The Sixers had been poised to snap their seven-game winless streak against the Rockets but blundered their lead by giving up the last nine points to Houston and going scoreless in the final 3:05.

Even though the Rockets were chipping away, the Sixers still looked on the verge of pulling off the upset. They led by five with 30.0 seconds remaining and then it all changed after a tumble at the basket.

James Harden was fouled by JJ Redick on a layup attempt. Joel Embiid was playing so aggressively that he blocked the shot and fell to the floor on top of Harden.

After an official review, Embiid was called for goaltending to count the basket. Harden nailed the free throw to cut the Sixers’ lead to two with a half minute left. 

The Sixers failed to get a shot off on the next possession, which set it up for Gordon and the Rockets to steal a win with five seconds remaining in front of a stunned Wells Fargo Center crowd. The Rockets celebrated at half court while the roar of the arena was quieted. 

• Embiid had played his last game of the previous season on Jan. 27 ... against the Rockets. He showed that injury-stricken period of his career is behind him with 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 25 minutes (see highlights). Even though Embiid looked tired at points in the third quarter, he was in the game at the end. He also put together a series of highlight moments (see below). 

• Gordon hit the game-winner but this game was not without the fingerprints of Harden on it. Harden did what he does and made another double-double look easy. The Rockets' backcourt duo of Harden and Gordon combined for 56 points.

• Ben Simmons fell one dime shy of his fifth straight double-double (14 points, seven rebounds, nine assists) (see highlights). He went 1-on-1 against Clint Capela and drove by the 6-foot-10 center like there was no one standing in his way. 

• How do you make the Wells Fargo Center erupt in cheers? Well, Embiid has mastered a few ways. First, he brought the arena to its feet with a surging dunk from T.J. McConnell. As the crowd began to chant “Trust the Process” in the third, Embiid waved while he stepped to the line. He missed the first and raised his arms again to elicit more noise from the fans. He made the second shot. And then there’s pulling up for a three over Harden and banking it in. That’s always a crowd pleaser. 

• McConnell has made an NBA career out of staying ready. He will be on the receiving end of the majority of Markelle Fultz’s minutes now that the rookie is sidelined with a sore shoulder (see story). Just as he has done in the past, McConnell is prepared to step up in the place of an injured teammate. He said a key to success in this situation is staying consistent, not changing what got him to this point … and making plays like this don’t hurt, either. 

• You know the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed …” Amir Johnson missed a driving slam in the third quarter and fell out of bounds. McConnell stole the ball seconds later and dished it to Johnson as he ran back into play. This time, a smiling Johnson made the dunk.

• Former Sixer Isaiah Canaan got a rude welcome back to Philadelphia when Johnson stuffed him at the basket during a first-quarter drive. The Rockets signed Canaan this week amid the injury to Chris Paul.

Sixers rearrange schedule because of Eagles fever

Sixers rearrange schedule because of Eagles fever

The Sixers coordinated their flight to Memphis with an important schedule in mind: get there in time Sunday to watch the Eagles' NFC Championship Game.

Once there, they have arranged a room with food to catch the 6:40 p.m. showdown as a team the night before they face the Grizzlies.

“We’re going to enjoy this with the city of Philadelphia,” Brett Brown said. “Stuff like this doesn’t come around very often. So on behalf of our team, we say, like the rest of the city: Go Eagles.”

The Sixers and Eagles have been showing their support for each other all season by attending games. Joel Embiid, in particular, has been a familiar face at Lincoln Financial Field, including this memorable reaction to Jake Elliott’s field goal in September.

Embiid noted the momentum of both the Eagles and Sixers this season and what it means for Philadelphia.

“Every time I go to an Eagles game, they always win,” Embiid said. “I’m going to be pulling for them. I want to say good luck. It would be good for the city … Hopefully, they win and on to the Super Bowl.”

Justin Anderson’s support of the Eagles goes beyond playing in the same city. His friendships with Torrey Smith, Rodney McLeod and Chris Long began before the NBA (see story).

“I talked to them and they were really excited,” Anderson said. “They think they’ve got a really good chance. It’d be huge for the city. Going to the Super Bowl, it’d be good. I’m excited, I’m excited. I hope they pull this one out.”

The Sixers will watch the Eagles fight through the postseason as they hope to be doing in April too. They ultimately have the same goal and have an appreciation for how far the Eagles have come already.

“I hope they win it all,” Ben Simmons said. “I’m an Eagles fan now.” 

Rockets beat Warriors in battle of West's best

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Rockets beat Warriors in battle of West's best

HOUSTON — Chris Paul scored 33 points and 11 rebounds, James Harden had 22 points and the Houston Rockets held off the Golden State Warriors 116-108 on Saturday night to snap their 14-game road winning streak.

Harden stepped back from Stephen Curry for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 114-108 with 1:10 left. Harden then blocked Curry's 3-point attempt after a timeout, and Paul made two free throws with 28 seconds left.

Golden State lost away from home for the first time since Nov. 22. The Warriors had won seven straight in Houston.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 26 points, Draymond Green had 21 and Curry added 19 on a night he went 5 of 15 on 3-point attempts.

The Warriors were wrapping up a five-game road trip and had won the first four games to tie a franchise record for consecutive road wins. But they struggled from the outset Saturday and trailed by double digits for most of the first half (see full recap).

Olynyk's free throw gives Heat win over Hornets
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kelly Olynyk scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a free throw with 0.2 seconds left, to help the Miami Heat erase a five-point deficit in the final 34 seconds and stun the Charlotte Hornets 106-105 on Saturday night.

Wayne Ellington had 26 points on six 3-pointers, Joe Johnson had 22 points and Olynyk was brilliant down the stretch.

Nic Batum scored a season-high 26 points and Kemba Walker had 22 for Charlotte, which had a two-game winning streak snapped.

Charlotte led 105-100 when Johnson got free for a dunk. The Hornets inbounded the ball to Batum, but Josh Richardson ripped it from his hands and passed to Johnson, who knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to tie (see full recap).

Thunder score 148 points, keep Lebron short of 30,000 for career
CLEVELAND — LeBron James came up just short of 30,000 points.

Oklahoma City nearly got there, too.

Unable to stop Paul George, Russell Westbrook or Carmelo Anthony, the Cavaliers were embarrassed 148-124 on Saturday by the Thunder, who not only rolled to their fourth straight win but kept James shy of a historic milestone.

George scored 36 points, Westbrook had 23 and 20 assists and Anthony dropped a season-high 29 points as the Thunder tied the record for the most points given up by a Cleveland team in a regulation game. Philadelphia scored 148 on the Cavs back in 1972.

"I've never in my basketball life gave up 148 points, not even probably playing video games," James said. "They got everything that they wanted. Inside, outside, they had it moving." (see full recap).

Pelicans' stars all contribute in win over Grizzlies
NEW ORLEANS — Jrue Holiday scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Memphis Grizzlies 111-104 on Saturday night.

Anthony Davis had 21 points and 12 rebounds but did not score his first points of the second half until he dunked with 1:15 to go in the game, giving the Pelicans a 108-102 lead.

Darius Miller added 12 points in a reserve role for New Orleans, which never trailed but very nearly blew a 21-point lead.

Trailing by 15 at halftime, Memphis scored the first 13 points of the third quarter, part of a 16-2 run to open the half that trimmed New Orleans' lead to a single point with most of the third quarter remaining (see full recap).