76ers

Sixers take ugly turn for the worse

Sixers take ugly turn for the worse

BOX SCORE

For three quarters, it looked like Monday night was going to be all about Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Then the Grizzlies stormed back to beat the Sixers, 105-101, rendering Luwawu-Cabarrot’s season-high 20 points worthless.

The Sixers led for most of the game and were up by as many as 15 points, 83-68, with 59 seconds left in the third quarter. Then the Grizzlies went on a 35-15 run, fueled by their stars, Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans, and by the Sixers’ sloppy play.

The loss to the 17-29 Grizzlies puts the Sixers at 22-21 on the season and snaps a three-game winning streak.

Memphis nearly gifted the Sixers the victory with several key mistakes of its own. With the Grizzlies leading, 103-100, Ben Simmons took a charge on Jarell Martin. Joel Embiid then drew a foul with 15.8 seconds left, and made one of two free throws.

After Embiid made the second free throw, Evans dribbled into a trap and Robert Covington forced a steal. With the Sixers out of timeouts, Covington made an ill-advised decision to take a quick, contested three-pointer, which he air-balled. Mario Chalmers made two free throws to ice it for the Grizzlies.

• For someone who entered the game shooting just 31.9 percent from long range, Luwawu-Cabarrot had an incredible night. He hit a three from the right corner on the game’s first possession, then swished one from the left corner a couple minutes later. Though Luwawu-Cabarrot picked up two early fouls, Sixers coach Brett Brown rode the hot hand and turned back to the Frenchman late in the first quarter to spell Simmons. He rewarded the decision with his third three-pointer, this one from the top of the key, to put the Sixers up 20-11.

• Dario Saric also had a good offensive night, with 22 points on 7 of 11 shooting, though he had a couple costly late turnovers. More on that later …

• Luwawu-Cabarrot started for the second straight game because Jerryd Bayless remained out with left wrist soreness. Bayless was supposed to be the starter at shooting guard in JJ Redick’s absence, but Luwawu-Cabarrot has played better than anyone could have expected as the third-choice starter.

• Trailing 36-22 early in the second quarter, the Grizzlies got back into the game, trimming the Sixers' lead down to 52-49 thanks to Gasol’s offense and a couple careless Sixers turnovers that led to easy transition buckets.

• Simmons was guarded by fellow rookie Dillon Brooks. At 6-6, 220 pounds, Brooks is bigger and more physical than many of the point guards who have defended Simmons. When Brooks was out, the Sixers looked to post Simmons up against Chalmers, Wayne Selden and the Grizzlies’ backup guards. Simmons had a quiet offensive night, with six points on 3 for 8 shooting from the field.

• Selden was ejected under unusual circumstances with 4:27 left in the third period. Selden tried to throw down a vicious dunk on Justin Anderson, and Anderson fouled him. The Grizzlies' guard then started talking trash to Anderson, and the officials called Selden for his second technical foul of the game, which results in an automatic ejection. Though Anderson’s foul looked pretty tame, he was whistled for a Flagrant One foul after video review.

• With Mike Conley (left Achilles heel), JaMychal Green (right ankle) and Chandler Parsons (right knee/abdominal injuries) all sidelined, the Grizzlies' offense revolved around Gasol and Evans during the game-defining run. Evans’ three tied the game at 91-91, and his free throw on the ensuing trip gave Memphis its first lead. After the teams traded the lead for the next few minutes, Gasol nailed a three from the left wing to give the Grizzlies a 98-95 edge, and Evans hit a step-back jumper to extend the lead to 100-95.

• Embiid had a rare off night after being named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week Monday for the period between Jan. 15-21. The big man was forced to sit most of the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul. Embiid and the three-time All-Star Gasol went head-to-head multiple times in the final minutes. Embiid ended up with 15 points and 14 rebounds on 5 for 13 shooting from the field and 5 of 9 shooting from the free throw line, while Gasol had 19 points and six rebounds.

• Turnovers hurt the Sixers again, especially in crunch time, and were a big reason why the Grizzlies got back into the game. It’s hard to win a game with a 24-12 turnover disadvantage. 

• Though he was available to play, Richaun Holmes stayed on the bench for the second straight game. Holmes was out last Monday against Toronto and Thursday versus Boston with gastroenteritis.

• The Sixers return home to play the Bulls on Wednesday. Chicago won, 117-115, on Dec. 18 the last time the two teams met, despite a season-high 27 points from Saric.

Rockets extend streak as Butler exits with injury

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Rockets extend streak as Butler exits with injury

HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 31 points and the Houston Rockets won their 11th straight game with a 120-102 victory Friday night over the Minnesota Timberwolves, who lost All-Star Jimmy Butler to an apparent right knee injury.

Butler left the game late in the third quarter. After grabbing a rebound late in the third quarter, he pivoted and planted hard on his right foot before collapsing and grabbing his right knee. He was on the floor for at least three minutes before he was carried off the court by two teammates. He appeared to avoid putting weight on his right leg when heading to the locker room.

A Timberwolves official said during the fourth quarter that Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau would provide an update on Butler's injury following the game.

Clint Capela had 25 points and 11 rebounds for Houston, getting his 10th double-double over the past 13 games. Chris Paul added 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

The Rockets trailed for much of the first half before going ahead to maintain the NBA's best record.

Andrew Wiggins led Minnesota with 21 points, and Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns both had 18 points. Towns added 13 rebounds (see full recap).

Davis sensational in Pelicans’ OT victory over Heat
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis had 45 points, 17 rebounds, five blocked shots and five steals, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Miami Heat 124-123 in overtime Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Goran Dragic scored 30 points and Dwyane Wade hit two runners to give the Heat the lead twice in the last 36 seconds of overtime, but Davis responded to the first with a layup as he was fouled, and Jrue Holiday answered the second with a runner in the lane with 7 seconds left.

Wade had one last shot for the win with Holiday defending him closely. It bounced off the rim to Josh Richardson, whose rushed put-back missed the basket as time expired in Miami's third straight loss.

Davis, who has scored no fewer than 38 points in a game during New Orleans' winning streak -- and 42 or more three times -- raised both arms in triumph as he looked up at the jubilant crowd, and then exchanged high fives with fans along the court.

Holiday finished with 29 points and nine assists, connecting with Davis on a couple of alley-oop dunks. Ian Clark scored a season-high 21 points and Nikola Mirotic capped his 10-point, nine-rebound performance with a crucial 3 in overtime.

Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out in overtime when he hacked Davis on a put-back attempt. Davis hit both free throws to tie it at 117, and then gave New Orleans a brief lead with his fifth alley-oop dunk of the game on a fast-break lob from Holiday with 1:10 to go. Wade had 16 points, while Richardson and Tyler Johnson each scored 15 points (see full recap).

Balanced Celtics rout Pistons
DETROIT -- Kyrie Irving scored 18 points and rookie Daniel Theis added a career-high 19 to lift the Boston Celtics to a 110-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Jayson Tatum scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half for the Celtics, who went into the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak but returned with a solid win on the road. Boston took control by outscoring the Pistons 38-21 in the second quarter.

Blake Griffin scored 17 points for Detroit but shot just 5 of 19 from the field.

Theis eclipsed his previous career high of 12 points. He played an important role after Aron Baynes, the starting center for the Celtics, went to the locker room in the first half with left elbow soreness. Baynes ended up playing only 2:39, but Theis shot 8 of 10 from the field and had seven rebounds.

Ish Smith made his first eight shots and finished with 20 points for the Pistons. Detroit led 39-37 in the second quarter before a 21-5 run by Boston. The Celtics were ahead 61-49 at halftime.

The lead was only four late in the third before Boston scored seven straight points -- five by Irving. The Celtics broke the game open at the start of the fourth (see full recap).

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

The Sixers have been rising steadily in the standings and players around the league are taking notice. 

The young squad improved to 31-25 with a victory over the Bulls Thursday. They have won six straight and have not lost at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. That totals up to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, only two games behind the Wizards for the fourth spot and two games ahead of the Heat for the eighth. 

"I like them," Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler said at the All-Star break. "They've got a lot of great young talent. We do as well. But I think the way that they're going and how they play so hard and play so together, that's how you win basketball games. They're going to be really, really good for a long time."

The Sixers turned heads with a statement win over the Rockets in only their seventh game of the season. From there, they have defeated playoff teams, including a rare sweep of the Spurs, while struggling against sub.-500 opponents. 

They have 26 games remaining to make a postseason push. Of their upcoming opponents, only 10 games are against current top-eight teams in their conferences. Brett Brown has emphasized they can't take any team lightly. This is the time for the Sixers to maximize their schedule and show they learned from previous letdowns.

"They look good," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "Obviously as a young team, it takes time to learn how to win. ... The mature, really high-level teams, they find a way to get it done. I think for them, that's what their record shows. You play against them and it's hard to play against them. 

"They're really talented, they play hard, they play for a great coach. It's just those nights where you might not have it, having that understanding and that experience that'll lead you to more wins. I think once they get to that point, that's when maybe nine or 10 games that they've let slip, maybe they win those games."

The Sixers wrapped up the majority of their Western Conference schedule prior to the All-Star break. They have only the Timberwolves, Nuggets and Mavericks left to play. Those in the conference still are keeping an eye on the Sixers' progress, even if they may not face off again for months. 

"Everyone definitely sees the talent there," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Any time you've got Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid to build around, they've got a very bright future. I think everyone had very high expectations, but it's hard to have high expectations with a team that's got a lot of first-, second-year guys that have never been in the playoffs. 

"But you can tell that they're going to be in the playoffs for, shoot, the next decade or so, probably be upper echelon pretty soon."