76ers

Sixers top Jazz to open road trip with 5th straight win

Sixers top Jazz to open road trip with 5th straight win

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SALT LAKE CITY – Figuring out how to guard Ben Simmons is a puzzle many NBA teams can't solve. The Sixers’ rookie keeps finding ways to contribute and impact a game – even when his shot isn't falling.

Simmons offered his latest evidence of that ability in helping the Sixers claim their fifth consecutive victory with a 104-97 win over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night (see observations). He peppered the stat sheet with all sorts of impact stats as usual – 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks.

For Simmons, it is part of a continued quest for excellence. He wants to build a reputation as a winner, plain and simple. And he'll do everything to bring his team along with him.

“I'm not happy with losing,” Simmons said. “I feel like that defines me and that's just the way the game is. People are defined by how many rings they have. For me, I just want to win and while I'm in the league be one of those guys that's a winner.”

Simmons isn't just winning, he's elevating his game to a whole new level. He notched his seventh double-double in 10 career NBA games, becoming the first NBA rookie to have that many double-doubles in their first 10 games since Shaquille O' Neal did it 11 straight times to start the 1992-93 season.

Figuring out how to contain Simmons on either end of the court is a little like playing with fire. One way or another, teams end up being burned. Still, teams have to account for what he can do to influence a game as a 6-foot-10 point guard with loads of athleticism, an incredible wingspan and unmatched passing abilities for a big man.

“He's unique,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I think everyone game plans against him, in one way or another, because he is the engine.”

One area where Simmons made his greatest impact against Utah came on the defensive glass. Simmons posted a career-high 12 defensive rebounds. It allowed him to get out and push the ball and set up some quick shots in transition.

The Sixers capitalized. As a team, they shot 12 of 27 (44.4 percent) from the perimeter. Dario Saric led the way with a career-high five three-pointers – part of his season-high 25 points. JJ Redick and Robert Covington each hit three three-pointers apiece. They finished with 20 points and 14 points, respectively.

When Simmons can rebound and push the ball like he did against the Jazz, the Sixers become a team that's almost impossible to guard.

“You’ve got to be ready to run when you play with Ben,” forward/center Richaun Holmes said. “It's an exciting way to play.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown said that Simmons grew tremendously after having the NBA equivalent of a redshirt year when he sat out last season with an injury. It allowed Simmons to watch the game and learn about it from a different perspective. Brown felt like it opened the door for him to get himself a little more acclimated to the pro game before diving in with both feet.

“None of us can dismiss the benefit that Ben Simmons had of effectively being a redshirt and taking it all in and not necessarily in real time,” Brown said. “The NBA is so unforgiving.”

If Simmons could turn back the clock, he would have erased the injury that cost him an entire season. Now, in hindsight, he can see where it helped him learn and grow. The biggest thing it taught him is learning how to be patient and pick his battles.

Now that he's on the court, he's going full speed and progressing at a rate that surprises even the coaches that worked with him from Day 1.

“I think it definitely helps, but you can't actually compare it to playing,” Simmons said. “I think I've learned more just being on the court and actually playing and seeing different teams and sets than watching. But it did pay off to be able to watch and learn the game.”  

LeBron James hits milestone but Cavs' woes continue

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LeBron James hits milestone but Cavs' woes continue

SAN ANTONIO -- LeBron James became the youngest player ever with 30,000 career points, then got upstaged by the youngest player on the court.

Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray -- a friend and mentee of James -- had 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals to lift San Antonio over the slumping Cleveland Cavaliers 114-102 on Tuesday night.

"He's fearless, he's not impressed," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the 21-year-old. "He really sets the pace for us. He's a fine defender. He's learning how to play the game and doing a fine job."

Murray, making his second start since replacing a healthy Tony Parker, needed that fortitude while battling James in the fourth quarter. He soared for a tip follow, then rose to disrupt James' driving layup, which led to a 3-pointer by Danny Green that gave the Spurs a 105-94 lead with 4:20 remaining (see full recap).

Warriors use big 2nd half to beat Knicks
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry scored 17 of his 32 points in the third quarter to go with seven assists and six rebounds, and the Golden State Warriors used a big second half to beat the New York Knicks 123-112 on Tuesday night.

Kevin Durant added 14 points, a career-high 14 assists and two blocks before his ejection with 2:50 left for a second technical. Zaza Pachulia added 13 points in Golden State's seventh straight victory in the series.

Curry made 8 of 15 from deep while sporting sneakers featuring the faces of his daughters Riley and Ryan and the message "I can do all things."

The Warriors bounced back from Saturday's eight-point defeat at Houston to improve to 10-0 following a loss this season (see full recap).

Westbrook's late basket lifts Thunder past Nets
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook had one goal on the Thunder's final possession: make it to the rim.

The Brooklyn Nets left him just enough space, and the reigning MVP put Oklahoma City over the top once again.

Westbrook made a go-ahead layup with 3.3 seconds left to help the Thunder rally from a 15-point second-half deficit and beat the Nets 109-108 on Tuesday night.

"They sat in the paint all game long," Westbrook said. "I was just trying a way to get to the basket,” (see full recap).

Temple scores 34 to push Kings past Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Garrett Temple took over in the fourth quarter and led the struggling Sacramento Kings to a big win.

Temple scored 19 of his career-high 34 points in the final quarter to lift the Kings to a 105-99 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

Willie Cauley-Stein had 21 points and nine rebounds and Buddy Hield added 13 points for the Kings, who stopped an eight-game losing streak. Temple accounted for all of Sacramento's points during a 17-6 run that put the Kings ahead 103-97 with 23.5 seconds to go.

"Garrett was in a rhythm," teammate Vince Carter said. "He was out there with veteran guys who just know how to make the right play. It was us being cognizant of `Hey, the hot guy's open, get it to him immediately.' And it worked out that way,” (see full recap).

Joel Embiid will fly solo for All-Star Game

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Joel Embiid will fly solo for All-Star Game

NEW YORK — Stephen Curry will be able to stock his All-Star roster with plenty of Golden State teammates.

Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were chosen as reserves Tuesday, giving the defending NBA champions a record-tying four All-Stars for the second straight year.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards also had two reserves selected, and they will go into the pool of players that Curry and fellow captain LeBron James can draft to comprise the teams for the Feb. 18 game in Los Angeles. Their rosters will be unveiled Thursday, though the selection process won't be televised.

Minnesota's Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns were chosen from the Western Conference, along with Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge and Portland's Damian Lillard.

Besides Washington's John Wall and Bradley Beal, the rest of the Eastern Conference reserves were Boston's Al Horford, Cleveland's Kevin Love, New York's Kristaps Porzingis, Toronto's Kyle Lowry and Indiana's Victor Oladipo.

The starters were announced last week. Curry and the Warriors' Kevin Durant joined Houston's James Harden and New Orleans' Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins from the West, while the East players besides James were Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, Boston's Kyrie Irving, Toronto's DeMar DeRozan and the Sixers’ Joel Embiid.

James and Curry earned the captain spots by being the leading vote-getters in fan balloting in each conference. They will not have to stick to conference affiliation when drafting their teams.

James will have the first pick after receiving the most total votes. After the starters are chosen, Curry will have the first pick among the reserves.

Beal, Oladipo, Porzingis and Towns were all first-time selections. Every other reserve will be making at least his third All-Star appearance.

The reserves were voted upon by the head coaches in each conference, who had to select two guards, three frontcourt players and two other players regardless of position. They were prohibited for voting for their own players.

Players having strong seasons who didn't make the cut included Detroit's Andre Drummond, the NBA's leading rebounder, Clippers guard Lou Williams, Houston's Chris Paul and Oklahoma City's Paul George.