Sixers-Trail Blazers observations: Smothering defense in win

Sixers-Trail Blazers observations: Smothering defense in win


Any time the Trail Blazers are on the schedule, the main objective is limiting the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The Sixers held off one, which was enough, in their 101-81 win over the Trail Blazers.

With the victory, the Sixers improved to 10-7 this season and went three games above .500 for the first time since Brett Brown guided the team to a 3-0 start in his first year at the helm. 

• Joel Embiid battled a true center in the 7-foot, 275-pound Jusuf Nurkic. He came up with his eighth double-double of the season: 28 points (11 for 19 from the field), 12 rebounds, and two blocks. Embiid did not get to the free throw line after the first quarter. 

• Lillard scored an unsurprising 30 points, but McCollum netted just five. The pair averaged a combined 47 points heading into the game. McCollum was scoreless in the first half and shot 1 for 14 from the field overall. 

• Ben Simmons finished four seconds shy of a new-career high in playing time. He played 39:03 and neared a triple-double with 16 points (8 for 20 from the field), eight rebounds and nine dimes. Simmons attempted only two free throws. 

• The Sixers took the Blazers out of the game from the start. They ran off with a 16-0 lead and held the Blazers scoreless (0 for 13) for the first seven minutes. (Count the misses here.) The Sixers led 26-14 after one. 

• Lillard scored 12 points in the second quarter to try to get the Blazers back into the game. The Sixers edged them out with balanced scoring among the starters. Even though the Sixers committed 10 turnovers and shot 33.3 percent from three in the first half, their early run was enough to give them a 50-37 lead at halftime. 

• Embiid scored eight points in the third to nearly neutralize Lillard’s nine. The Sixers and Blazers scored 20 points apiece in the quarter. Neither team shot the ball well from three, combining to go 1 for 11. 

• The Blazers’ 81 points were a season low by a Sixers’ opponent and the Trail Blazers’ season-low scoring total. 

• Embiid swatted a Lillard shot attempt all the way back to Portland late in the third. OK, so the ball obviously didn’t go that far, but it was a monster block nonetheless that got me thinking about this moment at shootaround in San Francisco.

• Amir Johnson continued to attack the glass. This time, he balanced his rebounding efforts with five offensive and six defensive boards in 18 minutes off the bench. 

• “Trust the process” took a seat to a new chant late in the game. Fans chanted “We want Okafor” with less than a minute to play and the Sixers up 22. Jahlil Okafor did not get in the game. Furkan Korkmaz, though, played the final 2:09. 

• The Sixers’ turnover problem kept at bay the Trail Blazers’ poor shooting. The Sixers committed 18 turnovers but the Blazers, who shot 33.7 percent from the field, only translated that into 18 points. 

• Injury update: Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) were sidelined for the Sixers. Al-Farouq Aminu (right ankle) was out for Portland. 

• The rosters were filled with former players on either side. The Sixers drafted Turner (2010) and Maurice Harkless (2012). Jerryd Bayless played for the Trail Blazers his first two seasons (2008-10). 

• Speaking of Turner, his days in Philadelphia are long gone but not forgotten. Turner didn’t live up to the expectations of his draft value and so, years later, this happened:

• Rapper Lil Uzi Vert was at the game again.

LeBron continues triple-double tour

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LeBron continues triple-double tour

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 40 points as part of his third triple-double in four games and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 on Monday night as coach Tyronn Lue began his leave of absence to address health issues.

Lue said Monday in a statement he been dealing with chest pains and loss of sleep, and that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is. Associate head coach Larry Drew will run the team in Lue's absence.

James scored 17 points in the third quarter and finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 16th triple-double this season and 71st of his career.

The four-time MVP took over in the third beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers. After not getting a foul called on a third attempt, he finished Cleveland's next possession with a massive dunk. He was fouled attempting another dunk and made both free throws the following time down.

Milwaukee cut a 17-point lead to 117-109, but James drove the length of the floor for a dunk with just over a minute left.

Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love returned after missing six weeks because of a broken left hand and scored 18 points in 25 minutes. He sparked a 10-0 run in the second quarter with two 3-pointers

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points and went 11 for 11 at the foul line for Milwaukee, which is seventh in the Eastern Conference. Khris Middleton had 30 points, making 11 of 16 from the field (see full recap).

Heat set franchise scoring mark in 2OT win
MIAMI -- James Johnson scored a career-high 31 points, Kelly Olynyk added 30 off the bench and the Miami Heat set a franchise single-game scoring record by beating the Denver Nuggets 149-141 in double overtime Monday night.

Miami's total was also an NBA season-high and helped the Heat get back to the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Houston and Oklahoma City each scored 148 in games earlier this season.

Wayne Ellington scored 29 points for the Heat. Nikola Jokic had 34 for Denver, while Wilson Chandler added 26 for the Nuggets.

"That was as playoffs as it comes right there," Olynyk said.

The NBA's stat system crashed late in the first overtime, and crews were scrambling to determine the final numbers long after the buzzer. All that ultimately mattered was the score -- one that moved the Heat closer to a playoff berth and left the Nuggets two games back in the Western Conference race.

Neither team was at full strength. For Miami, Dwyane Wade (left hamstring strain) missed his fourth consecutive game, and Hassan Whiteside (left hip pain) sat out his fifth straight contest. Denver was without leading scorer Gary Harris, sidelined again by a strained right knee that could keep him out several more days (see full recap).

Oladipo, Pacers rally past Lakers
INDIANAPOLIS -- Victor Oladipo sparked a decisive run and finished with 20 points, Myles Turner had 21 points and the Indiana Pacers recovered from a poor start for a 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

The victory snapped Indiana's two-game losing streak.

Los Angeles was led by Kyle Kuzma with 27 points and Brook Lopez with 23, but the Lakers still lost their third straight.

Oladipo and Darren Collison got Indiana going with back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the third quarter for a 77-70 lead. After a layup from Julius Randle, Collison made a 20-footer and Lance Stephenson hit a 10-footer. When the 14-4 flurry ended, Indiana led 85-74 with 3:04 left in the third.

The Lakers never seriously challenged after that.

It was a stark contrast to the Lakers' fast start. Efficient shooting helped them take a 28-19 lead in the first quarter, but when the shooters cooled off, the Pacers charged back and used a 15-6 second-quarter run to make it 51-50 late in the period.

The Pacers still trailed 59-57 at the half -- before Oladipo helped flip things in the second half (see full recap).

New Eagles DE Michael Bennett gets taste of Philly fans

Photo courtesy of Jessica Camerato

New Eagles DE Michael Bennett gets taste of Philly fans

It didn’t take long for Michael Bennett to get acclimated with Philadelphia fans beyond football.

Bennett attended the Sixers' 108-94 win Hornets Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations). Donning a green sweatshirt, the newly-acquired defensive end received a rousing ovation when he was introduced on the Jumbotron. 

He wasn’t the only Eagles player sitting courtside. Safety Malcolm Jenkins watched the game across from the Hornets’ bench. 

Fans yelled loudly when Bennett stopped by to take a seat next to Jenkins. 

“You’re a monster!” one called out. 

“Mi-chael Ben-net!” another chanted. 

Bennett and Jenkins took photos and even held phones to snap selfies, not just once but throughout the game between quarters and during timeouts.