Sixers-Wizards observations: Holding on to end homestand

Sixers-Wizards observations: Holding on to end homestand


A 29-point blowout turned into Hack-A-Ben as the Sixers barely edged out the Wizards for a 118-113 win on Wednesday night.

The game seemed put away when the Sixers had a 22-point lead over the John Wall-less Wizards early in the fourth quarter. But after the Sixers were up 95-79 with 7:11 remaining, the Wizards outscored them 18-5 to make it a three-point game. 

While the Wizards raced back into the game, they intentionally fouled Ben Simmons, a 56.6 percent free throw shooter. Their strategy was effective. Simmons shot 12 for 24 in the fourth quarter alone. He finished the game 15 of 29 (51.7 percent) from the line and the team was 41 of 64 (64.1 percent) from the stripe.

The Sixers were without Joel Embiid for the final 2:24 after he fouled out. Dario Saric connected on an and-one from JJ Redick with 22.2 seconds remaining to give the Sixers a 116-111 lead. Tomas Satoransky cut it back to three, 116-113, with 11.4 ticks to go. Jerryd Bayless hit free throws to finally ice the win. 

• Simmons showed no lingering effects of a right ankle sprain. He recorded a monster 31-point, 18-rebound double-double. Simmons also had four assists, two steals, two blocks and six turnovers in 41 minutes. He set career highs in scoring, rebounds and minutes. 

• Embiid, who played in this game instead of Thursday’s bookend of a back-to-back set (see more below), posted 25 points, 14 points, four assists and four blocks in 32 minutes. He became the first player since Yao Ming to record at least 16 games of three blocks within his first 50 games. 

• Embiid has yet to be cleared for consecutive games and will not play on Thursday in Boston against the Celtics. Brett Brown noted Embiid’s desire to play in front of the home crowd as well as the fact that suiting up Wednesday versus Thursday gives the center an extra day of rest before their next matchup on Saturday when they host the Pistons. 

• Instead of being able to rest for most of the fourth quarter ahead of a back-to-back, the Sixers’ starters were back together with just under six minutes to play to fend off the Wizards.

• The Sixers’ second unit took a hit when T.J. McConnell sustained a left shoulder contusion in the third quarter and did not return. X-rays came back negative. McConnell had four points, two rebounds and an assist through 16 minutes. The Sixers utilized Bayless, who can play the one and the two, at the point in McConnell’s absence. 

• The Wizards received a big boost from their bench. Kelly Oubre Jr. scored a team-high 22 points and Jodie Meeks added 21, as the Wizards’ bench outscored the Sixers’ reserves, 67-21.

• Bradley Beal left the game in the first with a right facial contusion but returned to finish with 21 points.

• Embiid swatted not one, but two shots in six seconds during the second quarter. First, a cutting layup attempt by Meeks. Then, a 10-foot jumper by Oubre. Embiid eclipsed his season average for blocks (1.6) on one trip down the court. 

Adding to his highlight reel, Embiid blocked Tim Frazier later in the quarter and hustled down the court in time to get up for a monster dunk from Simmons four seconds later. He showed his athleticism and speed on that play.

• Injury updates: Nik Stauskas was cleared to play after missing the last eight games because of a right ankle sprain. Justin Anderson (left leg) and Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) remained sidelined. In addition to Wall, Sheldon Mac (left Achilles surgery) was out for the Wizards. 

• Jahlil Okafor was listed as inactive and Richaun Holmes did not play. Holmes should see more playing time against the Celtics without Embiid available. 

• The Sixers pulled down 64 ... 6-4 ... rebounds. Covington (12), Embiid (14) and Simmons (18) combined to out-rebound the Wizards (35) by themselves. 

Who needs Kawhi? Aldridge drops 45 in Spurs' OT win

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Who needs Kawhi? Aldridge drops 45 in Spurs' OT win

SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell's 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs' 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah's 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Pacers use late run to edge Clippers
INDIANAPOLIS -- Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles' fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games (see full recap).

Jokic, Murray lift Nuggets over Wizards
WASHINGTON -- Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray each scored 25 points to keep the Denver Nuggets' playoff hopes alive by beating the Washington Wizards 108-100 on Friday night.

The one-two punch of Jokic and Murray plus outside shooting from Will Barton allowed the Nuggets to withstand a third-quarter charge from the Wizards and maintain their sights on one of the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Denver went into the night two games back of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz and shot 50 percent from 3-point territory to stay very much in the race with nine games remaining.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 24 points as it failed to gain ground in a competitive East where five teams are separated in the standings by four games (see full recap).

Brett Brown's top competition for Coach of the Year

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Brett Brown's top competition for Coach of the Year

The Coach of the Year award in every sport typically comes down to: 

1. Which team overachieved the most?

2. Which team increased its win total the most?

3. Which team that fits both descriptions has a media-friendly coach?

Brett Brown is a deserving candidate this season. Not saying he'll win, or even that he stands out as the most deserving, but he's more than just "in the conversation."

Before getting to the other candidates and their likelihood of winning, let's acknowledge why Brown deserves serious consideration. 

We all knew the Sixers would be better this season. A second year of Joel Embiid and the first of Embiid and Ben Simmons. Finally, a good veteran shooter in JJ Redick.

But did you expect the Sixers to up their win total by 20 games? Currently, that's what they're on pace to do.

Did you expect them to pick up wins over the Rockets, Spurs, Celtics, Raptors, Cavs and Spurs again? Yeah, the Sixers have laid some eggs this season, but they have just as many high-quality wins.

Factor in the continued development of players like Dario Saric and T.J. McConnell and it should be clear that Brown has gotten a whole lot out of this team.

Now, on to the other candidates. The way I see it, there are six in addition to Brown: 

• Dwane Casey (Raptors)
• Nate McMillan (Pacers)
• Brad Stevens (Celtics)
• Mike D'Antoni (Rockets)
• Quin Snyder (Jazz)
• Doc Rivers (Clippers)

Just being realistic here, I think Casey wins it. The Raptors will be the 1-seed in the East and may even end up with the NBA's second-best record given the Warriors' injury report.

It goes beyond that, though. Toronto revamped its system to place less stress on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The result has been the emergence of the NBA's best bench. DeRozan is also now shooting threes, a big benefit to the Raps' spacing.

Lastly, Casey is a media darling. He's done the podcast circuit this season, and his long tenure as a personable NBA assistant will help him with voters.

Nate McMillan
McMillan's Pacers have overachieved, but that has so much more to do with Victor Oladipo than anything else. That's not meant to discredit McMillan, but the gap between expectations and reality for Oladipo is the reason the Pacers have surprised. Unless the Pacers finish several games ahead of the Sixers, I can't see McMillan finishing ahead of Brown.

Brad Stevens
The Celtics have faded of late, mostly because of mounting injuries to their backcourt. Stevens deserves a ton of credit for keeping this team 25-plus games over .500 with so many young pieces, but he won't finish ahead of Casey.

Doc Rivers
Rivers' case is dependent on whether or not the Clippers make the playoffs. The Clips, based on talent alone, have no business being 38-33 in a loaded West. They just play extremely hard and have been maybe the hungriest NBA team this season — so many contributions from guys on two-way contracts.

But LA is now 2½ games out of the 8-seed, so we can almost close the book on Rivers for COY.

Mike D'Antoni
The Rockets have been the best team this season and D'Antoni is a huge reason why. The Chris Paul addition is a bigger reason why, but the Rockets are where they are because of how Paul has been integrated into D'Antoni's system, and because Houston is finally focused on defense. D'Antoni should finish in the top three of the Coach of the Year voting, but it's hard to win when you add a veteran superstar in the offseason.

Predicted order of finish: Casey, Brown, Snyder, D'Antoni, Stevens, McMillan, Rivers