The Suns are in town to boost every Sixer's stats

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The Suns are in town to boost every Sixer's stats

The Eagles had their most stressful game of the season last night.

The Sixers have what could be their least stressful game of the season tonight.

In town are the 8-16 Phoenix Suns, who currently have the fourth-worst record in the Western Conference, ahead of the Mavs, Kings and Grizzlies. (Five of those eight wins are against the worst teams in the NBA — Bulls, Bulls, Kings, Lakers, Nets.)

The Suns, who were the first team this season to fire their head coach, have allowed a mind-boggling 115.8 points per game. That's 2.5 points more per game than they allowed even last season when they also ranked last in the NBA.

No NBA team since the 1990-91 Nuggets have allowed this many points per game.

This is what happens you don't have an NBA-caliber starting point guard and you (appear to) strike out with a couple high lottery picks like Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, who on some nights don't even have the instincts to stay on the court.

All you need to know about Phoenix's defensive mentality and how much this tanking team cares about stopping the opponent can be found in this 15-second clip:

Offensively, the Suns' best player (and really their only threat) is Devin Booker, who's averaging 23.6 points on 45 percent shooting with 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists. In late-and-close situations, Booker also becomes the Suns' primary ballhandler because they have so few solid options.

Defensively, look for the Suns to throw a lot of Tyson Chandler and Greg Monroe at Joel Embiid. Chandler, who moves in and out of the Suns' rotation, is no longer an elite rim protector at 35, but he's still averaging just under 10 rebounds per game.

Monroe is still a capable post player but on most plays probably won't have the agility required to defend Embiid without fouling.

Centers, in particular, have had a lot of success against Phoenix this season. Brook Lopez, a middle-of-the-pack big man, has three double-doubles against them (19 and 11, 19 and 10, 15 and 10). His brother Robin, a lesser scorer, also put up 16 and 10 against the Suns. And then you have the dominant nights elite bigs like Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside have already had against the Suns.

Teams have also had plenty of success against Phoenix from distance. The Suns have the second-highest opponents' field goal percentage from 20 to 24 feet (42 percent, ahead of only the Cavs).

So, on top of Embiid being able to get his, JJ Redick and Robert Covington should also have plenty of open looks. It's a get-right game for everybody.

And, hey, if the Sixers build up enough of a lead, perhaps even Jahlil Okafor — inactive the last two games — makes an on-court cameo.

Marcus Morris' last-second shot gives Celtics win

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Marcus Morris' last-second shot gives Celtics win

BOSTON -- Marcus Morris made a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left and the Boston Celtics stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-99 on Tuesday night.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Morris added 21 points as Boston snapped the Thunder's six-game win streak.

Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City, which fell apart in the closing minute.

Boston took an 82-81 lead in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Shane Larkin, who finished with 17 points off the bench.

The Thunder missed 15 of their first 21 3-point attempts before making four straight to go back in front 93-89.

Boston closed to 99-97 on a 3 by Terry Rozier, and quickly fouled Carmelo Anthony with 7.7 seconds remaining. Anthony missed both attempts and the Celtics gathered the rebound.

Out of the timeout, Tatum dribbled across the lane and found Morris on the wing for the go-ahead 3.

Westbrook was able to get off a long 3-pointer on the Thunder's final possession, but it came up short at the buzzer (see full recap).

Schroder’s career night helps Hawks upset Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 41 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, and the Atlanta Hawks stunned the Utah Jazz 99-94 on Tuesday night.

Dewayne Dedmon had 15 points and 15 rebounds to help the Eastern Conference-worst Hawks snap their six-game losing skid and end Utah's winning streak at nine. Taurean Prince made four free throws in the final 11 seconds to clinch the victory.

The Jazz, who won 21 of 23 games in between losses to the Hawks, made their final field goal on Gobert's basket with 2:33 to play and missed their last five shots.

Schroder on a variety of drives and bested his previous career high of 34 points, set in a 110-105 loss to Brooklyn on Jan. 12.

With 2:07 to play and after another of his driving layups, Schroder flailed his arm and caught Ricky Rubio with a hand to the face. He was assessed a flagrant-1 foul and Rubio hit both free throws. Joe Ingles followed with two foul shots for Utah's final lead.

Donovan Mitchell scored 24 points and Rubio had 23 for the Jazz (see full recap).

Towns, Wiggins lead Timberwolves to victory
MINNEAPOLIS -- Karl-Anthony Towns racked up 30 points and 10 rebounds for his NBA-best 60th double-double and Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points in an all-around performance, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 123-109 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night that was critical for their push for the playoffs.

Jeff Teague pitched in 20 points and 12 assists for the Timberwolves, who swept the four-game season series and sent the weary Clippers to their fourth consecutive loss on the commencement of a four-game, six-night trip.

Jamal Crawford scored 20 points and Taj Gibson had 15 points and eight rebounds as the Timberwolves pushed their lead over the Clippers (37-33) to three games. With five losses in their last seven games, the Wolves (41-31) had fallen into eighth place in the Western Conference. Denver (38-33) is in ninth.

DeAndre Jordan led the way for the Clippers with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but Tobias Harris played with flu-like symptoms and finished with only 10 points on 5-for-16 shooting, missing all five of his 3-point tries. Lou Williams and Sean Kilpatrick each had 15 points off the bench (see full recap).

These players could come 'out of left field' for Sixers

These players could come 'out of left field' for Sixers

Brett Brown’s witnessed many playoff battles during his days as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.

That’s when the stars shine brightest in an attempt to help their team hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. It’s also when role players get an opportunity to change the course of a series and leave an imprint that lasts a lifetime.

Think Kenny Smith’s seven three-pointers in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, Steve Kerr’s series-sealing jumper in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals and Robert Horry in, well, too many games to count.

“Every one of my years with San Antonio, 12 of them, somebody came out of left field in one of the games for six minutes, maybe more, and had a significant impact on a win,” Brown said last week.

Sure, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are going to do the heavy lifting. But the real question is who else will make a significant contribution during those crucial postseason moments?

Robert Covington is certainly not planning to shy away from the big stage.

After three months of sliding production, the swingman has regained his shooting form at just the right time as the Sixers appear headed for their first postseason berth since 2011-12. Covington is shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from three-point range with an offensive rating of 128 in March.

“My teammates have been pretty much finding me the same shots, but I just changed up a little bit of my workout, switched it up,” Covington said after scoring 18 points (6 for 12 shooting) in the Sixers’ 108-94 win over the Hornets on Monday. “That’s what allowed me to get where I’m at now. My teammates have been finding me open spots. We’ve been moving the ball really well.

“That’s just doing the right things and waiting on that moment.”

Marco Belinelli knows all about seizing that moment. He’s played — and played very well at times — over the course of 48 career playoff games.

The Sixers got a taste against the Hornets of just how much of a boost Belinelli can give a team when he’s on target. The 10-year veteran scored 21 points off the bench and contributed five of the Sixers’ 18 threes as he sharpens his game for the major challenge on the horizon.

“It’s huge,” Simmons said of finding shooters such as Belinelli and Covington in addition to JJ Redick in close games. “It’s just the way we’ve been playing all year.”

With Justin Anderson now back in the rotation and contributing, it could be the performance of secondary guys that keep the Sixers playing longer than anyone expected before the season started.