76ers

Warriors hold on despite DeRozan's 42 points

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Warriors hold on despite DeRozan's 42 points

TORONTO — After a huge first half, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors had to hold on late to wrap up their eighth straight win over Toronto.

Curry returned from a two-game absence to score 24 points, Klay Thompson had 26 and the Warriors blew nearly all of a 27-point lead before beating the Raptors 127-125 on Saturday night.

DeMar DeRozan scored 42 points for the Raptors, who made it a tight game after the Warriors rang up 81 points on 71.1 percent shooting in the first half.

"We expected that and we took that punch," Kevin Durant said of Toronto's comeback. "I'm glad we got the `W,' especially on the second night of a back-to-back."

The Warriors won at Milwaukee on Friday (see full recap).

Randle leads Lakers past Mavs in OT
DALLAS — With a matinee game in the middle of a road trip, Dallas native Julius Randle had a rare opportunity to enjoy a night off in his hometown.

He already had a good afternoon.

Randle had 23 points and 15 rebounds, including a follow shot late in overtime that helped the Los Angeles Lakers seal a 107-101 victory over the Mavericks on Saturday.

"Yeah, I'm going to enjoy it for sure," Randle said. "I've got my little man here, got my wife here, my family. I'm going to enjoy this night."

With his team leading 104-101, Randle grabbed a rebound on Lonzo Ball's missed jump shot and scored on the rebound with 18 seconds remaining, giving the Lakers a five-point lead they preserved to extend their winning streak to a season-best four games (see full recap).

Wizards win in OT despite surrending 23-point lead
WASHINGTON — After leading the Washington Wizards to their first overtime win of the season, John Wall remained frustrated that the late drama had been self-imposed.

Wall scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half and overtime, and tied a season high with 16 assists in the Wizards' 119-113 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.

Yet the perennial All-Star couldn't shake thoughts of his own performance, which also included eight turnovers, or that of a team that gave back a 23-point lead.

"The whole second half was just nasty for us, period," Wall said. "We have to do better. We have to do a lot better." (see full recap.)

Williams scores 26 points in Clippers' win
LOS ANGELES — Being .500 is hardly a team's goal, although with the kind of injury-wracked season the Clippers are having, it's somewhat of an accomplishment.

Lou Williams scored 26 points in the Clippers' 126-105 win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday, giving Los Angeles a 21-21 mark at the season's midpoint.

"With all the guys that are out, we're just trying to hold the fort," coach Doc Rivers said.

Willie Reed added 14 points and 13 rebounds making his first start of the season in place of DeAndre Jordan, who has a sprained left ankle. Blake Griffin had 11 points and nine assists as one of eight Clippers in double figures.

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."

Leave the NBA playoffs alone

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Leave the NBA playoffs alone

You can't kill NBA commissioner Adam Silver for trying.

Last week, Silver announced to the media during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles that he's considering a change to the playoffs, where rather than the top eight seeds in each conference competing to determine a conference champ, playoff teams will be seeded 1 through 16.

More recently, ESPN reported that the league is kicking around a "play-in tournament" to determine the final two seeds in each conference.

Let's take these ideas one at a time:

Re-seeding the postseason may sound fun, and even kind of fair, but it completely dissolves conference rivalries that the league has celebrated for decades. Looking for the Warriors and Rockets in the Western Conference Finals? Sorry. Under the new format, there would be no more West Finals. Right now, those are the two best teams in the NBA. So you might see them in the Finals in that format — if they both get that far.

I could understand this argument in years when the disparity in balance of power is egregious. That's not the case this season. If the NBA season ended today, one team would reap the benefits of a 1-16 playoff format: the 9-seed in the West, the Clippers, who are a half-game better than Eastern Conference 8-seed Miami.

(Psst, right now the 5-12 matchup in a 1-16 format would be Sixers-Cavaliers. But let's stay on topic.)

As for the play-in tournament, this completely contradicts the re-seeding idea. The NBA wants the best teams in the playoffs, right? Is a Pistons-Hornets play-in game must-see TV? Or what's left of the Clippers vs. the Jazz?

And how long do you want the postseason to be? Last season, the playoffs lasted nearly nine weeks. It was only that "brief" because the Finals didn't go the full seven games. Adding another round could extend the NBA season into July (unless it corresponds with a shortening of the schedule). We have seen what happens in Olympic years when players don't get enough offseason rest and it ain't pretty.

I'm guessing this is a backhanded way for Silver to keep more teams from tanking for better draft picks. "Hey, you may be 11th in the conference, but you're one 3-game win streak away from a shot at the postseason!!"

I'm all for change, but in the case of the NBA playoffs, commish, I think we're good for now.