76ers

Will Sixers-Rockets live up to last year's standard?

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USA Today Images/NBCSP

Will Sixers-Rockets live up to last year's standard?

Sixers (1-3) vs. Rockets (3-1)
7 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.

All it took was a historic accomplishment from a rookie and 30 points from their center for the Sixers to crack into the win column Monday with a 97-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Now the Sixers will look for their first home win of the new season when they host James Harden and the lethal Houston Rockets.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

• If for some reason you were struggling to understand the hype around Ben Simmons, mark down Monday’s performance as exhibit A. 

Simmons controlled the action with 21 points (8 for 11 shooting), 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He became just the third rookie in NBA history to record a triple-double within his first four games (Oscar Robertson and Art “Hambone” Williams).

Simmons continues to validate Brett Brown’s decision to make him the team’s point guard, which is having some trickle-down effect around the league. Look no further than LeBron James starting at PG for the first time since 2005 in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ comeback win Tuesday over the Chicago Bulls.

“It's the first of many for him,” James said to ESPN of Simmons’ feat. “He's a triple threat, ability to score in transition, rebound and pass the ball. His passing is his best quality and high basketball IQ. So, it's the first of many triple-doubles for the young guy.”

• While one rookie is shining on the court, the Sixers’ other No. 1 overall pick is going on the shelf.

Markelle Fultz’s shoulder injury will keep him out at least the next three games (see story). He will be reevaluated next Tuesday.

Fultz's injury saga took a new turn just a day ago when his agent, Raymond Brothers, initially ESPN reported the rookie had fluid drained from his shoulder to only revise his statement and say it was a cortisone injection.

Either way, Brothers painted a grim picture of Fultz’s overall health.

“He literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball,” Brothers said. “He decided to try and fight through the pain to help the team. He has a great attitude. We are committed to finding a solution to get Markelle back to 100 percent.”

Whether Brothers is exaggerating or not, it is clear Fultz is experiencing discomfort. The shoulder has limited his ability and in turn his production. Fultz has averaged just 6.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 50.0 percent from the free throw line.

Clearly, this situation has been mishandled, but get the issue rectified now and Fultz back to looking like the guy everyone remembers from that lone season at Washington.

• While Fultz is certainly a competitor, we’re sure he won’t miss having to figure out how to help contain one of the NBA’s most dangerous scorers in James Harden.

Harden is finding his footing to start the new season, but he has still managed to put up 26.3 points a night.

With superstar point guard Chris Paul banged up, Harden has taken on even more of the offensive duties. Through four games, he is averaging a career-high 20.8 field goal attempts. That includes a whopping 11.0 tries from three-point range per game.

Harden will definitely get his buckets. The key for the Sixers is to make sure it doesn’t get out of control like the last time “The Beard” came to Philadelphia.

Last season on Jan. 27, Harden torched the Sixers in a historic performance with 51 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in a 123-118 Rockets’ win. He became the first player in league history with multiple 50-point triple-doubles in a single season.

• Sixers fans will remember that game as the last time they saw Joel Embiid on the floor in 2016-17 before the big man was shut down for the season with a knee injury.

But let’s not focus on the past (even though Embiid was dominant with 32 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in that one).

Instead, let’s look at what the center has done so far in 2017-18 with just one day in between games.

Embiid made his preseason debut with 22 points and seven boards in 15 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets. He followed that up two days later with a five-point, seven-rebound effort vs. Hassan Whiteside and the Miami Heat in the preseason finale.

Embiid looked solid in the regular-season opener with 18 points and 13 rebounds against the Washington Wizards. Then he turned in an 11-point performance on 4 of 16 shooting (0 for 6 from three-point range) a couple days later in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Now “The Process” is coming off a stellar effort of 30 points (11 for 15) and nine rebounds in Monday’s victory over the Pistons. Will he continue to build on that game or look lethargic again with a day between matchups?

• Former Sixers associate head coach Mike D’Antoni returns to Philadelphia with a 64-33 record (including playoffs) since taking over the Rockets. D’Antoni was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year a season ago.

• Fultz (shoulder) and Richaun Holmes (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Paul (knee), Trevor Ariza (foot) and Nene (Achilles) are out for the Rockets.

A real fight (not an NBA one) breaks out in Magic win

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A real fight (not an NBA one) breaks out in Magic win

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Evan Fournier scored a season-high 32 points to help the Orlando Magic break a seven-game losing streak with a 108-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

D.J. Augustin added 11 points and three assists in the fourth quarter, when the Magic scored 35 points after trailing by two through three.

Jimmy Butler had 28 points and seven rebounds for the Timberwolves, who had won five straight games by an average of 18.8 points.

Bismack Biyombo had 16 rebounds for the Magic, leading the team with the NBA's worst rebound percentage to a 51-37 advantage.

Fournier and Augustin hit 3-pointers during a 14-4 fourth-quarter run that put Orlando ahead to stay, and Augustin's three free throws with 2:10 left gave the Magic a nine-point lead, the biggest of the game for either team.

Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns answered with 3-pointers to keep the Timberwolves (29-17) in it, but Biyombo scored five straight Magic points to regain an eight-point lead with 50 seconds left.

A loss would have dropped Orlando (13-31) to the worst record in the NBA.

Magic guard Arron Afflalo and Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica were ejected with 7:58 left in the second quarter when they got into a fight while the game was being played.

Afflalo threw at least one punch in the fight, which came four minutes after both players had been assessed technical fouls (see full recap).

Davis scores 45 as Pelicans top C’s in overtime
BOSTON -- Anthony Davis had 45 points and 16 rebounds to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 116-113 overtime victory over Boston on Tuesday night, ending the Celtics' seven-game winning streak.

Davis, who scored 48 on Sunday in an overtime win in New York, had four points in overtime and blocked two shots for the Pelicans, who overcame a sluggish start to the fourth quarter and erased a five-point deficit in the final few minutes of regulation.

DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Jrue Holiday added 23 points and seven assists. Ian Clark added 15 points for the Pelicans, whose size inside ended up prevailing in overtime when Boston's barrage of 3-pointers stopped falling.

Kyrie Irving led Boston with 27 points and Al Horford had 14 points and nine rebounds. Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown added 16 points apiece for the Celtics, who attempted a season-high 50 3-pointers.

Rather than challenge Davis and Cousins inside, the Celtics lived outside and it cost them in overtime when they went just 1 for 4. Horford's 3-pointer early in OT gave Boston a 107-106 lead and Boston went up 113-110 before the Pelicans away put the game.

A jumper by Cousins cut the lead to 113-112, then Holiday added two more field goals and Boston couldn't catch up from there (see full recap).

Jokic’s big night helps Nuggets slip past Mavs
DENVER -- Nikola Jokic scored 29 points and grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds, Gary Harris hit two late free throws and the Denver Nuggets led by as many as 23 points before holding on for a 105-102 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Harris finished with 25 points and Will Barton added 22 for the Nuggets, who won for just the second time in six games.

The Nuggets led 82-59 with 4:04 left in the third before Dallas staged a massive comeback. The Mavericks cut the deficit to one on a three-point play by Dennis Smith Jr. with 10.4 seconds remaining. After Harris made two free throws, the Mavericks had a chance for a last-second shot, but Dwight Powell couldn't corral a long pass as the buzzer sounded.

Smith had 25 points for the Mavericks, while Harrison Barnes contributed 17.

Trying to address the issue of slow starts, Nuggets coach Michael Malone tweaked the starting lineup by inserting Barton and sending Mason Plumlee to the bench. The change worked as Denver led at halftime. That's significant because it halted a streak of seven straight games in which the Nuggets trailed at intermission (see full recap).

Yet another bad break for the Sixers' backcourt

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Yet another bad break for the Sixers' backcourt

The Sixers’ backcourt has taken another hit.

Starting shooting guard JJ Redick suffered a left leg injury in Monday’s win over the Raptors. He will be re-evaluated in approximately 10 to 14 days.

An MRI on Tuesday showed bone edema and a small cortical crack in the fibular head of his left leg. X-rays after the game were negative.

Redick suffered the injury when he made contact with Delon Wright receiving a pass from Ben Simmons. He had an immediate reaction of pain, seemed to try to walk it off down the sideline in front of the Sixers’ bench, then rolled the ball back and headed to the locker room. Wright was whistled for a foul.

Redick has been a key piece to the Sixers’ 6-2 record since Christmas Day. He has averaged 20.1 points per game and shot 46.4 percent from three during that stretch. 

The veteran has missed four games this season, most recently two against the Raptors on Dec. 21 and 23 because of right hamstring tightness. Jerryd Bayless started in his place. 

The Sixers’ upcoming schedule is unforgiving of injuries. Looking at the approximation for re-evaluation, Redick would miss five games over the next 10 days (at Celtics, vs. Bucks, at Grizzlies, vs. Bulls, at Spurs). Two weeks would span the road trip that begins in San Antonio and includes the Thunder and Bucks (back-to-back).

Redick's injury comes as fellow guard Markelle Fultz is trying to make his way back on the court since being sidelined in late October because of his right shoulder.