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

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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.

Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

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Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal scored 19 points, Marcin Gortat had 18 and the Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night in a possible playoff preview.

Washington (40-30) earned its second straight win to move into a tie with Indiana for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. The Wizards also claimed the first tiebreaker by taking two of three in the season series.

Gortat was 6 for 8 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. He scored a total of 17 points in his previous four games.

Washington went 10 for 20 from 3-point range and shot 54.8 percent from the field overall. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had 16 points for the Wizards, and Markieff Morris added 15 (see full recap).

Giannis' double-double helps Bucks hold on to beat Hawks
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 12 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 23 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held on for a 122-117 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

The Bucks finished off the Eastern Conference's worst team with a game-ending 11-5 run, pushing the pace after the Hawks lost ball-handler Dennis Schroder. The guard fouled out with 2:46 left, and was called for a technical foul after exchanging words with an official on the way to the sideline.

Middleton hit the free throw that started the run. The Hawks looked rushed on their next two possessions with a turnover and a blocked shot, allowing the Bucks to brush past them.

Trailing by 13 at one point, Atlanta put up a spirited fight before losing its 50th game of the year. Taurean Prince scored 38 points, while Schroder finished with 18 (see full recap).

LeBron gets 33 points in triple-double as Cavs beat Bulls
CHICAGO — LeBron James scored 33 points as part of a triple-double, Jordan Clarkson had a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:27 left and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls 114-109 on Saturday night.

James had 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his 15th triple-double of the season, and Jeff Green added 21 points. Clarkson finished with 19 points to help the Cavaliers salvage a six-game split on their season-high six-game trip.

Denzel Valentine led Chicago with a career-high 34 points, hitting 8 of 11 from long range. The Bulls wiped out a 17-point halftime deficit even though they held out banged-up core players Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, only to come up short in the closing minutes.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue spent the second half in the locker room with an illness, another hit for an already short-handed team (see full recap).

Justin Anderson has his number called — and delivers

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Justin Anderson has his number called — and delivers

One responsibility of professional athletes is being ready when your number is called.

Seems like a simple concept. However, not everyone can handle the duties of coming into a game cold and making an impact.

The Sixers' Justin Anderson prides himself on being able to thrive in just that type of situation. That's why when Brett Brown told him to be on alert prior to Friday's 120-116 win over the Nets, he was good to go.

"He came up to me before the game, maybe like 20 minutes before the game, and said he was going to go to me tonight," Anderson said. "I told him I was going to be ready. He went to me and we all played well."

Oh, Anderson was definitely ready. The third-year swingman entered at the 6:55 mark of the first quarter and made a trio of three-pointers to keep the sluggish Sixers afloat early on.

“I had hit the first one, and they were talking a little trash. They didn’t respect it, so they continued to go under [screens],” Anderson said. “I was always taught if they go under, raise up and shoot it. That’s what you practice for. I just wanted to make sure I took good shots, played hard, brung energy and I think we did a good of doing that.”

Wait, so guys on the 21-48 Nets squad had the nerve to talk a little smack? While a bit laughable, it didn’t help in knocking Anderson off his game.

“It just showed me that they weren’t disciplined in their scouting report and I tried to take advantage of it,” he said. “It’s not like I’m shooting 20s [percent] from the three. It was what it was and I just wanted to take advantage of my opportunity.”

Anderson finished with 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the field and 3 of 5 from three-point range along with two rebounds in 14 minutes. Even with that offensive production, it was his defensive prowess in the final minute that made the biggest impact on the night.

“We had the confidence to both give Richaun (Holmes) some minutes and Justin when it mattered and had a big stop,” Brown said. “I think it was against (Spencer) Dinwiddie. You know, moved his feet, guarded the yard as we call it.

That’s major trust in a player who missed 23 games earlier in the season with shin splints and eight more recently with an ankle sprain. But with the playoffs right around the corner, Brown knows he may need to go to Anderson again in an even more crucial moment.

“Good for him. He’s a wonderful teammate, he’s good people and he’s had sort of an erratic year with injury,” Brown said. “I thought tonight he confirmed what we all think in relation to him being able to help us.”