76ers

Best of NBA: Kyle Lowry returns, Raptors beat Pistons

Best of NBA: Kyle Lowry returns, Raptors beat Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kyle Lowry had 27 points and 10 assists in his return from a wrist injury and the Toronto Raptors rallied to beat the Detroit Pistons 105-102 on Wednesday night.

Back in the lineup after missing 18 games, Lowry helped the Raptors overcame a 20-point first-half deficit. Toronto moved a half-game ahead of the Washington Wizards for third place in the East.

Jonas Valanciunas had 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter for Detroit, Ish Smith and Tobias Harris had 16 points each, and Cory Joseph added 15. The Pistons dropped to 11th in the conference, three games behind Miami, Chicago and Indiana with four games to play.

Serge Ibaka's 3-pointer gave Toronto its first lead of the game with 1:20 to play, but Marcus Morris answered with a 3-pointer to tie it at 100 with 1:09 left (see full recap).

Westbrook misses triple-double, Thunder beat Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Russell Westbrook fell a rebound short of an historic triple-double, but he scored 45 points, including a late 3-pointer that helped seal the Oklahoma City Thunder's 103-100 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

Westbrook's 3-pointer - his eighth in the game - with 14 seconds left and two free throws in the final second gave the Thunder their second win in a row. Oklahoma City solidified its hold on the Western Conference's sixth seed, holding a 3 1/2-game lead over the Grizzlies.

Westbrook had 10 assists and nine rebounds, leaving him tied with Oscar Robertson's 55-year-old record for triple-doubles in a season with 41 (see full recap).

James dominates, Cavs beat Celtics 114-91 in East showdown
BOSTON -- LeBron James had 36 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and the Cleveland Cavaliers ran past the Boston Celtics 114-91 on Wednesday night to move back into first place in the Eastern Conference.

The teams had identical records entering their final regular-season matchup, but Cleveland (51-27) now has a one-game lead over Boston (50-28) with only four games to play. Cleveland also holds the tiebreaker with the Celtics for the top seed, if needed.

Kyrie Irving added 19 points and five assists.

The Cavaliers played without starting center Tristan Thompson, who was out with a sprained right thumb. But they made due without him, surging at the start of the second quarter and taking as much as a 29-point lead in the third quarter. They also outrebounded Boston 51-38 (see full recap).

Tyler Ennis scores 19 points, Lakers top Spurs 102-95
SAN ANTONIO -- Tyler Ennis had 19 points in place of injured starter D'Angelo Russell and the Los Angeles Lakers never trailed in a 102-95 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

The Lakers led by as many as 26 points in snapping an eight-game skid against the Spurs.

Making his first start of the season, Ennis had six assists and only one turnover to help Los Angeles snap San Antonio's three-game winning streak. Russell missed the game after experiencing soreness in his knee during shootaround.

The Spurs pulled within 100-95 on back-to-back 3s by Kyle Anderson and Davis Bertans, but David Nwaba's follow slam shut the door on the rally. Bertans and Tony Parker led the Spurs with 14 points each (see full recap).

Sixers-Pelicans observations: Strong effort shorthanded but skid continues

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Sixers-Pelicans observations: Strong effort shorthanded but skid continues

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS — A must-see battle of bigs turned into a must-read injury list. Joel Embiid was an unexpected late scratch because of back tightness in Sunday’s touted matchup against the Pelicans.

And with that development, the tone of the game changed completely. Instead of Embiid taking on the towering duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the already-shorthanded Sixers scrambled to piece together a competitive squad.

Playing without Embiid, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell, the Sixers dropped their fourth straight game, 131-124, Sunday night to the Pelicans.

• Davis and Cousins didn’t do as much damage as what seemed likely without Embiid. Davis posted 29 points and eight rebounds and Cousins tallied 23 points and nine boards, but those totals weren't as monumental given the performances both have had against the Sixers in the past. It was actually former Sixer Jrue Holiday turned out to be the game’s highest scorer (34 points).

• Ben Simmons recorded his 15th double-double and ninth 20-point game (27 points, 10 assists, five rebounds). Rajon Rondo topped the assist duel with 18 dimes along with 13 points.

• The energy in the arena was lackluster in the first half. There was barely a reaction when Tony Allen walked off the court with a knee injury.

• The Sixers trailed 66-55 at the half and got back into the game by outscoring the Pelicans, 40-21, in the third. JJ Redick posted 11 points (a team-high 28 points overall), backed up by bigs Johnson and Booker with eight apiece. 

• But how does a 105-all tie turn into a nine-point deficit just-like-that? The Sixers allowed four straight threes, a pair by Holiday and one each from Davis and Cunningham, over a span of just 1:41 in the fourth. The Pelicans remained in control after that.

• Covington was out, as expected, after falling out of bounds and suffering a lower back contusion Saturday in Cleveland. X-rays and a CT scan came back negative. Covington is doubtful for the Sixers’ next game against the Timberwolves.

• Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot started in place of Covington. Luwawu-Cabarrot had a rough shooting night, going 2 for 10 from the field and missing all four of his three-point attempts.

• Brett Brown inserted Luwawu-Cabarrot in the starting lineup instead of going with three guards because the backcourt reserves were already depleted without McConnell, who missed his fifth games out of the last six because of a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder. Brown needed Jerryd Bayless to be available off the bench, while the Sixers clearly need McConnell’s hustle back on the floor.

• This injury-stricken game was an opportunity for role players to step up. Trevor Booker proved to be reliable again off the bench in his second game (16 points, nine rebounds). Richaun Holmes neared a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds.

• After going back and forth … and back and forth from the Sixers to the Sevens, Furkan Korkmaz put his time in the G League to use. He clocked 20 minutes for five points and three rebounds, including this jam.

• The Sixers shot a solid 27 for 30 from the free throw line but struggled 9 for 29 from three (31 percent). The Pelicans, as noted above, excelled from long range. They scored 45 points off 15 for 24 shooting (62.5 percent).

• Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry has heard the comparisons between Simmons and Magic Johnson, and he doesn’t think they’re off base.

“I think Ben is truly going to be one of the great young players in this league,” Gentry said. “When you say he plays like Magic, everybody goes like, 'Ahh,' but he’s out of that mold right there where he does a lot of things.”

• Gentry also got to know Embiid during their trip to Africa in August for Basketball without Borders. He described Embiid as “a character.”

“Just to see him on the court and see him with kids and see some of the things that he can do, it’s very impressive,” Gentry said.

• Familiar faces: Holiday played his first four seasons on the Sixers. Pennsylvania native and St. Joe’s alum Jameer Nelson signed with the Pelicans for his 14th NBA season. Nelson and his teammates were watching the Eagles game in the locker room earlier.

• Sixers fans were spread out around the arena in team jerseys and T-shirts. One fan hopped on a plane from Philadelphia by himself to catch the game. Another traveled from Pensacola, Florida, noting he’s been a dedicated fan “since the Tony Wroten days.” 

Robert Covington (lower back contusion) vs. Pelicans

Robert Covington (lower back contusion) vs. Pelicans

UPDATED: 7 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Robert Covington will miss the Sixers' game Sunday night against the Pelicans in New Orleans because of a lower back contusion he suffered during a fall Saturday late against the Cavaliers.

X-rays and a CT scan came back negative. Covington is with the team in New Orleans and is doubtful for Tuesday's game in Minnesota.

Covington tumbled out of bounds and over courtside seats while he tried to save a possession during a Sixers comeback attempt. There is an approximate four-to-five inch drop between the court and the area where Covington landed. Many of his teammates were unaware of Covington's injury at first because it was out of their vision.

“It’s scary to see your teammate like that,” guard JJ Redick said. “They said he fell on his back. I wanted to make sure he’s walking and not in too much pain. But I just wish the best for him and hope he’s OK.”

The Sixers will have to replace Covington in the starting lineup.

Joel Embiid, who was expected to play after sitting out Saturday because of his back-to-back restriction, was scratched right before the game because of back tightness.