76ers

Best of NBA: Nets beat Kings to snap 16-game losing skid

Best of NBA: Nets beat Kings to snap 16-game losing skid

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Brook Lopez had 24 points and eight rebounds, and the Brooklyn Nets never trailed in snapping a 16-game losing streak by defeating the Sacramento Kings 109-100 on Wednesday night.

The Nets' previous win was Jan. 20 at New Orleans. They had dropped 27 of 28 games since beating Charlotte on Dec. 26. The franchise record for consecutive losses is 18 by the 2009-10 team that went 12-70, another low mark in club history.

Jeremy Lin scored 17 points, Isaiah Whitehead had 14 and Caris LeVert finished with 13 for the NBA-worst Nets (10-49). Brooklyn made 11 3-pointers and shot 46 percent.

Sacramento rookie Buddy Hield hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points. Ty Lawson and Tyreke Evans both had 15 points, and Aaron Afflalo added 14. The Kings have lost three straight and are 1-3 since trading DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans in a blockbuster deal (see full recap).

Thomas, Celtics overcome LeBron’s triple-double
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 31 points, including a pair of go-ahead free throws, as the Boston Celtics outlasted LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-99 on Wednesday night.

Boston's win overshadowed the seventh triple-double of the season for James, who finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Kyrie Irving added 28 points for the Cavaliers, who lost for the first time when leading at any point in the fourth quarter on the road.

The game also marked the third meeting this season between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, and the first win by the Celtics.

Jae Crowder had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which led by three entering the fourth quarter before there were six ties and 10 lead changes in the final 12 minutes.

Deron Williams, signed by Cleveland earlier this week, scored four points in 24 minutes in his Cavaliers debut (see full recap).

Spurs' Leonard hits game-winner in final seconds
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard had 31 points and 10 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs returned from an eight-game road trip to beat the Indiana Pacers 100-99 on Wednesday night.

Leonard hit a turnaround, fade-away jumper from 16 feet against Paul George with 2.4 seconds left to win it. Indiana's Monta Ellis missed a pair of free throws with nine seconds remaining and George missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

George finished with 22 points, C.J. Miles added 19 and Myles Turner had 16.

San Antonio extended its winning streak to five games, including four straight to close its annual rodeo road trip in February.

Pau Gasol and David Lee had 18 points each off the bench for the Spurs.

The battle between All-Star forwards was a stalemate until the final five minutes. Leonard scored San Antonio's final nine points during that stretch, including the game-winning shot, while George was limited to a pair of free throws (see full recap).

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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USA Today Images

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.