76ers

Best of NBA: Nets deal Bulls costly defeat as playoff race tightens

Best of NBA: Nets deal Bulls costly defeat as playoff race tightens

NEW YORK -- Dwyane Wade returned but the Chicago Bulls sustained a potentially costly loss when the Brooklyn Nets beat them 107-106 on Saturday.

Spencer Dinwiddie made four free throws in the final 13.6 seconds for the Nets in their home finale. He scored 19 points, as did rookie Caris LeVert.

Jimmy Butler scored 33 points for the Bulls, who came in tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference.

Wade started and played 25 minutes, scoring 14 points. He had been expected to miss the remainder of the regular season when he sprained his right elbow on March 15.

But the Bulls allowed 32 points in the fourth quarter, with Dinwiddie snapping a 103-all with two free throws with 13.6 seconds to play. Butler missed a jumper and Dinwiddie put it away with another pair with 2.4 to play (see full recap).

Whiteside, Heat beat Wizards to continue playoff push
WASHINGTON -- Hassan Whiteside scored 30 points and James Johnson hit a layup with 11 seconds left to give the Miami Heat a 106-103 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.

Johnson beat Markieff Morris to the basket for the go-ahead basket, Kelly Oubre Jr. threw away the inbounds pass and Josh Richardson made two free throws to seal it as the Heat moved into a tie for eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Chicago Bulls, who lost to the Brooklyn Nets earlier, own the tiebreaker.

The Wizards had no answer inside for Whiteside, who was 12 of 19 from the floor and grabbed 12 rebounds. His 30 points were two short of a career high.

After missing his first four shots, Goran Dragic finished with 18 points, and Tyler Johnson scored 19 with four 3-pointers.

Morris led Washington with 21 points. John Wall shot 5 of 18 for 16 points (see full recap).

Pacers win 3rd straight, move into sole possession of 7th
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Paul George scored 37 points and Myles Turner added 23 points and 10 rebounds to help the Indiana Pacers move a step closer to a playoff berth with a 127-112 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

The Pacers pulled a game ahead of Chicago for seventh place in the Eastern Conference and climbed back to .500 with their third straight victory.

Terrence Ross had 29 points for the Magic, while Evan Fournier had 23 and Aaron Gordon added 17. Orlando has lost six of its last seven.

Elfrid Payton had 10 points and 10 assists, but Orlando's perimeter game was no match for the Pacers' strength around the basket.

Indiana's starting frontcourt of George, Thaddeus Young and Turner was a combined 20 of 24 (83.3 percent) in the first half, when the Pacers took a 68-59 lead (see full recap).

Thomas leads Celtics past Hornets, 121-114
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Isaiah Thomas scored 32 points, and the Boston Celtics remained in contention for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 121-114 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

Al Horford added 16 points and Kelly Olynyk had 13 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season as the Celtics swept the four-game series and pulled within a half-game of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers (51-28) have road games remaining against Atlanta and Miami before closing at home against Toronto. The Celtics (51-29) have two home games left, against Brooklyn and Milwaukee.

Nicolas Batum had 31 points and Kemba Walker added 23 for the Hornets.

Boston led by as many as 19 in the second half, but the Hornets battled back to take a seven-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before Thomas took over (see full recap).

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said. 

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid would like to play 48 minutes every game. The Sixers are looking at a maximum of 20 for opening night.

"I don't really know if there's a solid number," Brett Brown said Monday after practice. "I can tell if you were to choose a number, it's somewhere in the teens."

Embiid was hoping for more playing time on Wednesday against the Wizards, his first regular-season game since Jan. 27 (left knee surgery).

"I didn't know about that, but that's very disappointing," Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. "I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today's practice and tomorrow's practice."

The Sixers are being cautious with Embiid, who has both a lengthy history of injuries and a massive new contract extension. He clocked 15 minutes in both of his preseason games last week. Embiid felt he could have played twice as many minutes.

While the Sixers aren't ready to go as high as 30 minutes yet, they could exercise some wiggle room based on the flow of the game.

"There will be some minutes restrictions, but it's also a judgment of how is the game being played, not just looking at rote, rigid number," Brown said.

The NBA's new timeout rules could impact Embiid's playing time. The updated format changes include a decrease in the maximum number of timeouts allowed (18 to 14), 75-second team timeouts and fewer timeouts in the final minutes of the game. 

"One of the things that we're doing this year unlike previous years is there's a little bit of a looseness in relation to it doesn't have to be rigid if the game didn't dictate some track meet," Brown said. "This is like I'm coaching in the London Olympic Games again. The game moves. I can have guys at a scorers table for two minutes with no stoppage. So sometimes the torrid pace of a game doesn't favor Jo where you go flying up and down."

In addition to individual games, it remains to be seen if Embiid will be cleared this season for back-to-backs. The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games this Friday and Saturday against the Celtics at home and the Raptors in Toronto.