76ers

Justin Anderson stars against former team as Sixers destroy Mavericks

Justin Anderson stars against former team as Sixers destroy Mavericks

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Justin Anderson admitted it: this game had been on his mind for a while.

When the Mavericks decided to trade Anderson last month, he remembered head coach Rick Carlisle told him, "I'm not sure exactly where you're going to go, but I'm almost certain it'll be somewhere that we play you. You'll get a great opportunity to show what you've got against us."

The Mavericks sent Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a draft pick to the Sixers in exchange for Nerlens Noel at the Feb. 23 deadline. Anderson made it a point to look at the calendar: March 17. Less than a month away.

"I've been looking forward [to it] ever since," he said.

Anderson played like he had something to prove in the Sixers' lopsided 116-74 win Friday, their largest victory since Jan. 30, 2008 (see Instant Replay). He tied a career-high with 19 points (7 for 11 from the field, 2 for 5 from three, 3 for 3 from the line), grabbed eight rebounds and dished three assists in 26 minutes off the bench. His performance far surpassed his averages with the Mavericks this season (6.5 points, 2.9 rebounds). Anderson has scored 19 points in three of his 11 games as a Sixer. 

"Anderson played with the attitude we needed tonight. That's one thing we will miss about him," Carlisle said, adding, "I'm happy for him. I did not want to trade him, but we needed to do it to get another good player."

Noel had nine points, five rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes off the bench in his return to Philadelphia (see story).

On the other side, Anderson opened his scoring with a three-pointer. In a situation in which anxiousness could set in, he didn't look nervous against his former team.

"When you've got the confidence that your teammates give you and Coach (Brett) Brown gives you all that confidence in the world to step into your shots and do what you do, it helps out a lot," Anderson said. "I was comfortable out there. I was used to a lot of actions that they run and how they defend, so I was kind of a step ahead tonight and it felt good."

Anderson's intensity powered the Sixers to maintain their halftime lead, which they have struggled to keep in the past. He scored 12 points in the third quarter, only four less than the entire Mavs team.

"His energy, his demeanor, it just made us that much more aggressive and amped us up even more," Robert Covington said. "The plays he made were very, very amazing and they really got us going and kept us in the position we were in throughout the game."

The Sixers have lauded Anderson's athleticism and he put it on display. In the third, Anderson brought the crowd to its feet with a one-handed putback slam dunk off a Nik Stauskas missed three-pointer. He finished it off with an extra exclamation (see feature highlight).

"I felt like I was floating up there for a second because it bounced so high," Anderson said. "I was waiting for it to come down. I got lucky on the timing and I got a chance to squeeze it in there. The way I landed, my back was already kind of arched so I was excited. If anyone knows me, I'm a player that's just going to play hard. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. It's never to disrespect or show any harm. It's the reaction to an athletic play."

Anderson was glad to see the Mavs, the only team he had known in his short NBA career before being traded. He chatted up Dirk Nowitzki in between plays and exchanged friendly banter with Nicolas Brussino. Anderson even heard from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who was sitting courtside next to the team's bench.

"He told me he didn't like my haircut," Anderson said. "But, no, it was cool. There was no trash talk. … It's cool being able to play against former teammates and stuff. They were very excited to see me, so was I, so it meant a lot."

It means a lot for the Sixers to have him now.

"He brings toughness, physicality," Richaun Holmes said. "He comes prepared to play, prepared to win. That's what we need and it's great to have him as a teammate."

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid didn’t take home MVP honors as planned, but he leaves All-Star Weekend having made his mark on the NBA. 

While Embiid had a strong performance, he and Team Stephen fell to Team LeBron, 148-145, Sunday night.

Here are three things to know about Embiid’s first experience as an All-Star:

Hungry to make an impact
Embiid kicked off the game with a driving dunk. He drew a foul on Anthony Davis to complete the three-point play. Less than a minute later, he knocked down a jumper to score Team Stephen’s first five points.

Embiid finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes. He shot 8-for-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from three.

While he was eager to score, he also recognized the talent of his squad. So when had the ball with just seconds left on the clock and the game on the line, he passed it off instead of trying to be the hero (even if the shot didn’t go in).

"I wanted to shoot it but I felt like I had Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) on my team and (Paul George) was really pressuring me,” Embiid said. “But I felt like I had Steph and Klay on my team, so I felt like it was a better idea to pass them the ball because they’ve been doing that for years and I have a lot of respect for them, and that’s what I did.”

Embiid vs. Westbrook: Round 3
Just when it seemed like the next matchup between Embiid and Russell Westbrook would have to wait until next season, the two were crossed paths in the All-Star Game. Embiid hit a three over Westbrook and then swatted his shot (see video).

Embiid insisted it was all in good nature: “I kind of thought about staring at him and I kind of did. But you know it's all fun. I don't have anything against him. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a great competitor and I love to compete too. So I have a lot of fun playing against him.”

Westbrook, on the other hand, said he didn’t pay much mind to Embiid.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked his opinion of Embiid’s first All-Star performance. “I wasn’t really paying attention, honestly. I was paying attention to our team.”  

Let’s get the 2018-19 NBA schedule now to circle the calendars for their next meeting.

From trash talker to student
Embiid said from the time he was named a starter that he wanted to use this weekend as an opportunity to learn from his experienced teammates. And that he did. 

Check out this rundown of players on Team Stephen whose basketball know-how Embiid sought after.

“Steph, on the bench or during the game, I kind of asked him a couple questions,” Embiid said. “All the guys. (Karl-Anthony Towns) we talk a lot. Draymond (Green), of course, we talked a lot about him not being able to guard me. Of course he mentioned when we blew the lead against them, of course he had to mention that … Kyle (Lowry) was amazing. DeMar (DeRozan), always amazing. James (Harden), amazing. Al (Horford) was great; I love spending time with him. All those guys, they were great.”

Lowry was among many fellow All-Stars to appreciate Embiid’s talent so early in his career.

“(My advice is) continue to be him, and I think that’s his best trait,” Lowry said. “He’s a very hungry, humble guy, super talented, He’s just trying to figure it out and learn the game.”

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Embiid will return to Philadelphia from Los Angeles where he has one big to-do list after participating in the Rising Stars game, Skills Challenge and All-Star Game. Embiid plans to sleep.

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

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AP Images

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

LOS ANGELES — Rookie Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz put on a show in the slam dunk contest to cap off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Mitchell edged Larry Nance Jr. by two points, sealing his victory with a close approximation of the 360-degree spin dunk that Vince Carter used to win the 2000 contest.

"I wanted this so badly," Mitchell said. "This is one of my favorite events of All-Star weekend. To not only be in it, but to win it, it's crazy."

Before making his winning dunk, Mitchell peeled off his Jazz jersey and wore a vintage Carter jersey from the Toronto Raptors.

Mitchell -- three inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Carter -- needed a score of 47 to beat Nance, and he got a 48 from the five judges: DJ Khaled, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Lisa Leslie.

Nance, who was trying to win the contest 34 years after his father won it, had earned a perfect 50 with a dunk off a double alley-oop off the glass.

Mitchell advanced to the finals with a creative dunk in the first round that used his sister, Jordan, as well as Kevin Hart and the comedian's son as props. For that dunk, Mitchell wore a Darrell Griffith Jazz jersey. Griffith participated in the first slam dunk contest in 1984.

"I appreciate Kevin Hart coming out there and helping me out," Mitchell said. "He's my favorite comedian."

Booker wins 3-point contest with record final round
Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns won the 3-point contest with a record 28 points in the final round. He beat 2016 champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Los Angeles Clippers.

"It feels really good," Booker said. "I wanted to go out there and make a name for myself."

Did he ever. He was sensational in the final round on Saturday, when he missed only five of 25 shots.

Each player shot five five-ball racks with a one-minute time limit. The final ball of each one was a "money ball" worth two points, and one of the racks, usually the last one, was all money balls. Booker made the money ball shot on his first four racks, and then made four of the five balls on the money ball rack.

Harris, Booker and Thompson advanced from the eight-man field to the finals. Harris scored 17 points before Booker scorched the nets for 28 points. Thompson followed and scored 25 points.

The previous record was 27 points, set by Stephen Curry in 2015 and matched by Thompson the following year.

Booker, the 21-year-old sharpshooter in his third season with Phoenix, is averaging 24.2 points per game this season as the NBA's 12th-leading scorer. Eleven months after the shooting guard dropped 70 points against Boston to become the youngest player in NBA history to score even 60 in a game, Booker added another accolade to his promising career with the 3-Point title.

Thompson beat the buzzer with his final shot of the first round to reach the finals with 19 points. Booker also scored 19 and Harris had 18.

Dinwiddie tops Markkanen in Skills Challenge final 
Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets won the skills challenge to kick off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Dinwiddie, who played at Taft High in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, beat Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls in the final round.

The skills competition consisted of two players going head to head. They dribbled around pylons, passed the ball into a net, dribbled to the other end of the floor for a layup and then dribbled back to the other end to take a pull-up 3-pointer.

Eight players started the competition, with Dinwiddie and Markkanen advancing to the final.

Markkanen struggled passing the ball into the net, giving Dinwiddie a big lead. Dinwiddie dribbled down the floor and missed his first 3, but drained the next one to win.