76ers

NBA Playoffs: Isaiah Thomas goes off for 53 points in Celtics' OT win vs. Wizards

NBA Playoffs: Isaiah Thomas goes off for 53 points in Celtics' OT win vs. Wizards

BOSTON -- It was his sister's birthday.

She would have been 23.

Isaiah Thomas spent four or five hours in the dentist's chair having work done on the tooth that was knocked out in Game 1, a day after he was in oral surgery for six hours having it repositioned in his mouth. His mouth was swollen, and he could barely talk. Still, he never considered not playing Tuesday night.

"The least I can do is go out there and play for her," Thomas said after scoring 53 points -- the second-highest total in Celtics playoff history -- to lead Boston to a 129-119 overtime victory over the Washington Wizards.

"I knew once game-time came, my guys would get me going, get me the energy to go out and win a game," Thomas said, ducking his face into his hands as he mentioned his sister, Chyna, who died in a car crash on the eve of the playoffs. "There was no way I was sitting out."

Fiddling with his new mouth guard throughout the game, Thomas scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and nine in overtime to help the Celtics take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals. The 53 points were the most in an NBA playoff game since Allen Iverson scored 55 in 2003, and just one shy of John Havlicek's franchise postseason record of 54 (see full recap).

Warriors cruise past Jazz in Game 1
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry pulled off a razzle-dazzle spin move right around big Rudy Gobert at the perimeter, went in for a layup and raised his hands, begging the sellout crowd to do its thing.

The Golden State Warriors sure did theirs, using that up-tempo, pass-happy style to run right by the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Curry scored 22 points in three quarters of work and the top-seeded Warriors warmed up in a hurry after a weeklong layoff between playoff games, beating the Jazz 106-94 on Tuesday night.

"I'll keep enjoying it. I feel like I have one of the better seats in the house and I'm not even paying for it," fill-in Warriors head coach Mike Brown said when asked about Curry's slick moves.

Draymond Green scored Golden State's first six points of the fourth quarter and wound up with 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two more blocks to bring his remarkable five-game playoff swat total to 19.

Kevin Durant added 17 points on an uncharacteristically cold shooting night at 7 for 17 and had five rebounds and five assists. He missed the middle two games against Portland because of a strained left calf then returned for 20 minutes in Game 4. Zaza Pachulia scored 10 points in 14 minutes.

Gobert had 13 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and a Flagrant 1 foul on Green in the fourth for the Jazz, who just finished off the Clippers in a seven-game series Sunday while the Warriors waited after eliminating Portland in a sweep April 24 (see full recap).

Sixers-Wizards observations: Plenty of fight but no victory in season opener

Sixers-Wizards observations: Plenty of fight but no victory in season opener

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — The Sixers opened the season with a 120-115 loss to the Wizards on Wednesday night at the Capital One Arena. They were within two points with 20.5 seconds to play, but the Wizards played feisty down the stretch and JJ Redick missed a key three.

With 1:18 remaining, Robert Covington drilled his seventh three-pointer to cut the deficit to two. The Sixers had chances to tie or go ahead but committed two of their 17 turnovers on consecutive possessions. After Bradley Beal tacked on a free throw, the Sixers had one final shot. However, Redick couldn’t connect on a contested three with 15 seconds remaining.

In spite of the final score, the revamped Sixers strongly competed against the well-familiarized Wizards. This game exemplified two obstacles they will face early on: overcoming the newness of their roster and juggling Joel Embiid’s laying time. Which leads to … 

• Embiid played 26:57 minutes, exceeding his (frustrated) expectation of 16. Brett Brown hadn’t set a hard number on Embiid’s playing time at shootaround Wednesday morning. He planned to be more flexible within Embiid’s restriction than last season. 

Embiid posted a double-double in his first 21:38 minutes through three quarters and seemed uncertain to return at that point. He re-entered the game, though, with 5:19 to play as the Sixers chased a win. Embiid recorded an 18-point, 13-rebound double-double with three assists.

• Ben Simmons attempted all of his shots in the paint and scored the majority at the basket. He also reached a double-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He logged nearly 35 minutes in his debut.

• The Markelle Fultz shoulder saga continued. Fultz took a pair of free throws with an awkward form that prompted a social media frenzy. His shot didn’t look comfortable nor natural as he deals with right shoulder soreness. Fultz made up for it with a monster block on Kelly Oubre, Jr. and aggressive drives to the basket. He scored 10 points off 5 for 9 shooting from the field in 18 minutes.

• Amir Johnson got the majority of the minutes at backup center. Brown went small with Dario Saric in the fourth. (See his train of thought here.)
 
Jahlil Okafor did not play. Okafor’s minutes may come when Embiid sits out an entire game, hypothetically, in a back-to-back. The Sixers will have to address that situation on Saturday.

• A night of firsts: Embiid’s first two points were free throws less than 45 seconds into the game. (He’s making a point of that.)
 
Simmons then scored his first NBA bucket with a driving reverse layup on a fastbreak. Fultz came in off the bench to score his first points on a fastbreak layup. Redick’s first basket as a member of the Sixers was (appropriately) a three-pointer in the second quarter. 

• Covington got into a three-point shooting rhythm. He hit 7 of 11 treys for a game-high 29 points.

• The Sixers had 17 turnovers in the game compared to the Wizards' nine.

• Fultz and Simmons made their NBA debuts, but they weren’t the only players getting into game rhythm. Take a look at how long it has been since these starters played in a regular-season contest: Bayless: Nov. 25, 2016 (wrist); Embiid: Jan. 27, 2017 (knee), Covington: Mar. 28, 2017 (knee). 

• Sixers fans chanted “Trust the Process” a minute into the game. The visiting team often is well-represented in Washington, DC

• The Sixers will be back in action on Friday night when they host the Boston Celtics in their home opener (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports app).

With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

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USA Today Images

With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

The Sixers will have two No. 1 overall picks make their NBA debuts on Wednesday night in Markelle Fultz (2017) and Ben Simmons (2016). They are in for a challenge with the Wizards, one of the best teams in basketball, and with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Wall and Beal know that challenge well. They were both top draft picks in their own right, Wall the first pick in 2010 and Beal the third pick in 2012. They can recall in specifics their first games in the NBA and how humbling they were.

"My first game, I was going against Dwight Howard. It was fun," Wall said. "There was a lot of pressure. There were a lot of people talking."

It's often said that the point guard position is as deep as it's ever been nowadays. The last three MVP awards have gone to point guards, for instance.

There were some good ones back in 2010, too.

"I remember in a five-game span I played like [Rajon] Rondo, Derrick Rose here and then I went out west and played Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Russell [Westbrook]," Wall said. "I don't think it's gotten any harder than it was back then in 2010 with those five guys. You kind of understand what those guys are about when you get to see it firsthand and play against them."

Beal vividly remembers going up against the LeBron James-led Miami Heat as a 19-year-old. It wasn't easy.

"It was the Heat when they had [Dwyane Wade] and LeBron on the same team. That's when D-Wade was electrifying. He still had his quickness. He was strong as I don't know what and I was a baby at that time," he said.

"For me, it was like I was in awe because those are the guys I grew up watching and I was a fan of. Now I'm playing against them and I can't be a fan of them. It was amazing to play against them, but also an eye-opener like, I need to get better."

Now it's Fultz and Simmons' turn to see what matching up with NBA superstars is like and don't expect Wall or Beal to take it easy on them.

"I'm a competitive person, so I'm not going to back down from any challenge," Wall said.