76ers

Crucial foul call seals Sixers' loss to Clippers

slideshow-sixers-hollis-thompson-ap.jpg

Crucial foul call seals Sixers' loss to Clippers

BOX SCORE

The fact that the Sixers could lament a late-game foul with 1:33 left as the final nail in the coffin in the 94-83 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), is a testament to the Sixers’ grittiness.

Despite missing 20 shots during the first quarter and 17 more in the second quarter to barely shoot 30 percent in the opening half, the Sixers were a whistle away from turning it into a two-possession game down the stretch.

At that point, anything could have happened.

Instead, a possible three-point play for the Sixers turned into a seven-point swing for the Clippers when starting two-guard Hollis Thompson was whistled for a charge call on Blake Griffin.

From there, the Clippers scored the final four points to hang on to a 16-point lead they carried throughout the fourth quarter and turned around the momentum of the game. The Sixers had scored six straight points and forced two turnovers from All-Star point guard Chris Paul in the minutes before Thompson’s charge.

After that, the Sixers had no chance.

“By and large, our team has played with an aggression that I’m proud of,” head coach Brett Brown said. “I’m proud of what they did tonight.”

The Sixers didn’t go quietly. Trailing by as many as 21 points during the third quarter with a season-low 36 points scored in the first half, the Sixers gave themselves a chance. With 25 points from Evan Turner and a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds) from Thad Young, the Sixers fought back into the game with aggressiveness and a little chippiness.

Turner got seven buckets in the paint as he tried, in vain, to get to the foul line. Turner’s aggression wasn’t reserved for his drives to the basket. The Sixers’ leading scorer also had a healthy banter with several of the Clippers’ players and a referee or two during the game. During the third quarter, Turner figured out a way to do both at the same time.

While protesting a call near the Clippers’ bench during the third quarter, Los Angeles bench player Ryan Hollins stood up and said something to Turner. Rather than telling Hollins to mind his own business, Turner told the center to be quiet in much more direct and colorful language.

Turner also found himself mixed into a little shoving match along with teammate Lavoy Allen and DeAndre Jordan during the fourth quarter.

“I think we tried to make it tough for them,” Turner said. “In the third quarter, they made some shots, but we tried to make it tough and more difficult for them.”

The Sixers struggled to find an answer for Paul, Jordan and Griffin. Paul scored 25 points on 10 for 18 shooting with 13 assists and had little difficulty getting to wherever he wanted on the floor.

“He never gives up the dribble,” Turner said about Paul. “When you’ve got those two athletes with you, and obviously he has a high IQ and everything like that, it makes it tough.”

Jordan benefitted from the Sixers’ 35.9 percent shooting, pulling down 21 rebounds to go with 11 points. Griffin, when not drawing charge calls, scored a game-high 26 points on 9 for 14 shooting to go with three blocked shots.

That trio shot it at a 62 percent clip while the rest of the team shot 11 for 43 (25.6 percent). And though the Sixers got a few shots to drop during the second half, the 3 for 21 shooting from the three-point range was crippling.

Though the Sixers got 47 shots in the paint, they were forced into taking 24 long two-pointers.

“We have to figure out some things in the half-court offense,” said Spencer Hawes, who was held to a season-low two points. “They scouted us pretty well. They took away what we wanted to do and we’ve got to figure out how to counter.”

The Sixers hit the road for two games starting on Wednesday night when they travel to Minneapolis. After that, the Sixers face the new-look Toronto Raptors on Friday night before returning home to face the Blazers on Saturday night.

Cousins posts historic triple-double in double-overtime win

usa-demarcus-cousins-pelicans-win.jpg
USA Today Images

Cousins posts historic triple-double in double-overtime win

NEW ORLEANS — DeMarcus Cousins had 44 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists, Anthony Davis scored 34 points, and the All-Star pair led a 17-point New Orleans comeback in the final five minutes of regulation before the Pelicans pulled out a 132-128 victory over the Chicago Bulls in double overtime Monday night.

Cousins scored seven points in the second overtime on a 3-pointer, a turnaround jumper and two free throws with 8.2 seconds left. He became the first NBA player since Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1972 to have as many as 40 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

E'Twaun Moore scored 15 points, including a 3 in the second overtime to help the Pelicans win for the fifth time in six games.

Jerian Grant had 22 points and 13 assists, and Robin Lopez also scored 22 for the Bulls, who appeared well on their way to their fifth victory in six games when they opened the fourth quarter with a 23-5 run to take their largest lead at 104-86.

Chicago still led by 17 when Bobby Portis hit a pair of free throws with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter. But Cousins and Davis led New Orleans back with a stunning 21-2 run. Jrue Holiday tied it at 110 on a 3 with 46 seconds left, and Davis briefly gave New Orleans the lead with an alley-oop dunk of Holiday's lob (see full recap).

Murray's 38 points lead Nuggets over Trail Blazers
DENVER — Jamal Murray scored a career-high 38 points, including a three-point play in the final minute, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 104-101 on Monday night.

Nikola Jokic had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Will Barton hit four free throws in the final 10 seconds to secure the win and spoil Jusuf Nurkic's return to Denver.

Nurkic had 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in his first game back at Pepsi Center. Damian Lillard had 25 points and seven assists for Portland.

Nurkic played two-plus seasons with the Nuggets to begin his career, and was playing his first game in Denver since he was dealt to Portland last season. He received a smattering of boos when he was introduced as a starter and a few during the game (see full recap).

Bucks beat Suns hours after firing Kidd
MILWAUKEE — Khris Middleton spent three-plus years under Jason Kidd's tutelage, blossoming into a dangerous scorer with the Milwaukee Bucks.

He showed off what he learned in the Bucks' first game without Kidd.

Middleton scored 35 points, Malcolm Brogdon added a career-high 32 and Milwaukee beat the Phoenix Suns 109-105 on Monday night hours after firing Kidd.

"It's tough for me," Middleton said. "He took my game to another level. He took this team to a whole other level. Today was a tough day."

Assistant Joe Prunty was promoted to replace Kidd for the rest of the year. After a slow start, the Bucks heeded the new coach's call to focus (see full recap).

Rockets come back to top Heat
HOUSTON — Chris Paul wasn't thrilled with how the Houston Rockets played Monday night.

The veteran was perfectly happy with the outcome though.

James Harden scored 28 points and the Rockets overcame a big early deficit to beat the Miami Heat 99-90.

"You have those games during the season where (you) win the game and move on ... out of 82 of them sometimes it's going to be ugly, but you just want to win," Paul said.

Miami led by double digits before halftime, but the game stayed close throughout most of the second half. It was tied with about three minutes left when Harden hit a 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired. That was the start of a 7-2 run that made it 95-90 with 38 seconds left (see full recap).

Sixers' loss falls on Brown? No, his stars went missing

Sixers' loss falls on Brown? No, his stars went missing

BOX SCORE

For a team that almost won its eighth game in nine tries Monday night, the flaws on this Sixers squad are obvious.

They blow big leads.

They turn the ball over too much.

They don’t have a dependable perimeter scorer late in the game.

And they’re reliant on their stars to cover up those problems. While Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot’s season-high 20 points (see highlights) and Dario Saric’s 22 almost saved the team Monday, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have to show up if the Sixers want to win night in and night out, and they didn’t in an ugly 105-101 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (see observations).

“Our stars weren’t stars tonight, and our wings were below average," Brett Brown told reporters. "I think [Luwawu-Cabarrot] played well. I think in general the story should be the turnovers. You can’t win any NBA game that matters, and you certainly can’t even consider the playoffs, if this ends up just part of who we are.”

The Sixers, who led the NBA with 18.1 turnovers per game entering Monday’s contest, had 24 turnovers compared to just 12 for the Grizzlies. Ten of those turnovers came in the fourth quarter.

Twenty-four turnovers, and 39 points off those turnovers, are obviously unacceptable statistics. But Brown knows a young team that plays fast like the Sixers will have plenty of games with turnover totals in the high-teens. The Sixers can win those games, but only if their stars play like stars.

Simmons had only eight field goal attempts against the Grizzlies, and didn’t take a free throw for the second straight game. He had just six points along with seven assists and four turnovers.

Embiid scored 15 points, going 5 for 13 from the field and 5 for 9 from the line. While the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week pulled down 14 rebounds, he wasn’t himself.

“This wasn’t one of Jo’s games,” Brown said. “For whatever reason, from the start to the end, this just wasn’t one of his games. It was clear there wasn’t much going on tonight. When you see him miss the type of free throws that he missed, you know something’s going on. He’s had a great season, he’s a Player of the Week, and sometimes those games happen.”

Like Brown, Simmons was frustrated with the loss, and he agreed with his coach’s sentiment that “the stars weren’t stars.”

“Yeah, we weren’t,” Simmons said. “We sucked. We didn’t make big plays down the stretch, didn’t take care of the ball. Defensively, we weren’t too bad, but yeah, he’s right.”

Coaching this Sixers team is not an easy job. It may look easy when Embiid is playing like the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon and Simmons is making freakish play after freakish play, but Brown must feel helpless as he watches his young team gift the opposition free points while its big lead vanishes. When the Sixers win, it’s been pretty, but many of the losses have followed the same ugly pattern.

Brown can stress how important it is to take care of the ball, call timeouts to try to stop the opponent’s momentum and draw up plays to get his stars the ball in crunch time. He did all of those things Monday, and it wasn’t enough, because Embiid and Simmons had off nights on the same night. Many Sixers fans will want Brown to do more and will think this team should be beyond these sort of collapses. While that's a fair perspective, you can also understand Brown's exasperation.

“I thought that we had not much leadership,” Brown said. “I thought our poise was poor. I thought it was an immature loss. I think it’s a game where you look at the mistakes that were made and the opportunities that we blew, those types of words come to mind. It’s not something that we leave Memphis dusting off, thinking that there are 82 games and stuff like this happens — that’s not good enough. This is a game we should have won, we were in a position to win and we didn’t have the maturity to close it out.”