76ers

Green, Rondo too much in Sixers' loss to Celtics

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Green, Rondo too much in Sixers' loss to Celtics

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Essentially, the Sixers and the Celtics are traveling over the same path. As both teams carved apart their rosters and set off on complete overhauls, the 2013-14 season shaped up to be difficult all the way around.

Even with Boston’s 114-108 victory over the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay), there isn’t much separating the teams. Both are young and inexperienced with first-year NBA head coaches taking on the hard task of putting the pieces back together.

But where the Celtics (17-33) have it over the Sixers (15-35) is obvious. When Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green are on the floor, any team has a chance.

Green scored a game-high 36 points on 11 for 18 shooting, including 5 for 7 from three-point range. He scored 17 points in the third quarter and single-handily put the Celtics on the way to the victory.

Clinging to a two-possession lead with 8:47 left in the third quarter, Green scored 13 points in a row and 17 of the next 19 for the Celtics. He hit three three-pointers and went 6 for 6 from the line as the deficit grew to 12 points for the Sixers.

“It felt like it was a lot more,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of Green’s 17-point run in the third.

It only felt like more because the Sixers couldn’t do anything about it. With Rondo controlling the tempo of the game in a season-high 32 minutes, the Celtics always had an answer. That proved to be especially frustrating during the fourth quarter when the Sixers had six chances to cut the Celtics’ lead to one possession over the final nine minutes of the game.

Instead, the Sixers never got closer than three points with those six chances ending with three turnovers and four missed shots.

It was very frustrating for the Sixers to be so close only to let it slip away.

“It’s kind of the story of the year,” said Spencer Hawes, who had 13 points and 14 rebounds. “We battle back, but it takes so much energy to get back into games. We have to start giving ourselves a little pad to be on the other end absorbing it and having that little burst to finish them off.”

In his eighth game back following knee surgery, Rondo had a season-high 11 assists and came one rebound and one basket away from a triple-double. In a game in which all of the intangibles were equal -- the Sixers had 16 turnovers, Boston had 15; the Sixers had 47 rebounds with 13 offensive, Boston had 48 and 12 -- Rondo shifted the balance.

Facing off against rookie Michael Carter-Williams, who was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for January before the game, Rondo played like a conductor.

“He’s their compass,” Brown said about Rondo. “He’s just like Chris Paul where he has that cocky side that you just love where he’s in control of the game. It’s his ball and he’s going to dribble at a pace that he wants to and around who he wants to. Maybe he’s going to shoot it or maybe he’s going to drop it off. He navigates the lane freely.”

Carter-Williams had his eyes wide open while playing against Rondo, too. Though the knee surgery has left the Celtics’ point guard just slightly slower than normal, the basketball IQ and court savvy were as fine-tuned as ever.

There was plenty for the Sixers’ rookie to pick up on.

“He’s definitely a pass-first point guard,” said Carter-Williams, who had 11 points on 16 shots with six assists and four turnovers. “He’s a great passer who always finds his teammates and he’s the leader out there.”

Certainly, Carter-Williams is working to develop into a leader like Rondo. And despite the early-season accolades, it’s been a rocky road for the rookie. For instance, Carter-Williams had half of his assists during the first half, but the team was only able to find two shots in the opening half for leading scorer Evan Turner. Thad Young made up some of the difference with 12 of his team-high 20 in the first half, but the Sixers rarely run plays just for Young.

Turner squeezed off 11 shots for 12 points in the second half, however, he created a few of those for himself.

Afterwards, Turner said his shots came when available.

“It was just the flow of the game,” Turner said. “That was pretty much it.”

With Rondo back on the floor, the flow of the game had been decided and there was nothing the Sixers did to steal it away.

Best of NBA: Suns put distractions to the side, beat Kings for 1st win

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Best of NBA: Suns put distractions to the side, beat Kings for 1st win

PHOENIX -- Devin Booker scored 22 points, including two free throws with 9.8 seconds to play, and the Phoenix Suns beat the Sacramento Kings 117-115 on Monday night for their first win of the season in their first game under interim coach Jay Triano.

Phoenix fired coach Earl Watson on Sunday and guard Eric Bledsoe was sent home Monday morning after he sent out a tweet over the weekend that left the impression he no longer wanted to play for the Suns.

Despite the tumultuous stretch for the franchise, Phoenix shot 54.5 percent from the field and held on after Sacramento rallied in the final period. Marquese Chriss scored 19 points, and Mike James finished with 18.

The Kings have dropped three of four to begin the season. Garrett Temple scored 23 points for Sacramento, and rookie De'Aaron Fox had 19 (see full recap).

Grizzlies hold Harden, Rockets in check for victory
HOUSTON -- Marc Gasol scored 26 points to lead the Memphis Grizzles to a 98-90 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

Memphis has won its first three games for the first time since the 2014-15 season when the team won its opening six contests.

With the game tied at 88 with less than three minutes remaining, tempers flared after Memphis guard Mario Chalmers fell to the ground and tripped James Harden, who then shoved Chalmers as he tried to get off the ground. After a lengthy review, both players received technical and Harden was called with an offensive foul.

On the following play, James Ennis III made a shot where he was fouled and converted the free throw to put Memphis up three. After Clint Capela's dunk, Mike Conley hit a 3 to push the lead to 94-90.

Conley struggled for most of the game, shooting 3-for-10 from the field and scoring nine of his 17 points at the free throw line, where he was perfect. But he came on huge for Memphis down the stretch, making key shots and getting pivotal assists (see full recap).

Shorthanded Spurs hand Raptors 1st loss
SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and Dejounte Murray had 16 points and 15 rebounds and the San Antonio Spurs held on to beat the Toronto Raptors 101-97 on Monday night.

San Antonio was without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker and Toronto was without Jonas Valanciunas and their absences were noticeable in the flow of each team's offense.

The Spurs had a season-high 20 turnovers. They were averaging 11 turnovers in their first two games, but had four in the opening four minutes.

Toronto took advantage, keeping the game close despite being outrebounded 56-33.

DeMar DeRozan had 28 points and Serge Ibaka had 13 as the Raptors lost their first game of the season (see full recap).

Ben Simmons joins elite company with triple-double in Sixers' 1st win

Ben Simmons joins elite company with triple-double in Sixers' 1st win

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DETROIT — Sixers coach Brett Brown was well aware of the risk when he asked Ben Simmons, who played forward in high school and college, to run his team’s offense.

It was a gutsy call, at the time, that many critics scoffed and questioned.

Not anymore.

In just his fourth career NBA game, Simmons pieced together a memorable triple-double Monday night to become just the third player in history to accomplish the feat in such a time span, and more importantly, help lead the Sixers (1-3) to their first regular-season win.

“It’s awesome to have a triple-double, but at the same time, it’s even better to have that win,” Simmons said. “Especially with these guys and a young team like this.” 

It wasn’t a do-or-die game for the Sixers by any stretch, but Monday night’s 97-86 win in Detroit certainly rejuvenated a fan base that may have started casting doubt as to whether the Sixers are a legit playoff-caliber team (see observations)

Moreover, it served as much-needed validation for Brown and his young, talent-packed squad, following three straight losses, including Saturday’s 34-point blowout loss in Toronto.

“I’m happy for our guys,” Brown said. “They really came into the building knowing that we needed to get a win. To get rewarded with the win, it just validates some of the work that everybody has put in.”

Particularly Simmons, who entered this season with the eyes of Philadelphia watching his every move during his first tour around the NBA after missing all of last season nursing a fractured foot. 

“We won, and, honestly, that means so much than stats for me,” said Simmons, who finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. 

Simmons doesn’t fit the mold of a prototypical point guard, but — then again — the NBA has evolved into a position-less league. Players of all shapes and sizes do everything nowadays. And Simmons — just four games into his NBA career — is among those leading the charge.

“I mean, we all see how gifted he is physically,” Brown said. “Him, with the ball, able to do the things he does, produces a lot of these mismatches and numbers. 

“We’re able to post him. He’s able to seal the pick-and-rolls. You see how gifted he is in open court. He’s got that breakaway speed that is jaw-dropping. And he’s 6-foot-10.”

Simmons, to his credit, was extremely humble when asked about his triple-double accomplishment after the game. But it’s possible the 21-year-old phenom was unaware of the elite company he joined and how rare a feat it was to put up a triple-double just four games into his career. 

When Simmons notched his 10th assist on Joel Embiid’s layup with slightly more than minute to play, he became the first player with a triple-double in his first four career games since Hambone Williams in 1967. The only other player in NBA history to do so? Oscar Robertson, in 1960. 

“I feel like this stat line, we’ve kind of seen a snapshot of it the first three games,” Brown said. “It just seems a bit more special when it’s associated with a win.”

Win or not, Simmons has made it abundantly clear Monday night that — even with Markelle Fultz in the mix — he’s the Sixers’ point guard. No ands or buts about it.

When it was made clear in April that Brown wanted the versatile rookie to play point guard, the controversial decision was met with raised eyebrows. But Brown, to his credit, hasn’t wavered. And today, by all accounts, that gamble is paying off. 

“You know, the decision to make him our point guard is challenged in some some way,” he said. “But as an organization, we stayed strong that that’s where we want to play him.”

It was a gutsy call by Brown at the time, and while the Sixers may only be four games into the season, it’s proving to be the right call.