Carmelo Anthony

More Sixers vs. Thunder, please

More Sixers vs. Thunder, please

BOX SCORE

OKLAHOMA CITY — The season series between the Sixers and Thunder isn’t really over, is it?

These teams could play each other 20 more times and each game would be one to watch.

What started in Philadelphia on Dec. 15 as a triple-overtime thriller carried over to Oklahoma City Sunday night as a high-intensity battle that resulted in a 122-112 win for the Thunder on their home court (see observations).

While the Sixers and Thunder will not face off again until next season, these two contests were just a glimpse into what already has the making of a must-see matchup. 

“After a little talk after game one, leading into this game, kind of was looking forward to it,” Russell Westbrook (37 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds) said. “But, you know, Oklahoma City, 2-0.” 

Their first meeting of the season at the Wells Fargo Center wrapped up with a preview of what was to come Sunday night. During the Thunder’s 119-117 victory, Joel Embiid waved goodbye when Steven Adams fouled out. That didn’t set well with Westbrook, who sent his own message to Embiid after the buzzer.

“He told me to go home,” Embiid said that night. “And this is my home and I ain’t going nowhere.”

When the Sixers traveled to the Thunder’s home, the Thunder put their mark on the game with a second-half push and improved to 19-7 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. They extended their current winning streak to eight games and recorded their 18th straight win over the Sixers dating back to 2008. 

“You come into this building and you know with the roster that they have that you are going to be in for a fist fight,” Brett Brown said. “They are a big team. They are a physical team. You roll out three gold medalists and All-Stars and you sort of have Steven Adams at the center of it all, you know you are in for a long night.”

It was clear from the start both teams hadn’t forgotten their first battle. There were hard fouls, players hitting the floor and aggressive drives to the basket. The Sixers’ and Thunder’s combined 106 points in the paint was reflective of the jam-heavy ballgame. Ben Simmons, Adams and Westbrook rank in the league’s top 10 in points in that area. 

“They are so many athletes,” Embiid (27 points, 10 rebounds) said. “There was a lot of dunks. It’s just a show. It’s fun to watch, it’s fun to be in. But I wish we would have had the win, but these games are fun.”

Entertaining with a strong undertone of fast-paced intensity. The similar styles of play fueled this up-and-down contest. Paul George (31 points) considers the Sixers and Thunder’s styles to “mirror” one another. 

Then there’s the shared desire to win.

“I thought the atmosphere in Philly was a great atmosphere to be a part of and go on the road and play that game. That was our first time enjoying ‘The Process,’” Carmelo Anthony (16 points) said. “Tonight was just, we knew it would be a fun, physical game. Those guys, they just play hard for the full 48 minutes regardless of what’s going on out there. I think Coach (Brett) Brown does a great job keeping those guys engaged throughout the course of the game.”

The teams could look different next season, with no guarantees of trades and moves in free agency, especially Paul George. But both Embiid and Westbrook are locked in for long-term deals, creating the foundation for an Eastern-Western Conference showdown that isn’t going away anytime soon.

Thunder lose to Knicks in Anthony's homecoming

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USA Today Images

Thunder lose to Knicks in Anthony's homecoming

NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony got the cheers but the New York Knicks got the win, shutting out their former All-Star in the second half and beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-96 on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.

Michael Beasley tied his season high with 30 points in place of injured Kristaps Porzingis, and Doug McDermott, one of the players acquired for Anthony, added 11 of his 13 after halftime to help the Knicks break open the game.

Anthony scored 12 points in the first half but was 0 for 5 after, perhaps low on energy after the Thunder's three-overtime victory at Philadelphia a night earlier.

He made a 3-pointer for the Thunder's first basket of the game after a warm welcome back to the arena where he spent 6 1/2 years, finishing 5 of 18 from the field.

Russell Westbrook had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Thunder, who were trying to sweep a three-game trip that began with Paul George's winning return to Indiana on Wednesday (see full recap).

LeBron James has 60th triple-double, Cavs beat Jazz
CLEVELAND — LeBron James had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his 60th career triple-double and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the short-handed Utah Jazz 109-100 on Saturday night

James had his fifth triple-double of the season and third in his last four games. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter, was 9 of 15 from the field and 10 of 10 at the foul line.

Cleveland has won 17 of 18 overall and 11 straight at Quicken Loans Arena.

Center Rudy Gobert (sprained ligament and bone bruise in left knee) and forward Derrick Favors (left eye laceration) were out for Utah. Both were injured during Friday night in a win in Boston (see full recap).

Former Sixer Canaan hits game-winning free throws in Suns' win over T-Wolves
MINNEAPOLIS — Isaiah Canaan hit three free throws with 6 seconds to play in his first game with Phoenix and the Suns rallied to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-106 on Saturday night.

Added to the roster this week after the injury-ravaged Suns received a hardship extension, Canaan finished with 15 points and drew a foul on Jeff Teague on a 3-pointer with Minnesota leading by one. Originally ruled a shot-clock violation, reply officials overturned the call and Canaan calmly sank all three shots amid a loud crowd of neon green-clad fans.

Alex Len blocked Jimmy Butler's layup attempt out of bounds on the ensuring possession. Butler had one more look from the corner, but the attempt rimmed out and the Suns snapped their five-game losing streak.

Dragan Bender and Troy Daniels each scored 17 points for the Suns, whose bench outscored the starters 69-39. T.J. Warren added 15 points for Phoenix, which trailed by as many as 15 (see full recap).

Harden, Paul lead Rockets to 13th straight victory​
HOUSTON — James Harden scored 31 points, Chris Paul had 25 and the Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 115-111 on Saturday night for their 13th straight victory.

The winning streak is the Rockets' longest streak since a franchise-best 22 straight in 2007-08.

Harden hit a step-back 3-pointer over Malcolm Brogdon and was fouled, giving Houston an 11-point lead with less than six minutes remaining. In the last two minutes, Paul hit back-to-back mid-range jumpers on consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals for Milwaukee. Khris Middleton had 23 points, and Brogdon added 20. Milwaukee has lost three straight (see full recap).

Joel Embiid won't back down in his house

Joel Embiid won't back down in his house

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid’s Tour de Trash Talking continued Friday night in the Sixers’ triple-overtime loss to the Thunder.

Two days after an Instagram exchange with friend Karl-Anthony Towns, things got chippier against the Thunder veterans. Embiid swapped words with both Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. 

Westbrook took exception when Embiid waved goodbye to Steven Adams when the Thunder center fouled out, and the reigning MVP sent a message of his own after the game. 

“He told me to go home,” Embiid said. “And this is my home and I ain’t going nowhere.”

Embiid said he gave the Thunder credit for the 119-117 win (see observations), but took a jab at Westbrook’s individual performance. Even though Westbrook recorded a 27-point, 18-rebound, 15-assist triple-double, he shot just 30 percent in the effort. 

“The dude shot like 10 for 33,” Embiid said. “I wish I would have shot 33 times. I guess we would have had a better chance of actually winning the game.”

Embiid told Westbrook he would see him in Oklahoma City. The Sixers play the Thunder on the road Jan. 28. 

“I’m not about to get into back and forth with him,” Westbrook said, according to The Oklahoman. “I’m not about to give him my energy.”

Before Embiid had words with Westbrook, there was chatter between him and Anthony.

With the Sixers down seven and 2:26 on the clock, Embiid banked in a hook shot as he was fouled by Anthony (see highlights). After the bucket, Embiid shouted “and-one” several times in Anthony’s direction, which led to some jawing between the pair. 

Embiid reiterated he isn’t going to back down, nor is he concerned about these exchanges turning physical. 

“He just said something like, ‘Don’t do this with me,’ or something like that,” Embiid said. “I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re not going to do anything. You fouled me. I had the and-one on you.’ 

“Guys in the league, I can’t remember the last time someone actually threw a punch on somebody. I’m not worried about anybody. I’ve seen out there a lot, all over the place about people talking about people coming back at me. I’m African, so don’t try me.”

Embiid has been involved in trash talking with players around the league, from Towns to Draymond Green, Hassan Whiteside to Andre Drummond. Each time, he emphasizes the exchanges are conversations, not altercations. 

"I’m having fun," Embiid said. "What goes on the court, stays on the court. I don’t think I ever disrespect anybody."