Dwyane Wade

Heat creep closer to Sixers despite injury concerns

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Heat creep closer to Sixers despite injury concerns

MIAMI — An easy win still presented the Miami Heat with some potential issues.

James Johnson scored 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting, the Heat piled up 76 points in the paint and rolled past the Washington Wizards 129-102 on Saturday night.

Miami's starting five shot 77 percent, with Johnson and Josh Richardson - the Heat starting forwards - connecting on a combined 14 of their 15 shots.

"We were very detail-oriented," Johnson said.

But the postgame mood was at least somewhat tempered by injury concerns.

Dwyane Wade left early in the fourth with a mild hamstring strain, and doesn't expect to play on Monday when the Heat start a three-game road trip in Portland. Justise Winslow left the floor with the final seconds running off the clock after appearing to have some sort of problem with his right knee, but the Heat believe he's fine. And those were preceded by Hassan Whiteside being unable to play at all because of hip soreness (see full recap).

Westbrook's triple-double leads Thunder over Spurs
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook scored 21 points and posted his 19th triple-double of the season to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the San Antonio Spurs 104-94 on Saturday night.

Westbrook had 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the 98th triple-double of his career.

Jerami Grant scored 15 points, Corey Brewer added 12, Paul George and Alex Abrines each scored 11 and Patrick Patterson had 10 for the Thunder. Nick Collison scored all seven of his points in six critical minutes in the fourth quarter for Oklahoma City, which improved to 6-3 since the All-Star break.

Rudy Gay and Davis Bertans each scored 14 points for the Spurs, who have lost eight of 10. LaMarcus Aldridge was held to 11 points on 5-for-16 shooting in the matchup between teams that are in the running for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference (see full recap).

Grizzlies crushed by Mavs as losing streak reaches 17 games 
DALLAS — Harrison Barnes scored 25 points and the Dallas Mavericks beat Memphis 114-80 on Saturday night, extending the Grizzlies' losing streak to 17 games.

The Grizzlies (18-48), who have the longest losing streak in the NBA this season and the league's worst record, trailed by 26 points after shooting 26 percent in the first half and didn't lead after the 9:20 mark of the first quarter.

The only longer losing streaks in franchise history were skids of 23 and 19 games in the expansion season of 1995-96 in Vancouver. It's the longest losing streak in Memphis pro basketball history.

The Mavericks (21-45), also among the NBA's worst teams, allowed their fewest points in any half this season while building a 56-30 halftime lead on the way to their largest margin of victory this season. Barnes had 14 points in the first half, 10 of them on 11 free throws (see full recap).

Sixers suffer crucial burns from Heat

Sixers suffer crucial burns from Heat


MIAMI — The Sixers let the chance to win the season series against the Heat slip by with a 108-99 loss Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. 

This game was important not only for the separation between the sixth and seventh seeds, but also for a potential playoff tiebreaker. The Sixers dropped to 35-29; the Heat improved to 35-31. 

The Sixers won the first two meetings at the Wells Fargo Center and could not grab a win in Miami. They have lost their last seven meetings on the road against the Heat dating back to 2015. 

Think players don’t check the standings after a game like this? Joel Embiid does … regularly. 

“After every game, literally every day, especially the guys that are in the playoff race with us as far as seedings,” Embiid said at morning shootaround. “After every day’s game, you go and look, you see where you are, if you dropped or if you went up because a team lost.” 

• The Sixers have battled with third-quarter letdowns. This time, it was in the fourth that led to the Sixers’ downfall. The Heat opened the final quarter on a 14-4 run to turn the Sixers’ one-point lead into a 10-point deficit, 88-78. The Sixers’ only offense during that stretch came from free throws. The Heat created too much distance for the Sixers to overcome with a late-game push. 

“I think the physicality definitely was there,” Ben Simmons said. “I think for us, we just didn’t come ready. First quarter, we looked like we were ready to go come out and play. Then we just showed a lack of composure and just didn’t stay with it.”

• Embiid has not been satisfied with his recent performances and he struggled against the Heat. The big man shot 5 for 18 from the field for 17 points, seven rebounds and five fouls. Embiid competed in his 10th straight game Thursday, not including the NBA All-Star Game. He is still getting adjusted to this new (and unfamiliar) frequency of playing time. It remains to be seen if the Sixers rest Embiid sometime soon. 

“Obviously I was sh--ty,” Embiid summed it up.

• There hadn’t been too much to the social-media-sparked matchup between Embiid and Hassan Whiteside all season. In fact, it had been pretty tame. The two bigs, however, swapped elbows and arm grabs in the third quarter on one play. Whiteside was whistled for a technical foul, while Embiid was called for his fourth personal. Whiteside got the better of this battle, scoring a game-high 26 points with eight rebounds.

“[He] tried hit me in the back, which is kind of dirty because of the fact that I’ve had back problems,” Embiid said (see story). “So we’re going to see about that. I won’t forget about that.”

• Robert Covington is a streaky offensive player. Sometimes a hot night can jump-start a stretch of games. After scoring a team-high 22 points against the Hornets in the previous game, though, Covington shot 0 for 10 from the field and 0 for 5 from three in 29 minutes (seven rebounds). His three points came at the line. Covington did not attempt his first basket until two minutes into the second quarter, a cutting layup rather than his usual outside looks. 

• Simmons started the game with impressive dunks but netted only two points in the fourth quarter (10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists). The bigger issue wasn't his scoring, though. Simmons committed five turnovers after only one in the previous game. 

What should be fueling Sixers on road trip

What should be fueling Sixers on road trip

Not exactly the way to start a road trip, huh?

The Sixers fumbled their way to 26 turnovers as they blew multiple double-digit leads in a 118-110 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday in the opener of a four-game road stint.

Good thing for the Sixers is there is always another game just around the corner in the NBA. And in their case, each one presents a little extra motivation to get the job done.

At Charlotte (March 6 at 7 p.m.)
If nothing else, the Sixers simply want to get the bad taste out of their mouth from the meltdown in Milwaukee. After taking care of the ball exceptionally well the previous two games, the Sixers’ Achilles heel crept back up against the Bucks.

“We just kept turning the ball over,” Ben Simmons said. “Offensively, we didn’t make any plays, didn’t execute.”

Not to mention, the Sixers didn’t exactly play their best ball in last week’s 110-99 home victory over the Hornets. It took a monster 36-19 fourth quarter for the Sixers to secure the win.

At Miami (March 8 at 7:30 pm.)
Playoff implications are boiling over in this one. The Sixers sit just one game ahead of the Heat in the standings and will be looking to claim the series clincher in the final meeting of the season for the all-important tiebreaker.

Throw in the fact that the Sixers blew a late lead to a vintage Dwyane Wade and the Heat just last week, and the energy should be all the way cranked up for this clash on South Beach.

“That’s the type of loss we’re maybe going to regret because I think if we would have won those two games, we would have had a chance to be third or fourth in the conference,” Joel Embiid said after the 102-101 loss to the Heat on Feb. 27. “We’ve just got to keep staying focused and win some more games.” 

At Brooklyn (March 11 at 7:30 p.m.)
The revenge factor is often overplayed in sports. However, if one of your worst losses of the season came on the road to one of the worst teams in the league, there is certainly a measure of payback.

The Sixers allowed the Nets to shoot 50.6 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from three-point range in a 116-108 loss back on Jan. 31. 

“We forgot how to play defense,” Embiid said after the game.

With Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas able to gloat about winning their first meeting vs. the Sixers after getting traded away, you can bet the squad will want to put an end to that happiness this time around.