Washington Wizards

Best of NBA: Bradley Beal's career-high 51 points ignite Wizards' win

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Best of NBA: Bradley Beal's career-high 51 points ignite Wizards' win

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Bradley Beal scored a career-high 51 points, and the Washington Wizards bounced back from a demoralizing loss the night before to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 106-92 on Tuesday night.

Beal made 21 field goals, also a career high, and the Wizards led by as many as 23 points. He hit five 3-pointers.

Damian Lillard finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for the Blazers, who have lost three straight at home after returning from a 4-1 trip.

Portland was hurt midway through the final quarter when center Jusuf Nurkic limped off the court and to the locker room after appearing to injure his right ankle. He had 15 points and nine rebounds before leaving.

The Wizards were coming off a 116-69 loss Monday night at Utah, the second-largest losing margin in franchise history (see full recap).

Westbrook's triple-double sparks Thunder comeback
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 34 points in his seventh triple-double of the season, and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied from 17 points down in the second half to defeat the Utah Jazz 100-94 on Tuesday night.

Westbrook finished with 14 assists and 13 rebounds. Paul George scored 21 points, Steven Adams had 20 points and nine rebounds and Carmelo Anthony added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Thunder, who won their third straight.

Rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points and Joe Ingles added 16 for the Jazz, who had won six straight and scored at least 106 points in each game.

The Jazz led 47-39 at halftime, and they opened things up even more early in the third quarter. A driving layup by Alec Burks put the Jazz up 72-55 as the Thunder continued to misfire on open shots.

Westbrook closed out the third quarter strong and helped the Thunder cut Utah's lead to 80-68 by the end of the period. He scored 11 points in the quarter.

Oklahoma City cut the deficit to six points early in the fourth quarter before Westbrook re-entered the game after a brief rest. The Thunder finally took the lead on a layup by Westbrook with about four minutes remaining. A tip-in by Adams with 43.2 seconds left put the Thunder up five (see full recap).

Lowry, DeRozan lead Raptors past Suns
TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry had 20 points and 10 assists, DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Phoenix Suns 126-113 on Tuesday night, improving their NBA-best home record to 9-1.

Suns guard Devin Booker had to be carried off the floor by two teammates after suffering an apparent leg injury with 2:40 remaining and Phoenix trailing by 11. Booker froze in pain while playing defense and did not move as trainers came out to examine him.

Booker, who shook off a 2-for-11 start to score a season-high 46 points Monday in a win at Philadelphia, shot 0 for 7 in the first half Tuesday. He finished 4 for 15 with 19 points, including 10 of 12 from the foul line.

Serge Ibaka scored 19 points and OG Anunoby matched his career high with 16 as Toronto won its fourth straight.

The Raptors, who have scored 100 or more points in 10 consecutive games, almost reached triple digits in three quarters Tuesday. Toronto led 97-79 heading to the fourth and weren't seriously challenged in the final frame.

Greg Monroe had 11 points and 10 rebounds as the weary Suns wrapped up a six-game, 10-day road trip with their seventh of 15 back-to-backs this season. Phoenix is 3-4 in the second game of back-to-backs.

Alex Len scored 13 points and Troy Daniels and Josh Jackson each had 13 for Phoenix, which went 2-4 on its trip (see full recap).

Adam Silver says Sixers' start 'everything you could ask for'

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Adam Silver says Sixers' start 'everything you could ask for'

Not everyone is a fan of the process.

No matter how you look at it, there are always going to be people that are upset at how the Sixers “tanked” their way through several seasons in an effort to acquire top-flight draft picks.

Count NBA commissioner Adam Silver in that group. There were reports — which Silver denied — that other owners pressured him to interfere with the Sixers’ massive rebuild and he responded by putting the wheels in motion for the team to hire Jerry Colangelo in a front-office role.

Whether that is true or not, Silver has made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t a supporter of the franchise’s previous tactics.

“Am I fan of that strategy? Put it this way: No,” Silver told fivethirtyeight.com in December 2015. “But does that mean that it’s not acceptable under the league rules? It doesn’t.”

Fast forward two years, the Sixers are littered with lottery picks, sporting a 12-8 record and commonly referred to as one of the league’s most promising teams.

So is Silver now trusting the process?

“I’m not going with that expression,” Silver said with a laugh to Marc Zumoff and Alaa Abdelnaby during the Sixers’ 118-113 win over the Wizards (see game recap).

“I have to say, they have a great organization in place. I think Bryan Colangelo’s doing a fantastic job, two-time executive of the year. He’s doing all of things necessary to build a team. He put in place a great analytics staff. He keeps stealing people from the league office but that’s separate issue I’ll talk to him about. (Chief executive officer) Scott O’Neil on the business side, Chris Heck (president of business operations), so I’m really pleased with what they’re doing, (managing partners) Josh Harris, David Blitzer.”

While Silver didn’t go as far as saying the methods Sam Hinkie put in place throughout the process’ years of torture actually worked, he did admit the NBA honchos are thrilled by the outcome.

“It’s everything you could ask for from a league office standpoint,” Silver said. “Obviously, it’s taken a while here and there’s been a lot of patience from the folks in the market. But we’re seeing the results now and it’s a really exciting, young team.”

Sixers overcome Wizards' Hack-a-Ben strategy to end homestand

Sixers overcome Wizards' Hack-a-Ben strategy to end homestand

BOX SCORE

“Hack-a-Ben” has officially started.

The Wizards tried to claw their way back into Wednesday's game against the Sixers by stalling the offense and sending Ben Simmons, who has struggled with free throws, to the line.

For 24 attempts in the fourth quarter. 

“It’s not going to happen for that much longer,” Simmons said after the Sixers’ 118-113 win (see observations). “I’m going to knock them down.”

Simmons entered the game shooting 56.6 percent from the line, a glaring contrast to his near-triple-double average. He had gone 3 for 5 through three quarters before the Wizards began to foul him as they trailed by 12 with 6:23 remaining.

The strategy continued for the next four minutes. The Sixers did not shoot a single field goal during that span. Their only other look came from a pair of free throw attempts by Joel Embiid. Meanwhile, the Wizards cut the Sixers’ lead to five points by the time Simmons went to the line for the final time. 

“I’m going to look at our defense,” Brett Brown said. “This is where the story should be told. There is a subtitle with this underneath Ben Simmons. This is all true. But they had 48 points in the [fourth] period.”

The exposure of a player’s weakness forces the coach to weigh whether he should leave him in and possibly miss shots or take him out to erase the opponent’s game plan. Brown had confidence in Simmons, who put up a mammoth double-double of 31 points and 18 rebounds in 41 minutes (see highlights). Simmons settled into a rhythm to drain six of his final eight free throw attempts, including five straight. In all, the rookie shot 15 for 29 from the stripe (51.7 percent) and the team made 41 of 64 (64.1 percent).

“We’ve done it ourselves,” Brown said of intentionally fouling. “Then you’re in a decision, do you take him out of the game or do you roll with him? And tonight, we decided to roll with Ben. And it’s going to be part of his evolution. He’s going to have a long career. He’s going to have to learn to navigate through this.”

It’s one thing to foul a player to stop him from scoring. It’s another to foul to stop an opponent from running its offense. Either way, it’s allowed by the NBA and a tactic implemented by teams around the league. 

The Wizards fouled Simmons for the last time with 2:23 left. The NBA implemented a rule in 2016 to curb the intentional fouling in the final two minutes. This game went two hours and 35 minutes, 29 minutes longer than the Sixers’ previous game against the Cavs. 

“It’s frustrating but you can’t do anything about it,” Embiid said. “That’s on Ben to step up and make free throws. I thought he did a great job of doing it and closing the game out.”

The Sixers are ready if opponents continue the “Hack-a-Ben” plan. They know they have to clamp down on defense if they can't get into their offense, and Simmons knows what he has to do avoid being targeted. 

"I step up," Simmons said. "I have no fear of taking free throws."