76ers

Best of NBA: Andre Drummond dominates as Pistons edge Celtics

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Best of NBA: Andre Drummond dominates as Pistons edge Celtics

BOSTON -- Andre Drummond scored 26 points with 22 rebounds -- both season highs -- and Tobias Harris scored 31 to lead the Detroit Pistons to a 118-108 victory on Monday night and send the Celtics to their first loss in Boston since their home opener.

Drummond had 10 rebounds in the first quarter and 11 points in the last 5:36 to help Detroit win the matchup of old-school rivals who are once again the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Reggie Jackson scored 20 points with seven assists for the Pistons, who have won three of their last four.

Marcus Smart scored 23 points, making 6 of 9 from 3-point range, and Kyrie Irving had 18 with nine assists for the Celtics. Boston has lost two of four since a 16-game winning streak.

Detroit led by 11 points in the first quarter, but it was tied 100-all with 5:36 left before the Pistons pulled away thanks to eight straight points from Drummond. With just over three minutes left, the Pistons center stole a lazy inbound pass at midcourt and drove for the dunk, drawing a foul from Irving.

The three-point play made it 109-102.

It was 114-108 when Smart's long, leaning 3-point attempt rimmed out with 34 seconds left (see full recap).

Harden drops 37 as Rockets win 5th straight
HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 20 of his 37 points in the first quarter to lead the Houston Rockets to a 117-103 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.

Harden added 10 rebounds and eight assists to guide the Rockets to their fifth straight win. When he took a break with 1:28 remaining in the first quarter, he was outscoring the Nets 20-17 by himself, not to mention four assists at that point. He was 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the first quarter and finished 8-for-13.

Clint Capela added 20 points for Houston, and Chris Paul had a season-high 14 assists on "Chris Paul Bobblehead Night" at the Toyota Center.

For the Nets, Isaiah Whitehead led scorers with 24 points off the bench. Spencer Dinwiddie had 14 points, Caris LeVert had 13 and Sean Kilpatrick added 12. Coming off of a 98-88 win in Memphis on Sunday night, Brooklyn has lost four of its last five.

Houston led 66-55 at halftime and entered the fourth quarter with a 16-point lead.

Brooklyn's bigger lineup outscored the Rockets 54-40 in the paint and had 43 rebounds to Houston's 42. But the Nets struggled to guard the sharpshooting Rockets on the perimeter. Houston made 20 of 50 3-pointers, good for 40 percent (see full recap).

Lillard, Blazers top Knicks to end road trip
NEW YORK -- Damian Lillard scored 32 points and the Portland Trail Blazers wrapped up a strong five-game road trip with their third straight victory, beating the New York Knicks 103-91 on Monday night.

Pat Connaughton added 17 for the Trail Blazers, who also won at Memphis, Brooklyn and Washington while losing only in Philadelphia. They needed to come from 17 down in the fourth quarter to beat the Wizards last time out but were in charge of this one most of the way.

Kristaps Porzingis returned from a one-game absence and scored 22 points, but the Knicks were without starting center Enes Kanter for a third straight game because of back spasms. They lost all three, falling back to .500 at 10-10.

The Knicks blew big early leads in the last two losses, in Atlanta and Houston, but mostly played from behind -- sometimes way behind -- Monday. New York never led by more than two and trailed by as much as 26.

Lillard made the last basket of the third quarter and he won't have any easier ones all season. Shabazz Napier stole the ball while the Knicks were on the fast break and threw it down to Lillard, who had remained behind on the other end. He dunked the ball with no other players on that side of the court to make it 90-64 (see full recap).

Sixers rookies Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Sixers rookies Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Finally, some good health news, Sixers fans.

While Zhaire Smith continues an unfortunate trend of Sixers’ rookies suffering injuries, two other 2018 draft picks are progressing.

First-round pick Landry Shamet (sprained right ankle) and second-round pick Shake Milton (stress fracture in his back) are both asymptomatic, the team said Monday.

Shamet has been cleared for “light basketball activities” while Milton can “resume limited basketball activities.”

Shamet, a guard out of Wichita State, got banged up in the first half of the Sixers’ first summer league game against the Celtics. Shamet logged just 12 minutes before suffering the ankle sprain. He hit 2 of 5 from three for six points during the stint.

Milton never got the opportunity to play in summer league having suffered his injury during the pre-draft process. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward out of SMU is on a two-way contract with the Sixers, meaning he’ll spend the majority of his season with the Delaware Blue Coats and can spend no more 45 days with the big club.

Smith, the 16th overall pick acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and underwent successful surgery last week. There’s been no timetable for his return.

Both Shamet and Milton offer something the Sixers covet: shooting. Shamet shot 44 percent on 5.1 threes a game in 71 games. Milton was also proficient, shooting 43 percent on 5.1 attempts from distance in 87 games.

The Sixers’ rotation should be a tough one to crack this season, but being healthy for camp would be a fine start for Shamet and Milton.

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

Despite coming up empty in their goal of star hunting this summer, the Sixers are still currently one of the more desirable franchises in the NBA.

They reached the second round of the playoffs last season behind two up-and-coming stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Plus, the organization has a respected head coach in Brett Brown, state-of-the-art training complex, an intense fan base and much more to offer.

At least that’s how free-agent scorer Jamal Crawford views things.

“I like their city. I like how into it they are about basketball. I like their knowledge of basketball, how passionate they are,” Crawford said of Philadelphia last week to Brandon Robinson on Scoop B Radio. “I’ve always loved coach Brett Brown. I’ve been on record. I’ve been a fan of his for years. He just needed talent, and now he has that. He added Ben Simmons, I love his game. I love Jo-Jo. They’re both among my favorite players in the league to watch. Markelle (Fultz) is like a little brother to me. Obviously, he went to the University of Washington, and we talk every other day. JJ Redick is like a brother to me. We’ve been through wars together, so there’s so many things to love about Philadelphia for sure.”

That’s high praise from a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner. High enough to the point that he would want to suit up for the Sixers?

“I think for me, especially being out there as a free agent, something could work out,” Crawford said. “I would be honored to play there, but things obviously have to take its course and I kind of got to sit back, but who wouldn’t want to play there?”

Well, that cleared things up. 

Now the Sixers, in a new position with players openly offering their services to them, have to be clear too: Crawford isn’t the answer.

No, not “The Answer” although Crawford does have some legendary crossover moves of his own. The 18-year veteran simply isn’t the right fit for this Sixers squad.

For all of Crawford’s accomplishments over nearly two decades in the NBA, the 38-year-old has been on a steady decline. His scoring has dropped in each of the past five years until he posted 10.3 points a night last season with Minnesota, his lowest mark since he averaged 10.7 a night way back in 2002-03.

While Crawford attributed his struggles with the Timberwolves to limited minutes, that doesn’t have anything to do with his efficiency or lack thereof. Crawford shot 41.5 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from three-point range in 2017-18. Those numbers aren’t outliers either as he has career averages of 41.0 percent field goal shooting and 34.9 percent three-point shooting.

And it’s not just the scoring itself. It’s also how Crawford scores the ball. Even though he received only 20.7 minutes per game with the T-Wolves, Crawford was 13th in the entire league in isolation frequency with 19.8 percent of his possessions coming in a one-on-one setting. For comparison, Simmons was the highest Sixer in isolation frequency at 9.0 percent (87th in the NBA).

It’s understandable the Sixers might be still be looking to replace the veteran scoring off the bench lost by the departures of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, but Crawford’s game doesn’t exactly scream the pace-and-space mantra preached by the club.

That just shows how Crawford isn’t an ideal fit offensively. We won’t even get into the defensive end of the court (*cough* Crawford had a defensive rating of 112.9 last season, which means opponents averaged that many points per 100 possessions he was on the floor, good enough for 490th out of 523 total players *cough*).

Crawford does still have a place in the league. He’s a volume scorer that can potentially get hot on any given night and pour in 30 points. He’s also great in the locker room, a reason he took home Teammate of the Year award in '17-18.

But with the above signs of decline as well as T.J. McConnell and a rejuvenated Markelle Fultz penciled in as the Sixers’ reserve backcourt, there might not be the opportunity in Philadelphia that Crawford is seeking out.

Part of the Sixers now being desired is having the power in their hands. This might be a perfect time to use that to their advantage and ignore Crawford’s interest.

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