76ers

Best of NBA: LeBron James takes over in Cavs' 11th straight win

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Best of NBA: LeBron James takes over in Cavs' 11th straight win

CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers' winning streak was in unexpected jeopardy Saturday night before LeBron James took over.

James scored 34 points, including seven in the final 1:22, and Cleveland beat the Memphis Grizzlies 116-111 for their 11th straight victory.

The loss was the 11th straight for Memphis, including three since David Fizdale was fired Monday and replaced by interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, but the Grizzlies nearly ended their streak in shocking fashion.

Memphis trailed 91-72 late in the third quarter, but rallied all the way to a tie at 109 on Dillon Brooks' 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining.

That's when James stepped up, to the surprise of no one in the building, particularly Dwyane Wade, his long-time friend and teammate (see full recap).

Antetokoumpo scores 33 points as Bucks beat Kings 
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held off the Sacramento Kings 109-104 on Saturday night.

Antetokounmpo made 17 free throws and had 13 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 25 points and Eric Bledsoe had 18. Milwaukee beat the Kings 112-87 on Tuesday night in Sacramento.

Zach Randolph led the Kings with 22 points, and Buddy Hield added 19. They were coming off a victory Friday night in Chicago.

The Bucks led by as many as 20 in the third quarter and took a 12-point advantage into the fourth (see full recap).

Irving scores 19 points as Celtics top Suns 
BOSTON — With Boston in danger of blowing a big fourth-quarter lead, Kyrie Irving stepped up again for the Celtics.

Irving had a key 3-pointer and a driving basket in the closing two minutes, helping Boston hold off the Phoenix Suns for a 116-111 victory on Saturday.

"Kyrie's ability to make those shots with very little space is pretty impressive," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "We put ourselves in a bad spot after that fourth-quarter run."

Irving finished with 19 points, leading a balanced attack for NBA-leading Boston (20-4). Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris each scored 17 points, Jayson Tatum had 15 and Al Horford added 14 points and a career-best 11 assists (see full recap).

Murray, Barton lead Nuggets over Lakers
DENVER — Jamal Murray had 28 points, Will Barton scored 13 of his 16 points in the final 7:44, and the Denver Nuggets scored the game's final 15 points to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 115-100 on Saturday night.

Denver was without its starting frontcourt of Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap and Wilson Chandler. Millsap is out several months after surgery on his left wrist, Jokic was in a walking boot after suffering a sprained left ankle Thursday, but Chandler (back) could return Monday.

The Nuggets missed the trio, which combines for nearly 40 points and 21.2 rebounds per game. The Lakers outrebounded Denver 52-39, including an 18-7 advantage in the second quarter when Los Angeles took a 59-55 halftime lead.

Brandon Ingram led the Lakers with 20 points and Brook Lopez had 15 points. Lonzo Ball had nine points, nine rebounds and five assists but couldn't duplicate the triple-double he had against the Nuggets at home on Nov. 19 (see full recap).

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

Sixers rookie 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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