76ers

Mitchell scores 40 in blowout Jazz win

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Mitchell scores 40 in blowout Jazz win

PHOENIX — Donovan Mitchell scored 40 points, one shy of his career high, and the Utah Jazz won their fourth in a row with a 129-97 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

The Jazz rookie sensation made 14 of 19 shots and a career-best seven 3s in nine attempts. It was the sixth game of at least 30 points in his young NBA career.

Ricky Rubio had 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Jazz. Joe Ingles added 16 points, including 4-of-6 3s, and Derrick Favors had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Josh Jackson led the Suns with 20 points. Devin Booker, still bothered by bruised ribs, scored 18 points for Phoenix but on 7-of-24 shooting. He missed all seven of his 3s. Dragan Bender added 16 points and nine rebounds.

The Jazz, who hadn't played since their 30-point home win over Golden State on Tuesday night, opened a four-game trip in dominating fashion (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo scores game-winner in Parker's return to Bucks
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo made a driving layup with 1.9 seconds remaining after Jabari Parker chipped in with 12 points in his first game in nearly a year, lifting the Milwaukee Bucks over the New York Knicks 92-90 on Friday night.

Antetokounmpo, who sprained his left ankle late in Thursday night's loss to Minnesota, showed no ill effects and led all scorers with 29 points.

Parker hadn't played since tearing his left ACL on Feb. 8, 2017, in a game against Miami. He made 4 of 7 shots over nearly 15 minutes as a reserve.

Enes Kanter had 17 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Knicks, who were coming off a 103-73 loss to Boston on Wednesday night. Kristaps Porzingis also had 17 points (see full recap).

Walker's 41 points lead Hornets over Pacers
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kemba Walker had that look in the fourth quarter. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford has seen it before, and he knows not to question it or argue with his point guard when he sees it.

"He just had that look like, `I ain't coming out,'" Clifford said. "I thought it was a good idea and we went with it."

Walker played the entire fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his game-high 41 points in the final period as the Hornets rode a record-setting start to a 133-126 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

Walker made 11-of-22 attempts and helped fend off the Pacers' final rally after they had whittled away at what had been an 18-point Charlotte lead. Cory Joseph's free throws cut Indiana's deficit to 128-124 with 40 seconds left, but Charlotte hit five free throws after that to ice it (see full recap).

Davis scores 43 in Pelicans' win
OKLAHOMA CITY — Anthony Davis scored 43 points to help the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-100 on Friday night.

Davis made 17 of 34 shots and had 10 rebounds, and E'Twaun Moore added 26 points for the Pelicans.

New Orleans had lost two straight since All-Star DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season with a left Achilles tendon rupture. They righted the ship by shooting 51 percent from the field against the Thunder.

Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook had 16 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds for his 16th triple-double of the season. Steven Adams had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder, who lost their third straight after an eight-game winning streak (see full recap).

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Richaun Holmes

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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Richaun Holmes

Position: Forward/center

Status for 2018-19: Club option that must be exercised by June 29 at $1,600,520

Holmes in 2017-18
The Sixers made it quite clear from the beginning of the season that they were going to opt for substance over flash at the backup center position. That meant Amir Johnson would receive the bulk of the playing time behind Joel Embiid instead of Holmes.

Sure, Holmes can be the prototypical spark off the bench that comes in throwing down monster dunks, grabbing boards and blocking shots. The 24-year-old can also miss reads on offense and lose his man for easy baskets on the defensive end.

Johnson is nowhere near the level of athlete as Holmes, but the veteran provided a steady approach to the game that Brett Brown favored for the Sixers.

So Holmes, who missed the first eight games of the season with a broken bone in his left wrist, was limited to a career-low 48 contests and saw his minutes dip from 20.9 a night one season ago to 15.5.

Not an ideal situation for a player with a club option on his contract for next season.

Signature game
Holmes had a string of games in mid-December when he put up big numbers, scoring in double figures six times in an eight-game stretch. However, those numbers proved pretty hollow as seven of those eight games resulted in losses.

Let’s go with Dec. 30 instead, a 107-102 road comeback over the Denver Nuggets. With Embiid sidelined, Holmes came off the bench to record 14 points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 19 minutes before fouling out.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Unlike T.J. McConnell, Holmes didn’t get verbal confirmation that his option would be picked up from team president Bryan Colangelo at end-of-season press conferences.

While it seems unlikely the Sixers will bring back Johnson at a similar salary to what he made last season, the organization will likely see what else is available on the backup big man market.

Still, at 24 years old and with an extremely manageable salary of $1.6 million, Holmes should expect to be back with the Sixers next season. Anything after that will hinge on the amount of growth he shows in what could be his last chance with the team.

On Holmes
“It’s always a competition. Coach always lets it be known that we’re going to compete for spots, going to compete for playing time. Just have to come in next year ready to compete and ready to compete harder.”

- Holmes on whether he expects to be the backup center next season

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Markelle Fultz

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Markelle Fultz

Markelle Fultz

Position: Guard

Status for 2018-19: Second year of rookie contract for $8,339,880

Fultz in 2017-18
It’s not hyperbole to say Fultz had one of the most bizarre rookie seasons in NBA history. Let’s quickly run through the entire saga.

First, there was the mysteriously broken shot, the scapular imbalance in his right shoulder, the speculation about whether the injury led to the new shooting form or vice versa, and of course all the eyes on the brief videos of Fultz at practice, meticulously analyzing his jumper.

Then there was the surprise return on Mar. 26 against the Nuggets after missing the past 68 games, flashes of the handles and athleticism during the final 10 games of the regular season that compelled the Sixers to pick him No. 1, a chance to be part of the playoff rotation, and finally a return to the bench after three playoff games.

Got all that?

By the way, Fultz averaged 7.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 14 regular-season games and posted 1.7 points, 1.7 assists and 1.0 rebound per game in his three postseason contests. Those stats obviously don’t tell his story.

Plenty of NBA players have had their rookie seasons derailed by injury, demonstrated flawed shooting mechanics, faced constant scrutiny from fans and media, and given glimpses of their potential. Until Fultz, nobody had combined all those ingredients into a single, surreal season.

Signature game
Fultz made history in the season finale on Apr. 12, a 130-95 win over the Bucks. With 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, he became, at 19 years and 317 days old, the youngest player in the NBA to ever record a triple-double.

After securing the accomplishment late with his 10th rebound, Fultz was immediately mobbed by his teammates and then doused with a unique cocktail of strawberry milk, chocolate milk and water afterwards in the locker room celebration.

That night, you saw Fultz’s immense potential. You also felt the human side of his odyssey and saw how much joy his teammates took from his achievement.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Until Fultz looks comfortable with his jumper, there’s going to be plenty of scrutiny on his shot. He shot 19 for 75 (25.3 percent) from three feet and out and made only 2 of 8 attempts from further than 15 feet.

Fultz and the team haven’t decided yet whether he’ll play in summer league, but that’s a possibility. It could be a good chance for Fultz to get some more time on the court and continue regaining his confidence, and his jumper as well.

While Fultz’s name will probably be tossed around by outsiders as a possible trade piece, it doesn’t seem like potential trade partners would place a very high value on a player with 14 games of NBA experience and a suspect shot. It also would be a huge surprise to see the Sixers give up on their No. 1 pick and a player with Fultz's natural ability after one season. They'll almost certainly give him ample opportunity to show why they took him No. 1. 

On Fultz
“I’ve been going through stuff like this my whole life really, going against the odds and a whole bunch of outside noise. I don’t really look to it. I’m with my team, I’m with family, and that’s all I really care about. All the other stuff doesn’t really matter to me on what other people think or what other people have to say. I’m just worried about how my team’s doing, how my coaches and teammates look at me, and how I look at myself.”

- Fultz on dealing with outside noise at his end-of-season press conference on May 10