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Harrison Barnes leads Mavericks to 4th straight win

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Harrison Barnes leads Mavericks to 4th straight win

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Harrison Barnes scored 24 points, Dennis Smith Jr. got 11 of his 19 points in the final 1:39 and the Dallas Mavericks closed 2017 with their season-best fourth straight win, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-113 on Sunday night.

Dirk Nowitzki added 13 points for Dallas, which had lost four straight in Oklahoma City and seven of nine overall against the Thunder.

Dallas won despite Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook recording his 12th triple-double of the season with 38 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists. The Thunder had been 11-3 in December before consecutive home losses to Milwaukee and Dallas to end the month.

Paul George scored 25 points and Carmelo Anthony had 21 for Oklahoma City, combining to go 8 of 14 from 3-point range. Despite their hot shooting, Westbrook took the big shots late for OKC and missed a trio of 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds. He was 0 for 4 from deep for the game.

The teams matched each other shot for shot during a first half in which the Thunder hit 8 of 17 3-pointers while the Mavericks made 8 of 18. Oklahoma City emerged with a 63-57 lead. Westbrook fed rookie Terrance Ferguson for a buzzer-beating layup in the third quarter to put the Thunder up 85-84 (see full recap).

Paul helps Rockets past Lakers in double OT
HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 40 points before leaving with a hamstring injury late in the fourth quarter, and Chris Paul scored 15 of his 28 points in overtime as the Houston Rockets snapped a five-game skid with a 148-142 double-overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.

Los Angeles led by as many as 17, but couldn't hold on as the team's season-long losing streak stretched to six games.

Paul made a pair of free throws to tie it at 142 with about a minute left in the second overtime before Tarik Black blocked Kyle Kuzma's shot on the other end to give Houston the ball back. P.J. Tucker grabbed a rebound on a miss by Paul and put it back up to put Houston on top.

Tucker blocked a 3-point attempt by Kuzma, and Paul added two more free throws to make it 146-142 with three seconds left. Paul made two more free throws after that to secure the win.

The Rockets had hoped to limit Paul's playing time in his second game back after missing three games with a groin injury. But with Harden out, he ended up playing 42 minutes.

Julius Randle set season highs with 29 points and 15 rebounds, but fouled out with about three minutes left in overtime (see full recap).

Irving scores 28 for Celtics in win over Nets
BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving scored 28 points, Al Horford had 10 points and 10 rebounds and the Boston Celtics held off the Brooklyn Nets 108-105 on Sunday.

Marcus Morris added 15 points, Terry Rozier scored 14 and Jaylen Brown finished with 13 points as Boston closed 2017 by winning three straight and four of five.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Caris LeVert scored 16 for the Nets, who could not overcome 10 turnovers in the second half.

The Celtics won their seventh straight against the Nets, although Boston didn't have the game in hand until Irving made a pair of free throws with 7.7 seconds remaining. Boston went the final 4:27 without a field goal and struggled from the foul line, going 13 of 21 in the second half and missing several opportunities to put Brooklyn away.

Hollis-Jefferson pulled the Nets within 103-95 on a dunk, and then converted a three-point play with 2:05 left to cut the margin to 103-98. Quincy Acy hit a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left after the Nets grabbed two offensive rebounds and Brooklyn was within 105-103.

Marcus Smart made 1 of 2 free throws with 15.2 seconds left, and then Irving -- who went 4-for-4 from the foul line -- added two more to seal it.

Acy scored 14 for the Nets, DeMarre Carrol and Allen Crabbe scored 12 points apiece and Spencer Dinwiddie had 10 points and nine assists (see full recap).

Source: Sixers will acquire Mike Muscala, send away Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson in 3-team trade

Source: Sixers will acquire Mike Muscala, send away Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson in 3-team trade

The Sixers were involved in a trade with Carmelo Anthony.

Exhale, Sixers fans, Anthony is not coming here. Instead, Anthony is being shipped to the Hawks — who will likely waive the veteran forward — with a 2022 protected first-round pick for point guard Dennis Schroder, according to a report Thursday by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Sixers in turn will send Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to the Thunder and Justin Anderson to the Hawks to acquire Atlanta’s Mike Muscala, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the Sixers' side of the deal.

The move makes sense for the Sixers on a couple fronts. After missing out on Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica, who reportedly agreed to a deal with the team and then backed out, Brett Brown gets a player with a similar skill set in Muscala. The former Bucknell star has great size (6-foot-11, 240 pounds) and the ability to shoot (37.8 percent from three for his career).

It also makes sense from a roster standpoint. The team had a bit of a logjam on the wing and had 16 players for 15 roster spots. By losing two players and getting only one back, the Sixers are now at 15 players under contract. That also includes Jerryd Bayless, who will likely be bought out or stretched, but does not include 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden or 2018 second-round pick Shake Milton.

Muscala had a career year for the lowly Hawks. He averaged 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes a game — all career marks. He also hit 37.1 percent of his threes on 3.2 attempts. A second-round pick by the Mavericks in 2013, Muscala has spent all five of his NBA seasons in Atlanta.

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Sixers fans need to relax about team's offseason

Sixers fans need to relax about team's offseason

Here’s a brief message that some Sixers fans can use right now: relax.

Remember that you have a team with two budding superstars that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals just last season and should only be headed upward from here.

Sure, there’s going to be some level of disappointment when Brett Brown proclaimed the Sixers were going “star hunting” this summer only to come up empty on the free-agent market outside of re-signing their own players.

But, more than anything, how things transpired for the Sixers over the past few weeks should let you know that much more goes into landing a free agent than simply basketball.

Look at the first major domino to fall in free agency, Paul George. The five-time All-Star didn’t hesitate to make his decision and announced he was rejoining the Oklahoma City Thunder at a Russell Westbrook party shortly after midnight on July 1.

Despite the Sixers being in the mix for George, the Thunder always had the upper hand. The Thunder had George in the fold for a full year after acquiring him from Indiana last summer and used every day to convince him OKC was the right place to move forward.

“They honestly check the boxes where I needed those boxes to be checked from what a player wants and needs out of a front office, out of a medical group, out of teammates, out of coaching staff,” George said during exit interviews. “I mean, honestly, they can't say it anymore [than] that. They checked the boxes on what needs to be checked.”

Even with George on the market, the Sixers always had their top focus on the biggest available fish in the game: LeBron James. They even secured a meeting with James’ camp, albeit only with agent Rich Paul and not the three-time champion himself. 

Still, the Sixers, with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid leading the way, were serious contenders for James as Paul confirmed.

"The teams that he looked at, he looked at for guys like Ben Simmons,” Paul, who is also Simmons’ agent, said on NBA TV during a summer league game. “There's a reason why he looked at Philadelphia, but ultimately he chose the Lakers.”

And what ultimately made James join the Lakers, no matter what his representatives say to the contrary, had little to do with basketball. James has turned himself into an entertainment mogul, so who better to learn from than Magic Johnson? 

After all, King James reportedly already had dinner in Los Angeles last week with Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio

We all love Philadelphia, but those types of Hollywood power brokers aren’t exactly making reservations for restaurants on Broad Street.

So the Sixers swung and missed on George for familiarity and James for off-court opportunities. 

Perhaps you can swallow missing out on two of the game’s best players, but now role players are spurning the franchise too? That’s enough to push a Sixers fan over the edge … until you dig a little bit deeper.

Nemanja Bjelica had his qualifying offer with the Minnesota Timberwolves rescinded and immediately jumped to the best situation for him when he reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Sixers.

However, Bjelica informed the team he was backing out of the deal and returning to Europe. That was until fellow Serbian and Kings general manager, Vlade Divac, came calling. Now the two sides are apparently deep in discussion on a multi-year contract.

Once you push through the initial wave of confusion, you find out that Bjelica simply didn’t want to move his family to Philadelphia for a year and be back on the hunt next summer. He was seeking what most of us do in a new job, which is stability. 

While that may seem a bit unreasonable for an NBA reserve big man, you can’t blame a guy for trying. And now it appears he may find some of what he desired in Sacramento.

Back here in Philadelphia, the Sixers are surely second-guessing what happened to their star hunt this offseason. While it came up empty-handed, the Sixers — and their fans — have to understand that so much more factors into securing a free agent than what actually takes place on the court and is not a red flag on the franchise.

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