76ers

Josh Richardson's game-winner extends Heat's win streak

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Josh Richardson's game-winner extends Heat's win streak

MIAMI -- Josh Richardson's layup with 5.1 seconds left capped a Miami rally from eight points down in the fourth, Donovan Mitchell missed what would have been the winner at the buzzer and the Heat beat the Utah Jazz 103-102 on Sunday.

Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic each scored 16 points for Miami, which has won four straight -- all by single digits, the Heat's longest stretch of such games since November 2012.

Richardson and Hassan Whiteside each had 14 points, and Kelly Olynyk had 12.

Mitchell scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half, but couldn't save Utah from dropping its seventh straight on the road. He went into the backcourt to take the final inbounds pass and wound up taking a jumper from the right side that missed as time expired.

Rodney Hood scored 17 points, Thabo Sefolosha added 13 and Derrick Favors 11 for the Jazz. Utah was up eight with 6:59 left, and was still up by five in the final 2 minutes before Miami closed on an 8-2 spurt.

Richardson's winner came after the Heat called a timeout with 7.8 seconds left, after corralling the rebound off of Hood's miss. Richardson got to the rim with ease, laid it in and Miami moved back to fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Miami improved to 2-14 when trailing after three quarters.

The Heat led for 20 of the 24 first-half minutes, but their lead was only 49-47 at the break.

Mitchell was 3 for 12 in the opening half, after going 5 for 14 against the Heat when the teams met in November. It was like he was due to break out -- and did just that, needing only 3 minutes to score Utah's first 11 points of the second half.

He made his first five shots of the third, ended up 6-for-8 for 13 points in the quarter and Utah took a 75-74 lead into the fourth (see full recap).

Porzingis, Jack help Knicks snap skid
DALLAS -- Kristaps Porzingis scored 29 points and Jarrett Jack made the tiebreaking basket with 31.2 seconds left as the New York Knicks beat the Dallas Mavericks 100-96 on Sunday night.

Kyle O'Quinn had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Enes Kanter added 13 points and 18 boards for the Knicks, who ended a three-game losing streak and sent the Mavericks to their third straight loss -- all at home.

Harrison Barnes scored 25 points and Devin Harris had nine of his 11 in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks made yet another rally on the night they honored their long-time point guard Derek Harper by retiring his jersey.

Dallas never led in the game, and after coming up just short in furious fourth-quarter rallies against Golden State and Chicago earlier in their homestand, the Mavericks made another run after falling behind 90-77 with 4:48 to go.

Harris hit 3-pointers to start and end a 15-2 run over a 2:20 span to tie the score at 92. After Porzingis made two free throws and Barnes hit a short jumper, Jack used a screen to penetrate into the lane and drop in a floater.

J.J. Barea missed a long 3 that would have given Dallas the lead, and Courtney Lee hit four free throws in the final 16.6 seconds to seal it.

Kanter and Porzingis combined for 24 points in the first half. New York took a 56-52 halftime lead on the strength of 56 percent shooting, despite a sequence where Kanter missed a short hook shot and then four consecutive tips.

New York built its lead to 73-63 midway through the third quarter before the Mavericks closed the quarter on an 8-2 run.

But after Harris' three-point play cut the lead to 77-74 with 11:27 to play, Dallas did not score again for five minutes as the Knicks built the lead to 13.

Sixers need LeBron James to compete with Celtics

Sixers need LeBron James to compete with Celtics

Despite the Sixers' meteoric ascension from 10 wins two seasons ago to 52 this past year, "the process" and how they got to this point remains a polarizing discussion. There are those in the anti-process camp who will never believe that intentionally losing to gain assets is the way to go. And nothing will change their mind. It’s been debated to death in these parts and it is fruitless to further the discourse at this point. This directive here is aimed at the "process purists," those who are opposed to adding big-named stars to the Sixers mostly organically grown core. Specifically, the player whose name rhymes with KeBron Dames.

This all boils down to talent and opportunity. The Sixers have two potentially transcendent foundation pieces in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Add to that mix the skill and toughness of Dario Saric and the potential of Markelle Fultz, and the Sixers should have a core four to be reckoned with for a long time to come. However, when you measure the Sixers' current talent head to head with the Celtics, it's advantage Boston. Their nucleus of a healthy Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown is better than the Sixers' core. JJ Redick is a free agent who wants to be back and had a very good year. His return would be huge, but it’s not a given. Robert Covington, for as bad as he was in the postseason, is a quality defender and a hot-and-cold three-point shooter with a manageable contract. But toe-to-toe, the Sixers don’t measure up. They need more players.

The one area the Sixers have a clear advantage over the Celtics is financially. They are positioned to be able to land the biggest fish out there in free agency or the trade market. Namely LeBron James (player option for 2018-19) or Paul George. Throw in a potential deal for Kawhi Leonard and they could net someone or multiple someones that could shift the talent scales in their favor this summer.

Looking at the Eastern Conference landscape, If James departs Cleveland, the Cavaliers are done. You can forget Toronto and Washington as well. They don’t have enough. Indiana is a nice team but still not good enough. Milwaukee is short on overall talent and coaching. We saw the Heat’s shortcomings up close and personal. This comes down to the Sixers and Celtics.

The whole point of going through the torture that was the process was to put yourself in a position to build the best roster, not the best homegrown roster. By any means necessary. If there was any doubt, the regular and postseason showed you that despite 14 seasons of heavy lifting, James is still the best player on the planet. He hasn’t lost a step. If you can get him, you must. Yes, it will take some ego curbing by Simmons and Embiid and James. Not to mention, co-existing on the court. But great players, even ball-dominant ones, figure that out. See James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston. Or James and Irving before their split

The Sixers and their fans didn’t come this far to be road-blocked for the next five to 10 years by the Celtics.  

Haughton's 2018 Sixers mock draft: Mikal Bridges goes at No. 10

Haughton's 2018 Sixers mock draft: Mikal Bridges goes at No. 10

Now that the dust has settled on the NBA draft lottery and the combine is over, our pundits provide their latest Sixers mock draft. Here is Matt Haughton’s first version.

First round (10th overall): Mikal Bridges, SF/SG, 6-7/210, Villanova
It appears the Sixers could end up with a player named Bridges with their first pick of the draft, whether that is Miles or Mikal. We’ll give the Sixers the Villanova version in this instance, which is far from a consolation prize.

Bridges took his game to another level in his junior season to help secure a second national championship with the Wildcats. He improved his scoring to 17.7 points per game from 9.8 a season ago. Even with the increase in production, he didn’t sacrifice efficiency. Bridges still shot a robust 51.4 percent from the field. 

That had a lot to do with his long-range marksmanship. Bridges connected on a career-best 43.5 percent of his three-pointers in 2017-18. That pushed him to 40.0 percent from deep during his three years at ‘Nova despite the fact that he shot just 29.9 percent on threes as a freshman.

Along with the improved three-point shooting, what has really made Bridges a likely lottery selection is his standout defense. With great technique and a seven-foot wingspan, he has the ability to defend multiple positions at the NBA level.

The lasting image of the Sixers’ perimeter players missing one jumper after another and getting circles run around them by Boston’s wings should be more than enough reason to jump on Bridges at No. 10.

First round (26th overall): Dzanan Musa, SF/SG, 6-9/195, Bosnia and Herzegovina
With precious few roster spots and an eye on free agency, Sixers president Bryan Colangelo already admitted the team could go the draft-and-stash route at No. 26. If they are able to land Musa, who is widely regarded as the second-best international prospect behind possible No. 1 pick Luka Doncic, that would be considered a win for the franchise.

Musa can fit the bill as a quick-trigger scorer with the ability to catch and shoot off screens or rise up off the dribble. In 67 games this past season for Cedevita of Croatia, Musa averaged 12.3 points (47.6 percent shooting from the field, 31.9 percent from three), 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

Musa made a big impression for his national team play and in EuroCup action as he received the EuroCup Basketball Rising Star award, an honor that has gone to NBA players Victor Claver, Jonas Valanciunas and Kristaps Porzingis in recent years.

There are some issues with Musa that start with his frame. Despite being 6-9, he is frail and could get pushed around at the next level. He also reportedly has an explosive competitive side that rubs teammates the wrong way at times.

Either way, the Sixers can afford to make a run at a player who just turned 19 earlier this month and some have compared to Manu Ginobili.

Second round (38th overall): Elie Okobo, PG/SG, 6-2/180, France
Of the Sixers’ four second-round picks last season, two ended up being draft-and-stash prospects (Jonah Bolden, Mathias Lessort) and two were traded (Jawun Evans, Sterling Brown).

Expect that trend to continue in the 2018 draft as the Sixers opt for the combo guard Okobo with their first second-rounder. The two sides already have some familiarity after the Sixers were one of Okobo’s pro workouts last summer before he removed his name from draft consideration.

Whatever advice the 20-year-old received in those pre-draft workouts, he appeared to take to heart. Okobo’s production this past season saw a major boost for France Pro A squad Elan Bearnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez. In 34 games (31 starts), he recorded 12.9 points on 47.6 percent field goal shooting and 39.4 three-point shooting to go along with 4.7 assists and 2.7 boards a game.

Okobo could be a stash candidate you see stateside sooner rather than later if the Sixers select him.

Second round (39th overall): Gary Trent Jr., SG, 6-6/210, Duke
Whether the Sixers decide to use this pick for themselves or ship it to another team, the final destination is bound to be satisfied.

With his strong frame and long-range shooting (40.2 percent on three-pointers), Trent has the makings of an ideal shooting guard from an offensive standpoint. Even while playing a secondary role behind teammates Marvin Bagley III and Grayson Allen, he managed to put up 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals per contest in his lone season at Duke.

If the Sixers think they’re going to lose some of that scoring pop off the bench, Trent would be worth latching on to at this point in the draft.

Second round (56th overall): Raymond Spalding, PF/C, 6-10/210, Louisville
Did you think the Sixers would go an entire draft and not take a big man?

Spalding makes moving up and down the court look easy and throwing down monster dunks even easier. He improved on the boards (8.7 a game last season) and his timing on blocked shots (1.7 a night) in his first full year as a starter.

He definitely could stand to put on some more weight to bang in the post against NBA bodies. However, it’s not something that should overly concern teams.

It’s highly unlikely the Sixers wouldn’t pick up Richaun Holmes' relatively cheap team option for next season, but if not, Spalding is a player in a similar mold that could fill that void. 

Second round (60th overall): Trade
Take your pick on this one. There are always teams that jump up with a trade offer at the last minute in an attempt to get a coveted player in those final few slots. 

If the Sixers do keep the pick, look for them to go the stash route with someone like Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs or Serbian guard Vanja Marinkovic.