The judges give Raptors a perfect 10

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The judges give Raptors a perfect 10

INDIANAPOLIS -- DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points, Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and 17 rebounds, and the Toronto Raptors rallied late to get past the Indiana Pacers 106-99 on Thursday night for their 10th straight victory.

The Raptors need one more win to tie the franchise's longest winning streak. They haven't lost since Feb. 23 and broke a tie with the 2016-17 squad for longest road winning streak, which is now at eight.

But it sure wasn't easy on a night Darron Collison scored 22 points and Al Jefferson had a season-high 20 for Indiana.

The Pacers took the lead late in the first quarter and didn't trail again until midway through the fourth.

Toronto finally seized control when C.J. Miles made three 3-pointers during a 12-3 spurt that turned an 85-81 deficit into a 93-88 lead with 5:21 to play. The Raptors never trailed again and led by as much as eight twice in the final eight minutes.

Indiana got within 102-99 in the final minute, but the Raptors closed it out when DeRozan stole an inbounds pass and scored on a breakaway dunk with 10.5 seconds left (see full recap).

Spurs edge Pelicans, move into 8th seed
SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points, Dejounte Murray had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame another late rally to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 98-93 on Thursday night.

New Orleans was playing hours after learning Pelicans owner Tom Benson had died. Benson was hospitalized with the flu on Feb. 16 and never recovered. The 90-year-old native of San Antonio owned both the Pelicans and the Saints.

"For us, the motivation is that we still want to try to do everything we possibly can to try to accomplish the goal that he set out for us. That's to try to put ourselves in a position to win a championship," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.

Anthony Davis finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, but fouled out after playing 36 minutes. New Orleans remained in fifth in the West.

San Antonio moved into eighth in the West, holding the final playoff berth after sitting in 10th earlier this week.

The Spurs had dropped out of playoff position in part after blowing a 17-point lead to the Los Angeles Lakers and a 15-points advantage against New Orleans.

New Orleans again erased a 15-point deficit to pull within 91-90, but Davis fouled out soon after.

Jrue Holiday added 24 points for New Orleans (see full recap).

Harden, Gorden help Rockets hold off Clippers
HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 24 points, Eric Gordon added 23 and the Houston Rockets outlasted the Los Angeles Clippers for a 101-96 victory on Thursday night.

The Clippers scored six straight points, with four from Austin Rivers, to cut the lead to a basket with less than a minute left. But on the next possession, Harden stepped back and knocked down a long 2-pointer with Rivers in his face to make it 100-96.

Rivers missed a 3-pointer after that before Harden made one of two free throws with 6.2 seconds left to secure the victory.

It's Houston's third straight win and snaps a three-game winning streak for the Clippers.

Tobias Harris led the Clippers with 29 points and Rivers had 20 (see full recap).

Sixers can apparently turn it on and off but should probably leave it on

Sixers can apparently turn it on and off but should probably leave it on

The better NBA teams seem like they can turn it on and off during the course of an 82-game season.

The defending champion Warriors are a perfect example. They got blown out by the lowly Mavericks Saturday — granted, without Stephen Curry — and then went out and beat a hot Pistons team Sunday.

The Sixers appear to have that gift — the ability to turn it on and off on a given night.

After watching the poor effort the Sixers gave in a 119-98 loss to the Magic at Amway Center Monday night (see observations) and with just eight games remaining in the regular season, it would probably behoove them to turn it on.

After big wins over the Bucks and Celtics, you can excuse away a disappointing loss to a young and feisty Hawks team that the Sixers clearly overlooked. But the effort they showed Monday night in Orlando was putrid.

They were sloppy early, committing eight turnovers in the first half. Their defensive was porous throughout, allowing the Magic to shoot 51.7 percent from the field and still having trouble defending the pick-and-roll. Ben Simmons was out with an illness, but there’s no excuse for the Sixers to go nearly an entire quarter without a field goal at one point in the second half.

Joel Embiid reportedly refused to talk to reporters postgame. Hard to blame him after this one.

You can blame Brett Brown. You can blame Embiid getting in foul trouble. You can blame the quiet Tobias Harris and JJ Redick. You can blame Simmons’ absence. 

Whatever you decide is the culprit for this one, it boils down to effort. The Magic looked like a desperate team. The Sixers looked like a team desperate to get home from a two-game road trip.

When they do return to the Wells Fargo Center, a tall task awaits them. They take on the Nets, a team that's fighting to secure its first playoff berth since 2015 and that's had the Sixers' number through three games this season. The only reason Brooklyn didn't take all three contests is because of a Herculean effort by Jimmy Butler in the Sixers' lone win back on Nov. 25.

The sky certainly isn’t falling. The Sixers are still in the driver’s seat for the East’s third seed and once they get to the playoffs, games like these will be a distant memory.

But with just eight games left and plenty to sort out with a new-look team, the Sixers should probably turn it on ... and keep it on.

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Magic 119, Sixers 98: Sixers with terrible effort vs. playoff-hungry Magic

Magic 119, Sixers 98: Sixers with terrible effort vs. playoff-hungry Magic


You can brush off a loss on the road to a feisty young Atlanta team, especially coming off two big wins.

But not showing up two nights later against an Orlando team fighting for its playoff life? Yikes.

The Sixers were physically in Orlando, but their effort was nowhere to be found in a 119-98 loss to the Magic at Amway Center Monday night.

The loss drops them to 47-27 on the season. Ben Simmons missed the game with an illness.

Here are observations from the game.

• The Sixers were sloppy early, turning the ball over eight times in the first half, leading to 10 Magic points. Because they couldn’t take care of the basketball, they were up by just three going into the locker room.

Much like in Atlanta, their defense was not tight. There were plenty of miscommunication issues, especially in the pick-and-roll. They allowed Orlando to shoot 37.9 percent from three.

At one point in the second half, the Sixers went 11:50 without a basket. The Magic are a good defensive team, but not that good. Missing Simmons hurts, but the Sixers still had plenty of offensive firepower on the floor Monday.

Their effort was lacking as the Magic looked like a team fighting for a playoff spot while the Sixers looked like a team playing out the string. It was truly a disappointing effort, especially coming off a disappointing loss.

• It was a weird first half for Joel Embiid, who nearly recorded a double-double but also turned the ball over four times and picked up two early fouls.

To start the second half, he decided to play straight bully ball, beating up on former Sixer Nikola Vucevic on multiple plays.

But the double teams became more aggressive after this basket and the Sixers' perimeter shooters were unable to make Orlando pay. The team went just 6 of 23 from three.

I'm not sure if it was him picking up his fourth or what, but Embiid didn't look right late in the game. He wasn't challenging anything at the rim and looked a step slow. He finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

• With Simmons out of the lineup, there was no doubt we’d be seeing Jimmy Butler used more as a point guard. Butler continues to look more than comfortable in that role as Brett Brown puts him in more situations that make him comfortable.

This pick-and-roll with Butler and Embiid was a thing of beauty.

I’d like to see Embiid roll to the rim more often. He and Butler can be an incredibly dangerous duo.

Butler was one of the few bright spots for the Sixers tonight, finishing with 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds. He was also one of the few players that actually showed anything defensively.

• With no Ben Simmons or James Ennis, T.J. McConnell got the start and Shake Milton and Jonathon Simmons got some run.

McConnell struggled, going 1 of 4 from the field with just two assists and two turnovers. He continues to be a liability when asked to defend bigger and more athletic players.

Milton, playing in his first NBA game since Feb. 2, was part of the first wave of subs. The rookie out of SMU has starred for the Blue Coats and gave a glimpse of what he brings to the table.

He made another nice cut to the basket on a Harris drive. Harris hit Milton backdoor, and he finished at the rim. Milton also nailed a three off the dribble. He just really has a feel for the game and can hit shots. He shows a ton of poise for a first-year player as well. He can also keep opposing guards in front of him.

The Sixers would have to convert Milton’s contract from a two-way deal to a standard NBA deal — which they can do at any time before the regular season ends with a corresponding move —  for him to be eligible for the playoffs, but if he keeps showing out like this, he’s going to give the team plenty to think about.

He finished with 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field.

• The only benefit of the Sixers getting their doors blown off in the second half was we got to see first-round pick Zhaire Smith make his NBA debut. Smith actually ended the team's scoring drought with his first NBA basket, a three from the top of the key.

• The Sixers were abused by two of their former players, Vucevic and Michael Carter-Williams. Vucevic put up 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Carter-Williams, the recent recipient of a second 10-day contract, put up 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. It just adds a little more salt to the wound.

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