76ers

Okafor, Stauskas debut for Nets in ugly loss

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Okafor, Stauskas debut for Nets in ugly loss

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry had his 11th career triple-double, DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points and the Toronto Raptors won their ninth straight meeting with Brooklyn by routing the Nets 120-87 on Friday night.

Serge Ibaka scored 18 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 14 as Toronto won its eighth consecutive home game and improved to 10-1 at Air Canada Centre.

It was the second triple-double of the season for Lowry, who finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. Lowry's previous triple-double came against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 27.

Nik Stauskas scored 22 points in his Brooklyn debut and Isaiah Whitehead had 13 for the Nets in their most lopsided defeat of the season. Brooklyn's previous worst loss was a 107-86 blowout at New York on Oct. 27. The Nets lost by more than 14 points for the second time.

Norman Powell and Jakob Poeltl each scored 11 points for the Raptors, who played without forward C.J. Miles (sore left shoulder).

Nets guard Allen Crabbe (sore left knee) and forward DeMarre Carroll (rest) both got the night off. Brooklyn was playing the second game of a back-to-back, and its third in four days.

With Carroll and Crabbe unavailable, Brooklyn's recently acquired duo of Jahlil Okafor and Stauskas made their Nets debuts. Both arrived in a Dec. 8 trade with Philadelphia (see full recap).

Paul, Rockets rout Spurs for 12th straight win
HOUSTON -- Chris Paul had 28 points, eight assists and seven steals to lead the Houston Rockets to their 12th straight victory, a 124-109 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.

Paul became the first player in NBA history to post 28 points, eight assists and seven steals in a game against the Spurs. In the past 10 years, that stat line has been achieved just 10 times -- Paul has done it six of those times. The Rockets are unbeaten when he plays this season.

Paul's dazzling performance came on a night James Harden had one of his worst 3-point shooting nights of the season, making 6 of 18 from the field, including 2 of 11 from 3. Harden had 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists, scoring half his points on 14-of-16 shooting from the free-throw line.

The Rockets are on the fourth-longest win streak in franchise history and the longest since a franchise-best 22 straight in the 2007-08 season.

All Rockets starters and reserve Eric Gordon had scored in double figures by the end of the third quarter. Clint Capela had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Gordon scored 14 points, Ryan Anderson had 12, and Trevor Ariza added 11 (see full recap).

Gobert, Favors hurt at Jazz still beat Celtics
BOSTON -- Ricky Rubio had 22 points, Donovan Mitchell added 17 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and the Utah Jazz beat the Boston Celtics 107-95 on Friday night.

Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Hood also finished with 17 points for the Jazz, who snapped a four-game losing streak. It was Utah's first victory in Boston since 2008, a span of nine games.

But the win came at a cost.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert left the game early in the first quarter with a left knee injury after teammate Derrick Favors fell backward into his leg. Gobert was able to walk off the court on his own power, but went straight to the locker room and did not return.

The second quarter brought more injuries. First, Boston's Daniel Theis left with a facial injury. Later, Jaylen Brown of the Celtics caught Favors with an incidental elbow, leaving him bleeding from his left eye and Brown from his elbow. Favors received six stitches and did not return.

Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 33 points. Al Horford added 21 points and seven assists (see full recap).

LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer takes tanking jab at Sixers

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LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer takes tanking jab at Sixers

The Sixers have been minding their own business this summer.

We touched on that earlier this week as players from one Eastern Conference contender after another opened up about how their respective teams were going to reach the NBA Finals (see story).

That’s fine. You would expect those squads to feel confident in their ability, especially now that the conference’s boogie man, LeBron James, has moved on to Hollywood.

But then the Sixers had a grenade lobbed their way from an unlikely source.

Speaking at an event dubbed “The Playbook,” essentially a pep rally for LA Clippers fans to speak with members of the front office, owner Steve Ballmer assured supporters in the crowd that the franchise wasn’t going to adopt a tanking method to get back in contention like the Sixers.

“That ain’t us. Nuh-uh, no way,” Ballmer said, per the Los Angeles Times. “People can do it their way. We’re going to be good our way. We’re not going to show up and suck for a year, two years. I think we got higher expectations on us than the long, hard five, six years of absolute crap like the 76ers put in. How could we look you guys in the eye if we did that to you?”

Wow, OK.

Let’s look at the fact that the Sixers’ history, which includes three championships and a laundry list of some of the game's all-time greats, provided the organization with the leeway to undertake such a massive overhaul in a promise to reclaim the glory days. 

The Clippers, on the other hand, have just 13 playoff appearances in their 48-year history and zero titles. 

But this isn’t to beat up on the Clippers. They had to dig themselves out of the mess former owner Donald Sterling created and it can’t be easy always operating in the “Showtime” shadow cast by the Lakers.

This is more about what exactly Ballmer has accomplished — or hasn’t accomplished — in his brief time running a franchise to take a shot at the Sixers from across the country.

Since paying $2 billion for the Clippers prior to the start of the 2014-15 season (one year after the Sixers started “The Process”), the team has actually taken a wrong turn. In that ’14-15 campaign, they won 56 games and reached the Western Conference semifinals. The 2015-16 season produced 53 wins and a first-round exit. In 2016-17, LA registered 51 victories before bowing out in the first round again. Last season, the Clippers had a 42-40 record (two of those losses came to the Sixers) and missed the postseason.

Plus, in just the past calendar year under Ballmer’s watch, the Clips have lost their big three of Chris Paul (trade), Blake Griffin (trade) and DeAndre Jordan (free agent).

That doesn’t exactly scream team on the rise.

Ballmer may indeed have a plan to make sure the Clippers get back in the hunt. After all, he does have respected basketball minds Jerry West and Lawrence Frank handling front-office business and Doc Rivers still orchestrating things on the sidelines. And L.A., while now missing its star trio, does have some intriguing players on the roster that could surprise a few people.

Still, that collection was projected by ESPN to finish with a 35-47 record in 2018-19 and miss the playoffs again in the stacked Western Conference.

With the Clippers staring a decline right in the face and the Sixers boasting two franchise cornerstones in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons along with other solid pieces from Sam Hinkie’s process, it appears a bit misguided for Ballmer to take such a swipe.

Ballmer might not want the Clippers to tank under his leadership. The thing is, the organization might be forced into that method regardless.

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Sixers hire Lindsey Harding as 2nd female full-time scout in NBA from WNBA

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Sixers hire Lindsey Harding as 2nd female full-time scout in NBA from WNBA

The Sixers have made a historic hire in their scouting department.

The team has hired former WNBA star Lindsey Harding as a full-time scout starting next season. 

"I think when you have this goal in mind, your gender shouldn't even matter," Harding told ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne. "It should be about if you can do it, if you're good, you're experienced, if you know what you're doing and what you're talking about."

Harding, a Duke product and the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 WNBA draft, is just the second woman to be hired by an NBA team as a scout after a career in the WNBA. Jenny Boucek, who is now an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks, was the first former WNBA player to be hired as a scout back in 2006 by the Seattle SuperSonics. Becky Hammon, one of Harding's former opponents who urged Harding to pursue this path, was hired as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. Hammon has since been interviewed for the Milwaukee Bucks' GM job and been promoted to Gregg Popovich's top assistant.

Harding completed the NBA's Basketball Operations Associates Program last season after retiring in 2017. The 34-year-old guard spent nine seasons in the WNBA and represented Belarus in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

"Lindsey has quickly become one of the game's bright young minds in basketball operations," Sixers head coach and interim GM Brett Brown said to Shelbourne. "Having graduated from the NBA's Basketball Operations Associates Program last season, Lindsey is applying the same grit and basketball IQ she used as a player in her move to the front office. We look forward to the work Lindsey will do to help grow our program and further solidify a culture of winning.

"It's no secret how much I value the culture we've built in Philadelphia and how much a family-like atmosphere means to our program. Lindsey is a leader, and she is a welcomed addition to the 76ers family. I look forward to working with her."

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