76ers

Raptors 1st to punch postseason ticket

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Raptors 1st to punch postseason ticket

DETROIT — DeMar DeRozan scored 42 points, then fed Fred VanVleet for the tiebreaking jumper from the left corner with 1.1 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the Toronto Raptors to a 121-119 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.

The Raptors became the first NBA team to clinch a playoff berth this season. Toronto trailed by 17 in the second quarter but was able to outlast Blake Griffin and the Pistons in a back-and-forth thriller.

With the score tied late in overtime, Detroit's Reggie Bullock missed from the perimeter. DeRozan pushed the ball up the court and found VanVleet open in the corner. His shot from just inside the 3-point line gave Toronto the lead.

Griffin, who had tied the game with less than a second remaining in regulation, missed a 3-pointer on the final possession of overtime.

The Eastern Conference-leading Raptors have won six straight and 13 of 14. Detroit has lost four in a row and 10 of 12 (see full recap).

Rockets extend win streak to 17
MILWAUKEE -- James Harden scored 26 points, Eric Gordon had 18 points and two momentum-swinging 3-pointers in the third quarter, and the Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 110-99 on Wednesday night for their 17th straight win.

The Rockets passed the Boston Celtics for the longest winning streak in the NBA this season. Houston hasn't lost since Jan. 26 at New Orleans.

The latest victory came on the second of a tough back-to-back stretch of road games that started with a 10-point victory at Oklahoma City. No wonder the Rockets looked sluggish at times against the Bucks.

Trailing by about 10 points for most of the fourth quarter, Milwaukee got within 104-99 with 1:06 left on Sterling Brown's layup.

Chris Paul answered with a short floater in the lane with 45 seconds left after driving on Jason Terry to silence Bucks fans who were pleading "Defense! Defense!"

Houston obliged after forcing the Bucks to waste 15 seconds on the ensuing inbounds pass and settle for an off-balance 3 that missed. The Rockets led comfortably from there (see full recap).

Gobert, Jazz slow down Pacers
INDIANAPOLIS -- Rudy Gobert had 23 points and 14 rebounds, Donovan Mitchell finished with 20 points and six assists, and the Utah Jazz snapped the Indiana Pacers' four-game winning streak with a 104-84 victory Wednesday night.

The Jazz improved to 15-2 over their last 17 games. Ricky Rubio finished with 18 points and seven assists for Utah, and reserve Jae Crowder added 16 points. Joe Ingles had 11 points and 10 assists.

Utah outscored Indiana 28-12 over the final eight minutes of the first quarter and led 54-44 at halftime. Indiana pulled within single digits a couple of times in the third, but Utah was too much on a night when the Pacers shot 38.6 percent from the floor.

Utah shot 51 percent from the floor and had 30 assists on 51 baskets, while Indiana had just 12 assists.

The lone bright spot for Indiana on offense was Myles Turner, who finished with 24 points. Bojan Bogdanovic and Victor Oladipo each scored 13 points, and Cory Joseph had 12 points and six rebounds (see full recap).

Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

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Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Tobias Harris' struggles continuing, Ben Simmons' unwillingness to shoot the ball, and why Matisse Thybulle isn't seeing more playing time.

• Another rough night for Harris. What the heck is going on?

• Simmons was strong, but still refuses to shoot the basketball outside the paint.

• Should Thybulle be getting more minutes?

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Sixers' putrid fourth quarter dooms them in loss to Magic

Sixers' putrid fourth quarter dooms them in loss to Magic

BOX SCORE

In a game between two of the best defensive teams in the NBA, the Sixers weren't able to get enough offense to win.

The Magic used a 32-15 fourth quarter Wednesday night to down the Sixers, 112-97, at Amway Center.

With Joel Embiid out (injury management/left knee soreness), Ben Simmons shined on both ends of the floor, but Tobias Harris' struggles continued. The Sixers move to 7-4 as they fly to Oklahoma City for a date with the Thunder Friday night (8 p.m., NBCSP).

Here are observations from the loss.

Getting defensive

Coming into tonight’s action, these were two of the top six teams in the NBA in terms of defensive rating. It didn’t look like that from the jump as both teams got off to hot starts from the field. The Sixers’ transition and pick-and-roll defense weren’t great in the first quarter but tightened up in the second. They appeared to turn up the heat a little bit, pressuring at full court a couple times and also trapping more. But the Magic appeared to get whatever they wanted in the fourth.

The biggest surprise was Orlando’s three-point shooting early. The Magic came into the contest as the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA — yes, much worse than the Sixers. But they shot a torrid 42.9 percent (6 of 14) in the first half. Those percentages evened out as the game went on. Orlando hit just 2 of 11 in the third quarter. It was the Magic's defense that clogged the paint as the Sixers were unable to capitalize on their open looks from the outside. A night after hitting just 8 of 38 from three, they hit 8 of 30.

Simmons shines

This was arguably the most attacking and aggressive Simmons we’ve seen since opening night. He had a strong performance — especially on the defensive end — which went for naught. He was engaged and put an awful lot of pressure on Orlando’s ball handlers. It led to a couple fast breaks and easy transition baskets for Simmons.

This lob from Shake Milton was mighty impressive.

He finished with 18 points (9 of 12), eight rebounds and five assists.

Simmons was also called for a technical foul in the second quarter. 

There was a huge free throw disparity in the first half. The Magic got to the line 17 times while the Sixers got there once. In defense of the officials, Orlando did do a nice job packing the paint.

Mixed results with no Jo

With Embiid sitting, Al Horford got the start and Kyle O’Quinn saw a jump in minutes. O'Quinn was more effective than Horford in this one.

Horford, who sat Tuesday night for load management purposes, looked spry but perhaps a little rusty early. As he got into the flow of the game, he was strong in pick-and-roll defense, but his shot just wasn’t falling (5 of 18).

This drive and dunk was done by a man with fresh legs.

O’Quinn continues to impress with his passing prowess. He dished out four assists in the first half and hit yet another three. Just a 22.4 percent shooter from three for his career, he’s now 6 of 12 this season. Snagging O’Quinn as basically a third-string center was one of the shrewdest moves of GM Elton Brand’s offseason.

A bounce-back game for J-Rich

Josh Richardson didn’t have a stellar shooting performance Tuesday (1 of 8 from three) but looked good against the Magic. A new wrinkle Brown seems to like is using Richardson as a ball handler and Simmons as a screener and roller in the half court. With Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot, but strength as a roller, it’s an action that makes sense for both players.

Richardson also navigates the pick-and-roll well as a ball handler and did so a bunch with Horford in the second half. Richardson had 19 points (7 of 14, 2 of 4 from three), six rebounds and five assists.

More struggles for Harris

Harris made his first shot after dipping in and swishing an elbow jumper. Unfortunately, that was really the last highlight of the night. Following his 0-for-11 performance from three-point range Tuesday night against the Cavs, it appeared Harris was trying to be aggressive and get to the rim. Too many times he looked indecisive — getting caught in between whether he should pull up or try to finish at the basket. He also had a couple brutal turnovers in the fourth quarter on back-to-back possessions.

He went just 4 of 13 for eight points. These issues sure look mental. This is a guy that shot the ball at an elite level from three over a large sample size. I’m not sure what you do if you’re Brown, but you have to do something. 

Not quite the Markelle Fultz revenge game

Fultz looked a lot like the player he was early last season for the Sixers. He’ll make some tremendous plays off the dribble and flash some defensive potential, but while he is willing to shoot again, the form just doesn’t look right. He missed a three late in the first half that just barely grazed the rim and missed another badly in the second half. He still just looked like he’s pushing the ball from his chest. It was D.J. Augustin running the point off the bench that led Orlando's late run.

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