76ers

Victor Oladipo powers Pacers up standings

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Victor Oladipo powers Pacers up standings

WASHINGTON — Victor Oladipo scored 33 points, Bojan Bogdanovic added 20 and the Indiana Pacers defeated Washington 98-95 on Sunday night to overtake the Wizards by a half-game in the crowded Eastern Conference standings.

Myles Turner added 12 points and 13 rebounds for Indiana, which almost gave away a 17-point lead but never trailed in a victory that vaulted it into fourth place in the East. The Pacers finished their four-game road trip 2-2 after beginning it with two losses.

Bradley Beal scored 22 points and had a career-high 11 assists for Washington, which lost its third straight for the first time this season.

Beal, the Wizards' leading scorer this season, shot just 8 of 27 from the floor, missing three potential tying or go-ahead shots inside the final 19 seconds. And as Washington fell to 10-6 without All-Star point guard John Wall (knee surgery), Beal also committed two of his five turnovers on late possessions when the Wizards could have tied or taken the lead.

Otto Porter Jr. added 17 points for Wizards, who sank to fifth place, a half-game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers, who played later Sunday.

Down 17, Washington climbed back into the game with a 12-0 run that began late in the third quarter and stretched into the fourth. Beal scored seven in that span, and then found Jodie Meeks for a 3-pointer that cut it to 80-75 with 9:44 left.

The Wizards eventually got within one before Beal missed a transition layup with Oladipo and Cory Joseph contesting to keep the score 96-95 with 19 seconds left.

From there, Oladipo and Joseph each hit one of two free throws, and Beal missed a game-tying jumper attempt on one possession before his look at a game-tying 3 fell short near the buzzer (see full recap).

Raptors capture 11th win in last 12
TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan scored 19 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points and 13 rebounds and the Raptors beat the Charlotte Hornets 103-98 on Sunday night, Toronto's 11th win in 12 games.

Serge Ibaka scored 17 points and Kyle Lowry had 14 as the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors completed their first season sweep of Charlotte since 2006-07. Both DeRozan and Lowry made key 3-pointers down the stretch as Toronto improved to 26-5 at Air Canada Centre, the best home record in the NBA.

Fred VanVleet and C.J. Miles each scored 12 points for the Raptors, who have won four straight since an overtime loss to Milwaukee on Feb. 23.

Kemba Walker scored 27 points and Dwight Howard had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Hornets, who lost their third straight, all on the road. Charlotte is 10-21 away from home.

Jeremy Lamb scored 16 points, Frank Kaminsky had 15 and Nicolas Batum added 10.

Charlotte's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored the game's opening basket but the Hornets never led again.

The Hornets cut the deficit to two, 88-86, on a three-point play by Lamb with 5:11 left in the fourth quarter. Lowry answered with a 3 for Toronto and, after Walker split a pair at the line, DeRozan added a corner 3, giving Toronto a 93-87 lead with 3:22 remaining.

This was the first time in four meetings with Charlotte this season that the Raptors failed to score at least 120 points (see full recap).

Holiday leads Pels to 8th-straight win
DALLAS — Jrue Holiday scored 30 points, Nikola Mirotic added 24 in a rare start and the New Orleans Pelicans won their eighth in a row, 126-109 over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.

On a night when his jumper wasn't falling, Anthony Davis had 23 points and 13 rebounds, scoring most of his points from inside 5 feet.

Holiday scored 19 in the first half as the Pelicans held a double-digit lead for most of the last three quarters, save for one fleeting Dallas run at the start of the fourth.

New Orleans has averaged 127 points during its streak and cleared 118 in all eight games.

Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 23 points for the Mavericks, passing Elvin Hayes for eighth all-time in field goals with 10,980.

Dallas opened the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to get within 91-87, with Kyle Collinsworth scoring on a three-point play and Nowitzki and J.J. Barea hitting 3-pointers. After calling timeout, New Orleans answered with 10 straight points, including 3s by Holiday and Mirotic.

Dennis Smith Jr. also scored 23 for Dallas, which has lost three straight and 17 of 21.

Nowitzki scored 11 points in the first quarter, including a 3 at the buzzer, but New Orleans led 33-25 after one.

Holiday took advantage of the smaller Dallas guards to get inside, scoring 19 in the first half. Mirotic hit three 3s in a 19-8 run to start the second quarter, which gave the Pelicans their biggest lead at 19.

Dallas got within 10 in the third quarter and had the ball, but Smith threw away an outlet pass, and Davis and Ian Clark scored all of the Pelicans' points in a subsequent 12-4 run (see full recap).

Sixers' NBA draft decisions should serve as a warning for Markelle Fultz

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Sixers' NBA draft decisions should serve as a warning for Markelle Fultz

The Friday after any NBA draft is a crowning moment for all of the league’s franchises. They trot out the previous night’s selections and hold introductory press conferences with smiles all around.

The Sixers were no different as they showed off first-round picks Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet at their training complex Friday morning.

However, make no mistake that this one was a little bit different. 

While the event was all about the new faces joining the organization, it also served as a direct warning shot to Markelle Fultz.

Brett Brown sat at the podium sandwiched between the two players he selected in the first round of his initial foray as Sixers interim general manager. Both guys happen to be bigger guards and each possess a particular top skill (athleticism for Smith and shooting for Shamet) that the Sixers thought they were getting right from the start in Fultz.

“The real reason they’re here is their talent,” Brown said. “Their ability to grow into NBA players, to play a modern-style of basketball. The ability we felt that their base foundation had so much more room to grow. 

“The notion of how we play here in Philadelphia. The values that we have on defense, how we want to play offense. How we all look into a crystal ball and suspect the sport is going to be played in 2025. When you added those up, it made perfect sense and aggressively targeting these two players that sit on my right and sit on my left.”

It was just a year ago that the Sixers made an aggressive move to the top of the 2017 draft for Fultz. And while the franchise isn’t ready to give up on him after a rocky rookie season, it certainly sounds more and more like the team has settled on him becoming just a piece and not a cornerstone.

“When we started looking at the players available and I especially start looking at how we want to play and who can be sandwiched in between Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, we’re looking for that modern-day type of player,” Brown said when asked whether taking two guards in the first round meant something about Fultz’s status. “To say position-less basketball, it’s really not that. To me, it might give you better vision of what I’m trying to say. I just think that the skill and things that we require, these two have, especially as you look sandwiched in between. And whether that’s Markelle, T.J. (McConnell) or Cov (Robert Covington), I would tell you the same thing. 

“When you look at the league, the league switches defensively a lot. When you look at the league, the league drives, dishes, needs three-point shot-makers and playmakers a lot. So whether it’s apples for apples is fine by me, but probably what you should hear the loudest is I don’t think there’s overlap. I think that they can play together.”

Playing together is completely different than playing around. It’s pretty clear the Sixers now reserve the status for Embiid, Simmons and whatever stars they plan to chase in free agency or via trade.

That doesn’t mean Fultz can’t reclaim the standing within the organization he was seemingly destined for when the Sixers called his name at No. 1 last year. After all, he just turned 20 years old last month (he’s actually 14 months younger than Shamet).

It all starts during this crucial summer for Fultz, which apparently is already going well (see story). But Smith and Shamet will have the chance to make impacts of their own coming up in the next few months as well.

“If you just base it on math and you look at percentages of what does a 10th player do and what’s a 26th player do, rarely do you see people immediately come in and claim a large role in rotations and heavy minutes. That historically isn’t the trend,” Brown said. “I say that from a factual base more than something that might be challenged. I expect these guys to challenge that. 

“Where this ends up, the expectations in relations to role and minutes and all of that, they’re going to tell me. We’ve got a summer league coming up. They will have ample opportunities to draw their own line in the sand.”

Fultz better be focused on drawing his too.

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Brett Brown embracing a difficult job as Sixers' interim GM

Brett Brown embracing a difficult job as Sixers' interim GM

Heading into the NBA draft, there was some uncertainty about how the Sixers would make decisions. Nobody seemed willing to say whether interim GM Brett Brown would have the final say, or whether it would be a truly collaborative process.

Thursday night, Brown confirmed he’s the man in charge.

“I was the one that approved the final decision,” Brown said after the Sixers’ first-round trade for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 unprotected first-round pick. “We have many people in that room that are aggressively speaking to people. We have information, we put it on a board and we discuss it. At the end of the day, (managing partner) Josh (Harris) looked at me and I did what I did. I approved the deal.”

Brown made sure to credit the people around him who made a difficult job easier. As Brown put it, “This has been a really different June” for him. There’s no way he could have expected he’d be pulling the trigger on draft night when the season ended, but he’s taken leadership of another team, this one in the front office.

“There is an incredible amount of teamwork that is required in that room,” Brown said. “You’re on the clock. I thought (vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff) Ned Cohen did a fantastic job helping organize this. The analytics side with Alex Rucker and Sergi Oliva, those guys were awesome. And then I think (vice president of basketball operations) Marc Eversley, delivering the group, you know, ‘These are the players with our scouts,’ it was a very collaborative process. It was a systematic process where you felt like you were a part of a team.”

Separating the head coaching part of his job from the GM duties he’s been thrown into hasn’t been painless for Brown. He acknowledged he felt the “human side” of trading away a high-character local kid whose mom works for the organization in Mikal Bridges (see story).

“The torment of trying to do my job in the very limited role I have for a moment as the general manager versus the role that I have as the head coach of this program, it’s a toggle,” Brown said. “And this is where we arrived.”

It’s obviously not a job Brown wants to do long term. At some point, he’ll be able to return his full focus to coaching. For now, though, he says he’s enjoying his new role. He’s always loved preaching about his program and cultivating a positive culture. Persistently optimistic, Brown looks at the aftermath of the Bryan Colangelo saga as an opportunity to fully embrace those passions.

“I said right when I accepted the responsibility that I have no intent of doing this,” Brown said. “I’m a basketball coach. When this came up, I felt a responsibility to do the best that I could under the circumstances to help move us forward. ... Down deep, I love it, because you just bleed for the program. You’ll do whatever you can to bring a championship to this city. That’s the bottom line. As we corral the analytics people, the scouts, my coaching staff and the people that work in the building and try to hold us together and move us forward and show daylight, that’s my job.”

There’s still no official timeline from the Sixers on when Brown’s tenure as interim GM will end. But free agency starts on July 1, and Brown is ready to recruit. He also sounded prepared to go all-out in pursuit of possible trades for stars (see story), including a hypothetical example that seemed to very closely resemble Kawhi Leonard, who wants out of San Antonio and has expressed his desire to return to his hometown of Los Angeles.

“When you talk about what are you going to do to show the program the way we want it to be seen, sometimes it’s in-house, sometimes you have to travel,” Brown said. “Whether we have to go mobile and, as an example, go to Los Angeles and deal with a family, an agent, the player. Whether we can attract him to come here to the city of Philadelphia.

“The whole strategy of how we do that, the presentation of information, we’ve been talking about that for a while. I feel completely that we will not miss a beat now that the draft is done, that we can focus in when free agency kicks in on July 1.”

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