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Best of NBA: Raptors rally from 17 down in 4th quarter to beat Hornets

Best of NBA: Raptors rally from 17 down in 4th quarter to beat Hornets

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry scored 21 points and all of Toronto's starters finished in double figures as the Raptors erased a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Charlotte Hornets 90-85 on Wednesday night.

Lowry, who also had six rebounds and six assists, had a three-point play to break an 82-82 tie with 1:40 to go. After Delon Wright's layup made it a five-point game, Nicolas Batum hit a 3 for Charlotte to pull the Hornets within two, but DeMarre Carroll responded with a 3 of his own with 7.4 seconds to go to ice it and help the Raptors end a three-game losing streak.

Norman Powell had 17 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors won for just the fifth time in the past 16 games.

Frank Kaminsky had a game-high 27 points, and Kemba Walker added 24 points and nine assists for Charlotte, which dropped its fourth straight and 11th consecutive road game (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo, Bucks hand Nets 14th straight loss
NEW YORK -- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points in his final game before making his All-Star debut, Greg Monroe added 25 and the Milwaukee Bucks sent the Brooklyn Nets to the break on a 14-game skid with a 129-125 victory Wednesday night.

Khris Middleton finished with 20 points in his strongest game since returning from a ruptured left hamstring that forced him to miss the first 50 games. He made four free throws in the final 19 seconds as the Bucks won their third straight.

Monroe was 12 for 16 from the field after going 12 for 15 on Monday in a victory over Detroit. He has two straight 20-point games after just one previously this season.

Brook Lopez scored a season-high 36 points for the Nets. They have lost 16 straight at home (see full recap).

Wiggins scores 40 in Timberwolves’ win over Nuggets
DENVER -- Andrew Wiggins scored 40 points and Karl-Anthony Towns added 24 points and 18 rebounds in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 112-99 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.

Wiggins' second 40-plus game in 24 hours helped the Timberwolves split the season series with the Nuggets, whom they're chasing for the eighth playoff spot in the West.

The Nuggets went cold 48 hours after blowing out Golden State behind an NBA record-tying 24 3-pointers on 40 tries. They made just 11 of 34 from long range this time, and Nicola Jokic shot just 6 of 19 from the floor for 15 hard-earned points (see full recap).

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Joel Embiid rests; Landry Shamet learns from JJ Redick

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Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Joel Embiid rests; Landry Shamet learns from JJ Redick

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid sat out the Sixers’ practice on Monday. In past years, that would be a cause for grave concern and frantic speculation.

This season, there’s no reason to read too much into it. Monday was simply a “load management” day for Embiid ahead of the team’s Blue-White scrimmage Tuesday night at the Palestra (7 p.m., NBCSP).

“We had two great days and [Tuesday] he’ll come in, and it’s sort of a game day for us,” head coach Brett Brown said. “We’ll come in, have a shootaround, then go to the Palestra and play in front of a fantastic crowd. We just felt like it would be good to let him have [Monday] to rest and we’ll jump back into it [Tuesday.]”

It wasn’t an entirely idle day for Embiid, however, who worked on his game after practice.

The Sixers will throw in a rest day for Embiid here and there, but he’s unrestricted for the first time in his career (see story).

Learning from the best 
After each day of training camp, rookie Landry Shamet and JJ Redick have been taking corner threes, shot-faking and pulling up, launching floaters — fine-tuning the skills shooters need to thrive in the NBA.

Shamet said he’s already picked up a lot from Redick, who is entering his 13th season in the NBA. Redick has made 1,464 three-point shots in his career, 30th most in NBA history. He’s a career 41.5 percent three-point shooter.

“He’s one of the best shooters, when you look back on it, in NBA history,” Shamet said. “I just try to take little bits and pieces of how he gets open, because he’s not the biggest guy, especially in the NBA. He’s really good with his feet, with his hands, knowing how to create space. So even when I’m guarding him, I’m picking things up on what he does to me and how he gets open.” 

Quotables
“Just not worrying about what people say. Not worrying about what the media says, fans. At the end of the day, this is his job. He loves playing ball. We all love what we do, so we can’t worry about what [the media] says or what the fans say or what people are saying on the internet — it doesn’t matter. He’s a great player and he wants to work hard. He knows greatness doesn’t take a week or a month or a year, it takes a long period of time.”

-Ben Simmons on the confidence he’s seen from Markelle Fultz 

“We obviously want him to get inside; he’s as good as anybody in the NBA. But to feel like that’s the only thing he can do is really naïve and I don’t think great coaching. So me coaching, it’s getting that balance of post up, post up, post up, dunk, dunk, dunk vs. he’s trailing in and nobody’s guarding him, shoot some threes and space him in corners as we put Markelle in a pick-and-roll. That interests me. As I said, so much of Joel’s interesting situation is he’s good at a lot. He really is skillful and has the ability to score in a lot of different ways.”

-Brett Brown on why he still wants Joel Embiid to shoot a good number of three-pointers 

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Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons' shots, new approach on defense, more storylines for Sixers' Blue-White scrimmage

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Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons' shots, new approach on defense, more storylines for Sixers' Blue-White scrimmage

CAMDEN, N.J. — There are two obvious storylines to watch Tuesday night when the Sixers hold their Blue-White scrimmage at the Palestra (7 p.m., NBCSP), and for good reason.

Everyone will have their eyes on Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons’ shots. We’ve seen glimpses already at training camp, but playing in front of fans will be a different environment than playing in front of a few media members documenting the action on cell phones.

At the end of practice Monday, head coach Brett Brown put Fultz, Simmons and a few other players in a pressure situation — Make two straight free throws, or else you and your teammates have to run.

Fultz knocked down both his shots. 

Simmons made one of two, then finished first on the penalty sprint up and down the floor.

Tuesday night will be a small step up in pressure, with the preseason opener looming on Sep. 28 against Melbourne United.

How will the news guys fit in?

During training camp, Brown has raved about the versatility and toughness of new acquisitions Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler (see story). 

He said Monday he’s been pleasantly surprised by Muscala’s athleticism. 

“I think that his versatility, his ability to switch, it’s better than I thought,” Brown said. “He’s got a bounce.”

Even though he’s a big fan of Amir Johnson’s interior defense, don’t be surprised if Brown uses Muscala some as a small-ball five. He showed during a scrimmage Sunday the appeal of playing him in that role — he’s more than capable of punishing big men who play off him.

New defensive approach 

A few roles have shifted on Brown’s coaching staff with the departure of current Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce and the addition of Monty Williams. Billy Lange is now in charge of the defense, taking over Pierce’s job last season, and according to Joel Embiid, he’s made a few changes to the team’s approach.

“Right now we’re actually working on new defensive concepts,” Embiid said after practice Sunday. “It’s going to take time. It’s much different than what we did last year. It’s definitely going to take time. That’s why I say we gotta learn how to play with each other, because we have to understand each other’s movement. We can only get better. We were third [in defensive rating] and there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Ben Simmons seemed to disagree Tuesday with the notion that there have been any dramatic defensive shifts.

“Personally, I feel like it’s been pretty standard,” Simmons said. “I think defensively we’re just getting back into the flow of things. It takes time. We’re not where we were, but we understand the level we need to be at.”

It would be surprising if Lange is implementing any radical changes, given the fact that, as Embiid mentioned, the Sixers had the league’s third-best defense last season. The Blue-White scrimmage may give us a better sense of his philosophy. 

Brown said Monday that the team is focused on gearing its defensive approach toward playoff basketball, which means figuring out how to keep Embiid on the floor when teams go small and put five shooters on the floor.

“How does he guard [Al] Horford, how would he guard Draymond Green? … We’re trying to anticipate that environment,” Brown said, “and we’re practicing now on how to keep him more close to the rim.”

“Defensively, how do we switch a lot, how do we keep the game in front of you, how do we not get beat on the bigs dribbling quick? And then, how do we find ways to, as much as we can, get Joel at the rim and be able to cover him around that? That to me is playoff defense.”

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