76ers

NBA Playoffs: Warriors overcome C.J. McCollum's career day, Blazers in Game 1

NBA Playoffs: Warriors overcome C.J. McCollum's career day, Blazers in Game 1

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Kevin Durant had 32 points and 10 rebounds in his Golden State playoff debut, Stephen Curry scored 29 points, and the Warriors withstood a sensational day by Portland duo CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard to beat the Trail Blazers 121-109 on Sunday in Game 1 of the first-round series.

McCollum scored a playoff career-best 41 points, and Lillard had 34, but the Warriors made the crucial big plays on both ends down the stretch with Portland playing without injured center Jusuf Nurkic.

Draymond Green contributed 19 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists and five blocked shots to help last season's second-place team take the first step in what it is counting on to be a championship run.

Durant shot 12 for 20, showing no issues with a recent left knee injury that sidelined him 19 games before he returned for the final three regular-season contests with the NBA-best Warriors. He patted his chest after two straight fourth-quarter baskets and said, "I got this!"

Game 2 is Wednesday night at Oracle Arena (see full recap).

Harden, Rockets blow out Westbrook, Thunder
HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 37 points to outshine Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets pulled away in the third quarter and coasted to a 118-87 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

The best-of-seven Western Conference series continues Wednesday night in Houston.

The third-seeded Rockets were up by 20 when Harden came off the bench with about seven minutes remaining. He went right to work -- making two 3-pointers to power 10-0 run and push the lead to 110-80 with 4 1/2 minutes left. Harden, who along with Westbrook is a front-runner for MVP, went to the bench after that and both teams cleared their benches soon after that.

Westbrook had 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, but made just six of 23 shots and had nine turnovers for the sixth-seeded Thunder (see full recap).

Butler, Bulls edge out grieving Isaiah Thomas, Celtics in Game 1
BOSTON -- Jimmy Butler had 30 points and nine rebounds and the Chicago Bulls outlasted Boston 106-102 in Game 1 on Sunday on an emotional night for grieving Celtics star Isaiah Thomas.

Playing a day after 22-year-old sister Chyna Thomas was killed in a car accident in their home state of Washington, Thomas led the top-seeded Celtics with 33 points.

Butler scored 23 points in the second half. Bobby Portis finished with 19 for the Bulls.

Al Horford had 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for Boston.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Boston (see full recap).

Wall leads Wizards to Game 1-win over Hawks
WASHINGTON -- John Wall scored a playoff career-high 32 points and Markieff Morris added 21 in his NBA playoff debut as the Washington Wizards beat the Atlanta Hawks 114-107 Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round series.

Wall scored 15 points in the third quarter and finished with 14 assists in the best playoff performance of his young career. Morris, in his first taste of the postseason after 448 regular-season games, caught fire early in the second half to push Washington ahead, and the Wizards held on to take the series lead.

Bradley Beal had 22 points for the Wizards, who got enough from their top players to offset 25 points from Atlanta's Dennis Schroder and 19 from Paul Millsap. Center Dwight Howard had 14 rebounds but just seven points for the Hawks, who dominated inside and on the boards early but couldn't contain Wall, Beal and Morris.

Drawing a foul on a 3-pointer at the second-quarter buzzer, Morris scored eight consecutive points for the Wizards to get them back into the game. When Otto Porter's 3-pointer gave the Wizards a 53-52 lead, it was their first time ahead since the first quarter, and they were able to pull away (see full recap).

Nemanja Bjelica spurns Sixers, reportedly talking deal with Kings

Nemanja Bjelica spurns Sixers, reportedly talking deal with Kings

What exactly is going on with the Sixers?

After missing out on LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and any and all superstar free agents this summer, even their bench, fill-out-the-roster type of guys are dodging the Sixers like a plague.

The latest being forward Nemanja Bjelica, who was in Philly (but not really) for just a bit longer than Eagle-for-a-second Frank Gore.

Bjelica, 30, reportedly agreed to a deal with the Sixers on July 5, providing a boost off the bench and an upgrade over Ersan Ilyasova. 

That was all grand until Tuesday, when news broke that Bjelica had spurned the Sixers and was going back to Europe, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

But in the greatest (or lamest) twist in a strange and sad offseason for the Sixers, Bjelica is now looking to stay in the NBA and is working toward a deal with the Sacramento Kings, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania. That can't be right. No one would willingly sign with the Kings.

Bjelica posted career bests in points (6.1) and three-point percentage (41.5) last season. While he would have been a nice bench addition, it's not the end of the world. But it sure isn't a great look that the Sixers were toyed with and lost out to a lowly team like the Kings. 

After the Bryan Colangelo debacle and the star-hunting strikeout, we're officially at the "Player X would rather sign with the Kings" stage of the offseason.

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What now for Sixers after Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors?

What now for Sixers after Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors?

LeBron James is a Laker. Kawhi Leonard is a Raptor.

The Sixers went star hunting and came up empty. So now what for a team that won 52 games but is likely one more superstar away from winning a title?

You may not like this answer, but the correct course of action is … nothing — at least not this offseason.

The only star that could possibly be available is the Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler — if you choose to believe the rumors. Butler, who is an outstanding two-way player, will be 29 entering next season and has an expiring deal. He already forced his way out of Chicago and reportedly wants to force his way out of Minnesota. How much are you giving up for that?

On a smaller scale, the Sixers lost Nemanja Bjelica, who reportedly agreed to sign with the team for the mid-level exception. The Serbian forward decided instead to take his talents back to the EuroLeague ... or maybe not. Bjelica certainly wasn’t a star but he appeared to be a solid bench piece that might’ve actually been an upgrade from Ersan Ilyasova. So what should the Sixers do with their MLE?

Nothing — again, at least this year.

Who do you want that’s left? Joe Johnson? Michael Beasley? Jamal Crawford? That’s three hard no’s for me.

The Sixers should go into camp with what they have and let the competition play out. Maybe they’ll figure out what to do with Jerryd Bayless’ deal or waive Richaun Holmes or sign Jonah Bolden or make a small trade, but this roster is mostly set. And that’s fine.

This team, that again won 52 games, should be better. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should only improve. Markelle Fultz can only go up. Dario Saric took a huge leap in Year 2 and we know the kind of worker he is. Wilson Chandler is an upgrade over any player the Sixers had on the bench last year, especially when you factor in defense.

They’re not the favorites to win the East, nor should they be. But that’s fine. With the Warriors continuing to load up and James now out West, what chance does any team in the East have? (Zero is the answer, by the way). 

Fast forward to next offseason. Leonard, Butler, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving are among a loaded free-agent class. Any one of those players would be a fit and a huge upgrade for the Sixers and they’d be joining the team at the right time. Embiid and Simmons will both be a year more mature and developed and the Warriors will be a year older with their cap situation tighter.

As for the MLE, if the Sixers go star hunting again next offseason and wind up with someone like Leonard, they could use it on a ring-chasing, veteran mercenary. That’s much more valuable than one year of Johnson, Beasley or Crawford on a team that doesn’t have a realistic shot at a title next year.

Brett Brown may have set a tough bar for the offseason. When he did his now infamous star-hunting presser, it raised expectations from the fan base. Since the Sixers came up empty in their quest, most look at the offseason as a bad one.

There’s no nice way to put it: Missing out on James and Leonard sucks for the Sixers. But all is far from lost. Name another team in the NBA that has two superstars the caliber of Embiid and Simmons both under the age of 24. You can’t because such a team does not exist.

Would the Sixers have been better off if they landed a star this offseason? Of course. But now knowing that they swung and missed, their best course of action is inaction — for now.

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