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NBA Wrap: Clippers get franchise-record 57th win

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NBA Wrap: Clippers get franchise-record 57th win

As the Sixers' season winds to a close with Wednesday's finale against the Heat, the offseason fun begins. First up, whether or not Michael Carter-Williams will win rookie of the year (see story).

Oh, and there's also the issue of that lottery pick. The 700 Level takes a look at how past teams with the second-worst record fared in the NBA draft lottery.

Only two games took place on the NBA's penultimate night of regular-season play. Here's a wrap:

Clippers win franchise-record 57th game
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin scored 24 points while picking up his 16th technical, and the Los Angeles Clippers led all the way in beating the Denver Nuggets 117-105 on Tuesday night for their franchise-record 57th victory of the season.

Chris Paul had 21 points and 10 assists, and J.J. Redick added 18 points in the Clippers' finale at home, where they went 34-7 for another franchise mark. DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and 16 rebounds.

The win kept the Clippers in the hunt for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They would need to win at Portland and Oklahoma City would need to lose to Detroit on Wednesday night for the Clippers to claim the second spot. Otherwise, they will remain the third seed.

Los Angeles will have to get by without Griffin on the road since his 16th tech triggered a league-mandated one-game suspension.

Kenneth Faried led the Nuggets with 21 points and Aaron Brooks added 19. Timofey Mozgov had 18 points and 11 rebounds as Denver's three-game winning streak ended.

Griffin was assessed the tech with 3:23 left in the second quarter. He swung his right arm around to try to get the ball from Mozgov and hit him in the head. Griffin pleaded his case with the referees to no avail. Unless the league rescinds the tech, he'll sit out (see full recap).

Even without 'Melo, Knicks top Nets
NEW YORK -- Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 16 points and the New York Knicks, playing without the injured Carmelo Anthony, beat the Brooklyn Nets, 109-98, on Tuesday night to win the season series between the city rivals.

The Knicks prevented the Nets from clinching the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and won their third straight in their too-little, too-late strong finish. Amare Stoudemire and J.R. Smith each added 14 points.

Anthony had an MRI exam Tuesday that revealed a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He won't play Wednesday against Toronto, the final game of the first season in his 11-year career that won't end with a playoff berth -- and potentially his last as a member of the Knicks. He has said he will become a free agent in July.

Marcus Thornton scored 24 points for the Nets, who weren't sharp despite playing starters Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. The other starter, Shaun Livingston, remained sidelined with a sprained right big toe.

The Nets still have a magic number of one for finishing fifth. But they could fall to No. 6 if they lose Wednesday in Cleveland and Washington beats Boston.

The Knicks would be in the playoffs themselves if they played against everyone else the way they did against the Nets while winning three romps (see full recap).

Jimmy Butler-only observations for his Sixers debut

Jimmy Butler-only observations for his Sixers debut

Jimmy Butler’s debut didn’t end the way he would’ve liked, but he showed flashes of why Elton Brand made the move.

He finished with 14 points (6 of 12) in the Sixers’ 111-106 loss to the Magic Wednesday (see non-Butler observations).

Here are a few observations from Butler’s performance to hold you over before our film review Thursday.

• Early on it looked like Butler was really just trying to let the game come to him, which makes sense in his first game with the team. 

He was perhaps a little too unselfish on the Sixers’ first possession of the game. They ran him off a double screen with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and it looked like Butler had a mid-range jumper that he passed up.

But he was doing a lot of the little things that maybe not every star player does. He moved well away from the ball and was engaged even when the offensive set wasn’t meant for him.

• His first bucket was a thing of beauty. Butler and Embiid ran the two-man game much like Embiid and JJ Redick do. Embiid faked the dribble handoff and Butler made a great cut to the basket to get the easy bucket.

This is something Brett Brown will surely be taking a long look at. Keep in mind, Brown has basically had one shootaround to get Butler acclimated. As the season goes, he’ll learn what works well for Butler and the rest of the team.

• The diversity of Butler’s offensive game is impressive and it was on full display. He’s outstanding in the mid-range …

He’s also so strong finishing around the basket. You can also see how his ability to create shots is going to help the Sixers.

This play where he splits the defenders and finishes is as pretty as it gets.

• Butler has made the NBA’s All-Defensive first team four times and it’s easy to see why. Butler is so much fun to watch on defense. 

He has such quick feet and awareness. You can see how uncomfortable he makes offensive players with the pressure he puts on them. His recovery speed when he cheats in the passing lanes is also really impressive.

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Magic 111, Sixers 106: Joel Embiid has career first but Sixers lose in Jimmy Butler's debut

Magic 111, Sixers 106: Joel Embiid has career first but Sixers lose in Jimmy Butler's debut

This isn't the debut the Sixers wanted for Jimmy Butler.

The Sixers had a huge third quarter only to allow a 21-0 run in the fourth in a 111-106 loss to the Magic in Orlando Wednesday.

Here are observations from the brutal loss.

You can find Butler-only observations here. 

• Butler flashed a few of the reasons why Elton Brand acquired him. He made shots from the mid-range, moved well without the ball and played excellent defense. He finished with 14 points (6 of 11) in 33 minutes.

We’ll have more on Butler’s debut shortly but here's his first bucket, which came off a great cut and two-man game with Embiid.

• Joel Embiid was cooking early. He was his usual dominant self in the first half and had his best overall game of the season, recording his first career triple-double with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and a career-high 10 assists. He did so while only turning the ball over twice. He's doing an oustanding job of understanding defenses and double teams and it's made him even more dangerous.

He had a rough second half scoring wise, going 1 of 10 with just three points, but it appears that even with Butler, Embiid will be a serious MVP candidate. 

• It looks like Redick has shaken off his early-season shooting slump. With the Magic coming out hot early, Redick played a big part in keeping the Sixers in the game in the first half. The two-man game with Embiid and Redick is lethal.

He also took this ridiculous three to get the Sixers a 2-for-1 at the end of the third ... and he let the Sixers' bench know.

He finished with 22 points on 8 of 13 from the field and 4 of 7 from three. He made a three that would've tied the game with under ten seconds left but he stepped out of bounds before making the shot.

• You have to give Fultz a ton of credit. After he threw up the oddest free throw maybe ever on Monday night in Miami, he came back and made a confident mid-range jumper on his first look of the game.

Though he was taken out of the starting lineup, he still got 21 minutes and had eight points on 4 of 6 from the field.

• Wilson Chandler started at the four and made his presence felt. This is the most spry the 31-year-old combo forward has looked this season after starting the season on the shelf with a hamstring injury.

He had 14 points.

• Ben Simmons had one of his quietest games of the season. He finished with just nine points, six assists and three rebounds. He did make two huge free throws late in the fourth quarter.

• Former Sixer Nikola Vucevic continues to haunt his old team. He finished with 30 points.

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