Dallas Mavericks

With 50th win, Sixers have exceeded all expectations … now what?

With 50th win, Sixers have exceeded all expectations … now what?

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The Sixers have exceeded expectations and they aren’t stopping now.

Getting to the playoffs was the goal. Then it became locking in home-court advantage. Then it evolved to 50 wins.

All have been accomplished following the Sixers' 109-97 victory, their 14th straight, over the Mavericks Sunday (see observations)

“To win 50 games with two games remaining, to have 14 wins in a row to secure a home court advantage," Brett Brown said, "that is fantastic.”

The Sixers have not attained a top-four seed in the East since the 2002-03 season. Now they have set their sights on edging out the Cavaliers for the No. 3 spot. That positioning became even more significant when All-Star guard Kyrie Irving was shut down for the playoffs (knee). The Celtics hold the No. 2 spot in a potential second-round matchup. 

On top of that, the Sixers have won 50 games for the first time since 2000-01. This is the 17th season the Sixers reached that mark, ranking them fifth among all NBA teams (Celtics 33, Lakers 32, Spurs 27, Suns 19).

“For me it’s huge,” Ben Simmons said. “For the team, it’s definitely huge. It shows how far we’ve come this season, everyone putting us lower than expected I think that we pushed through the tough times, had a tough start with the teams we played. I think we’ve just gotten a lot better over time.” 

What stands out most about the Sixers’ current success is they have been winning without Joel Embiid, who has missed the last five games because of a concussion and orbital fracture. The team has adopted a faster tempo with more three-point shooting. Brown believes they can blend their current style with the way they had been playing with Embiid for the playoffs. While there is no timetable for Embiid to return to the streaking Sixers, his non-game work could begin soon. 

“We have not at all talked about any type of restrictions when he does come back, whenever that is,” Brown said. “We’ve talked a lot about what do we do in the lead up to his return to play as it relates to everything — free throw shooting, cardio, etc. We believe that plan will start as early as tomorrow.”

The Sixers' playoff outlook will be determined in a matter of days. Until then, they are eyeing wins in their last two games of the regular season — Tuesday on the road against the Hawks (24-57) and Wednesday hosting the Bucks (43-37). For the first time in six years, their season isn't ending after 82 games. 

"For any team in the NBA to get 50 wins is really big," Markelle Fultz said. "But for us coming from the seasons we had previously, coming in our goal was just to make the playoffs and then we just kept adding on." 

Sixers clinch home-court advantage with 14th straight win

Sixers clinch home-court advantage with 14th straight win

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Home-court advantage is locked in.

The Sixers on Sunday secured a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference with a 109-97 win over the Mavericks. They have not done so since the 2002-03 season. 

The Sixers also reached 50 wins (50-30) and extended their win streak to 14, matching the 1982-83 team for the franchise’s longest single-season winning streak. 

• The 24-57 Mavericks didn’t make it easy. They fought back in the third, cutting the Sixers’ 17-point lead down to four. A game like this highlights the value of the Sixers being tested by a contender like the Cavaliers last Friday. 

• Ben Simmons fell just short of yet another double-double (and even triple-double). He finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, nine dimes and four steals. 

• Brett Brown has wanted to see more of Markelle Fultz (eight points, three assists, two rebounds, four fouls). The rookie played 21 minutes, including time again with Simmons. That meant T.J. McConnell’s time was cut back. He did not check in until 2:24 to go. Even so, McConnell was the first one off the bench to greet the Sixers during a timeout, remaining a total pro (see story)

• Keep an eye out for rookie Dennis Smith Jr. over the next few years. He’s been considered a steal by the Mavericks at the ninth pick. Smith Jr. recorded 20 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks. 

• Dario Saric posted nine points, five rebounds and five assists on his 24th birthday. That’s an improvement from his 1 for 9 shooting woes Friday against the Cavaliers in his first game back from cellulitis in his right elbow, but he still struggled. Saric shot an airball and seemed to extend his elbow after the miss. 

• The Sixers dished 32 assists, their 32nd straight game of at least 20. Their streak, which dates back to Feb. 2, is the longest active streak in the league and the second-longest by a team this season. 

Ex-Sixer Canaan suffers gruesome injury in Suns' win

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Ex-Sixer Canaan suffers gruesome injury in Suns' win

PHOENIX -- Rookie forward Josh Jackson matched his career best with 21 points, T.J. Warren added 20 and the Phoenix Suns snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Dallas 102-88 on Wednesday night, handing the Mavericks their fifth loss in a row and eighth in nine games.

Phoenix backup point guard Isaiah Canaan broke his left ankle in a gruesome injury late in the first quarter.

Marquese Chriss added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns, who beat Dallas for the fourth time in a row dating to last season.

After missing Monday night's game in Memphis with bruised ribs, Devin Booker was back starting at point guard for Phoenix and scored 15 points.

Dennis Smith Jr. scored 17, Harrison Barnes 15 and Dirk Nowitzki 14 for the Mavericks, who shot just 36 percent (see full recap).

Blazers’ McCollum nets 50 points in just 3 quarters
PORTLAND, Ore. -- CJ McCollum scored a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter and finished with a career-high 50 through three periods before heading to the bench, and the Portland Trail Blazers took advantage of the short-handed Chicago Bulls for a 124-108 victory Wednesday night.

McCollum's 28 points in the opening quarter were the most in the NBA this season. His final tally was nine points shy of the team record set by Damian Lillard last season.

Lillard also sat out the final period after adding 13 points and seven assists for the Blazers, who led by as many as 29. It was Portland's fourth straight win overall, a season high, and the club's eighth in a row at home.

Zach LaVine had a season-best 23 points in Chicago's fifth consecutive loss.

Lauri Markkanen was not with the Bulls because he was attending to a personal issue, the team said. The rookie is averaging 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Paul Zipser started in his place.

Kris Dunn, averaging 13.7 points and 6.4 assists, missed his sixth straight game after a concussion.

The Bulls decided to sit forward Nikola Mirotic while he reportedly seeks a trade. Coach Fred Hoiberg said before the game that the 6-foot-10 forward remained back at the team hotel. Meanwhile, rumors swirled that the Bulls had a deal with the Pelicans but it fell apart (see full recap).

Cavaliers survive in 1st game without Love
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 24 points, Jae Crowder made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:21 left and the Cleveland Cavaliers began a long stretch without injured All-Star Kevin Love by holding off the Miami Heat 91-89 on Wednesday night.

The Cavs rebounded from a troubling loss at Detroit -- Cleveland gave up 125 points to the undermanned Pistons -- and prevented the Heat from overtaking them for third place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Cleveland played its first game since Love broke his left hand against the Pistons. The five-time All-Star is consulting with surgeons in New York, and it's possible he'll undergo an operation as early as Thursday. Love, who could miss two months, already has screws in the hand from a previous procedure after he broke it in 2009 with Minnesota.

While he's out, the Cavs have to hold themselves together.

Goran Dragic scored 18 and Josh Richardson 15 to lead the Heat, who went just 3 of 28 on 3-pointers.

Miami had a last chance after Cleveland's Kyle Korver made one of two free throws with seven seconds left, but Heat forward James Johnson, harassed by James on the baseline, couldn't get off a shot before the horn sounded (see full recap).