Nets force a Game 7 with blowout win over Raptors

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The fans in Brooklyn once again had a tough time being seated for a 7 p.m. tip-off before Game 6, a situation that is the polar opposite of the love the Raptors have received from an entire nation of fans embracing the team during its first postseason run in six years.

But none of that had any effect on the Nets’ ability to focus.

Down three games to two and facing elimination, Brooklyn’s veterans brought an intensity level and a will to win that a much younger Raptors squad was simply unable to match. The Nets led by as many as 16 points before the first period was finished, and the lead reached 26 before Brooklyn settled on a 97-83 final that forced a Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday.

The veterans are the strength of this Nets team, and two of them made a point to set the tone early. Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce each scored nine first quarter points on a combined 7-of-9 shooting, and Brooklyn as a team was red-hot in finishing the opening frame shooting better than 68 percent.

Deron Williams has been largely missing in this series in the eyes of Nets fans, but he came through in a big way when the team’s season was on the line. Not only did Williams finish with a team-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with five rebounds and four assists, but he hit plenty of big shots after being noticeably hobbled by an ankle injury he sustained in the third.

Jason Kidd gets some credit here too for tweaking things, starting Alan Anderson in place of Shaun Livingston, and playing Andray Blatche almost 21 minutes, while rookie Mason Plumlee was all but dropped from the rotation.

The Raptors put together a couple of big runs during the second half, which might give them something to build on as they head back to Toronto for the deciding game in the series. They cut it to 10 twice in the game’s final five minutes, but Brooklyn was able to stabilize each time, before Williams hit a dagger of a three with 1:13 remaining to seal the win for the Nets.

The home court advantage that mattered little to the Nets in Brooklyn may be of a much larger benefit to these young Raptors in Game 7. But a team full of veteran star players is extremely difficult to eliminate no matter the venue, and Toronto will have to mature extremely quickly in order to put the type of effort together it will take to knock off these Nets, and advance to the second round.

For a couple grand, Warriors fans can have Larry O’Brien Trophy visit their suite

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There’s so much money floating around the Bay Area right now thanks to another tech boom, this price almost seems low.

If you have a suite for the Golden State Warriors home games this season — and those are pretty much sold out, the Warriors draw big from the Silicon Valley crowd — you can have the NBA championship Larry O’Brien Trophy visit your suite. All for just a couple grand. From Gilbert Lee, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The best part is it includes champagne… do you get to spray each other with it as you hold up the trophy? Now that would be perfect (goggles included, of course).

Have an issue with this? Why? To the victor goes the spoils. The Warriors may be able to sell this package for years.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?