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Kyle Lowry scores 20, dedicates Raptors’ win to mom on her birthday, says he scored her age

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan spent an off night in town at Villanova watching the best basketball team in the Philly area dominate in another victory. A night later, Lowry and DeRozan ditched the courtside seats to team up and keep Philadelphia the worst team in the NBA.

DeRozan scored 31 points and Lowry added 20 to help the Toronto Raptors win their fourth straight game, 123-114 over the 76ers on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old Lowry dedicated the win to his mother on her birthday .

“I got as many points as her age,” he said, laughing.

DeRozan continued to make the 30-point mark a routine part of his game and scored 31 points through the first three quarters. DeRozan posterized Jahlil Okafor with a dunk over the Sixers big man and easily rolled to his second straight 30-point game. He scored 30 points on Monday against Milwaukee and came in averaging a robust 27.9 points per game.

“It’s just experience. My work ethic,” DeRozan said. “I just try and be better every single year.”

He’s having his best one yet.

Lowry helped blow the game open in his Philadelphia homecoming. Lowry made a 3-pointer in the fourth that stretched the lead to 99-80 and earned some applause for the All-Star raised in the area.

DeRozan and Lowry helped squash the Sixers’ modest two-game winning streak. Long one of the NBA’s worst teams, the Sixers haven’t won three straight games since they took four in a row from Dec. 29, 2013-Jan. 4, 2014.

Robert Covington led the Sixers with 26 points and Okafor had 17.

The Sixers had won two straight on the road and seemed like they could win a rare game at home when they opened with a strong first 17 minutes. Lowry brought the Sixers crashing back to reality.

Lowry buried two quick 3-pointers that brought the Raptors within two and scored on a driving layup that tied the game at 45-all. The Raptors turned a three-point deficit to open the second quarter into a 60-54 halftime lead. The Sixers went on a mini-run late in the fourth and got within five points with 30 seconds left. They could have used another 30 minutes to top the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors.

The Raptors have won 10 of 11 games and are 11 games over .500 for the first time this season.

TIP-INS

Raptors: Lowry and DeRozan attended No. 1 Villanova’s game on Tuesday night. Lowry, a Philly native who played at Villanova, wore a “Just a Kid From North Philly” sweatshirt at shootaround. “He’s a pain in the butt sometimes, but he’s our pain in the butt,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. Casey said Lowry reminded him of former Seattle great Gary Payton.

76ers: Okafor started at center and Joel Embiid at power forward for the first time this season. They played the first 6 minutes of the first quarter together. Embiid and Okafor are natural centers. Coach Brett Brown decided the time was right to pair them and see what they could do together in the frontcourt. “It’s my job to grow our program, grow our guys, and see what we actually have,” Brown said. “We have really yet to see Jahlil and Joel together in any significant timeframe. Tonight, it’s available. So I’m going to do it.” Embiid twisted his left ankle in warmups and sat out a stretch in the first half with a bloody nose and scored nine points.

“I was just standing, I wasn’t moving, I was just standing on the perimeter,” Embiid said. “I wasn’t active on defense.”

DID YOU SEE THAT!?

Embiid’s lone block in the first half came when he charged at DeMarre Carroll and used his outstretched right hand to swat the ball away.

DeRozan had the dunk of the night when he split defenders down the lane and stuffed one over Okafor.

SHOE FITS

No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons ditched the walking boot and sat in sneakers on the Sixers bench for the first time this season. Simmons has not played this season because of a broken bone in his right foot suffered during training camp. Simmons shot free throws in practice this week. The Sixers say there is no timetable for his return.

UP NEXT

Raptors: Host Atlanta on Friday.

76ers: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

Report: Kevin Love called out in emotional Cavaliers team meeting

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Having lost 8-of-11, a Cavaliers team meeting where the players got to vent seemed inevitable. There isn’t one person in that Cavaliers locker room that doesn’t deserve some blame for how things have turned.

However, Kevin Love apparently became the whipping boy.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cleveland Cavaliers held a fiery team meeting in the practice facility locker room prior to Monday’s practice, during which several players challenged the legitimacy of Kevin Love’s illness that led him to leave Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City early and miss Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

Several players were pushing for the Cavaliers’ management and coaching staff to hold Love accountable for leaving the arena before the end of Saturday’s game, and then missing Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

The meeting was loud and intense, only calming down once Love spoke to those gathered in the room and explained himself, league sources said.

The more things change, the more things are always Kevin Love’s fault.

According to the report, the majority of the team seemed to accept Love’s explanation. Love left the Cavaliers ugly, nationally televised blowout at the hands of the Thunder in the first half and did not return due to what was described only as an illness. He did not stay around for the end of the game. I’m not about to speculate on how ill he was or was not, what matters is that his teammates were not buying it. When a team is losing finger-pointing is almost inevitable, and Love has gotten more than his fair share of it in Cleveland. At least he stood up for himself.

Team meetings may allow a pressure release in a locker room, but they almost never result in any kind of meaningful change. We’ll see what if anything changes in Cleveland.

Bucks GM on Jason Kidd firing: “This is a performance-based thing”

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Last season the Bucks went 42-40 in the regular season and were up 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against Toronto before ultimately losing in six.

This season, expectations were high. Before the season there was talk from the team of a 50-win team (Las Vegas oddsmakers set the under/over at 47.5) that would finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, hosting a playoff round. There was hope that the defense would improve, and with that the Bucks would look like a young team figuring it out.

They haven’t looked like that at all — they are 23-22 (with the point differential of a 20-25 team), and their defense is 25th in the NBA. Currently, they have just a one-game cushion for the final playoff slot in the East.

That cost coach Jason Kidd his job, first-year Bucks GM Jon Horst said Monday night at a press conference, as reported by Matt Velazquez at the Journal-Sentinel.

“At the end, this is a performance-based thing,” Horst said. “We believe in this team, we believe in our players and in the talents that they have. We’re looking forward at making playoff appearances in consecutive years for the first time in over a decade and hopefully winning a first-round series for the first time in over a decade. So we felt like at this time, this is the right decision to help this team get there.”

Around the league the move was not a total surprise, but the timing caught people off guard. Horst said it happened “relatively quickly” and explained:

“A general manager in the NHL had a statement once: ‘If something is inevitable, why wait?’ I think we came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for the future of the franchise and this was the time.”

Come this summer this will be the hottest coaching job available because of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the potential of this roster. Names such as Jeff Van Gundy and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams have been mentioned, but the ultimate list will be longer. Honestly, a few coaches with jobs might rather have the Bucks job (although the challenges between the two owners there can make things uncomfortable at times).

“We have another game on Friday and between that time we have a plan that we’ll put in place that we’ll kind of layout for the rest of the season,” Horst said. “We’ll go into the summer and have an extensive coaching search with an opportunity to hopefully find a great coach for this organization of which (interim coach) Joe Prunty has every opportunity to be a part of based on what happens going forward.”

This is going to a rough adjustment for Antetokounmpo and some of the players, who respected and trusted Kidd. There’s a lot of pressure on Horst with this hire.

That doesn’t make it the wrong move — Horst did the right thing here. The Bucks were going to be moving on, they just did it sooner rather than later.

 

Kevin Durant fires back, says Clint Capela’s job is “easy”

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“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them… We are better than them.”

That was young Rockets center Clint Capela after the Rockets beat the Warriors last Saturday night, feeling confident.

Asked about it, Kevin Durant shot Capela down, saying he’s not the guy that should be commenting.

There are no easy jobs in the NBA. It takes a lot of work physically, a good mental feel for the game, and the right opportunity just to get a chance. That said, some NBA jobs are simpler and more straightforward than others. On offense, Capela is not the ball handler and creator making a lot of decisions, things are simple for him — and he executes them. He’s shooting 66.6 percent this season — he does what he does well.

Houston took two of three from Golden State this season, and while that is far from doing it in a playoff series it should be a confidence boost for Houston if/when they go up against Golden State.

Jason Kidd says Giannis Antetokounmpo offered to save his job minutes before firing

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The stagnant Milwaukee Bucks shook things up by firing head coach Jason Kidd  Monday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was not happy with the news. So much he called up Kidd and offered to help save his job, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Antetokounmpo is understandably close to Kidd — he’s been the coach who helped transform the Greek Freak into an NBA superstar. Kidd is on his way to the Hall of Fame as a player, and as a coach had the vision to put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands as a point guard. Antetokounmpo trusted Kidd.

However, the Bucks’ growth has been stagnant — this is a team where the players talked about being a 50-win, top-four team in the East with a strong defense, instead they are a team on the way to around .500, barely hanging onto a playoff spot, with the point differential of a team that wins 36 games. They are not taking a step forward, and the Bucks — with the approval of ownership, which was very close to Kidd at one time — approving the move.

There was nothing Antetokounmpo could have done. It’s life in the NBA. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.