Philadelphia 76ers' Nerlens Noel (4) and Robert Covington (33) celebrate after a basket by Noel during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Associated Press

Without Joel Embiid, 76ers snap Miami’s 13-game winning streak

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington and Dario Saric each scored 19 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 117-109 victory Saturday night over Miami, snapping the Heat’s winning streak at 13 games.

Goran Dragic had 30 points for the Heat, whose winning streak was the longest in the NBA this season, the third-best in team history and tops in league history by a sub-.500 team. Miami, which fell 1 1/2 games back of idle Detroit for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, hadn’t lost since Jan. 13 at Milwaukee.

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid missed his ninth straight game and 12th in the last 13 due to a bone bruise on his left knee. Team president Bryan Colangelo also revealed before the game that Embiid has a slightly torn meniscus in the same knee.

But the 76ers, perhaps smarting after a 125-102 drubbing at Miami a week earlier, played inspired basketball with their Rookie of the Year candidate watching.

Philadelphia put seven players in double figures.

James Johnson‘s three-point play with 4:44 left cut it to 100-96 but Philadelphia scored 10 of the next 11 points, capped by T.J. McConnell‘s three-point play that made it 110-97 with 3:04 left.

Noel put an exclamation point on the Sixers’ second straight victory with an alley-oop dunk off a feed from McConnell with 27 seconds to play.

James Johnson matched his season high with 26, Tyler Johnson scored 17 and Hassan Whiteside had 12 points and 19 rebounds for Miami.

Behind 12 first-half points from Ersan Ilyasova, the 76ers led 54-48 at the break.

DANCING EMBIID

Embiid’s absence came one night after cellphone video captured him dancing on stage at a Meek Mill concert in Philadelphia.

The video caused a mini firestorm in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters at Saturday morning’s shootaround at the team’s practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, the 22-year-old rookie said his dancing was all about having fun.

“Meek invited me to the stage,” Embiid said. “I had fun. That’s what I’m about, just enjoying life.”

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown deflected questions about Embiid in Saturday’s pregame meeting with reporters, saying he had a conversation with Embiid about it and that he wanted to keep that talk private.

But Colangelo later acknowledged that dancing on stage might not have been the best choice for Embiid to make given his injury.

“Being at the concert was not disappointing,” Colangelo said. “Probably being on stage and dancing was a little bit given the circumstances and given the potential reaction.”

Colangelo also revealed that in addition to a bone bruise on his left knee Embiid has a minor tear in his meniscus. Colangelo said the latter injury isn’t thought to be serious nor is it believed to be causing any symptoms.

After sitting out his first two seasons with a foot injury, Embiid injured his knee on Jan. 20 in a 93-92 home victory over Portland.

TIP-INS

Heat: Dion Waiters (sprained left ankle) missed his third straight game. . The teams wrap up their four-game season series on March 1 in Miami. The host 76ers won 101-94 on Nov. 21, and the Heat routed Philadelphia 125-102 Feb. 4 in Miami.

76ers: Jahlil Okafor did not play. … Colangelo said it was unlikely that Embiid would play in either of the team’s two remaining games before the All-Star break, Monday at Charlotte and Wednesday at Boston. He added that it was “very unlikely” that Embiid, who was selected to participate in the Rising Stars game and Skills Challenge, would participate in All-Star festivities. . Richaun Holmes returned to the lineup after missing two consecutive games due to the flu. Holmes had six points and four rebounds.

 

Report: Other NBA executives believe Pacers not seriously shopping Paul George

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers in action during the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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The Pacers are reportedly shopping Paul George, trying to line up a trade if they can’t get him help in another deal.

But it’s hard to find anyone who believes Indiana is genuinely looking to trade George before the upcoming trade deadline.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

If the Pacers are serious about trading George, they better convince other teams quickly. That’s the only way to draw out the best offers.

But it makes sense Indiana is only in the exploratory stage.

The Pacers — and only the Pacers — could offer George a designated-veteran-player contract extension (projected to be worth about $209 million over five years) this offseason if he makes an All-NBA team.

That’s probably a longshot. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are locks for three of the six forward spots. Anthony DavisJimmy ButlerDraymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo should also rank ahead of George. Gordon HaywardPaul MillsapKevin Love are firmly in the mix, too. That’s a lot of ground to make up and other contenders to fend off.

But it’s likely worth it for the Pacers to keep George past the deadline and let him try. The upside is so high.

If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Indiana could always trade him at any point before the next trade deadline. He could also qualify as a designated veteran player by making a 2017-18 All-NBA team and re-signing as a free agent in 2018, but by then, it’d be too late for the Pacers to trade him if they don’t have the major financial advantage.

At some point, Indiana could ask George to pledge to stay for his max, whatever that winds up being. That wouldn’t be binding, but his response could be telling.

For now, if I were the Pacers, I’d hope he makes All-NBA this year and dare him to reject the designated-veteran-player extension. If he qualifies and turns that down, that would absolutely be telling.

But I’d also be exploring the trade market now, hoping for an offer that knocks my socks off but more realistically gaining understanding for when dealing George is more logical.

Report: Clippers’ Chris Paul cleared, could play against Warriors on Thursday

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul shoots as Portland Trail Blazers' Al-Farouq Aminu watches during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb last month, and the Clippers announced he’d miss 6-8 weeks.

He could return just over five weeks after injury, when the Clippers face the Warriors on Thursday.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, via Andrew Han of ESPN:

“He looked great. He went through the whole practice [on Tuesday]. You know, so it was good. Really good,” Rivers said before practice on Wednesday. “He could play tomorrow. I mean, I can’t tell you if he will or not, but he’s been cleared medically. But we just want to make sure that he’s comfortable playing.”

The Clippers have slid to fourth in the West, leading the fifth-place Jazz by just half a game. It’s probably too late to catch the third-place Rockets, who are five games up. But maintaining home-court advantage in the first round is important.

Paul should help.

The Clippers remain dangerous when healthy. They’ve outscored teams by 15.1 points per 100 possessions when Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick share the court. With those four, they score and defend at rates that would lead the league if it weren’t for Golden State’s historic offensive rating.

DeMarcus Cousins on trade from Kings: “I’m not sour”

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DeMarcus Cousins met with the press for the first time in New Orleans, and they got a vision of the relaxed and happy side of the big man.

He was cracking jokes, saying he thought himself and Anthony Davis would blend perfectly, and being engaging.

One of the best parts was Cousins being asked how competitive he is, and Cousins replied “About 17 technicals worth.”

Cousins also talked a fair amount about how he and Davis would work together.

Cousins talked a good game, now he has to show it started Thursday on the court against the Rockets.

Report: Wizards trade first-round pick to get Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough, unload Andrew Nicholson

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards battles Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets for a loose ball during the first half at Verizon Center on December 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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John Wall has been so good, he made himself right.

The Wizards’ starters have been awesome, and their bench has been about equally bad. With Washington surging to third in the East, and the fourth-place Raptors making their move with Serge Ibaka, this was no time to idle.

So, as Wall predicted, the Wizards traded for bench helpBojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough from the Nets.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Andrew Nicholson, with three years and $19,911,007 remaining after this season, had negative value. He was part of the reason the Wizards’ bench stunk. Likewise, Marcus Thornton provided little in reserve. A 29-year-old on an expiring minimum contract, he was likely included only so Washington didn’t exceed the roster maximum of 15 players.

Essentially the Wizards traded a first-round pick for Bogdanovic, McCullough and shedding Nicholson.

Bogdanovic will provide wing scoring for a reserve unit badly in need of juice. He has been an ineffective defender, but his 6-foot-8 frame offers a path to improvement on that end.

The 27-year-old will be a restricted free agent next summer. Assuming re-signing Otto Porter is the priority, keeping Bogdanovic could push Washington into the luxury tax — likely a non-starter. This could win up just a rental, but there’s plenty of time to evaluate Bogdanovic’s (and everyone else’s) long-term fit.

The Nets drafted McCullough No. 29 in 2015 as a project, and he remains one. The 22-year-old has spent far more time in the D-League than the NBA this season. It’s unlikely he contributes this season, as lower as the bar is for the Wizards’ bench. He has two additional seasons left on his rookie-scale contract, time for Washington to figure out what it has.

Now, Brooklyn has a couple first-round picks this year — the Celtics’ and the Wizards’. That doesn’t amount to much, but the Nets are so far from relevance, getting even younger is a wise path forward.