Dario Saric

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

NBA ties record with five games decided by two or fewer points in one day

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Kobe Bryant getting his numbers retired was the main attraction in the NBA last night.

But don’t let it completely overshadow an awesome night of basketball.

Five games were decided by two points or fewer, matching a record hit seven times prior, most recently in 2006. The close finishes:

Warriors 116, Lakers 114

In Los Angeles, where Kobe was honored, Kevin Durant hit the game-winner with 6.4 seconds left in overtime:

Durant shot 10-for-29. How Kobe-esque.

Celtics 112, Pacers 111

Boston and Indiana combined to make six straight shots in a thrilling final minute, capped by Terry Rozier‘s steal and game-winning dunk:

Even Darren Collison‘s desperation heave hit a lot of rim.

Thunder 95, Nuggets 94

Denver flubbed the end.

In a tie game, Oklahoma City had the ball with about a five-second difference between game clock and shot clock. Nuggets coach Michael Malone wanted to use a foul to give and was clearly annoyed Jamal Murray didn’t do it sooner. But Malone kept calling for an intentional foul, which Trey Lyles finally committed with 14.8 seconds left. That reset the shot clock to 14 seconds, allowing the Thunder to use nearly the entire game clock before Russell Westbrook drew a foul with 2.8 seconds left. Westbrook made a free throw for his 38th point, and – short on time – the Nuggets rushed a miss:

Timberwolves 108, Trail Blazers 107

In the final 7:02: Jamal Crawford 11, Jimmy Butler 10, Portland 10. Butler, who scored 37 points, hit the game-winning free throws with 2.5 seconds left:

Bulls 117, 76ers 115

Dario Saric scored Philadelphia’s final 10 points, but he couldn’t keep up with Nikola Mirotic and Kris Dunn. The duo carried Chicago down the stretch, as the Bulls overcame an eight point deficit in the final four minutes and moved to 6-0 with Mirotic:

Joel Embiid outplays, then waves goodbye to Drummond, Sixers win 108-103

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had a chance to fulfill a promise and demanded the ball.

Embiid got it, muscled toward the hoop and drew the sixth foul on Andre Drummond. Then, in typical Embiid fashion, he pointed toward the exit and waved goodbye to his rival.

Through two rounds of this matchup of young, talented and trash-talking big men, it’s Embiid 2, Drummond 0.

Embiid had 25 points and 10 rebounds and got the better of Drummond down the stretch to help the Philadelphia 76ers to a 108-103 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.

“That was the goal going into this game. I told my teammates that he was going to foul out, and he did,” Embiid said. “But it’s all fun. At the end of the game we hugged it out.”

Embiid drew the fifth and sixth fouls on Drummond in the span of a minute and hit the ensuing four free throws to put Philadelphia ahead 100-95 with 2:35 left.

“I got up into him and tried to make it tough for him,” Drummond said. “Obviously, he sold the move better than I played defense, so he got the sixth foul and won the game. Simple as that.”

Embiid shot just 7 of 21 from the field and committing six turnovers, but he made 11 of 12 free throws and has two wins in two tries against Drummond this season.

They’ve been trading playful insults since the Sixers’victory in Detroit on Oct. 23.

“When’s the last time you’ve seen two real big men go at it?” Drummond said. “It’s just a great matchup and I look forward to playing him again.”

Drummond had 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals. Tobias Harris scored 27 points, and Reggie Jackson had 25 points for the Pistons. They trailed by 18 points early in the third quarter and were outrebounded 47-36.

“We don’t play two halves of games now,” Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s not going to get it done.”

For a while, it looked like Drummond was going to lead a stunning comeback win.

His dunk with 10:04 left gave Detroit its first lead since the first quarter. He added a tip-in and two free throws before Embiid got the upper hand.

Robert Covington added 25 points, and Dario Saric had 17 points and hit a 3-pointer with 1:40 left to put the Sixers ahead 103-95 in a game where the centers were the story.

Embiid, known to needle opponents, had 30 points and nine rebounds in a 97-86 victory in Detroit to end the Sixers’ 0-3 start. Embiid bragged that he dominated Drummond despite the Detroit center’s trash talk and said Drummond “doesn’t play defense.”

Drummond responded with the tweet, “See you Dec. 2nd.”

Embiid kept it going at the morning shootaround saying of Drummond, “No disrespect, but he can’t shoot.”

Drummond wouldn’t speak to reporters in the locker room before the game, but told Fox Sports Detroit, “You can’t really have a conversation with a man who can’t play a back-to-back.”

Embiid missed his first two NBA seasons with injuries and played in only 31 games last season before knee surgery. He’s yet to be cleared to play on consecutive nights and sat out Thursday’s loss at Boston.

Drummond has played in all but three games over the past five seasons.

“We’re just having fun,” Embiid said. “I love having fun on social media. He does, too. We’re just young kids having fun out there.”

 

Report: NBA executives expect 76ers to pursue LeBron James in free agency

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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In 2010, LeBron James left the Cavaliers’ weak supporting cast to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat.

In 2014, LeBron left declining Wade and Bosh to play with younger stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland.

Could LeBron make another proactive move next summer – specifically to join Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons with the 76ers?

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

executives around the league believe Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo will attempt to sign James.

Do these executives know something we don’t, or are they just connecting dots? The possibility of the former makes this intriguing.

Philadelphia can relatively easily carve out max cap space next summer. Any team with so much room would want LeBron, though determination to chase him will vary. Some teams will bow out, not wanting to waste their time. Others – maybe including the 76ers? – will make harder pushes.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have both publicly emphasized that winning should be LeBron’s priority. There’s a case Philadelphia with LeBron would win more than Cleveland with LeBron.

The 76ers are overloaded with assets – Embiid, Simmons, Markelle Fultz (whatever you make of him at this point), Robert Covington, Dario Saric, several other young and an extra future first-round pick. Philadelphia also signed J.J. Redick in a bid to accelerate its timeline, and the team is 12-8. If LeBron comes, it’d be easy to flip young players and picks for more players capable of winning now.

Embiid and Simmons already appear to be on that level, and they’re just 23 and 21, respectively. The 76ers’ championship window could be open from the moment LeBron signs until he retires. That should intrigue him.

But it’s not so simple. LeBron also cares about his legacy, and leaving the Cavs again would compromise it. He doesn’t want to be known as a carpetbagger. On the other hand, another title would bolster his résumé, and Philadelphia offers the possibility of LeBron continuing his reign over the Eastern Conference.

I don’t know what LeBron will do next summer. He probably doesn’t know what he’ll do next summer. But between now and then, multiple teams will have their moment where speculation centers on them signing LeBron. This is the 76ers’.

It’s a long way from actually signing the superstar forward, but after years of tanking, Philadelphia ought to feel good it has established enough credibility where a LeBron pursuit is at least taken seriously.

Stephen Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.

 

Rookie De’Aaron Fox’s jumper with 13.4 seconds left lifts Kings over 76ers

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — De'Aaron Fox made a 19-foot jumper with 13.4 seconds remaining to lift the Sacramento Kings over Philadelphia 109-108 on Thursday night, ending a five-game winning streak for the 76ers that marked their longest in six years.

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid missed a shot from the free throw line as time expired.

Two nights after rallying from 17 points down to upset Oklahoma City and snap a seven-game skid, Sacramento (3-8) pulled off another stunner by closing the game with a 7-0 run.

The Kings (3-8) led most of the second half but fell behind late in the fourth quarter when they went nearly four minutes without a field goal. Fox ended the drought with a short jumper and Garrett Temple hit a 3-pointer before Fox’s game-winner gave Sacramento its second consecutive win.

Zach Randolph had 20 points and seven rebounds for the Kings. Justin Jackson scored 19, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and Fox finished with 11 points and seven assists.

Embiid had 22 points and 15 rebounds on an uneven night for the 76ers’ big man. He shot 7 of 20, struggled in the paint against Randolph and Kosta Koufos, and had a shot blocked in the final minutes by Willie Cauley-Stein.

Robert Covington scored 24 points and sank six 3-pointers for Philadelphia (6-5). Ben Simmons added 18 points and six assists.

The 76ers trailed by as many as nine and looked out of rhythm most of the night before Simmons scored six straight points in the fourth quarter, including an emphatic, one-handed driving dunk down the lane.

Dario Saric followed with a 3 and Covington’s sixth shot from beyond the arc followed by a three-point play extended Philadelphia’s lead to 108-102 before the Kings made their decisive push.

The teams played even early before Sacramento pulled away midway through the second quarter to lead 64-57 at halftime.