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Associated Press

No Embiid, no problem, 76ers roll past Heat in Game 1

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ben Simmons had 17 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in his playoff debut, and the Philadelphia 76ers romped again without Joel Embiid, beating the Miami Heat 130-103 on Saturday night for their 17th straight win.

Embiid was a spectator in Game 1 of the first-round series because of a broken orbital bone around his left eye. The All-Star center has been hopeful he can return early in the series. The Sixers could end this one early with Embiid back in the lineup.

Simmons dished and dazzled in the paint and the Heat had no answer for Sixers reserves Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. Belinelli and Ilyasova combined to hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter that helped shift the tone from physical and foul-filled to a long-distance game that allowed the Sixers to put away this one. They used a 15-0 run in the third in their first postseason game in five seasons under coach Brett Brown to get the rout rolling.

Brown won 47 games his first three seasons as the Sixers underwent the Process – and 52, plus Game 1 this season.

JJ Redick scored 28 points to lead the Sixers, who host Game 2 on Monday. Belinelli had 25 and Ilyasova 17.

Embiid ditched the black mask he’s been wearing in light shooting drills for a white “Phantom of the Opera” mask to ring the ceremonial Liberty Bell before tipoff.

The Sixers crowd roared as Embiid, the self-proclaimed “Phantom of the Process,” waved his arms toward the crowd and exhorted them to get louder. Sixers fans started tailgating in the sports complex about seven hours before tipoff and one group posted a sign on their tent that read “Saturdays Are For The Process.” The Sixers had a blue-out and gave away free T-shirts in preparation of their first playoff game since 2012.

“There is a gratitude that I have, we have. Finally, here we are and our fans genuinely have something to be proud of with us,” Brown said.

The Game 1 victory sure didn’t surprise Embiid.

He had already mapped out the 76ers’ road to an NBA championship on his Instagram feed.

“It’s about that time!!! (hash)Playoffs (hash)PhantomofTheProcess

Embiid posted a photo burst of teams in order of a potential road toward a Process title. He started with the Heat, followed by Boston, then a picture of him hugging Cleveland’s LeBron James, and ending with Embiid looking at Golden State’s Draymond Green.

The Heat would swipe left on the collage.

For a half, the Heat got what they needed against one of the NBA’s toughest teams and James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk helped them take a 60-56 lead at the break. Olynyk led the Heat with 26 points.

The Sixers, who set an NBA record with 16 straight wins to end the season, got the rout in full swing with a raucous crowd behind them. The Heat shot 26 percent in the third and were outscored 34-18.

Simmons assisted on Ilyasova’s 3 and then hit a jumper for a 66-63 lead. Dario Saric, who the Sixers waited for two years to come over while he played overseas, also buried a 3 off an assist from Simmons. Simmons made a statue out of Olynyk, crossing him up and busting through for a two-handed slam that brought down the house.

All that was left was the “Trust the Process!” chants and they rang out inside the Wells Fargo Center once Saric buried a 3 in the fourth for a 109-87 lead.

 

Popovich’s plan for slowing Durant? Have Danny Green grow five inches to start

Associated Press
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Kevin Durant had his way with the San Antonio Spurs Saturday afternoon — 24 points on 17 shots, hitting 4-of-6 in the paint and killing it from the midrange. Plus he had seven assists and eight rebounds, plus played strong defense.

The Warriors won Game 1 going away 113-92, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich may have a longer list of problems to deal with than President Trump. At the top of the Spurs’ list, what to do about Durant. What the Spurs plan to do is a legitimate question to ask. But if you’re a reporter who is going to ask about KD and how to defend him in the postgame interview, be very careful about how you phrase it.

Classic Popovich.

Also, that answer may be the Spurs best option, unrealistic or not. There are not good answers here.

Serge Ibaka scores 23, Raptors win Game 1 against Wizards 114-106

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TORONTO (AP) — Serge Ibaka had 23 points and 12 rebounds, Delon Wright scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, and the Toronto Raptors snapped a 10-game losing streak in playoff series openers by beating the Washington Wizards 114-106 on Saturday.

DeMar DeRozan added 17 points, C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby each had 12, and Kyle Lowry had 11 points and nine assists for the Raptors, whose only previous victory in the opening game of a playoff series came in the second round against Philadelphia in 2001.

Toronto entered having lost an NBA-worst 10 consecutive Game 1s since, including six at home.

The top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, Toronto made 16 of 30 3-point attempts, with Miles making four, and Ibaka and Wright each hitting three.

The Raptors host Game 2 on Tuesday.

John Wall had 23 points and 15 assists for the Wizards, while Markieff Morris had 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Bradley Beal scored 19 points for Washington, while Mike Scott had 14 and Marcin Gortat 12.

Washington led 91-88 when Scott was called for a flagrant foul after using his elbow to knock Lowry down early in the fourth. Lowry made both free throws and, on the ensuing possession, Wright gave Toronto the lead with a layup. After a missed shot by Morris, Miles hit a 3 to cap a 7-0 run that gave the Raptors a 95-91 lead with 9:26 left.

Kelly Oubre Jr. hit a 3 and Gortat made a dunk to put Washington back in front, but Wright and Miles each hit 3-pointers as Toronto used an 8-0 run to take a 103-96 lead with 6:27 left, and never trailed again.

Anunoby made his first two 3-pointers and led Toronto with eight points in the first as the Raptors led 28-23 after one. Wall scored nine points in the opening quarter.

Gortat and replacement Ian Mahinmi each had two fouls before the first quarter was half over. Gortat picked up his first when he fouled Jonas Valanciunas on the opening tip.

Beal scored seven points in the second, five of them in a 10-2 Wizards run that gave Washington a 42-41 lead with 6:20 left in the half. Scott had eight points in the quarter as the Wizards led 59-55 at halftime.

Toronto reclaimed the lead with an 11-2 spurt to start the third. DeRozan scored 12 points in the quarter as the Raptors took a slim 86-85 lead into the fourth.

The game was about five minutes late tipping off because of an apparent issue with moisture on the court along the baseline adjacent to Washington’s bench. Arena staffers continued to dry the area periodically throughout the game.

 

Reports: Knicks reach out to Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse

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The star player is going to miss at least half of next season. The support and consistent direction from team ownership is lacking. There are factions and power battles within the front office and entire organization. And the fan base is vocal and not quietly patient.

Still, the New York Knicks coaching job is one of the most desirable in the NBA.

Which is why the biggest names available are lined up, as reported by Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

According to a source close to the Knicks search, Van Gundy and Jackson join a growing list of head coaching candidates that the Knicks have officially reached out to. That list includes former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale, who revealed Friday that he will interview with the Knicks next week.

Also, Jerry Stackhouse, the coach of Toronto’s G-League affiliate, has been contacted and could have an interview date confirmed by Monday.

Fizdale, who sat in on the Warriors’ practice before Game 1, confirmed to the media he is scheduled to interview with the Knicks. Both Stackhouse and Fizdale have been contacted about the openings in Charlotte and Orlando as well.

No real surprises there — the Knicks are going after the biggest names and best guys without a job.

One potentially complicating factor looming out there — the Milwaukee Bucks job. Currently, Joe Prunty sits in that chair (as the interim coach after Jason Kidd was fired) leading the Bucks into the playoffs against the Celtics. How the postseason goes could impact if that job becomes open, but if it does it would be the most desirable one in the NBA due to the presence of Giannis Antetokounmpo and a strong supporting cast. Van Gundy, Fizdale, and other big names who think they could have a shot at that gig may not want to move fast on the Knicks or any other coaching job in the interim.

This is the Knicks, so expect this to just be the start of the drama in their search.

Nick Young showed up for Warriors game in boxers, silk robe

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Someday, Swaggy P is not going to be in the NBA, and we’re going to miss him.

It was the Warriors biggest game this season, the start of the playoffs, the game where Golden State needed to show up focused and shake off the malaise that had enveloped them for weeks.

Nick Young showed up in boxers and a silk robe.

What did Crash Davis say in Bull Durham? “Win 20 in the Show, you can let the fungus grow back on your shower shoes and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the Show, however, it means you’re a slob.”

The Warriors won in a rout Saturday 113-92. So today, Swaggy P is colorful.