Kurt Helin

Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Garnett

Wiggins scores 32 as Wolves drop Sixers to 0-15

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Wiggins scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter to help the Minnesota Timberwolves keep Philadelphia winless on the season with a 100-95 victory over the 76ers on Monday night.

Kevin Garnett had eight points and 10 rebounds and the Timberwolves (6-8) won at home for the first time in seven games this season. They dropped Philadelphia to 0-15 and avoided another embarrassing home loss to the Sixers, who snapped an 0-17 start to last season with a win at Target Center.

Jahlil Okafor had 25 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for Philadelphia and thoroughly outplayed No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, who played just 19 minutes because of foul trouble. The Sixers led by 13 in the first half and by five with 2:30 to play but once again couldn’t hold on.

Unlike the 76ers, a team filled with youngsters that is built to lose, the Timberwolves have surrounded their young core with veterans Garnett, Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller, all in an attempt to insulate the kids from the trauma that can come with mass losing in the NBA.

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown admitted to being envious of the Wolves’ roster construction before the game, pointing out that the coach himself had to serve as the veteran guidance for these Sixers.

Garnett was there for the Wolves on Monday night in a throwback performance, scoring six straight points in a 10-0 run to open the third that got a Target Center crowd rendered sleepy by the team’s sluggish play in the first half on its feet.

Philadelphia took the punch and rebuilt a six-point lead with under five minutes to play before Wiggins took over. The reigning rookie of the year – coveted by the 76ers in last year’s draft – scored on a drive, a runner and a three-point play to get Minnesota within two at 91-89.

That’s when Jerami Grant swatted a dunk attempt by Kevin Martin right into Wiggins’ hands. He threw down a thunderous dunk to tie it at 91, and then knocked down two free throws a minute later for the lead and Martin made a 3 with 28 seconds left to ice it.

It was another gut punch in a season full of them for the 76ers, who led by 11 with just over seven minutes to play at Miami on Saturday before the Heat ripped off a 19-2 run.

The Sixers have taken a beating over the last few years under Sam Hinkie’s plan to tank their way back to the top, but Minnesota holds a special place in their hearts. Last year they were one loss away from tying the league record for consecutive defeats to start a season when they won at Target Center.

 

Kemba Walker, Rudy Gay trade big shots in final second to force OT

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The most entertaining, dramatic game of the night was Sacramento visiting Charlotte — a contest that included two wild buckets in the final second.

The game was tied at 110-110 and Charlotte had the ball with 7.6 seconds left. The Hornets sprung Kemba Walker out top (elevator doors!) to get the ball for a last-second isolation set. Normally I’d rather see a set play here, but Walker had the hot hand (he finished the night with 39 points on 23 shots). He drove right, used a little hesitation move to create space, and was able to get a scoop off the glass with 0.7 seconds left on the clock.

The Hornets were all but celebrating the win — until Rajon Rondo found Rudy Gay on an alley-oop where the defender stumbled, and Gay caught and banked in the tying shot.

In OT, it was eight points from Jeremy Lin that sealed the win for Charlotte, 127-122.

 

LeBron James joins Oscar Robertson on elite NBA list

Aaron Gordon, LeBron James
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CLEVELAND (AP) — Make room, Big O.

LeBron James joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to rank in the Top 25 in points and assists.

With his fifth assist Monday night against Orlando, James pulled into the elite company of Robertson, the legendary “Big O,” who finished with 26,710 points and 9,887 assists. James entered the game needing 21 points to pass Reggie Miller (25,279) for 18th on the career scoring list. Robertson is 11th.

James reached the milestone with 5:00 left in the second quarter. The Cavaliers’ star drove the lane, jumped and made a quick pass into the corner to Kevin Love, who knocked down a 3-pointer. It moved James past Norm Nixon (6,386) for 25th on the assist list.

Before the game, Magic coach Scott Skiles, who holds the NBA record with 30 assists in a game, said James is more like Robertson and Magic Johnson than Michael Jordan, the player with whom he is most often compared.

“Every time there’s a young great player everybody talks about Michael, but to me he’s always been more like a Magic (Johnson) or an Oscar-type player because of his vision,” Skiles said. “That’s what makes it so difficult. If you think you’re going to give him a steady diet of running and double teaming him, he’s going to carve you up. He’s going to find everybody, find the open man.”

Skiles marvels at how James can take over any game.

“The really great players play at the pace they want to play at in the game,” Skiles said. “It could be fast for a while. It could be kind of slow for a while. It could be they’re in the post. It could be they run pick and rolls. It’s very, very difficult to get them out of their pace. There are a lot of talented guys that can’t go all the way into that upper echelon because they haven’t quite got that part mastered – but he does.

“He’s going to play the game the way he wants to play it, but his vision certainly sets him apart from a lot of the great players.”

J.R. Smith wants Warriors, Cavaliers Finals rematch

John Jenkins, J.R. Smith
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I’m sure the executives at ABC feel the same way.

Right now everyone is talking about the Golden State Warriors — including the last team to beat them in a game, the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was last June, before the Warriors rattled off three straight wins to close out the NBA Finals, followed by 15 Golden State wins to start this season. LeBron James has said he wished his team was as hungry as the Warriors.

What J.R. Smith wants is a rematch with Golden State in the Finals. Here is what Smith said, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN at a charity event helping homeless in Cleveland.

I hope they are the team. I wouldn’t want it no other way, because we get another chance at it for one and to beat the team that beat you, I think that’s a sweeter feeling. For me, personally, I don’t really look at it as not having the best series or whatever. I mean, I’ve had shots fall against Atlanta in the Eastern Conference finals and there was praise. And then you miss shots and there’s a downfall. So it’s a give-and-take. I wasn’t the only person out there missing. It wasn’t like I was out there playing one-on-five, but it’s cool. I’ll take that. I just got to get better every day.

In case you forgot, Smith shot 31.2 percent through the Finals (averaging 11 points a game), and never getting going for a full game against the Golden State defense (the was riding a phunkee duck around the arena after games). With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sidelined, Smith was counted on to step up and provide some offense and complement LeBron, but none of that happened. You can see why Smith would want redemption.

It seems a little early to be thinking Finals, but consider this Smith’s letter to Santa for what he wants this season. It seems possible Smith could eventually get his wish. However, we are not even five miles into the marathon yet, a lot can change between now and June (plus, the Spurs have looked impressive, too).

Report: Joel Embiid taking rehab seriously now

Joel Embiid
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When word came down this summer that the Sixers’ Joel Embiid needed a second foot surgery and would miss another NBA season, there also came a report that Embiid was not wearing his walking boot enough, was putting on weight, had fought with Sixers training staff (he had been sent home from a road trip because of it), and generally was not taking his rehab seriously. The team officially denied this, and they picked up his contract option, but around the league people believe an immature Embiid was a part of the problem with his foot not healing properly after the first surgery.

With this second surgery, Embiid is far more on board with the rehab, reports David Aldridge at NBA.com.

There are no guarantees that this operation will work — everyone thought the first one would do the trick — but Embiid at least is staying on top of his conditioning, after numerous stories came out during the summer about his being out of shape.

“He just seems like (there’s) a new level of maturity, a new level of seriousness in him,” a source said. “The gravity of the situation is on him; it’s on everyone.”

What does this ultimately mean? Who knows. This is still a big man with foot issues and those have a long history of ending poorly. But Embiid is young, and if this was a successful surgery and he takes the rehab seriously, maybe he can get on the court next season.

Then Brett Brown can try to figure out how to fit Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, and Embiid into the rotation.