Kurt Helin

Al Jefferson, Mason Plumlee

Al Jefferson, Hornets drop 76ers to 0-13

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The times that Al Jefferson is most confident he’ll have a good game are not when the Hornets center is going against a rookie, and not even when he’s facing a winless team.

Both of those occasions happened Friday in Charlotte’s 113-88 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. But what made Jefferson salivate most was seeing how the Sixers were defending him – with only first-year player Jahlil Okafor.

“What made me start smelling blood is when I noticed they weren’t double-teaming,” he said.

It doesn’t happen that often. When it does, Jefferson tries to take advantage by getting to the places on the floor where he loves to work his post moves the most.

He missed his first two attempts Friday, but sank the next six on his way to 18 first-half points that helped give the Hornets the kind of decisive lead the Sixers (0-13) have not been able to rebound from this season.

Charlotte led by as many as 26 points before the 76ers outscored the Hornets 29-23 in the third quarter to slice the advantage to 81-70 with 1:06 left in that quarter.

But Charlotte rookie Frank Kaminsky had seven of the Hornets’ next nine points spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter to push the lead back to a safe 15.

Jefferson finished with 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting. He added 10 rebounds and five blocks.

Charlotte improved to 7-6, and is now 5-1 at home after winning its last five home contests.

Nerlens Noel led Philadelphia with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in his first game coming off the bench this season.

The 76ers are within four losses of matching last season’s franchise-worst start and are five defeats away from tying the NBA record, set by the 2009 Nets, for longest losing streak to begin a season.

Philadelphia, which opened a six-game road trip, is three away from tying the NBA record of 26 straight losses. The 76ers already share that dubious mark with Cleveland, with Philadelphia’s skid from Jan. 31-March 27, 2014, matching the Cavaliers’ between Nov. 20, 2010-Feb. 9, 2011.

“We preach and we talk about it (morale) all the time,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “They give us their attitude and their effort; I am with them unconditionally. . They bust their tails. They are 20-year-old kids and I love coaching them. I respect them and we believe the good days will add up.”

 

FEELING THE PAIN

One Hornets player who understands the Sixers’ winless plight is point guard Kemba Walker. Walker was part of the 2011-12 Charlotte team that was 7-59 in the lockout-shortened season.

He sees a light at the end of the tunnel for these Sixers.

“It’s tough, but I definitely have to commend the players and the coach and that coaching staff because those guys always come to play, each and every night,” Walker said. “Even when I’m at home and watching League Pass, they’re always in games. They’re always challenging teams, despite their record. They really have some great young talent. And you know, it’s a process. One day those guys are going to be really good.”

 

Curry leads Warriors to 14-0 start as they hold off Bulls

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 27 points and the defending champion Golden State Warriors moved within one victory of matching the best start in NBA history, holding off the Chicago Bulls 106-94 on Friday night to improve to 14-0.

The league’s last undefeated team ran its franchise-record home winning streak to 26 games by beating a Chicago team that is the last to win at Oracle Arena during the regular season, way back in late January.

Golden State equaled the 1957-58 Celtics as the only defending champions to win their initial 14 games. The Warriors are one of five teams in NBA history to begin 14-0, and will travel to Denver looking to keep it going Sunday.

Harrison Barnes added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Warriors in a game featuring 18 lead changes and 17 ties.

Jimmy Butler had 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Bulls in the second game of a four-game road trip.

Kirk Hinrich‘s open 3-pointer from the right wing with 8:52 left pulled Chicago within 81-79. Nikola Mirotic converted three free throws the next time down for an 82-81 Bulls lead.

Hinrich hit a tying 3 with 5:44 to go only to see Curry knock one down moments later to put his team back up 92-89.

A day after rallying from a 23-point deficit to beat the rival Clippers in Los Angeles 124-117 – the biggest comeback in the NBA this season – Golden State overcame another slow start.

The Bulls led by 10 in the first before the Warriors roared back and got the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena rocking on Curry’s over-the-head lob pass to Andre Iguodala for a dunk.

The Bulls’ 113-111 overtime win on Jan. 27 snapped Golden State’s then-franchise record 19-game home winning streak. It was one of only two regular-season home losses last season.

Interim coach Luke Walton planned to remind his players of that loss – not that they necessarily needed it.

“I hope they remember it,” Walton said.

If Golden State gets by Denver to get to 15-0, then it will have a chance to break the record Tuesday night back home against the Lakers.

The Washington Capitols in 1948-49 and Houston Rockets in `93-94 are the other teams to start 15-0.

FIRST-QUARTER DEFENSE

Golden State stressed during the preseason starting fast and shutting down on defense early to set the tone.

Yet the Warriors were allowing 34 points in the first quarter their previous three games, including 41 to the Clippers on Thursday night.

“It’s two things. It’s people wanting to be the first team to give us a loss and they’re coming out and playing like it’s a playoff game. This is the biggest game of the season for them so far,” Walton said. “And, two, we’re not matching their intensity early on. We were thrilled with the effort we had earlier in the season as far as the way we were starting games. That was one of our focal points in training camp this year.”

 

Gregg Popovich was in mid-season interview form Friday

Gregg Popovich
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Gregg Popovich in-game interviews are the stuff of legend. Some nights he just doesn’t want to play along with the rather inane patter that is all you’re going to get in that setting (do you think a coach is going to tell everyone how he plans to adjust his pick-and-roll coverage?).

Friday night was one of those nights.

I think the interviewer handled this fairly well.

If you were not watching the game, LaMarcus Aldridge tweaked his left ankle in the first quarter and left the game, but as Popovich said he did return to the contest.

Wizards’ Webster expected to miss season after hip surgery

Martell Webster
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Wizards forward Martell Webster is expected to miss the entire NBA season after having surgery on his right hip.

The team says Webster’s operation, in Tennessee on Friday, repaired the labrum and damaged cartilage in his hip.

He has not appeared in a game this season because of the injury.

Webster, who signed a four-year contract with the Wizards in 2013, had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back in June 2014 and appeared in only 32 games last season.

A first-round draft pick in 2005, Webster has averaged 8.7 points and 3.1 rebounds for his career. He turns 29 next month.

Pelicans could get Tyreke Evans back next week; Davis back Friday

Tyreke Evans
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There’s a long list of reasons the Pelicans have started the season 1-11, and at the top of it is they have the very worst defense in all the land. Which if you have Anthony Davis protecting the rim speaks to some serious issues.

But another one is a lack of shot creation. Jrue Holiday is not 100 percent healthy, and that’s not always been his strongest suit anyway. The preseason injury to Tyreke Evans was a big setback on this front — which is why what Alvin Gentry said on Friday. Via Brett Dawson of the New Orleans Advocate:

Gentry also said that he expects Davis and Omer Asik to be healthy and ready to go against the Spurs this week.

The Pelicans need this, even if Evans is not 100 percent yet. His ability to get his own shot and opening things up for others — including Davis — is huge.

With this horrific a start, Evan’s return will not be near enough to pull the Pelicans back up to being a playoff team this season. However, it can begin to make them dangerous and respectable again.

Then next summer GM Dell Demps and the Pelicans front office have a lot of work to do to put a better team around Davis.