When might Philadelphia finally win a game? A look at the schedule.

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The Philadelphia 76ers’ defense is bad. Their offense is potentially historically bad (although they have improved a little lately they are still far and away the worst in the NBA and just ahead of worst-ever pace). We all know this is part of management and GM Sam Hinkie’s master plan — stockpile draft picks, play the young guys like Michael Carter-Williams, and as a byproduct be so bad as to get the chance to draft top talent. (And they did, Joel Embiid could be special, but he is also out for the season.)

That doesn’t make them any easier to watch.

The Philadelphia 76ers are just a dumpster fire. An 0-17 dumpster fire. Just two more losses from “besting” the 2009 New Jersey Nets, which lost 18 games to start the season, the NBA record for early season futility.

Monday night the Sixers picked up a moral victory by battling from 24 back to make it interesting against the Spurs in the final minutes. Michael Carter-Williams had 24 points and the Sixers covered the covered the 11-point spread but fell 109-103 to a Spurs team resting Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. You know what you get for a moral victory in the NBA? Exactly. You get 0-17.

When might the Sixers get that elusive first win? Let’s take a look at the schedule.

• Wednesday, Dec. 3, at Minnesota Timberwolves. This could be the Sixers best chance because the Timberwolves are without Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, so they are leaning heavily on youth such as Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. Of course, they still have guys like Thaddeus Young and Mo Williams, they have guys that can put up points, but they have struggled and lost 9-of-11, the most recent win needing a late Laker collapse to make happen.

Lose this game and the Sixers tie the NBA record for most losses to start a season. They should be desperate. Minnesota is still more talented and at home, but we’ll call this one a coin toss.

• Friday, Dec. 5, Oklahoma City Thunder. A week ago this looked much better, but with Russell Westbrook back (and Kevin Durant potentially back, he’s been practicing) this team is playing much better. Plus the Thunder have a sense of desperation about them, they know they have to win better than two-thirds of their games the rest of the way to even have a shot at the eight seed in the West. They are not going to let an easy win slip by them. Sixers have a five percent chance here.

• Saturday, Dec. 6, at Detroit Pistons. Another winnable game for the Sixers as the Pistons have good talent on the roster — Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings — but none of it fits together well. Stan Van Gundy has a lot of work to clean up Joe Dumars’ mess. The Pistons have one of the worst offenses in the NBA, if the Sixers can just get some points on the board they have a chance. That said, it’s the second night of a back-to-back on the road for Philly, so let’s say the Sixers have just a 35 percent chance in this one.

• Wednesday, Dec. 10, at Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have won seven of their last 10 and they have Jeff Teague playing at a near All-Star level at the point, not to mention Al Horford in the paint. Atlanta is just the better team and the Sixers have maybe a five percent chance in this one.

• Friday, Dec. 12, at Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have been up and down this season, with a defense that has been pretty average but an offense that is bottom 10. Still, the Nets have good talent on that side of the ball — Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez (if he’s healthy). I can’t imagine Kevin Garnett letting the Nets lose to the Sixers, but this is an up and down team and things happen. We’ll give the Sixers a 15 percent chance to get this win.

• Saturday, Dec. 13, Memphis Grizzlies. Philadelphia has no shot here. None. Zero.

• At this point if the Sixers are still winless at 0-23 it’s going to be a massive national story to see if they can set another futility record (remember they lost 26 straight last season tying the 2010-11 Cavaliers). But the Sixers also would have three winnable games as they got desperate: Boston, Charlotte and Orlando. All three lottery bound teams struggling to start the season. The Sixers would not be favorites in any of those games — good chance they are not a favorite all season — but they’ll have a chance.

Which is to say, they are not going to get to 26 and set an NBA record to start the season. Probably. But that Magic game on Dec. 21 starts a seven game road trip, so the Sixers can just start a new streak.

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.

Spurs playoffs hopes remain alive with 123-105 win over Rockets

Spurs playoffs
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Spurs aren’t out of it yet.

Keldon Johnson had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and San Antonio kept alive its chances of becoming the first team in NBA history to make 23 consecutive playoff appearances with a 123-105 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

San Antonio has won three straight and five out of seven since arriving in the Florida bubble.

DeMar DeRozan added 23 points. Jakob Poeltl finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Johnson said his mindset since the season restarted has been to fill in whatever role is asked of him.

“Whether it’s hustling, running the floor – just doing whatever I need to do to help us win,” he said. “Help from my teammates has definitely helped the game slow down for me.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Johnson is playing with the confidence they saw when they drafted him 29th overall last year.

“That’s what he does,” Popovich said. “He’s a high-energy guy. He’s very physical. Very competitive. Very coachable. He’s just a winner.”

The Western Conference is guaranteed to have a play-in for its final playoff spot, with Memphis beginning the day with just a half-game over Portland and one game ahead of Phoenix and San Antonio.

The Spurs will need help to be one of the teams playing this weekend for the final spot in the Western Conference, but made sure they couldn’t be eliminated Tuesday with their win.

Russell Westbrook had 20 points and seven turnovers in his first game back in the lineup for Houston after missing two games with a bruised right quadriceps. Jeff Green had 17 points. Ben McLemore added 16.

The Rockets played without guards James Harden (rest) and Eric Gordon (ankle).

The Spurs took control in the second quarter, outscoring the Rockets 35-24. San Antonio led by as many as 29 points.

San Antonio built a 19-point lead in the first half. DeRozan set the tone with 15 points in the opening 24 minutes, with Lonnie Waker IV, Poeltl and Johnson each scoring 10.

Regardless of whether the Spurs make the playoffs or not, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is proud of how his young players have stepped up in during their time in the bubble.

“Part of it is you have to be realistic,” Popovich said. “I don’t think our chances of winning the championship were great at the beginning of this, nor are they now. If that’s a fact, then you need to do everything you can to develop and be prepared for next season.

“The development has been off the charts. We’re thrilled with it. So it’s a win-win no matter what.”

Popovich said it would be “thrilling” to get some help and have a chance to extend their season, but he’s not using it as a measuring stick for the season.

“We’ve already accomplished what we thought we were capable of accomplishing, that’s what’s important. If we got in now it would be icing on the cake.”