Heat escape, top 76ers 96-91 to keep Philly winless

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MIAMI (AP) For much of the night, Philadelphia was in control. The 76ers had their biggest lead of the season at one point, and still led by 11 midway through the fourth quarter.

And then …

“A very, very cruel loss,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said.

Even for a franchise that’s known nothing but misery of late, this one stung more than most.

Philadelphia is still winless this season, after Dwyane Wade scored 27 points, Justise Winslow came up with a huge tip-in with 27 seconds left and Miami held the 76ers without a field goal for a critical 7-minute stretch of the fourth quarter on the way to a 96-91 win on Saturday night.

The 76ers are now 0-14 this season, with a losing streak of 24 games when factoring in the end of last season.

“We were in a position to get our first win and we just couldn’t get into anything at the end of the game,” Brown said. “I give credit to a veteran Miami team. Defensively they were fantastic and we just had a hard time finding a shot. We were in a late clock a lot in the last 5 minutes and it’s a part of cruel path that we are going to evidently have to take.”

Oh, they’ve been on that path for a while. But this step was particularly painful.

Hassan Whiteside finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight blocked shots for the Heat, who were down 17 at one point and still trailed 87-76 after a dunk by Nerlens Noel with 7:10 remaining. Miami outscored Philadelphia 19-2 to escape, and the 76ers – who started 0-17 last season – are now the owners of the ninth-worst start in NBA history as well.

“They’re an NBA team,” Wade said. “They’ve got guys who can play basketball, so you take nothing from them. But they’re not a better team than us, and not on your home floor.”

Isaiah Canaan scored 22 for Philadelphia, and Robert Covington finished with 21. Jahlil Okafor scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Noel finished with 10 points.

“When you’re up 10, 15 and you feel like you’re in control the whole game,” Noel said, “it hurts a little more.”

The Heat led for 4 minutes, 42 seconds in the first quarter and then spent the rest of the night playing uphill – that is, until 2:40 remained, when Wade set up Bosh for a game-tying 3-pointer from the top of the key, knotting the score at 89.

Gerald Green‘s free throws with 1:25 left put Miami up 91-89, the first Heat lead since it was 14-11 in the early going.

“You definitely have to give Philadelphia credit,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They really came out and competed and played a very good basketball game. This is not how you, as a coach, design it. But I did like seeing the toughness that we had to reveal in the fourth quarter.”

TIP-INS

76ers: Philadelphia’s 15-point halftime lead directly coincided with the 76ers having a 15-point edge in points off turnovers – 17-2 in the first 24 minutes. … Noel had a highlight-reel basket for Philadelphia’s first points of the night. He collected a steal near midcourt, took a couple dribbles and then whipped the ball around his back to avoid a steal attempt by Goran Dragic before finishing off a dunk.

Heat: Miami had 32 points at halftime with 17 from Wade and 15 from everyone else. … Amare Stoudemire was back on the inactive list, one game after coming up with a 10-point first quarter that helped Miami beat Sacramento. Chris Andersen was the extra big in uniform again, but not in the rotation. … Miami had 10 blocks by halftime, and still trailed by 15 at the break.

COVINGTON MAKES ONE

Covington missed his first 18 attempts from beyond the arc this season, then got one to fall with 5:10 left in the opening quarter. Entering the night, no one in the NBA had taken more than six 3s this season without a make. It actually ended a streak of 19 misses from deep by Covington – he missed his last try last season, also against Miami.

WADE MILESTONE

Wade continued moving up the scoring charts. He started the night No. 51 on the NBA’s career list, and ended at No. 49 after passing Dale Ellis (19,004) and Reggie Theus (19,015). Wade now has 19,017 points.

UP NEXT

76ers: Visit Minnesota on Monday.

Heat: Host New York on Monday.

Report: G-League considering tournament including select team of top draft prospects

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There is not going to be a G-League Showcase in Las Vegas right before Christmas. At least not in the traditional sense.

However, the G-League reportedly is considering a tournament-style showcase event while the NBA will be between seasons. This tournament would include the Ignite select team of highly-touted draft prospects getting paid, skipping college, and spending a season working on their game. All that according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The key line here: Decisions are fluid.

The 2020 NBA Draft is Nov. 18. After that, nothing is set in stone; there is no official start date for free agency and no date for the start of next season (although the buzz around the league continues to say February, maybe even March). This G-League tournament would be a way to show off players to general managers/scouts/executives, which means it needs to occur when those people can attend. Until more of the schedule is set, nobody is sure when that will be.

The Ignite team, which will train in Northern California (Walnut Park), is stacked with a number of potential high picks — including Daishen Nix, Jonathan Kuminga, and Jalen Green — and they will be coached by former NBA player/coach Brian Shaw. No doubt the G-League would like to give them and others a chance to shine, but the coronavirus will make finding the right time a challenge. Then the league has to create a bubble again. It’s not cheap or easy.

That said, it could happen. Keep an eye out.

Wes Unseld Jr., Kenny Atkinson reportedly top list for next Chicago coach

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Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, the two guys at the top of Chicago Bulls basketball operations, fired a coach in Jim Boylen that the team owner liked. Which means they have to nail the next hire.

Chicago in on to the second round of interviews and four names stand out, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bulls are narrowing to finalists for their head coaching job and expect to conduct final interviews soon, sources said. Denver assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Philadelphia assistant Ime Udoka, Milwaukee assistant Darvin Ham and former Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson are among the coaches who have had strong interviews so far.

Atkinson has a more proven resume after what he did in Brooklyn, but the other three are top assistants who have earned their shot in the big chair. Unseld Jr. is a hot name right now because his team is still in the bubble and playing well — he’s Mike Malone’s lead assistant on the Denver Nuggets — but every name on this list is qualified.

Whoever lands the job will head a team with plenty of potential but also plenty of questions. The Bulls have quality young talent on the roster — Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter — but do they are fit together? How good Chicago is next season may depend more on the growth of White and the health of Markkanen than it does on who gets selected as coach.

Expect Karnisovas to spend a year putting his stamp on this roster and moving players around. First, however, he’s got to find his coach.

Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin form NASCAR racing team with Bubba Wallace driving

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Michael Jordan is getting into the NASCAR game.

The North Carolina native has teamed up with three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin to form a new NASCAR Cup Series race team — and they’ve signed Bubba Wallace to drive.

Wallace is the only Black man driving full-time in NASCAR’s top series (the previous three seasons he raced for Richard Petty Motorsports). Wallace has been at the forefront of bringing social changes to NASCARincluding the banning of the Confederate flags at NASCAR events and tracks.

“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said in a statement. “The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”

Michael Jordan becomes the first Black owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR top series since NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in the 1960s and early 1970s (he owned the team and drove the car). Bubba Wallace is the first Black full-time driver in the top NASCAR series since Scott.

Hamlin will be a minority partner in the new team and continue to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” said Wallace in a statement. “Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I’m grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”

The car manufacturer, number, sponsors and more will be announced at a later date.

Jordan is the primary owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

NBA executives pick Luka Doncic as best player under 25 to build around

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Luka Doncic, in his second season, made the leap into the NBA’s elite — fourth in MVP voting and First Team All-NBA. All at age 21.

Not surprisingly, he’s the player under 21 NBA teams would want to build around.

Michael Scotto of Hoopshype polled 15 league executives (including four general managers) and players under 25 they want to build around and Doncic was the unanimous choice.

“To me, Luka is the clear No. 1,” one scout told HoopsHype. “He’s a guy who can be a lead ballhandler. He’s good enough to score and create at a high level, has the right mental makeup and is incredibly smart. He’s been a winner everywhere and will probably be a winner in the league.”

It’s hard to argue when Luka Doncic is already doing this in the playoffs:

Boston’s Jayson Tatum came in second, Phoenix Devin Booker was third, followed by Ja Morant (Memphis) fourth and a tie at fifth between Donovan Mitchell (Utah) and Bam Adebayo (Miami).

An interesting note about that top five: None of them was a No. 1 pick.

Zion Williamson had been on top of this poll a year ago, but after a season where he played just 19 games then looked a step slow in the bubble there are concerns about his long-term health.

“He’s just a special player inside the arc who’s an elite finisher,” one executive told HoopsHype. “Offensively, he can finish at an elite rate. He’s one of the best finishers behind Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and LeBron (James). He can hit the open man. He’s so physically dominant. His shooting shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll see. I think he’s always going to be hurt, though.”

One healthy dominant season from Williamson and those opinions could shift, but even then Doncic will be an MVP level player the Mavericks can build a contender around. He’s the guy under 25.