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: Mavericks looking for another star at trade deadline. Good luck with that.

Toronto Raptors v Sacramento Kings
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Two things are true. First, the painted-over mural was right, the Dallas Mavericks desperately need a second star to go next to Luka Dončić. Second, they have backed themselves into a corner without the trade assets or cap space to easily make that happen.

It may be a longshot, but the Mavericks are open to trading anyone but Dončić to find that second star at the deadline, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reminds us.

It shouldn’t be a surprise Dallas is open to this, of course they are.

The challenges start with, what star is available? The best player maybe on the market right now is John Collins or Bojan Bogdanovic, and while both would help the Mavericks neither is changing the team’s fortunes the way they would hope.

If Toronto decides to become sellers things get interesting. However, as of the latest reports, they are on the fence and telling teams they are waiting to decide what they will do at the deadline (sell, stand pat, or become buyers). Fred VanVleet could be available, and would essentially be a Jalen Brunson replacement, certainly a step up from where the Mavericks are currently. However, the Clippers and others could drive up the asking price, plus the Mavericks would have to step up and pay him this summer, VanVleet is expected to opt out of his $22.8 million contract. O.G. Anunoby would be a great fit next to Dončić, but he is not a star, he is more of a high-level role player.

Pascal Siakam could be that second star next to Dončić, a 6’8″ wing who can finish at the rim, shoot 3s, and would be a great secondary shot creator. It’s a good fit. Siakam is not an elite defender — Dallas would want some 3&D guys added to the roster — but he would be the kind of addition Dallas needs.

Dallas can offer its three first-round picks starting in 2024, but is some combination of those picks and Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood and Dorian Finney-Smith going to entice the Raptors? They will look for a massive package for Siakam and likely see better offers than Dallas can construct.

It may not be easy to pull off, and likely will wait until the offseason (at the earliest), but know the Mavericks are serious about a second star.

Knicks reportedly very interested in Anunoby, if Raptors make him available

Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors
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The Toronto Raptors are the one team that could move this trade deadline from a dud to shaking up the playoff race. There are 29 other GMs waiting to see what Massai Ujiri will do, and when they called, they’ve been told “the franchise will make a decision about being a buyer or seller – or standing pat – near deadline day,” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

If Toronto does decide to trade a player beyond the expected Gary Trent Jr., then the Knicks want to be at the front of the line for defensive wing O.G. Anunoby, Charania reports.

The Knicks and Suns are among the interested suitors in Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby, sources say. New York has shown a willingness to offer multiple first-round picks for Anunoby, according to those sources. The Suns, meanwhile, have control of all of their first-round picks — eight in total —through 2030. SNY first reported the Knicks’ interest last week.

There would be a lot of teams in line for Anunoby, but he is a very Thibodeau-style player — an All-Defensive Team level wing stopper who can finish and is averaging 16.9 points per game — so you can see where the interest comes from. Anunoby also is just 25 and is locked in next season at $18.6 million. While the demand for wings in general is lower this trade season — point guards and centers are more in demand — a lot of teams could use a player the quality of Anunoby. Including the Knicks.

Getting him won’t be cheap — two unprotected first-round picks (or lightly protected) with matching salary would be the price range.

All of that is moot if the Raptors don’t make him available, which is what everyone is waiting to see.

Report: Bucks have been given permission to talk to Jae Crowder

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
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Jae Crowder may be the most likely player to be traded at the deadline. The Suns need a shake-up (and to get Devin Booker back), and they are sitting on a $10.2 million player that is not helping them on the court and has yet to bring back any trade value they want.

We may have movement on that front, based on reports from Shams Charania of The Athletic.

In a new development, the Suns have given permission to the Bucks to meet with Crowder and they met over the weekend, league sources tell The Athletic. The Bucks are believed to be the only team that has received permission to visit one-on-one with Crowder, those sources have also indicated…

Both the Suns and Bucks have engaged in serious trade talks for months, with current proposals surrounding Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka and second-round draft compensation to Phoenix for Crowder, according to sources. The Bucks and Suns have searched for a third team to provide Phoenix with a forward – so what outcome will emerge between now and next Thursday?

Those talks between the Bucks and Crowder likely focused on his role on the team this season (backup four) and possibly re-signing him after this season (he will be a free agent).

Crowder has sat out the season after asking for a trade but is still a Sun because Phoenix head of basketball operations James Jones had a very specific ask in the trade — a forward with a similar skill set to Crowder. It’s tough to trade like-for-like in the league, so nothing has happened. It’s also why that offer from the Bucks doesn’t seem the fit the Suns want. Nwora is a forward but a fringe rotation player, Hill can help with some backup point guard minutes, but nothing really moves the needle for Phoenix. The problem is the Suns have waited so long to get a trade done that Crowder’s value has gone down — by the time he is traded, works his way back into game shape, then steps on the court for his new team he’ll be lucky to play 30 games in the regular season. Teams aren’t going to give up as much for a rental.

The report states the Heat also are interested, which is not a shock they want a P.J. Tucker-like player at the four and Crowder fits the bill, but putting together a trade that works for both sides is difficult (unless the Suns suddenly fell in love with Duncan Robinson, which would be a bigger trade). The Hawks come up, but there is a growing sense around the league that the new Landry Fields-led front office is less inclined to trade John Collins, and they may ride with him at the four.

It’s likely Crowder gets traded somewhere at the deadline and the Bucks maybe make the most sense, but this deal could have been done long ago if the sides wanted to.

Free agent Candace Parker announces she will sign with champion Aces

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The WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces are about to get better.

Two-time MVP and two-time WNBA champion Candace Parker announced she plans to sign with the Aces when free agency opens on Feb. 1

The WNBA champions just got better — a starting frontcourt of Parker and reigning MVP A’ja Wilson (with Kelsey Plum in the backcourt) could make Las Vegas the best defensive team in the league. While Parker may not be the scorer she once was, she can serve as a fulcrum for the offense, get the ball to the other players on the deeply talented Aces, and make them a serious threat to repeat.

Still, a cloud hangs over the Aces organization after what Dearica Hamby alleged after she was traded to the Sparks. Hamby said she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” by the Aces front office surrounding her pregnancy and contract. Those are serious allegations, and the WNBPA is looking into the matter.

On the court (if the investigation results don’t weigh them down), the Aces have to be title favorites now. However, when WNBA free agency comes on Wednesday that could shift, depending on what Breanna Stewart chooses to do (along with other key free agents). There has been speculation Stewart could head to New York to team up with Jonquel Jones, Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu on a Liberty team that would instantly be the biggest threat to the Aces (if not the outright favorite).

Stay tuned, it’s going to be an interesting WNBA free agency.