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.

 

LeBron James on Lakers clinching No. 1 seed: ‘They said I couldn’t do it’

Lakers star LeBron James
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The Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

LeBron James, via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

“They said I couldn’t do it.”

“I’ll enjoy this one,” James said, nodding as he grinned. “They said I can’t do it.”

The Lakers entered the season fifth in the West in over-under wins (behind the Rockets, Clippers, Jazz and Nuggets).

But nobody credible thought the Lakers couldn’t get the No. 1 seed. With LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Lakers obviously had that type of upside. Their championship odds were far more favorable. The main doubts stemmed from how seriously LeBron would take the regular season.

That said, in the age of social media, players hear both more praise and more criticism than ever before. LeBron surely heard from haters who ruled him out. Crowning himself the Washed King, LeBron probably internalized that fringe opinion.

Many players find slights to use as motivation. It worked for Michael Jordan. It works for LeBron.

But it does sound silly when an exalted player like LeBron talks this way.

Report: Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because team didn’t spend enough

Pacers owner Herb Simon and executives Donnie Walsh, Larry Bird, and Kevin Pritchard
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Paul George said he left the Pacers because they weren’t willing to spend enough.

Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to feel that way.

Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president in 2017, citing a desire to do more things outside basketball. Yet, he also reportedly had another reason.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money. We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside.

Pacers owner Herb Simon has a certain way of doing things. Indiana hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2006, the first year the tax line was set before the season.

Despite that, the Pacers have been pretty good. They’ve qualified for the playoffs nine of the last 10 seasons, peaking with appearances in the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference finals.

Still, Indiana has lost in the first round four straight years. Another first-round loss appears the most likely outcome for this season.

That’s not exactly satisfying for players who want to win championships. Spending big isn’t absolutely necessary to compete on the highest levels. But it helps.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo is approaching 2021 unrestricted free agency. He’s a competitor who’ll evaluate, among other things, whether his current franchise matches his ambitions.

It’s easy to spend someone else’s money. Simon can decide his own limits. But there are consequences of his spending restraint – especially as perception grows about his relative thriftiness.

J.J. Redick describes thought behind meme: ‘I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing’

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J.J. Redick has made the playoffs all 13 of his previous NBA seasons.

The Pelicans have put that streak in jeopardy.

New Orleans lost its first two games in the bubble, a nail-biter against the Jazz and a rout against the Clippers. During that loss to L.A., cameras captured Redick – on the floor exercising his back while out of the game – with a distant stare that became an instant meme.

Redick on ESPN Daily:

I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing, and I think my face summed up that first half pretty well.

There’s so many circumstances you could apply the emotions that I was going through in that moment.

Redick is right: That meme fits many occasions, which gives it staying power.

However, it has plenty of competition. Though the feelings displayed aren’t the exact same, Redick didn’t even have the best reaction inside the bubble by an exasperated NBA player. That belongs to Nuggets star Nikola Jokic:

At least Redick got reason to perk up. The Pelicans beat the Grizzlies yesterday to gain ground in the playoff race.

Darren Collison says talk of him playing for Lakers was “overhyped”

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Darren Collison shocked the NBA last summer when he walked away from the game at age 32 — and a likely contract in the four-year, $70+ million range — and retired. His reasons were legitimate, he wanted to focus on his religion — “While I still love basketball, I know there is something more important, which is my family and my faith,” Collison said at the time — but the league has seen a lot of players say they were walking away for good reasons only to come running back.

The rumors about a Collison return started just after January 1 and spun out of control in Los Angeles when he sat with Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss at a game.

Collison stayed retired, and told the “Minute til 6” podcast it wasn’t even close. He was never coming back.

“To keep it 100, they overhyped the whole thing. Like, I wasn’t even thinking about coming back.”

That game he went to? He just came to watch his friend Russell Westbrook.

“I just wanted to come watch the game as a fan.”

Collison also is smart enough to know how him sitting with Buss would be perceived.

Collison was wanted. The Lakers run LeBron James at the point but could have used the veteran Collison in the role Rajon Rondo filled as a secondary playmaker (Rondo is currently out with a thumb injury). Collison was rumored to the Clippers as well, and Doc Rivers can always find a way to use more guard depth.

Collison, however, seems at peace with his decision. If he wanted to return, he would have done it last summer for 10 figures a season, not for the minimum in January.