Nicolas Batum notches triple-double, 76ers remain in play for most losses in season

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PHILADELPHIA — Nicolas Batum had 19 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his second triple-double of the season, leading the Charlotte Hornets to a 100-85 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night.

Cody Zeller added 18 points and 11 boards for Charlotte, which set a franchise record for wins in a month with its 13th victory in March.

The Hornets, who entered the game in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, also inched closer to clinching their first playoff spot in two years and just second postseason berth in the last 13 years. Charlotte hasn’t won a playoff series, though, since 2002.

The teams both have off until Friday, when they will play again in Charlotte for the fourth and final meeting of the season.

Short-handed Philadelphia, which dressed just 10 players, lost its 10th straight game and 23rd in the last 24.

Robert Covington had 18 points for Philadelphia.

The 76ers were playing without top big man Nerlens Noel, who missed his fourth straight game with a right knee contusion. Also out for Philadelphia were forwards Jerami Grant (right knee/quad) and Richaun Holmes (Achilles’). Rookie Jahlil Okafor is sidelined for the season with a torn right meniscus.

Philadelphia dropped to 9-66 and still can match the 1972-73 76ers, who finished 9-73, for the worst NBA record over an 82-game season. Of the 76ers’ seven remaining games, four are against teams that began play on Tuesday with losing records and out of the playoffs. Perhaps Philadelphia’s best chance for a victory will coming next week when hosting the Pelicans (27-46), Knicks (30-45) and Bucks (30-44) in succession.

Kemba Walker drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1.3 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give Charlotte a comfortable 16-point lead at the half. Philadelphia never cut the deficit under 10 points in the second half.

Walker finished with 16 points.

Philadelphia veteran forward Elton Brand, forced into action, had seven points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes. Brand showed his competitive drive by diving into the scorer’s table during one sequence, drawing cheers from 76ers fans.

Three of the four teams that competed in the NCAA East Regional in Philadelphia over the weekend were represented by 76ers and Hornets. Charlotte’s Marvin Williams and Tyler Hansbrough and Philadelphia’s Kendall Marshall went to North Carolina; the Hornets’ Frank Kaminsky attended Wisconsin; and Charlotte’s Cody Zeller played at Indiana. Neither team had any players from Notre Dame.

TIP-INS

Hornets: The Hornets lead the season series 3-0, having also defeated the 76ers 119-99 on March 2 in Philadelphia and 113-88 on Nov. 2 in Charlotte. . The Hornets finished 3-1 on a four-game road trip that included wins over Milwaukee and Brooklyn and a loss to Detroit. . G Jeremy Lin (sore back) didn’t play. . Batum’s triple-double was the sixth of his career. . The Hornets committed just seven fouls.

76ers: Okafor was in the locker room on crutches before the game. . Recently retired referee Joe Crawford was in attendance. . Philadelphia attempted a season-high 43 3-pointers, making 16 of them.

UP NEXT

Hornets: Host Philadelphia Friday night.

76ers: At Charlotte Friday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo on playing with brothers: ‘Milwaukee, L.A., wherever – that’d be awesome’

Giannis Antetokounmpo in Bucks-Lakers
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Giannis Antetokounmpo – on the elite Bucks and nearing his super-max decision – has the NBA by the tail.

Teams are trying to impress the family-oriented superstar. Milwaukee signed his brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo. The Lakers added another brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo. (The Knicks drafted Thanasis, but Thanasis’ tenure in New York reportedly left a sour taste in Giannis’ mouth.)

Now, Giannis – who once said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles – is singing a slightly different tune

USA Today:

Antetokounmpo:

I think that would be amazing. Obviously, we’d spend more time together, and I’m 100 percent sure my mom would love that. But if we could team up on a team – Milwaukee, L.A., wherever – that’d be awesome.

Maybe Antetokounmpo is just paying lip service to the Lakers, because they added Kostas. But at this point, that’s progress for Los Angeles.

Considering Giannis’ agent just said “everything is open,” it seems Giannis could be planting the seeds for leaving Milwaukee. He could definitely stay. But by at least mentioning other possibilities, he’d soften the blow if he chooses to depart.

Giannis’ views on loyalty have always been more complex than people realized. Tastes change. It sounds as if Giannis isn’t quite as averse to Los Angeles as he once was.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between that and actually joining the Lakers. Giannis hasn’t suddenly transformed into a totally different person.

But this quote will keep the candle of hope burning in Los Angeles.

Report: All-Star fourth quarter featured more than 15 minutes of gameplay

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One overlooked feature of the NBA’s new All-Star game format: It seemed designed to shorten the game.

Sure, the league wanted to add an interesting wrinkle to a game that had grown stale. The exact details were tweaked to honor Kobe Bryant.

But – in the era of load management – shaving a few minutes off the exhibition game should be taken as a feature, not a bug.

This year’s game ended when a team scored 24 more points than the leading team had entering the fourth quarter. The last time a team had scored 24 or fewer in All-Star quarter: 2010, when the East scored just 23 in the fourth quarter.  In the decade since – including the first three quarters Sunday – All-Star teams averaged 24 points every seven minutes.

But Sunday’s fourth quarter took a while longer than the standard 12 minutes for LeBron James‘ team to outscore Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s team, 33-22.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

Defenses really turned up in the fourth quarter. Here’s how the teams’ shooting percentages changed from the first three quarters to the fourth quarter:

  • 2-pointers: 73% to 46%
  • 3-pointers: 34% to 23%

More shots being contested also led to more fouls. After attempting just 13 free throws in the first three quarters, the teams took 26 free throws in the fourth quarter.

In The Basketball Tournament, which first introduced the Elam Ending, the target score is eight more points than the leading team has at the first whistle inside four minutes. By turning off the game clock later, there’s less room for variance in gameplay length.

I suspect the NBA would have also turned off the clock later if not using the target score to honor Bryant. Because Bryant wore No. 24 last, the league has generally used that – not his other number, No. 8 – in tributes, including the All-Star jerseys.

With All-Star MVP now named for Bryant – a perfectly fitting lasting tribute – the league can alter the ending format next year.

The concept is sound. The exact execution just needs tweaking.

Bulls’ starting point guard Kris Dunn may be out for season with knee injury

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Bulls starting point guard Kris Dunn missed the last four games before the All-Star break with a sprained knee.

He could miss a lot more — like the rest of the season.

From K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

But sources said there’s a growing belief that Dunn will miss the remainder of the season with the injury, which occurred when Thaddeus Young took a charge and inadvertently crashed into Dunn’s knee on the first possession of a Jan. 31 road game against the Nets. When Dunn suffered a similar injury last season, he missed 23 games…

“Dunn still has some swelling in that knee,” coach Jim Boylen said before the Bulls lost to the Wizards on Feb. 11 in Washington, their final game before the break. “Once his swelling goes down, he will get re-scanned and re-evaluated.  But he had a lot of swelling.”

That’s less than ideal for Dunn as he heads into restricted free agency. He has averaged 7.3 points and  3.6 rebounds per game, however, his most significant contribution has been quality defense for Chicago this season.

This is the latest in a string of injuries for the Bulls. Otto Porter has only played nine games due to a broken foot. Big men Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are currently sidelined due to injuries, although Carter could return after the All-Star break and Markkanen by early next month. Now Dunn.

Rui Hachimura gets destroyed by kid in Pop-A-Shot-like game (video)

Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura
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Rui Hachimura got kicked so hard in the groin by a teammate, the Wizards rookie needed surgery.

That’s pretty awful. Yet, there’s still a new contender for the worst moment of Hachimura’s season.

At All-Star Weekend in Chicago for Rising Stars, Hachimura faced a kid in a Pop-A-Shot-like game. It didn’t go well for Hachimura.

Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News:

An NBA player losing to a kid is bad enough. Twice, we’re entering troubling territory.

But claiming the game is cheating, demanding to switch sides and still getting routed?

That’s a ROUGH look.