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76ers win 12th straight, eliminate Pistons 115-108

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DETROIT (AP) The Philadelphia 76ers are rolling right along without Joel Embiid.

JJ Redick scored 25 points, and the 76ers won their 12th straight game, eliminating Detroit from playoff contention with a 115-108 victory over the Pistons on Wednesday night. Embiid missed a fourth straight game because of a concussion and orbital fracture.

“Everyone in this room has stepped up since Joel went down, and we know we’re capable of winning games without him,” guard Ben Simmons said. “We told him to get ready for the playoffs and that we’ll take care of everything else. Now we’re showing that we can do that.”

The Pistons had their five-game winning streak snapped, and their defeat clinched a postseason spot for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Eastern Conference playoff field is now set, although there’s still plenty of uncertainty over the actual matchups. Philadelphia pulled even with Cleveland for third place in the East.

Anthony Tolliver scored 25 points for the Pistons and went 7 of 8 from 3-point range. Detroit was without star forward Blake Griffin, who missed his fourth straight game because of a bruised right ankle.

Embiid had surgery last weekend to repair a broken bone around his left eye. The 76ers could certainly use him, but so far, they’ve gone right on winning. Redick scored 13 points in the first quarter Wednesday, and backup big man Richaun Holmes had back-to-back dunks to give Philadelphia an 18-17 advantage. An alley-oop to Holmes put the 76ers up 36-28 after one.

The lead reached 19 in the second quarter. Philadelphia was up 65-49 at halftime, and the margin didn’t reach single digits again until the waning moments of the fourth. Detroit did manage to snap Philadelphia’s streak of nine straight double-digit wins.

Redick finished 10 of 13 from the field and 5 of 7 from beyond the arc .

“They’ve got two of the best guys in the entire league moving without the ball, with Redick and (Marco) Belinelli,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “They tore us up tonight.”

TIP-INS

76ers: Philadelphia was without F Dario Saric (right elbow cellulitis). F Robert Covington was shaken up in the third quarter after taking an elbow to the cheek from Detroit’s Reggie Jackson. Covington was able to finish the game, however. … Belinelli scored 19 points and Simmons had 16.

Pistons: Andre Drummond had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

DONE

The Pistons kept their slim postseason chances alive with this recent winning streak, and Detroit is 25-16 this season with Jackson suited up. But Jackson’s late-December ankle injury sent the Pistons into a funk they ultimately weren’t able to overcome.

“It’s tough. It was a goal of ours in September, to be able to make the playoffs,” guard Reggie Bullock said. “Things happen. Players left, players got hurt.”

LATE RALLY

Detroit cut Philadelphia’s lead to eight in the final minute, and after a turnover by Belinelli, Stanley Johnson had a 3-pointer that would have made it a five-point game. He missed.

“You always want to avoid turnovers down the stretch, but you have to give the Pistons credit. We’re on the road on a back-to-back, and we’re trying to end their shot at the playoffs,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “It is always going to be difficult and there’s going to come a point where you have to break their spirit to finish them off. They hit some huge 3s and forced some turnovers, and that’s the way a lead starts to evaporate, but we were able to reply with the same things.”

CELEBRITIES

Moe Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson, fresh off their Final Four appearance with Michigan, were shown on the big screen at the game and drew a roar from the crowd.

UP NEXT

76ers: Host Cleveland on Friday night.

Pistons: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Report: Lakers eager to use LeBron James at center flanked by top four young players

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Why did the Lakers, after securing LeBron James, sign Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson? Their explanation leaves plenty to be desired.

What will the Lakers do with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma now that none of those four are being traded for Kawhi Leonard? Their plan there is far more intriguing.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

“We may not see this on day one, but the coaching staff is eager to see our version of the [Warriors’] Death Lineup with Lonzo [Ball], Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, [Kyle] Kuzma and LeBron,” a second Lakers executive said.

LeBron at center is a dangerous weapon. The Cavaliers showed it more during the 2017 playoffs – to positive effect.

But LeBron isn’t Draymond Green, who makes Golden State’s Death/Hamptons Five Lineup function. Green possesses a unique combination of rim protection and – through his ball-handling and especially passing – ability to get into offense quickly. LeBron isn’t as good at protecting the paint, and though he’s lethal in transition when he wants to be, he’ll be fighting years of slow-down habits.

I also wonder how much LeBron embraces the physical toll of playing center. The Lakers have only JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac and Mo Wagner at the position. Are they banking on LeBron playing there a significant amount during the regular season?

LeBron would likely accept the role more enthusiastically in the playoffs. But Ball, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma will be tested – at least initially – by the heightened level of play. I’d be wary of overly relying on that lineup.

But this is the best way for the Lakers to get talent on the floor and overcome spacing concerns. I’m absolutely excited to see it in action. Whatever concerns I have about it are only multiplied with other potential Lakers lineups.

Report: Nuggets lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. undergoes another back surgery

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Michael Porter Jr. underwent back surgery in November, missed nearly his entire freshman season at Missouri then slipped to No. 14 in the draft amid injury concerns.

The Nuggets have been noncommittal about their plans for Porter, but they’ve given an eyebrow-raising update.

Nuggets release:

Michael Porter Jr. has undergone surgery of the lumbar spine at The Carrell Clinic in Dallas, Tex. The Procedure was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett. There is no timetable for his return to basketball participation.

Porter is a talented forward with the length and skill to make a major impact as a scorer.

But, as this latest surgery underscores, drafting him carried terrifying risk. Denver will have to bear that for a while.

Report: Dirk Nowitzki to re-sign with Mavericks for $5 million

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Dirk Nowitzki is set to play his 20th season – breaking Kobe Bryant’s record for most seasons with a single franchise and tying Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis for most seasons in the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s $5 million team option, but he was never signing elsewhere. He was either going to retire or play for Dallas.

Once he decided to return, the only question was money.

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s option to maximize their flexibility for upgrades, namely signing DeAndre Jordan. Once Yogi Ferrell agreed to an absurdly team-friendly contract, Dallas had enough cap space left to give Nowitzki his team-option amount. If necessary, he would have taken the $4,449,000 room exception.

Nowitzki has had a great career, and this could be his farewell tour. But he also remains a helpful rotation-level player. Though he’s a defensive liability, his outside shooting as a big goes a long way toward floor spacing.

Report: Mavericks re-signing Yogi Ferrell for less than qualifying-offer salary with second year unguaranteed

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The Mavericks expected Yogi Ferrell to accept his qualifying offer.

Turns out, they’ll keep him on an even more team-friendly deal than the one he could have unilaterally signed.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This is an awful deal for Ferrell.

As reported, he’ll earn between $2,548,077 and $2,760,417 next season. That range is less than his qualifying offer – which would have paid him a fully guaranteed $2,919,204 next season.

That reduction is acceptable if Ferrell got something in exchange – but he gave Dallas the concession by adding an unguaranteed second year. If he plays well, the Mavericks will keep him at a cheap salary. If he doesn’t, they’ll waive him for no cost. They have all the control.

The promise of the backup shooting guard job is probably just lip service. Teams don’t stick by that if the player struggles. If he produces, he would have gotten the job anyway.

Dallas has plenty of point guard types – Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, J.J Barea, Jalen Brunson and Ferrell. Rick Carlisle uses two of them simultaneously often enough that Ferrell should land in the rotation. But it’s far from a lock.

With this deal, Ferrell is taking all the risk and the Mavericks are getting all the upside.