With Embiid out, Maxey scores 33 to lead 76ers past Grizzlies in OT

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PHILADELPHIA — Tyrese Maxey scored 33 points, including a driving layup with 26.4 seconds left in overtime that put Philadelphia ahead for good, and the 76ers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 122-119 without Joel Embiid on Monday night.

Tobias Harris added 31 points and Andrew Drummond had 16 points and 23 rebounds for Philadelphia, which won its fifth game in a row and 15th in the last 18. The 76ers improved to 4-8 without Embiid, who sat out for rest.

Ja Morant scored 37 points and Desmond Bane had a career-high 34 for Memphis.

Neither team led by more than four in a back-and-forth and exciting fourth quarter and overtime.

Maxey’s driving layup put Philadelphia in front 120-119. The 76ers packed the lane as Morant tried to reclaim the lead with a drive on the ensuing possession, and the Memphis star kicked it out to Ziaire Williams, whose corner 3-pointer rimmed out. Matisse Thybulle grabbed the rebound and passed ahead to Maxey, who finished the scoring with a layup.

Morant reached 30 points for the seventh straight game. Before Embiid’s absence was announced earlier in the day, the game looked to be a matchup of two of the NBA’s top stars.

Embiid rested after a scintillating streak of 21 straight games played in which he raised his MVP profile. The 76ers big man averaged 33.1 points during the stretch to up his season scoring average to 29.1 points per game, which ranked second in the league behind Kevin Durant’s 29.3 points entering Monday.

Selected as a starter for his fifth straight All-Star Game last week, Embiid was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday. Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said the rest day was prearranged by the team’s medical staff.

“They thought it was the right day,” Rivers said.

After finishing second in MVP voting last season, Embiid has spoken publicly about the slight he has felt the last two seasons by individual award selectors knocking him down their list because of his absences — he played just 51 games in each of the last two seasons — and has made it a priority to be more reliable this season.

Monday marked Embiid’s 12th missed game, nine of which he missed due to health and safety protocols. The big man missed a thriller in a game that was tight throughout the fourth quarter.

Morant raced down the floor, scored on a floater with 8.1 seconds left in regulation and was fouled by Drummond. Rivers challenged the call, but it was unsuccessful. Morant missed the free throw, though, keeping the game tied at 111, and Seth Curry’s baseline jumper at the regulation buzzer rimmed out, sending the game to overtime. Rivers was assessed a technical for arguing that a foul should have been called.

Morant put on an exciting show in the third quarter, dazzling with shifty moves, awe-inspiring leaping ability and magician-like passing. He twice zoomed past Drummond with stop-on-the-dime change of direction on consecutive layups early in the quarter, assisted Williams’ fast-break layup with a perfectly placed behind-the-back pass and took off like bouncing on a trampoline for a left-handed alley-oop dunk that tied it at 80 with 2:43 left in the period.

The Memphis star, named a Western Conference All-Star starter last week, had the normally tough Philly fans “oohing” and “aahing” in amazement of his moves, and he finished the period with 13 points as the Grizzlies trailed 84-80 entering the fourth.

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.

Draymond Green wants to play 4-5 more years, ideally with Warriors, not stressed about contract

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Jordan Poole got a contract extension from the Warriors this summer. So did Andrew Wiggins.

Draymond Green did not — and he punched Poole and was away from the team for a time.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Green in Golden State. He has a $27.6 million player option for next season, but he could become a free agent this summer. With the Warriors’ payroll through the roof — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on max extensions, Poole and Wiggins just got paid, and contract extensions for Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the young players are coming — there are questions about how long Green will be in the Bay Area.

In an open and honest interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Green talked about everything from his relationship with Poole after the punch to his future. Here are a few highlights:

“I want to play another four or five more years. That would be enough for me.”

“You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them [along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson]. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away. So, absolutely I’d be interested in that.”

On rumors he wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers: “I never said that. People can say what they want. I’m also not really one to react much to what one may say. I react to things when I want to react to it. I don’t react to things just because somebody said it.”

Is he worried about his next contract: “No, not at all. I have a great agent [Rich Paul]. The best agent in the business. That’s why you align yourself with an incredible agent, because they handle the business. I play basketball. That’s what I want.”

I don’t doubt there is mutual interest in Green staying with the Warriors, the question is at what price. It’s not a max. As for the threat of him bolting, Green is still an elite defender and secondary playmaker, but it’s fair to wonder what the free agent market would look like for him. Green is not the scoring threat he once was, and his unique skill set is not a plug-and-play fit with every roster and system (does he really fit on the Lakers, for example).

The conventional wisdom around the league right now is that Green will opt into the final year of his contract with the Warriors — especially if they make another deep playoff run — because that level of money is not out there for him. That said, it only takes one owner to fall in love with the idea and send his GM out to get the deal done. The market may be there for him after all, or he may be open to the security of three or four years with another team but at a lower per-year dollar amount.

Green also talks about his relationship with Poole in the Q&A and makes it sound professional and business-like. Which is all it has to be, but it’s not the “playing with joy” model the Warriors are built upon.

 

Lakers reportedly leaning toward packaging Beverley, Nunn in trade

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While the Lakers have looked better of late winning 6-of-8 with a top-10 offense and defense in the league in that stretch, plus Anthony Davis continues to play at an All-NBA level at center.

That run — which still has Los Angeles sitting 13th in the West — came against a soft part of the schedule (three wins against the Spurs, for example), and is about to get tested with a few weeks of tougher games, starting with the suddenly healthy Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. While the Lakers have been better, nobody is watching them and thinking “contender.” Are they even a playoff team?

Which is why the Lakers are still in the market for trades. But Jovan Buha reports at The Athletic the Lakers realize moving Russell Westbrook and his $47 million may not happen, so they are focused more on a smaller deal moving Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn (with maybe a pick) to bring back quality role players to round out the roster).

The Lakers are leaning toward [a Nunn/Beverley trade] at this point, the team sources said. That would entail making a smaller move to marginally upgrade the roster while retaining the possibility of following up with a larger Westbrook deal later in the season…

Beverley ($13 million) and Nunn ($5.3 million) are both underperforming relative to their contracts. With the Lakers’ needs for additional size on the wing and a better complimentary big next to Anthony Davis, along with the roster’s glut of small guards, Beverley and/or Nunn are expendable. Packaged together, the Lakers could acquire a player or players in the $20 million range.

Trading Nunn and Beverley lines up with a couple of good options from the Lakers’ perspective. For example, the salaries work to get Bojan Bogdanovic out of Detroit, or it matches up with a deal for Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson out of San Antonio. However, neither the Pistons nor Spurs care much about adding veteran guards on expiring contracts in Nunn and Beverley, so it’s going to require the Lakers throwing in one of their first-round picks unprotected (2027 or 2029) and maybe a second-rounder to get it done. (With how well the Pacers are playing, it’s not a sure thing that a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade is still available.) The Spurs trade may be more appealing to the Lakers because Richardson and Poeltl are expiring contracts, so it doesn’t change the Lakers’ plans to use cap space to chase bigger names this offseason (Bogdanovic was recently given a two-year, $39.1 million extension).

These may not be the “move us into contender range” blockbuster Rob Pelinka and the front office hoped was out there, but either of those trades would make the Lakers better. It could move them into playoff-team status, and considering LeBron James turns 38 at the end of the month they can’t waste a year and retool next offseason.

The Lakers have made a number of miscalculations over the years, but they are all-in with this group now and have to find a way to maximize it, even if the cost is a little painful.

Khris Middleton reportedly set to return to Bucks Friday vs. Lakers

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The Milwaukee Bucks are about to get better. Likely a lot better.

Which should worry the rest of the league because the Bucks have looked like one of the two best teams in the Association this season: A 15-5 record with the best defense in the NBA and an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Now they are about to get Khris Middleton back.

Middleton — the Bucks Olympian and All-Star forward — is set to make his season debut Friday night against the Lakers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. Middleton had been recovering from wrist surgery.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and assists per game last season. More importantly in Milwaukee, Middleton is the hub of the Bucks’ halfcourt offense — he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll at the end of games, asked to create for himself and others in the clutch (with Antetokounmpo working off the ball and sometimes setting picks). Without him so far this season, the Bucks’ halfcourt offense has struggled, ranked 21st in the NBA this season in points per possession (via Cleaning the Glass). Overall the Bucks have a middle-of-the-pack offense because of it.

That is about to change.

While Mike Budenholzer will ease him back into the rotation as he gets his wind back, having Middleton back makes the Bucks much more dangerous. Which is bad news for the rest of the NBA.