Josh Richardson

Joel Embiid’s game-winning dunk leads 76ers past Cavaliers, 98-97

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PHILADELPHIA — The shots weren’t falling for the Philadelphia 76ers, so they clamped down on defense.

Joel Embiid scored 27 points, including the go-ahead dunk with 13.2 seconds remaining, and Philadelphia held Cleveland without a point for the final 3 1/2 minutes in a 98-97 win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Josh Richardson added 17 points and Ben Simmons had 15 for Philadelphia, which won despite missing 30 of 38 3-point attempts. Tobias Harris missed all 11 of his 3-point tries.

“You better guard if you’re not going to make shots,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “We knew if we were going to do anything, we had to play defense – and defense we played.”

Jordan Clarkson and Kevin Love each had 20 points to pace Cleveland. Collin Sexton added 18 points and Tristan Thompson had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers trailed for most of the contest, but took advantage of Philadelphia’s poor shooting in the fourth quarter, going up by as many as five points on three occasions.

“We gave them life and were in a fistfight,” Brown said. “You can just feel it. We had a chance to discourage them and we didn’t. Certainly a hard-fought game and we’re lucky to get away with it.”

Cleveland led 97-92 with 3:34 remaining after Sexton’s driving layup, but the Cavaliers wouldn’t score again. Harris pulled Philadelphia within 97-94 with a follow layup and then hit a 17-footer on the ensuing possession to make it a one-point game with 1:42 left.

Cleveland had chances to build the lead after that, but Love missed a close-range shot before a shot-clock violation on the Cavaliers’ next possession.

“I think our defense was pretty OK,” Embiid said. “We just didn’t make shots.”

The 76ers were having their own trouble scoring with Richardson and Embiid failing to convert on consecutive possessions.

After a timeout with 26.6 seconds left, Brown called a high-percentage play with Harris finding Embiid close to the basket. Embiid slammed it home to give the 76ers their first lead, 98-97, since early in the fourth quarter.

“It was a great play-call by coach and we did the rest,” Embiid said.

Cleveland had a chance to win it, but Love’s 3-point attempt from the top of the key rimmed out.

“Kevin is a great shooter, not a good shooter,” Cleveland coach John Beilein said. “He took his time but just didn’t nail it. It’s one of many looks I’ll take at that time.”

 

Three Things to Know: Well-rested Kawhi Leonard takes over fourth, leads Clipper win

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Well-rested Kawhi Leonard takes over fourth with 18 points, leads Clipper past Blazers. Kawhi Leonard doesn’t care what you think. Or what the league office thinks. Or what Michael Jordan thinks.

What he cares about is staying healthy and winning basketball games — which are exactly the things he did in the last 48 hours.

There was a storm of criticism in some quarters (and from ESPN personalities) after Leonard sat out Wednesday night’s Clipper game against the Bucks, the first half of a back-to-back, to make sure he stays healthy for the playoffs. You know, the formula he used last year to lead Toronto to a title. But some people seem to care more about being entertained than Leonard’s health and wanted to see Giannis Antetokounmpo and Leonard face off — not so coincidentally on ESPN. Leonard’s reaction to that has been frustration the league detailed his injury publicly — Leonard is a private person — but beyond that, he just shrugs and goes about his business.

“I’m not a guy that reads the media anyway. We’re going to manage it the best way we can to keep me healthy and that’s the most important thing, me being healthy moving forward.”

Then on Thursday against Portland — a game that is more important to the Clippers because it is in conference — Leonard showed what he can do when healthy. Leonard scored 18 in the fourth quarter, took over the game, and led Los Angeles to a 107-100 win against Portland.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts had the line of the night.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum each had 22 points on the night but were shut down and scoreless in the fourth — credit Patrick Beverley for blanketing Lillard, who was 0-of-4 in the final frame. Anfernee Simons scored 16 of his 17 points in the fourth to keep the Blazers in it.

What makes the Clippers so dangerous — aside from the fact they haven’t even added Paul George into the mix yet, that likely comes next week — is that Leonard has help. It was Lou Williams that sank the dagger into the Trail Blazers.

That gave Clipper coach Doc River’s 900th win of his career — an impressive milestone. He and the Clippers cared more about that than the $50,000 fine the team got for Rivers’ comments having Leonard’s back and saying he was healthy.

Rivers has the Clippers focusing on the big picture — this is a team in title contention and everything needs to be focused on that goal. Which means Leonard is going to keep taking nights off. No matter what anyone else cares or thinks.

2) Ben Simmons out Friday night with a sprained shoulder, could miss more games due to injury. Officially, Philadelphia point guard Ben Simmons is out for one game, Friday night against Denver, with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. He will be re-evaluated Sunday before the Sixers take on the Hornets.

However, don’t be surprised if he misses more time than that.

Is this a big deal long-term? No. It’s not severe, and it’s Simmons off-arm. This doesn’t change the arc of the season in Philadelphia and Simmons will be back in a week or so at worst.

Short term, it’s a little bit of a problem. Brett Brown has played Josh Richardson out of position as the backup point guard behind Simmons (clearly not trusting Raul Neto or Trey Burke). Richardson played that role a lot in Miami, but he’s a natural wing. He’s okay at the point but turns the ball over a little too much.

Philadelphia hosts Denver Friday night, Charlotte Sunday night, Cleveland Tuesday night, then travel to Orlando on Wednesday. If Simmons misses all those games, the Sixers are still going to be racking up wins.

3) Kemba Walker scores 14 in emotional return to Charlotte. One thing was clear Thursday night: Kemba Walker loves Charlotte and the fans in Charlotte still love Kemba.

Walker left Charlotte last summer after a below-max offer and signed in Boston, but Hornets fans don’t hold that against him. Nor did the organization, which put together a fantastic video tribute.

That was followed by a standing ovation for the clearly emotional Walker.

Walker scored 14 points on the night but was picked up by his teammates — Gordon Hayward had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Jaylen Brown returned to action scoring a dozen. The Celtics cruised to a 108-87 win to 6-1 on the season.

Ben Simmons out for 76ers-Nuggets, reportedly likely to miss two additional games

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Ben Simmons injured his shoulder yesterday.

His outlook?

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

By discussing Simmons’ absence in terms of games rather than weeks, this sounds like good news. The injury could’ve been worse.

Philadelphia’s upcoming schedule:

The 76ers have been relying on Josh Richardson at point guard when Simmons rests. That’s a lot on the plate of Richardson, who’s more of a wing.

Philadelphia also has Raul Neto and Trey Burke. It might be time to trust Neto with a bigger role and maybe even Burke will a role at all.

76ers expect to pay luxury tax next season

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The Process always afforded an opportunity. The 76ers loaded up on young, relatively cheap players. That allowed Philadelphia room to sign more expensive veterans. The 76ers could then keep those expensive veterans and leverage Bird Rights to keep the young players due for raises.

The catch: That plan would shoot Philadelphia’s payroll into the stratosphere.

The 76ers executed it anyway. Just before Ben Simmons‘ max contract will kick in next season, they signed Tobias Harris and Al Horford to big contracts and acquired Josh Richardson and his above-average salary.

Will Philadelphia pay the luxury tax next season?

76ers owner managing partner Josh Harris, via Rich Hofmann of The Athletic:

Yeah, there are definitely issues that come with that but I think if that’s what it takes to win, we’re going to do it.

Just different restrictions that come. It all depends on how you configure your team. But my guess is that’s where we’ll end up.

The luxury-tax line projected to be about $141 million next season. Philadelphia $146,019,658 committed to 10 players for next season:

Filling the rest of the roster with minimum-salary free agents would put the 76ers about $14 million over the tax line and trigger about $25 million of tax payments.

Philadelphia could push its payroll even higher by using the mid-level exception. Of course, that’d trigger exponentially higher luxury-tax payments, too.

We’ll see just how much the 76ers are willing to pay. Maybe they’ll dump depth to keep costs more modest. It’s too early to determine the exact cost-befit of such moves.

Lost revenue from China could lower the luxury-tax line. Though that’d also reduce Simmons’ max salary, everyone else’s salary is locked in. Philadelphia would be on the hook for far more in tax payments.

But, if he follows through, credit Harris for spending. It gives his team a better chance of winning.

Jimmy Butler insinuates something undisclosed ended his 76ers tenure: ‘All of that will come out’

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Jimmy Butler is the NBA’s vagabond star.

After getting traded by the Bulls and forcing his way off the Timberwolves, Butler landed with the 76ers. It really seemed Butler could stick in Philadelphia. Instead, the 76ers signed-and-traded him to the Heat last summer.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

Philadelphia was not giving him that five-year max he wanted. They weren’t giving him a four-year max. They were out of the Jimmy Butler business.

Counter-report: The 76ers did offer Butler a five-year max, according to Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports.

What actually happened during Butler’s free agency?

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The 6-foot-7 forward says something went down behind the scenes that led to his departure, but he wouldn’t elaborate on the subject.

“Stuff just don’t work out. Nobody knows what really went on in Philly and we’re going to leave it that way,” Butler told Yahoo Sports. “But it was a great opportunity for me.”

Butler was pressed on what happened, but refused to shed more light on the situation.

“Just go with your gut. You’re not dumb. All of that will come out whenever it’s time,” he told Yahoo Sports. “Right now is not the time. I’m locked in with this. I’m happy, man. I’m smiling and my guys want me to be here, my organization wants me to be here, I want to be here and we’re going to ride this thing until the wheels fall off. I’m not saying Philly wasn’t great, man. We had some really good players. I talk to Joel [Embiid] damn near every f—–g day. It’s a brotherhood, man. I love that guy. I’m going to always have his back and I know he’ll always have mine.”

That sounds pretty juicy.

Maybe the facts will match the speculation. Maybe the true story is far more dull. Butler has his own way of viewing things, and he could be hyping the significance of something relatively benign.

The 76ers got Al Horford and Josh Richardson instead of Butler – an interesting exchange, but not one that necessarily indicates something went awry.

Butler’s quotes worked, though. Attention is on him, and I am intrigued to learn the full story.