Josh Richardson

Back home, Philadelphia wins again, beats Brooklyn behind 34 from Tobias Harris

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Tobias Harris scored 34 points, including two big baskets in the final two minutes that proved to be the difference, as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Brooklyn Nets 117-106 on Wednesday night.

Ben Simmons had 20 points and 11 assists for the 76ers, who improved to 19-2 at home.

On the road, the 76ers are 7-14 and have lost six straight games – a slide that has caused them to fall to the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn has lost nine of its last 11 overall and six straight away from home. The Nets were led by Spencer Dinwiddie‘s 26 points and eight assists. Jarret Allen had 17 points

Neither side was able to gain complete control of the game, with the largest lead being a seven-point Brooklyn advantage late in the first half.

Harris, however, gave the Sixers offensive life in the second half, scoring 24 points. With the score 106-104 with two minutes to play, Harris hit a leaning 3-pointer that rattled in just as the shot clock ran out.

Josh Richardson had 15 points and Furkan Korkmaz added 15 off the bench. Al Horford had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Sixers.

 

Three Things to Know: Anthony Davis will re-sign with Lakers, but don’t expect five years

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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) Anthony Davis will re-sign with Lakers but don’t expect five years. Wednesday’s “big” NBA story out of Los Angeles was the Lakers offered Anthony Davis a max extension of his current contract — four years, $146 million — and Davis turned it down. Except that wasn’t a surprise. As most stories on the issue explained, if Davis becomes a free agent this summer and re-signs with the Lakers he can get five-years, $202 million.

That is true. That is also not how this is going to go down.

Davis unquestionably will re-sign with the Lakers. I know zero sources around the league who think otherwise. That is why the league’s free agent/trade focus is now on Giannis Antetokounmpo (who probably signs a five-year super-max extension with the Bucks this summer, but there is more wiggle room than with Davis) and how unhappy Karl-Anthony Towns is in Minnesota.

Just don’t expect Davis to sign for five years with the Lakers. Expect a three-year contract with an opt-out after two.

This is right out of the LeBron James/Rich Paul playbook (Paul is Davis’ agent, too) and it works for two reasons. First, it keeps pressure on the Lakers organization to put a contending team on the court, something that will be a challenge once LeBron decides to step away (whenever that comes). Second, after two more seasons Davis will reach 10 years of service, making him eligible for a full 35 percent of the salary cap. In the summer of 2022 Davis could opt-out, then re-sign an even larger five-year contract with the Lakers.

All of which means a lot of “nothing to see here, move along” with the story of Davis passing on the Lakers’ extension offer, just know what comes next is not what a lot of pundits were selling.

2) Tristan Thompson led Cleveland to a feel-good win amidst controversy. As trade speculation swirled around Tristan Thompson last month, the Cavaliers put out word they want to keep him because they value his leadership that much.

They might have never needed it more than yesterday.

The Cavs spent the day at the forefront of the national sports conversation, because their coach – John Beilein – called his players “thugs” then said he meant to say “slugs.” The story was the right mix of sensational, serious and silly to capture attention. Even for a team accustomed to drama, this provided plenty.

Enter Thompson.

The center scored a career-high 35 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, made the game-tying free throws in the fourth quarter, slammed the dagger dunk in overtime and finished a game-high +10 in a 115-112 win over the Pistons last night.

Did Thompson know his 35 points set a personal best?

“Uhhh,” Thompson said, seemingly deliberating how to answer a question that could make him look vain.

“Hell yeah!” Kevin Love, who had been exchanging friendly obscenities with Thompson throughout the interview, shouted across the locker room. “I was reminded by the bench!”

“Hell yeah!” Thompson said. “They was telling me on the bench, and s—, I ain’t stupid. I know!”

Love continued to rile up Thompson.

“I know what I’m talking about! I ain’t stupid! I’m a basketball savant! I know everything!” Thompson said, becoming increasingly profane and then comparing himself to The Schwab.

At the end of a long day, Beilein clearly appreciated his team’s enthusiasm.

“Go into a college locker room, and everybody is jumping around. Pro locker room, everyone is chilling after win,” Beilein said. “That locker room is hopping around right now.

“If they’re excited, then the coaching staff is really excited. Because we want to have fun. And the way you have fun is you win, and we won tonight.”

—Dan Feldman, from the Cavs/Pistons game in Detroit

3) Joel Embiid will miss a couple of weeks following finger surgery, but even without him Philadelphia’s defense locks-up Boston. Is it really a surprise that Joel Embiid needs surgery — did you see what happened to his finger earlier this week? The ring finger on his left hand was bent in a way fingers are just not meant to bend. At the time Embiid had it popped back in, taped up, and returned to the game (a win against Oklahoma City).

However, it should be no surprise he needs surgery for a torn ligament in that finger. Embiid is having surgery and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. He, averaging 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds a game for the Sixers, but his bigger impact is on the defensive end, where the Sixers are 8.2 points per 100 possessions better when Embiid is on the court.

Except against Boston on Thursday night. With Al Horford as center — and after an early-game adjustment playing more aggressively out high on the pick-and-roll, rather than Embiid’s drop coverage — the Sixers shut down the top-10 Boston offense and got the win, 109-98. Philly got a spark from Josh Richardson’s 29 points, and Ben Simmons added 19, but it was mostly the Philly defense that stole the show.

We’ll see if the Sixers can sustain this level of defense with Embiid out, but this was an impressive start.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: They still love Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook returned to the franchise where he played the first 11 seasons of his career, where he grew up in a lot of ways, where he won an MVP-award and racked up triple -doubles. To say Thunder fans welcomed him back with open arms is an understatement.

First, there was a video tribute.

Then came the raucous standing ovation.

Then Westbrook went through his traditional pregame routine — fist bumps for the stat crew, shooting arrows, a sprint to the corner — to the joy of the crowd.

That crowd also loved the way Chris Paul and the rest of the Thunder played that night, spoiling Westbrook’s return and raking up a 113-92 Thunder win.

Even with Joel Embiid out injured, Sixers rally in fourth to knock off Celtics

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PHILADELPHIA — Brett Brown gathered his team in the locker room to ring the postgame victory bell when the 76ers coach noticed a familiar face on general manager Elton Brand’s phone. There was Joel Embiid on FaceTime, calling in from New York where he’s set to have surgery Friday to repair a torn ligament. Embiid had to like the view — a Sixers team that gutted out a win hours after learning the All-Star center was out indefinitely.

“We’re going to miss Joel for however long it is,” guard Ben Simmons said, “but tonight was a good start.”

Josh Richardson scored 29 points, Simmons had 19 and Philadelphia won without Embiid, beating the Boston Celtics 109-98 on Thursday night.

Embiid will have surgery for a torn ligament in a finger in his left hand and will be evaluated in one to two weeks. Embiid, averaging 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds in 31 games this season, tore the radial collateral ligament in the ring finger Monday night in a victory over Oklahoma City.

“I’m putting a blow torch, a bullet, many bullets into what we used to do,” Brown said. “Really. It doesn’t fit. So it’s on me to make it fit. We don’t have Joel Embiid. So when I say, ‘blow torch and bullet,’ I mean it.”

Mike Scott slid into the starting rotation, along with Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Richardson and Simmons. Simmons, an All-Star point guard, played center at times and drew a charge on Enes Kanter with 1:45 left in the first quarter.

“I’ve always been curious of what that could look like,” Brown said. “I thought he was good. I don’t know what the numbers bear out but it’s something we tried. I have wanted to try Ben at five, we did, and I suspect we’ll see it again.”

With Embiid out indefinitely, even the deep reserves are going to have to contribute to keep them afloat until he returns. That included Furkan Korkmaz, who buried a 3 late in the fourth that stretched the Sixers’ lead to 91-87. Horford, who left Boston in the offseason to sign a four-year deal with Philadelphia, converted a three-point play for a seven-point lead. The Celtics pulled within two, but the Sixers used a 9-0 run to put the game away and improve to 18-2 at home.

“It’s two big sports cities that really get behind their teams, so you appreciate that,” Richardson said. “I feel like everybody’s almost ready to fight about that game when it comes up.”

The Celtics had their own injury scare when Kemba Walker, ejected for the first time in his nine-year NBA career a night earlier, sprained his left thumb. Walker ran into Scott and instantly clutched his hand late in the second quarter. Walker, who scored 26 points on 10-for-20 shooting, tried to shake it off but left for the locker room shortly before the Celtics took a 55-48 lead into halftime.

Walker, wearing a wrap in the locker room, said he jammed his thumb and didn’t think he would need additional tests.

“When he first went down, we were worried about ligaments,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Right now, in a lot of ways, it feels like we dodged a bullet.”

Walker looked fine when he returned to the lineup. Jayson Tatum and Walker hit back-to-back 3s to tie the game at 69-all in the third and wipe out a hole caused by the Sixers’ 11-0 run to start the half.

“We just have to close out games better,” Walker said. “You can’t win ’em all, obviously. But we’ve got to be better.”

Sixers rumored to be looking for shooters to go around Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons

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The Philadelphia 76ers are a good team: 24-14 record, +4.1 net rating differential, which has them on pace to win 52 games (stats via Cleaning the Glass, which filters out garbage time). On Christmas Day, we saw the potential of their long, defensive-minded roster in a win over Milwaukee.

Are the Sixers title contenders? Halfway through the season, it doesn’t feel like it, and the lack of floor spacing is a key reason. Joel Embiid can force defenders to respect him at the arc, but he’s a beast in the paint — he’s shooting 70.7 percent at the rim and taking nearly 30 percent of his shots there — and that’s where Philly wants him operating. Ben Simmons has taken only 17 shots outside the key all season (hitting six of them). While Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and others can hit some threes, this team did not exactly replace J.J. Redick.

This is why Philadelphia GM Elton Brand is looking for shooters at the trade deadline, reports Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.

The Sixers have expressed interest in a long list of wings, including Malik Beasley (Nuggets), Glenn Robinson III (Warriors), Davis Bertans (Wizards), E’Twaun Moore (Pelicans), and Andre Iguodala (Grizzlies), according to multiple league sources. Most interestingly, sources say the Sixers inquired about Robert Covington, whom they dealt to the Timberwolves in 2018 in the Jimmy Butler trade.

That all sounds great until one starts to break down what the Sixers have to offer in a trade.

The Sixers are loaded with picks, including their own first rounders after 2021, but matching salaries is hard unless Philly wants to give up quality parts of their rotation, such as Richardson or Mike Scott. Which they are not.

Other teams want rookie Matisse Thybulle, Philly is wisely rejecting those calls. Philly is trying to steer the conversation toward Zhaire Smith, but other teams look at his G-League play and reject that effort.

Brand will try to make another deadline move, but if the Sixers are going to be title contenders it will be more about internal improvement.

Three Things to Know: Joel Embiid could miss Boston game after finger dislocation

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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) Joel Embiid could miss the Boston game after nasty finger dislocation Monday night. When you first saw Joel Embiid’s finger, you probably gasped, then thought he was done for the night. Ben Simmons said this after the game, “I nearly threw up when I saw that.”

In the first quarter Monday night, Embiid suffered a nasty dislocation of the ring finger on his left hand. Below is the video (and the reaction of Simmons and Josh Richardson), but if you’re at all squeamish don’t watch it.

After X-rays showed nothing broken, Embiid had the finger popped back into place, taped up, and went back out there to start the second quarter. That didn’t mean everything was fine, as he told Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“It was pretty bad. I was basically playing with one hand,” Embiid said. “It’s pretty bad, but in the midst of the losing streak I just wanted to make sure that I do everything possible to try to get us a win, and I’m glad we got the win.”

Philadelphia did beat Oklahoma City 120-113 to snap a four-game losing streak, and while Embiid shot just 7-of-17 (saying the finger impacted his shooting), he had nine rebounds and a season-high eight assists. That’s the good news.

The bad news is Embiid’s status for future games, including Boston on Thursday, is up in the air. While he played through it on Monday, the medical staff may want to give his finger a chance to heal without the pounding of basketball getting in the way. Both Embiid and coach Brett Brown said that they didn’t know what the big man’s status would be going forward.

It would suck to lose Embiid for a showdown game Thursday night, but the fact he came back out Monday showed the kind of toughness that will make him even more of a legend in Philly.

2) Nikola Jokic drops career-high 47 on Atlanta in Denver win. The Atlanta Hawks are bad at defense, third-worst in the NBA. Nikola Jokic is very good at offense and has been rounding into top form in recent weeks.

Combine those two things and you get a 47-point night out of Jokic, a new career-high for him.

Jokic owned the game. He got those 47 points on a very efficient 16-of-25 shooting, hitting 4-of-8 from three (and going 11-of-16 from the free-throw line).

When Jokic is engaged and active like that, the Nuggets are tough to beat, and they knocked off the Hawks 123-115. Will Barton added 28 for Denver.

3) Trae Young needs to be in the All-Star Game. The Atlanta Hawks are a terrible basketball team. It’s a verifiable fact. Yet their sophomore point guard Trae Young leads the Eastern Conference fan All-Star Game voting.

And I’m good with that. He probably will get my vote to be a starter as well.

The All-Star Game is an exhibition, a showcase. It’s cotton candy. It’s as serious as a Kevin Hart monologue — we just want to sit back and be entertained. No thinking or defense involved. Trae Young entertains. He is a walking highlight reel. This is from the loss to Denver Monday.

He drains shots like this almost every night.

Young puts up numbers (28.9 points and 8.4 assists per game), and while we could discuss his defensive shortcomings or debate just how good the Hawks can ultimately be building around him, that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the fluff entertainment that is the All-Star Game.

Put Trae Young in the All-Star Game because he will put on a show.