Trey Burke

James Harden’s 44-point triple-double hands 76ers fourth straight loss

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HOUSTON — James Harden had triple-double with 44 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 118-108 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

On a “Flashback Friday” night in which the Rockets wore their retro ketchup-and-mustard uniforms from their back-to-back NBA title days in the mid-90s, Harden sported a retro look of his own, with a white headband and cornrows.

With Philadelphia threatening late, Harden knocked down a deep step-back 3-pointer over Josh Richardson with 1:17 left in the game that put Houston up 10. On the next possession, he found Clint Capela with an alley-oop for a thunderous dunk.

Capela was a point shy of his career high in scoring, finishing with a season-best 30 points and 14 rebounds.

The 76ers have lost four straight, their longest skid since dropping five in a row in Dec. 2017.

Ben Simmons led Philadelphia with 29 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists and four blocks, which matched a career-high. Tobias Harris scored 24 points.

After missing Philadelphia’s 115-97 loss with a sore left knee on Tuesday, Joel Embiid added 20 points and 12 rebounds.

The Rockets improved to 13-4 at home this season and have won their last four games at the Toyota Center.

The 76ers led 27-20 after the first quarter, dominating the paint and keeping Houston’s shooters in check. With less than five seconds remaining in the quarter, Harden was fouled by Trey Burke in the process of making a deep 3-pointer, but the shot was called off, infuriating Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who argued with officials during the break.

Early in the second quarter, Russell Westbrook received a technical foul for arguing a foul call against him after tangling with Embiid for a rebound.

Houston’s shooting improved after the first quarter, and the Rockets led 60-53 at halftime.

Westbrook had a rough stretch in the third quarter during which he missed an open, two-handed dunk in transition and immediately followed the play with a missed layup. Westbrook finished the game shooting 9 of 22 from the field with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Houston led 96-84 entering the fourth quarter.

The Rockets have a lengthy four-day break before visiting Atlanta on Wednesday night, the start of a stretch when they will play five games in seven days.

Philadelphia drops third straight, this time to Luka-less Mavericks, 117-98

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PHILADELPHIA — Kristaps Porzingis had 22 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 27 points and the Dallas Mavericks handed the Philadelphia 76ers their second straight home loss, 117-98 on Friday night.

The Mavericks improved to 11-2 on the road despite playing without second-year star guard Luka Doncic. The 20-year-old missed his third straight game with a right ankle sprain. Doncic, one of the league leaders in minutes, points, rebounds and assists, is averaging 29.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists.

Joel Embiid had 33 points and 17 rebounds for Philadelphia, which lost its third in a row overall. The 76ers were booed for much of the night while falling to 14-2 at home. The 76ers suffered their first home loss on Wednesday, 108-104 to Miami in a contest in which the Heat stifled Philadelphia with a 2-3 zone.

Philadelphia couldn’t solve Dallas’ matchup 2-3 zone, either. Dallas held the 76ers to 29.4% shooting from long range; Philadelphia missed 24 of 34 3-pointers.

Dallas took control in the second quarter, going up by as many as 17. The Mavericks held am 88-77 lead entering the fourth.

Trey Burke, normally not in Philadelphia coach Brett Brown’s rotation, came off the bench and pulled Philadelphia within seven points, 94-87, with seven minutes remaining. But the Mavericks kept coming offensively, with a Hardaway 3 initiating an 11-6 spurt that ended with a jumper by Jalen Brunson that put Dallas ahead 108-93 with 3:22 left, leading to more boos and chants for the Philadelphia Eagles (the Eagles will host the Dallas Cowboys in an important NFC East divisional game across the street on Sunday).

Porzingis put an exclamation point on the victory with a driving, one-handed jam with 39.3 seconds left.

Sixers’ Trey Burke distances himself from his father’s Instagram trade request

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Benjie Burke, the father of former Michigan star and current Sixers reserve Trey Burke, was just being a dad.  The kind who sees his son’s play through rose-colored dad-glasses and wants a chance for his son to shine. However, the elder Burke took his case to Instagram and wrote in a now-deleted post:

“Man get my dude off this team. Killing him. They will not get out the east without bench scoring. Free TB23 please.”

Tuesday, the younger Burke was trying to distance himself from his dad’s comments. In a

In a statement sent to the Philadelphia Inquirer from Burke (through the Sixers), Burke tried to create some space between his thoughts and his father’s wishes.

Earlier today, I was made aware of my dad’s social media post. While I appreciate the support he’s shown throughout my career, his comments don’t reflect how I feel and we’ve addressed that. My focus is doing whatever I can to help this team win a championship. I appreciate the support this organization, the fans and city of Philadelphia have shown me.

Burke’s dad has a history of this, ask the Utah Jazz.

Burke is playing a limited role off the bench for the Sixers, behind Ben Simmons (who starts at the point) and Raul Neto (and with good reason). Burke is getting just garbage time minutes mostly (like against Brooklyn).

If that were my son, I’d be screaming at the television and ranting to my friends about how my guy needs more run and a chance to show himself. That’s what dad’s do. But put that out on social media and the dynamic changes — now your son has to issue statements because of you. That’s not good. There are lines not to cross, and that is one of them.

Ben Simmons hits another three, scores 34 points to lead 76ers past Cavaliers

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PHILADELPHIA — Ben Simmons hit another 3-pointer, and his coach wants him to keep on firing.

Simmons hit his second career 3 and scored a career-high 34 points, and the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t need Joel Embiid‘s help to rout the Cleveland Cavaliers 141-94 Saturday night.

Simmons made 12 of 14 field goals, including his only 3-point attempt, and hit 9 of 12 free throws in 26 minutes to help Philadelphia improve to 11-0 at home.

“I was locked in,” Simmons said.

Simmons’ jump shot – or lack thereof – has been a hot topic in Philadelphia. He entered the season 0 for 17 from long range.

Coach Brett Brown has repeatedly said shooting is a part of Simmons’ game that will develop with time. After Saturday’s performance, Brown publicly upped the ante and called for more from his All-Star point guard.

“This is what I want,” Brown said. “I want a 3-point shot per game, minimum. … He will be liberated. His world will open up and, in many ways, so will ours.”

Embiid sat out with a left hip contusion.

Darius Garland had 17 points for the Cavaliers, who have lost six in a row and 12 of 13.

“They were going downhill on us all day long,” Cavaliers coach John Beilein said.

Philadelphia has been projected to be an NBA title contender, but the 76ers haven’t been able to consistently field its starting five of Simmons, Embiid, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris and Al Horford. They have only started nine games together due to injuries and Embiid’s two-game suspension for fighting Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns.

The 76ers needed little more than Simmons in a dominant first half that ended with them ahead 77-36.

Simmons attacked the basket often and showed off a rarely seen mid-range game when he drained an 11-foot jumper with 6:04 left in the second quarter. That had 76ers fans cheering, but it was just an appetizer for Simmons.

With 3:41 left in the half, Simmons took a cross-court pass from Trey Burke and knocked down a 3 from the left wing. That send the sold-out crowd into a frenzy, and the roars continued when Simmons finished an alley-oop dunk from Burke on Philadelphia’s ensuing possession.

Simmons received a standing ovation at the next stoppage.

“I’m getting more comfortable learning my spots and just adjusting,” Simmons said. “I’m trying not to force it, trying to play the game I know how to play. Hard work pays off. Stay in the gym and keep working.”

Simmons finished the tremendous four-possession sequence with assists on Philadelphia’s next two trips, first to Horford for a 3-pointer and then to James Ennis III for a jumper.

Finally, Simmons ended the first half scoring with a 9-foot jumper for a 41-point lead entering the break.

 

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.