6 observations from Sixers-Magic

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6 observations from Sixers-Magic

The Sixers couldn’t hang on to a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter or a five-point lead with 1:30 left in the first overtime, but they didn’t let a second five-point lead slip away in the second overtime.

A 126-125 victory in double overtime over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center stopped the Sixers’ four-game losing streak (see Instant Replay).

Here are a few interesting items we saw during Tuesday night’s epic:

1. Deep impact
Spencer Hawes continued his solid shooting from beyond the three-point arc by drilling three more on Tuesday night. It was the 18th straight game in which Hawes hit at least one three-pointer, which is the eighth-longest streak in team history.

Hawes still has a long way to go to catch Dana Barros for the longest streak in team history.

Dana Barros - 58
Kyle Korver - 28
Jodie Meeks - 25
Korver - 25
Barros - 22
Korver - 22
Allen Iverson - 21
Korver - 21
Hersey Hawkins - 20
Meeks - 19
Spencer Hawes - 18
Korver - 18

Meanwhile, Thad Young knocked down a three-pointer in his fourth straight game, which isn’t too bad for a guy who attempted just 12 three-pointers in the last two seasons combined. During the 2009-10 season, Young had a 10-game three-pointer streak.

2. What rust?
Young has been back for four games and hasn’t shown a bit of rust after a missing three games and nine days following the death of his nephew. Young logged 48 minutes and scored 25 points on 10-for-20 shooting on Tuesday night. During his layoff, Young said he did not touch a basketball and only worked out in the weight room in his home.

In the last four games, Young is averaging 22.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

On Tuesday, Young hit a clutch layup with 33.8 seconds left in regulation to give the Sixers a three-point lead. In the first overtime, Young rattled home a three-pointer with 2:04 left to give the Sixers a seemingly insurmountable lead.

3. Role reversal
Rookie Hollis Thompson started for the second straight game, pushing James Anderson to a bench role. However, Anderson’s minutes haven’t dipped too drastically. As the first man off the bench for head coach Brett Brown, Anderson turned in 25 minutes and scored 19 points. He also hit a big three-pointer with 7:40 left in the fourth quarter to push the Sixers’ lead to seven points, as well as a diving rebound with 90 seconds left in double overtime.

Thompson, a defensive-minded player, did a nice job guarding E’Twaun Moore. The rookie also hit two quick three-pointers in the first quarter. Thompson also had a nifty tip in from the weak side to extend the Sixers’ lead to eight with 5:30 to go in the game.

4. More of the same for MCW
Fresh off being named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, Michael Carter-Williams continued to post big numbers, nabbing his first career triple-double. With 27 points, a career-high 12 rebounds and 10 assists, Carter-Williams got the triple-double and his sixth double-double of the season.

Carter-Williams was squared up against fellow rookie, Victor Oladipo, who was drafted No. 2 overall last June, nine spots ahead of MCW.

Oladipo scored 26 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists for dueling triple-doubles by the rookies.

5. Shooting from the hip
How well did the Magic shoot the ball on Tuesday? Try this: Orlando missed 10 of the last 16 shots it took to close out the first half and still were shooting 57 percent from the field at that point of the game.

The Magic went 11 for 16 in the first quarter and made five straight to open the second quarter. They did not miss two shots in a row until there was 3:40 left in the first half.

The Magic pulled some crazy shots out of their hats. Glen Davis hit a three-pointer with 12 seconds left in the game to force overtime. It was Davis’ first three-pointer since April of 2012 and only the seventh of his career.

Additionally, Aaron Afflalo hit for a career-high 43 points with five threes.

Not bad for a team that was playing the second game of a back-to-back.

6. Blow the whistle
A few of the Sixers players did not appear very pleased with the officiating work from referees, Marc Davis, Scott Wall and James Williams. Evan Turner (24 points, five assists, six rebounds) had an ongoing conversation with the officials throughout the game and Hawes was visibly upset after several calls.

Rookie Brandon Davies was whistled for a technical foul during the fourth quarter.

Even referee Davis got into it by staring down Turner seemingly looking for an excuse to call a technical foul.

Yes, players complain about foul calls … a lot. But even by the typical standard, the chirping and apparent displeasure over the refs’ work was notable.

And yes, it’s rare to see a ref in the NBA take a confrontational stance like Davis did. NBA refs are not like Major League Baseball umpires. At least not usually.

P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

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P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

Thirty-five years is more than enough time to get a sense of who a person is and how they do their job. That is how long Brett Brown has known P.J. Carlesimo, which made it easy for the Sixers' head coach to have interest in adding him to the staff. 

With Mike D’Antoni leaving to coach the Rockets, the Sixers had a vacancy at the associate head coach position. On Sunday, though, Carlesimo decided not to join the Sixers’ staff and remain a television analyst.

“He was a natural fit for me,” Brown said Monday following a pre-draft workout. “For family reasons, he just couldn’t do it. We talked a lot and it was an emotional thing from P.J.’s perspective. 

“P.J. is a very close friend of mine and he made that decision for family reasons and I understand it. The phone call really didn’t surprise me knowing what I know of him and how he views his family, having to travel across the country the whole time.”

Like D’Antoni, Carlesimo has a lengthy résumé on the NBA sidelines. He was a head coach for parts of nine seasons and worked five as an assistant coach. Brown called working with D’Antoni “a real learning experience,” and an ideal candidate would have similar experience to help both the staff and the young roster.

“That role will be filled with maybe that type of flavor,” Brown said. “I know this, we are still in a complete development mode. We still have a bunch of 20 year olds, guys that could be with us for a long time, but they’re not old, that we have to make sure that the city and me, we remember that. We still need people and teachers that can teach and coach and establish relationships. 

“So you tick boxes on relationships, teaching, development, those still rule the day. If you can do that with some veteran wisdom and some type of experiences like Mike’s, say, or P.J. had, well then you’re really knocking it out of the park.”

Coaching vacancies are coveted at this level. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, a revamped front office, and a 125,000-square foot training facility under construction, the Sixers have enhanced the appeal of the role. 

"My phone is very active, as you can imagine," Brown said. "I think it’s a highly attractive position. … Like our draft picks, I too spend a lot of time studying who will be the best fit for me and our program."

NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

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NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 210

School: Kentucky

It's tough for a Kentucky star freshman to fly under the radar, but that's exactly what Murray did last season. While Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine dominated the spotlight, Murray was quietly as good as anyone in the country for the second half of the season.

In Kentucky's final 14 games, Murray averaged just under 24 points and shot better than 46 percent from three-point range. For the season, he averaged an even 20 points and connected on 41 percent of his three-point attempts. He also chipped in an impressive 5.2 rebounds. 

Kentucky lost some games early and fell toward the bottom of the Top 25 rankings. But Murray continued to produce and played his best basketball down the stretch, lifting the Wildcats to 27 wins and SEC regular season and tournament titles. 

As good as he was during his only college season, Murray projects to be an even better pro. He's the best guard prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft. 

Strengths
Shooting the ball. He has the best shooting stroke of any prospect in this year's draft. Murray's form on his jump shot is textbook with the results to match. He's able to get his shot off quickly and has range well beyond the NBA three-point line. Murray's outside shot is his greatest asset. Shooters are always in high demand and have never been more valuable in the NBA. The defending champion Warriors offer all the proof you need of that.

However Murray isn't a one-dimensional player. He can get to the basket off the dribble and is a terrific finisher around the basket. He also developed a polished mid-range game during his time at Kentucky. Murray also plays hard — a characteristic that NBA executives monitor closely. He rarely takes a possession off and competes hard on the glass for a perimeter player, as evidenced by his five rebounds per game last season.

Weaknesses
Murray doesn't have a defined position on the NBA level. He's not a true point guard and isn't quite big enough to be considered a prototypical shooting guard. While NBA talent evaluators are concerned by this, I don't necessarily view it as a weakness. Murray projects as a combo guard, capable of playing point guard but also comfortable away from the ball. He's similar to the Trail Blazers' C.J. McCollum in that regard.

Murray isn't an elite-level athlete and by no means is he a great defender. He'll struggle to stay in front of the more dynamic perimeter players in the NBA. But he has a very good work ethic and should be able to improve defensively.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Extremely well. The 76ers need shooters. That need will only become exaggerated if and when they draft Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick. With Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, the Sixers have a significantly frontcourt-heavy nucleus. They need quality guards to balance out their lineup.

The much-discussed hypothetical trade that would send Okafor to the Celtics for the No. 3 pick makes a ton of sense for the 76ers. They could clear out space in their frontcourt rotation as well as acquire Murray with that third pick. Murray would flourish playing alongside Simmons, knocking down the open jump shots that Simmons creates.    

NBA comparison
I see a mix of Bradley Beal and Eric Gordon in Murray's game. Beal and Gordon have similar builds to Murray and both entered the NBA as exceptional shooters. All three are natural scorers who have no problem getting their own shot on the NBA level.

Draft projection
Murray will be a high-end lottery pick. He could go as high as No. 3 to the Celtics and shouldn't fall any lower than No. 6 to the Pelicans.  

Western Conference Finals: Warriors-Thunder ready for Game 7

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Western Conference Finals: Warriors-Thunder ready for Game 7

OAKLAND, Calif. -- After a record 73 wins and a memorable Game 6 comeback on the road, the Golden State Warriors' goal of getting back to the NBA Finals and defending their title comes down to Game 7 at home against the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder.

All along, the Warriors have said the numerous team milestones and personal accomplishments they set during this special season won't matter a bit unless they repeat as champions.

They need one more victory to become the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 postseason deficit.

"I've learned that our players are tough, they're mentally tough," Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said Sunday, when his team took a day off from film and practice. "I don't know if I really learned that. I already knew that. But they've firmly confirmed that. It's been a great comeback. Now we still have to play. We still have another game."

Kerr just wanted his Warriors to grab back some momentum from Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Now, they have it, all right, heading into the decisive game of the Western Conference finals Monday night after winning two straight.

When his team won Game 5 on Thursday night, MVP Stephen Curry hollered "We ain't going home!" -- and Golden State wants no part of the Thunder having the last say in the Warriors' summer plans.

"We got a big one last night to stay alive, and now we've got some momentum. But it can work in reverse," Kerr said. "One game changes everything, and we've got to come out and play our game and play well to finish the series out."

Golden State hardly considers this a gimmee just because the team is playing at deafening Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost just three times this season. They have had their problems against Durant, Russell Westbrook and the towering Thunder.

Oklahoma City is fueled by trying to reach its first NBA Finals since losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012. James and Cleveland are waiting on Monday's winner.

"It's going to be a hard game. If we thought tonight was hard, Game 7's going to be even tougher," Curry said. "Everybody on both sides of the ball is going to leave it all out on the floor. It's win or go home. So we can't expect just because we're at home that we can just show up and win."

As has been the case all playoffs with Curry ailing, Golden State got a huge performance from Klay Thompson. He made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points in a 108-101 win at Oklahoma City on Saturday night, and will need an encore Monday.

"Lot of people probably counted us out," Thompson said.

Kerr said last week that his group might be different than the all the other teams that have tried to come back from 3-1 down: because the Warriors won it all last year.

The Thunder certainly would have preferred to close out the series at home over traveling back across the country to the Bay Area for the deciding game.

Yet they never expected it to be easy against the 2015 champs.

"This is what you dream about, getting this opportunity. We've got to take advantage of it," Durant said Sunday. "Go up into their building, and it's going to be great atmosphere. ... No matter where you play, you've still got to play. That's how we look at it."

That's partly because first-year Thunder coach Billy Donovan has talked to his team about the mentality it takes to win in a hostile venue like raucous, sold-out Oracle Arena, and Oklahoma City came in and did it in Game 1.

"We lost Game 6, and it was a tough, hard-fought game," Donovan said. "We're disappointed about not having a different outcome. But we haven't lost the series, and we have an opportunity again. I think just being around these guys, they're a resilient group."

Curry and the Warriors expect another entertaining, great game.

From an ankle injury that sidelined him in the first round against Houston to a sprained right knee and puffy elbow, Curry has dealt with his share of pain this postseason. He has to push that aside for what he hopes is one more game this series and then a second straight trip to the Finals and another championship.

"I actually kind of like it, because you understand the moment of the playoffs and just kind of gets you going," he said. "I'll be ready to go and give it everything I've got for Game 7."