With game on the line, Turner wanted the shot


With game on the line, Turner wanted the shot

The shot went up and the buzzer went off, and the ball bounced around for a while. Everyone watched and waited. It bounced three times. It felt like forever.

“It felt like 150 times it bounced, man,” Evan Turner said.

He was the one who put the shot up. The Sixers were down one in overtime when he drove to the basket and let the ball go as timed expired.

“It was up there,” Turner said, “and I was just thinking about my reaction if it didn’t go in -- who I was going to punch, you know? That’s all I was really doing. Thank the Lord it went in and I’m glad we won.”

They did win. Turner didn’t have to punch anyone. Thank the Lord for that, too.

Sixers 121, Nets 120 (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers lost seven games in a row before beating the Nets at the Wells Fargo Center Friday evening. That unfortunate and often-ugly streak included an abject beating by the same Nets team in Brooklyn on Monday. The Nets won that game by 36 points. The Sixers won this one by one point. They’ll take it. They needed it.

“It’s easy to get deflated when you lose and lose the way we did the last two games,” head coach Brett Brown said. “It’s such an up-and-down world we live in with the Philadelphia 76ers.”

It has been less up and more down for them this season -- except in overtime games. They’ve played five of those and won four -- half their win total this season.

“It’s up and down, it’s up and down,” Brown continued. “I feel like my job, and I try to coach myself, is to try to stay even and always remember what we’re doing. We needed to get that win, I felt like for the sanity of the group, keeping our group together, holding hope. For those reasons, as the ball is hanging on the rim, and it decides to fall in for us, given where we are, that is an important win for us.”

It was. And it almost didn’t happen. Late in overtime, Paul Pierce hit a three-pointer to put the Nets up by one. It was one of four three-pointers that Pierce hit, and one of 15 threes that Brooklyn made as a team. The Sixers are not good at defending the three-pointer. You may have heard. Something called Mirza Teletovic hit six threes all by himself for the Nets.

“The young guys continue to not realize that this is the NBA and the players are pretty good shooters,” Brown said with a laugh after the game. “Teletovic, we lose him like he’s one of my assistants. You look. We just got done playing him. He’s a really good shooter. He’s like a mini-Dirk [Nowitzki]. There should be fear and anxiety of ‘Where is he?’ And then, even Michael [Carter-Williams] realizing, ‘Hey, it’s Paul Pierce.’ You know?”

We know.

Brown said it all with a smile because why wouldn’t he? The coaching and the criticism could be saved for another time. The Sixers were busy enjoying a feeling they haven’t experienced too often of late.

Carter-Williams returned. He had 15 points and 10 assists. Thaddeus Young had 25 points and six rebounds. And then there was Turner. He saved them. And here’s the other thing: He asked to do it. He wanted the ball and the last shot.

During the timeout before the final out-of-bounds play, Turner asked Brown to call a play for him. Brown obliged.

“I got a lucky couple of rolls,” Turner said about the game-winner. “I must have done the right thing in practice or something and the basketball gods looked out for me.”

Turner had a game-high 29 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists. It was his night --but, more than that, it was their night.

“It’s a great team win,” Turner said. “We’re just glad to finally win.”

Glad to finally win. Yes. That’s a good place to end the story. That’s how Turner ended theirs.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as he liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).