Instant Replay: Sixers 95, Celtics 94

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Instant Replay: Sixers 95, Celtics 94

BOX SCORE

BOSTON – The Sixers made sure their first meeting this season with the division rival Boston Celtics was an interesting one.

Evan Turner hit a tough layup in the lane at the buzzer to give the Sixers a 95-94 win over the Celtics. The win snapped a three-game skid for the Sixers and moved their record to 15-31.

Turning point
Kris Humphries missed a wide-open jumper with 11 seconds remaining that would have given the Celtics a three-point lead.

Michael Carter-Williams tracked down the rebound. The Sixers opted not to call a timeout and pushed the ball up the court. After crossing half court, Carter-Williams flipped the ball to Turner and let him take care of the rest.

Turner drove around his defended and hit a leaning layup as time expired for the win. He finished the game with 16 points on 6 of 17 shooting.

Follow the leader
Spencer Hawes carried the scoring load for the Sixers. He scored a team-high 20 points on 7 of 14 from the field, including 4 of 6 from three-point range.

Thaddeus Young added 16 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Massachusetts native Carter-Williams struggled in his return home. The rookie point guard had 10 points on 4 of 14 shooting. He did chip in with seven assists and five rebounds.

Second-year big man Jared Sullinger, freshly named to the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge like MCW, led the Celtics in scoring and rebounds with 24 and 17, respectively. Jeff Green added 18 points for the Celtics.

Stat-egic
The Celtics’ bench dominated the Sixers’ reserves on Wednesday. Boston won the bench battle, 38-20.

Take a bow
James Anderson had 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. He was 5 of 7 from the floor in the game.

What’s next?
The Sixers return home to face the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.

The Hawks are fourth in the Eastern Conference at 23-21, despite leading scorer Al Horford being out for the season with a torn right pectoral muscle.

Point guard Jeff Teague has more than picked up the slack, averaging 16.2 points and 7.3 assists a game.

Former Sixers Lou Williams, Elton Brand and Kyle Korver will be at the Wells Fargo Center to face their former team. Korver averages 12.0 points per game and is shooting 46.1 percent from three-point range. Williams comes off the bench to average 9.6 points a game. Brand is putting up 4.1 points and 3.8 boards a night.

The Hawks beat the Sixers 113-103 on Nov. 15 at Phillips Arena.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA's best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn't dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8 (see full recap).

Scoreboard malfunction, quiet crowd don’t stop Wizards’ rally
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming a sluggish start in front of a sparse, silent crowd and with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Nuggets 92-85 on Thursday night, thanks mainly to Bradley Beal's 26 points and Denver's season-high 29 turnovers.

John Wall scored only 15 points one game after a career-best 52, but nine came in the fourth quarter for Washington, which trailed by as many as 14 in the first half.

With starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay inactive because of what the team said was a sprained right ankle, the Nuggets went 5 1/2 minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

In that final period, they had 10 of their turnovers and shot 1 for 14 on 3-pointers -- including 0 for 4 in one last-minute possession (see full recap).

Gasol, clutch free throws lift Grizzlies over
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game's final six points to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).