NBA Wrap: Blazers drop 12th consecutive game

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NBA Wrap: Blazers drop 12th consecutive game

The Sixers are ready for their disappointing season to end.

Just ask Spencer Hawes.

“It is just going to be good to get it over with,” Hawes said. “With all the expectations we had coming in and then the way the season has gone it will be nice to take the positives going forward and flush the rest of it. It was a tough year on everybody; us [and] the fans, anyone involved with the organization,” (see story).

Now, here's a recap of Tuesday night's action in the NBA:

Blazers lose 12th straight
LOS ANGELES -- Caron Butler scored 18 of his 22 points in the third quarter, and the Los Angeles Clippers routed the Portland Trail Blazers 93-77 on Tuesday night for their sixth straight victory.

Blake Griffin added 16 points, DeAndre Jordan had 10 points and nine rebounds, and Chris Paul had 11 assists for the Pacific Division champions, who finished their home schedule with a 32-9 record. They end the regular season on Wednesday at Sacramento, and another win would ensure the Clippers have home-court advantage to start the playoffs.

Will Barton scored 17 points and Joel Freeland added 13 points for the Blazers, who never led while losing their 12th in a row.

The Clippers were dominant in the paint (46-30) and on the boards (51-33) while wrapping up the season series 3-1 (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Raptors cruise past Hawks
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks want to be well-rested for the playoffs.

They certainly didn't use up any energy Tuesday night.

DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points, Rudy Gay added 22 and the Toronto Raptors ran all over the playoff-bound Hawks, 113-96.

The Raptors made two-thirds of their shots in the first half, sprinting to a 68-51 lead as DeRozan scored 19 points and Gay chipped in with 17. Atlanta went mostly with backups, showing no sense of urgency to claim the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.

"I'm going to err on the side of caution," Hawks coach Larry Drew said.

Atlanta fell into a tie with Chicago for the fifth spot. The teams finish the regular season on Wednesday, with the Hawks traveling to New York to face the Knicks, while the Bulls are home against lowly Washington. Chicago holds the tiebreaker (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

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.”