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

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."