NBA Wrap: Clippers get franchise-record 57th win

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NBA Wrap: Clippers get franchise-record 57th win

As the Sixers' season winds to a close with Wednesday's finale against the Heat, the offseason fun begins. First up, whether or not Michael Carter-Williams will win rookie of the year (see story).

Oh, and there's also the issue of that lottery pick. The 700 Level takes a look at how past teams with the second-worst record fared in the NBA draft lottery.

Only two games took place on the NBA's penultimate night of regular-season play. Here's a wrap:

Clippers win franchise-record 57th game
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin scored 24 points while picking up his 16th technical, and the Los Angeles Clippers led all the way in beating the Denver Nuggets 117-105 on Tuesday night for their franchise-record 57th victory of the season.

Chris Paul had 21 points and 10 assists, and J.J. Redick added 18 points in the Clippers' finale at home, where they went 34-7 for another franchise mark. DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and 16 rebounds.

The win kept the Clippers in the hunt for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They would need to win at Portland and Oklahoma City would need to lose to Detroit on Wednesday night for the Clippers to claim the second spot. Otherwise, they will remain the third seed.

Los Angeles will have to get by without Griffin on the road since his 16th tech triggered a league-mandated one-game suspension.

Kenneth Faried led the Nuggets with 21 points and Aaron Brooks added 19. Timofey Mozgov had 18 points and 11 rebounds as Denver's three-game winning streak ended.

Griffin was assessed the tech with 3:23 left in the second quarter. He swung his right arm around to try to get the ball from Mozgov and hit him in the head. Griffin pleaded his case with the referees to no avail. Unless the league rescinds the tech, he'll sit out (see full recap).

Even without 'Melo, Knicks top Nets
NEW YORK -- Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 16 points and the New York Knicks, playing without the injured Carmelo Anthony, beat the Brooklyn Nets, 109-98, on Tuesday night to win the season series between the city rivals.

The Knicks prevented the Nets from clinching the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and won their third straight in their too-little, too-late strong finish. Amare Stoudemire and J.R. Smith each added 14 points.

Anthony had an MRI exam Tuesday that revealed a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He won't play Wednesday against Toronto, the final game of the first season in his 11-year career that won't end with a playoff berth -- and potentially his last as a member of the Knicks. He has said he will become a free agent in July.

Marcus Thornton scored 24 points for the Nets, who weren't sharp despite playing starters Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. The other starter, Shaun Livingston, remained sidelined with a sprained right big toe.

The Nets still have a magic number of one for finishing fifth. But they could fall to No. 6 if they lose Wednesday in Cleveland and Washington beats Boston.

The Knicks would be in the playoffs themselves if they played against everyone else the way they did against the Nets while winning three romps (see full recap).

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”