NBA Wrap: Heat take 2-1 series lead over Bulls


NBA Wrap: Heat take 2-1 series lead over Bulls

The Sixers made their first big acquisition of the offseason on Friday, agreeing to a deal with Sam Hinkie to become president and general manager, according to a league source (see story).

That decision means the Sixers' front office is moving toward embracing the analytics wave in professional sports (see story).

Now let's look at Friday's NBA playoff action:

Heat battle past Bulls
CHICAGO -- LeBron James came on strong down the stretch to finish with 25 points, Chris Bosh added 20 points and 19 rebounds, and the Miami Heat followed up the most lopsided playoff win in franchise history with a 104-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Norris Cole scored 18, and the Heat pulled out a tight win after blasting the Bulls 115-78 on Wednesday.

This time, Chicago refused to go quietly. Never mind that the Bulls were coming off the worst playoff loss in franchise history. Put aside the fact that the ailing Luol Deng and injured Kirk Hinrich (calf) remained sidelined, not to mention Derrick Rose, or that Nazr Mohammed got ejected in the second quarter for shoving James to the floor.

The Heat simply had too much in the end.

James hit just 6 of 17 shots and even got blocked on a layup by Nate Robinson in the third quarter. But the four-time MVP came through down the stretch, scoring 12 in the fourth (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Vets lead Spurs to 2-1 series lead
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Tony Parker scored 25 of his 32 points in a sizzling first half, Tim Duncan added 23 points and 10 rebounds and the San Antonio Spurs quieted the hot-shooting Golden State Warriors in a 102-92 victory Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

Kawhi Leonard finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, and Parker added five assists and five boards to help the Spurs wrestle back home-court advantage from the Warriors after withstanding a brief fourth-quarter rally.

San Antonio outshot Golden State 50.6 to 39.3 percent and curbed streaky shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for the first time in the series.

Thompson scored 17 points on 7-of-20 shooting, while Curry had 16 points on 5 of 17 from the floor. Andrew Bogut added 11 points and 12 rebounds for Golden State but was saddled with foul trouble most of the second half (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

CAMDEN, N.J. — Jahlil Okafor has been patient with his right knee. He was disciplined with restrictions and recovery during the preseason, recognizing the goal of being ready for opening night. 

At the same time, once he got back on the court he wanted more. Okafor played eight minutes Friday against the Heat, his first game since Feb. 28 before undergoing surgery to repair a right meniscus tear. 

“I don’t think I’m going to do eight again,” Okafor said Sunday. “They kind of heard me complain about that a lot. I think it’ll definitely be more than eight, but it won’t be much more.” 

Okafor has been limited since aggravating his knee during the final day of training camp. He practiced “to tolerance” on Sunday, according to the Sixers. Okafor did not participate in the team scrimmage and worked out individually with assistant coach/head of strength and conditioning Todd Wright. 

The second-year big man did not feel soreness on Saturday following the game. On Sunday, he felt “kind of stiff” during practice. Brett Brown has been watching Okafor’s movement closely. While Okafor considered it to be “good,” Brown was a tougher critic. 

“I think he looked OK,” Brown said. “He didn’t look great to me today. I’ll give him a B-minus … It’s always how do you move? East, west, north, south, how do you move?” 

Okafor scored four points and had one rebound, one assist, one block and one turnover in Miami. He focused on his defense during the game. When he subbed out, he checked in with Elton Brand on the bench to receive feedback from the now-retired veteran. Okafor plans to continue to tap into him for advice throughout the season. 

With opening night three days away, Okafor still plans to be on the floor for it.

“I am optimistic about it,” he said. “I should be ready to go.” 

Robert Covington sprained his right ankle in Friday’s game and did not practice Sunday. Brown anticipates Covington, who has been starting at small forward, also will be ready to go Wednesday. 

“I do (expect him to play),” Brown said. “But we won’t know that for sure yet.” 

Sixers waive retired Elton Brand
The Sixers waived Brand on Sunday, making his retirement official. Brand announced his intentions to walk away from the game Thursday. The Sixers' request of waivers was a procedural step. The roster currently stands at 19. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said last week (see story). “But it’s definitely time now.” 

Brand celebrated his career with his teammates at Komodo in Miami on Thursday night ahead of their preseason finale against the Heat. 

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.