NBA Wrap: Hot-shooting Clippers top Rockets

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NBA Wrap: Hot-shooting Clippers top Rockets

LOS ANGELES -- J.J. Redick scored 19 of his 26 points in the first half to lead seven players in double figures, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat Houston 137-118 Monday night, handing the Rockets their first loss of the season in Dwight Howard's return to Staples Center.

Chris Paul added 23 points and 17 assists, Jamal Crawford had 21 points, and Blake Griffin scored 18 for the Clippers, who led the entire game and tied a franchise record with 78 points in the first half.

Howard finished with 13 points and nine rebounds after getting roundly booed in his first game in Los Angeles since leaving the Lakers and signing with Houston in the NBA's biggest free agent move last summer (see full recap).

Cavs deal Timberwolves first loss
CLEVELAND -- C.J. Miles scored 19 points, Kyrie Irving added 15 and the Cleveland Cavaliers held off a late rally for a 93-92 victory over Minnesota on Monday night, handing the Timberwolves their first loss of the season.

The Timberwolves nearly erased a 23-point deficit midway through the third quarter to stay unbeaten.

Cleveland led 93-84, but was scoreless over the final 2:43. Kevin Love's basket with 38 seconds remaining cut the lead to one point. Following a miss by Irving with 15 seconds left, the Timberwolves called timeout to set up the last shot. Love, the NBA's leading scorer, missed a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining and the ball was tipped away as time ran out.

Kevin Martin led the Timberwolves with 23 points. Love added 17 points and 13 rebounds (see full recap).

Grizzlies keep Celtics winless
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jerryd Bayless keyed a fourth-quarter rally, scoring all of his 15 points in the period to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a 95-88 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday night.

Bayless was 6 of 7 in the quarter to help Memphis erase a six-point Boston lead with just under 9 minutes to play.

Zach Randolph and Mike Conley also had 15 for Memphis, Conley handing out eight assists. Marc Gasol finished with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and grabbed eight rebounds.

Jeff Green led the Celtics with 22 points, while Jared Sullinger scored 16, going 2 of 3 from outside the arc. Avery Bradley scored 14 and Jordan Crawford finished with 12.

The Celtics fell to 0-4 under rookie coach Brad Stevens (see full recap).

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”