NBA Wrap: Nets deal Heat second straight loss

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NBA Wrap: Nets deal Heat second straight loss

NEW YORK -- Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson scored 19 points each, and the Brooklyn Nets ended years of futility against the Miami Heat and sent the NBA champions to their first losing streak in 10 months with a 101-100 victory Friday night.

Pierce and Johnson both hit two free throws in the final seconds as the Heat were trying to pull off a comeback. Instead, they fell to 1-2 and have dropped consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 8 and 10.

The Heat got Dwyane Wade back after he missed Wednesday's loss in Philadelphia, and he scored 21 points. LeBron James led Miami with 26.

The Nets ended a 13-game skid against the Heat with their first victory since March 20, 2009, before Miami's Big Three got together and when the Nets were still playing in East Rutherford, N.J. -- two homes ago (see full recap).

Timberwolves roll over Thunder
MINNEAPOLIS -- Two games into the season, and it is clear that Russell Westbrook's knee injury has taken the swagger and ferocity right out of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The last team in the NBA that will have any sympathy for the Thunder is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are showing signs of putting everything together after two years of devastating injuries.

Kevin Love had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Ricky Rubio added 14 points, 10 assists and five steals to lead the Timberwolves to a 100-81 victory over the Thunder on Friday night.

Nikola Pekovic had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota and Corey Brewer led a spirited defensive effort against Kevin Durant. Derrick Williams had 10 points and seven rebounds for Minnesota after not playing in the opener.

Durant scored 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting and had trouble finding clean looks against a Timberwolves team that was supposed to be porous on defense. But the Thunder shot 35 percent and turned the ball over 21 times to get run out of the building (see full recap).

Duncan-less Spurs edge Lakers
LOS ANGELES -- Tony Parker had 24 points and six assists, Kawhi Leonard added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs survived without Tim Duncan for a 91-85 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.

Parker hit the tiebreaking jumper with 2:13 to play, and Manu Ginobili capped his 20-point performance off the bench with a key defensive play and a dunk in the final seconds of the Spurs' road opener.

Duncan sat out after bruising his chest in Wednesday's season-opening victory over Memphis. Boris Diaw hit a key 3-pointer with 1:40 to play and scored 14 points while starting in his place.

Pau Gasol had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who finished their season-opening string of three games in four days with two losses after their season-opening win over the Clippers (see full recap).

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."