NBA Wrap: Parker, Spurs rout Clippers

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NBA Wrap: Parker, Spurs rout Clippers

The Sixers were off on Thursday, so let's look at the action from around the NBA.

Parker leads Spurs in blowout win
LOS ANGELES -- Tony Parker scored 31 points and the San Antonio Spurs led all the way in beating the Los Angeles Clippers 116-90 on Thursday night for their fifth straight victory and first over the Clippers this season.

The Spurs improved to an NBA-best 22-10 on the road, where they've also won five in a row.

Parker had seven assists and no turnovers in 28 minutes and Danny Green added 15 points. The West-leading Spurs tied their season-best with 59-percent shooting, hit eight 3-pointers and made 22 of 28 free throws. They had lost both previous meetings with the Clippers in November.

Matt Barnes scored 18 points, Blake Griffin had 17 points and Jamal Crawford 15 points as the Clippers' four-game winning streak ended in their first game after the All-Star break. Chris Paul, MVP in Houston last weekend with 20 points and 15 assists, was held to four points on 1-of-6 shooting and three assists.

The Clippers have lost their first game coming out of the break in nine of the last 10 years, including five in a row. They came in trailing the Spurs by 4 1/2 games for the best record in the NBA, but they never got a run going and their defense didn't do much. The biggest excitement during the game was generated by a fan who made a half-court shot during a timeout to win a new car.

The Spurs led by 28 points to start the fourth quarter, when Parker rested and fans hit the exits in droves. The Clippers equaled their worst loss of the season (see full recap).

Heat win ninth straight
CHICAGO -- LeBron James scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and the Miami Heat beat the Chicago Bulls 86-67 Thursday for their season-high ninth straight win.

James also had seven assists in another big performance after ending his franchise-record seven-game streak of scoring at least 30 the previous night in Atlanta.

Dwyane Wade added 17 points, and the Heat took control in the first half, sending the Bulls to their fifth loss in seven games on a night when the Derrick Rose recovery story took another twist.

After saying last week that he wouldn't rush back from his knee injury to play this season if he wasn't ready, Chicago's sidelined superstar had to go into damage control mode after his older brother Reggie blasted the organization in an ESPNChicago.com article for not making a move before Thursday's trade deadline.

Things didn't get much better for the Bulls once the game started.

Nate Robinson scored 14 points, Carlos Boozer had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Joakim Noah added 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but he also committed four of the Bulls' season-high 27 turnovers (see full recap).

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Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”