NBA Wrap: Pistons win Loyer's 1st game as coach

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NBA Wrap: Pistons win Loyer's 1st game as coach

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Brandon Jennings scored 21 points, and the Detroit Pistons beat the San Antonio Spurs 109-100 on Monday night in John Loyer's first game as interim coach.

Detroit abruptly fired Maurice Cheeks on Sunday after only 50 games as coach, but although they've been unimpressive for the most part this season, the Pistons have played better lately. The comfortable win over the Spurs was Detroit's fifth in seven games.

Rodney Stuckey scored 20 points for the Pistons, and Greg Monroe added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Marco Belinelli led the Spurs with 20 points (see full recap).

Streaking Rockets top Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS -- Dwight Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds, and the surging Houston Rockets used a fourth-quarter push to hold off the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-89 Monday night for their sixth consecutive victory.

Chandler Parsons had 20 points and James Harden scored 19 for the Rockets, who have won six straight for the first time since taking seven in a row from Jan. 13-23, 2012.

Back after missing one game with a bruised left quadriceps, Kevin Love led Minnesota with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Chase Budinger had 15 points and Alexey Shved scored 11 off the bench for the Timberwolves, who have lost four straight and six of seven (see full recap).

Lowry, Raptors beat Pelicans
TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry had 19 points and 12 assists, Patrick Patterson scored a season-high 22 and the Toronto Raptors beat the New Orleans Pelicans 108-101 on Monday night for their third straight victory.

DeMar DeRozan also had 22 points, Terrence Ross added 14 and Tyler Hansbrough scored 12 for Toronto, which has won five consecutive meetings and seven of eight against New Orleans. The first-place Raptors moved three games ahead of Brooklyn in the Atlantic Division by winning for the ninth time in 11 home games.

Tyreke Evans had 23 points and 10 assists, and Anthony Davis scored 19 for the Pelicans, who lost their second straight and have dropped four consecutive games in Toronto. Brian Roberts had 18 points for New Orleans, and Eric Gordon 10 (see full recap).

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.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.