NBA Wrap: Rose hurts hamstring in Bulls' victory

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NBA Wrap: Rose hurts hamstring in Bulls' victory

CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose had 16 points before leaving in the fourth quarter with a right hamstring injury, and the Chicago Bulls pulled away from the Cleveland Cavaliers for a 96-81 victory on Monday night.

Rose grimaced after he drove down the lane for a twisting layup with 3:39 left. He remained in the game for a short time before he was pulled for Kirk Hinrich, and a trainer then attended to the 2011 NBA MVP at the end of the bench.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said it looks like Rose has a "minor" hamstring injury. He said Rose will be re-evaluated on Tuesday.

Kyrie Irving had 16 points for Cleveland, but was 5 for 19 from the field in his first game against Rose. The Cavaliers committed 20 turnovers, leading to 29 points for the Bulls (see full recap).

Rockets outlast Raptors in 2OT
HOUSTON -- Jeremy Lin scored 31 points off the bench, Dwight Howard had 18 points and 24 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets beat the Toronto Raptors 110-104 in double-overtime to snap a two-game losing streak.

Lin shot 10 of 17 from the field and hit 8 of 9 from the free throw line. James Harden finished with 26 points and 10 assists.

Howard was just 4 of 12 at the foul line. Chandler Parsons had 18 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Rockets, who could not hold a double-digit, second-half lead for the second straight game.

Rudy Gay led the Raptors with 29 points and 10 rebounds but shot 11 of 37 from the field. DeMar DeRozan added 22 points, but he struggled as well, finishing 6 of 25 (see full recap).

Clippers edge Timberwolves
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin had 25 points and 10 rebounds, Chris Paul added 21 points and the Los Angeles Clippers held off the Minnesota Timberwolves 109-107 on Monday night after Nikola Pekovic missed a tip-in at the buzzer.

Love missed first and Pekovic came up just short to end the Wolves' two-game winning streak.

Paul had 11 assists, Jamal Crawford scored 18 points and DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 11 rebounds to help the Clippers improve to 3-0 at home.

Kevin Martin scored 30 points for the Wolves, who lost their sixth straight against the Clippers.

Pekovic had 25 points, and Love had 23 points and 19 rebounds (see full recap).

Pacers rip Grizz to stay unbeaten
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored 23 points and Lance Stephenson had the first triple-double of his career, leading the perfect Indiana Pacers to a 95-79 victory Monday night over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Indiana became the NBA's seventh team to open 8-0 since 2000 -- two more wins than the franchise's previous best start. And they followed a familiar script in the battle between last season's conference runner-ups by dominating the glass, dominating the second half and divvying up top honors.

Stephenson finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists. George Hill scored 13 points and Roy Hibbert added five more blocks to his NBA-leading total.

Memphis was led by Marc Gasol with 15 points and Zach Randolph with 12 (see full recap).

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

BOX SCORE

The Sixers began the season looking lost without Joel Embiid. Now they are finding ways to win when he is not on the court. 

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion in the second half of Friday’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see story). He was sidelined for the decisive 8:50 of the game (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers trailed, 81-78, when he subbed out for the second time because of the injury, and outscored the Trail Blazers, 15-11, from that point on.

So how was this team that battled with inconsistency and reliance on Embiid able to pull out a comeback win punctuated in the final seconds? Ask the Sixers and they’ll give varying answers, a sign they are getting the job done in multiple ways and aren’t relying on just one key to success.

The most glaring difference was the hero of the game. Robert Covington drained two three-pointers in the final 40 seconds. His trey from Dario Saric with 38.2 remaining cut the Trail Blazers' lead to just one, 91-90. With 4.5 to go, he nailed the game-winning three from T.J. McConnell to give the Sixers their eighth victory in 10 games (see feature highlight).

“That’s resilient Cov,” Nerlens Noel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a bad shot; he’ll pull it in your face. That’s the confidence he has and that’s the confidence we need him to have. He steps up and makes two big shots like that, that’s enough said. He won us that game.”

Critics have called out Covington’s up-and-down performance from three all season. (They’ve made their feelings known with loud boos at home games.) Covington shot 5 for 12 behind the arc on the night but his 2 for 3 performance in the fourth was what mattered most. 

“I am a fighter, that’s what I have been my whole life,” he said. “Just because fans are booing me at one point doesn't mean anything. I just keep working. I am not going to let that deteriorate my game. It goes in one ear and out the other.”

Without Embiid in the game, the Sixers had to rely on a total team effort. After he went to the bench, the final points were scored by a combination of Covington, Gerald Henderson, Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and McConnell.

“Ball movement,” head coach Brett Brown said. “We had 25 assists out of 36 made baskets. It’s not like we’re going to give the ball to Damian Lillard (guard for the Blazers). That’s not who we are. Whatever we do, it has to be done by committee, by a group, by a team. It’s even more exposed when Joel isn’t in the game. They did that. Unlikely people ended up with the ball sometimes in unlikely spots. … You have to move the ball. That’s what the team has learned without Joel.” 

Several of the players on the court in critical moments were from the second unit. Since Brown locked in on his rotation, the reserves don’t have a drop-off in confidence from the starters. 

“It’s the mentality,” Covington said. “Everybody has that swagger about us right now because once Joel comes out, the next person steps in and fills that void. It’s a matter of that contagious feeling that trickles into the second unit that’s making us that much more valuable.”

Then there's always defense, the foundation of any solid NBA team and a focal point for the Sixers. Noel saw that as the difference-maker when subbing in and out. The Trail Blazers scored just two points in the final 1:56. 

"The second unit goes there and does a great job guarding the yard, not letting up easy baskets," Noel said. "The offensive side is fluid motion. Guys get shots, pick-and-roll, it opens up open threes for guys, driving lines, pump fakes, it’s a great unity."

Embiid liked what he saw from a distance. He will not travel with the team to their game on Saturday against the Hawks in Atlanta. 

"I’m just happy we’ve been closing out games, and the main thing I’m really happy [about] is they’ve been able to do it without me," he said. "That’s going to give us a lot of confidence when I’m missing back-to-backs. My teammates are going to have more confidence to come in and play the same way."

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Of the nearly 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Joel Embiid was seemingly the least concerned when he came down and injured his left knee. 

Fans held their breath and the Sixers looked on anxiously as the standout big man got up in visible discomfort and limped off the court (see highlights). Embiid, however, wasn’t worried. 

“I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way,” he said after the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see Instant Replay). “I’m great. The knee’s fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good.”

Embiid ran off the court on his own, was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and was cleared to return to the game. He aggravated his knee again driving to the basket and this time, the team held him out to be careful.

“The review is that he hyperextended his left knee,” head coach Brett Brown said. “There was a minor tweak again, and for precautionary reasons only, the doctors did not allow him to return. There will be more information given as we know it. But quickly, that's what we know.”

Embiid understood the team’s decision to sideline him for the final 8:50 while the Sixers went on a comeback run (see feature highlight). He still finished the game with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, five assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes.

“Obviously those guys, the front office, they care about my future, so they just shut it down,” Embiid said. “But I was fine.”

Embiid will not travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks (pre-scheduled rest). He expects to be available for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Clippers. 

"You know how tough he is," Nerlens Noel said. "If it isn’t anything serious, he’ll be right back. At the end of the game, he was telling me was he was feeling great and there was no pain. He wanted to come back in the game … he’s a trooper. He always gives it his all and always plays hard."

Injuries to any player are worrisome, especially a franchise centerpiece with two years of rehab (foot) behind him. The Sixers have been methodical and cautious with his playing time. Embiid is on a 28-minute restriction and can play in only one game of a back-to-back series. 

The same player who is so closely watched, though, also plays with sky-high energy that doesn’t have a brake pedal. 

“You're concerned,” Brown said of seeing Embiid get injured. “It's clear to all of us that he plays with such reckless abandon. I think that we're all going to be seeing this and feeling this regularly. From flying into stands to stalking somebody in the open court to block a shot to the collision he often is in trying to draw fouls. That's just who he is. 

“I think that as he just plays more basketball and continues to grow, to not necessarily avoid those situations, just to perhaps manage them a little bit more. Right now, he's just a young guy that's just playing that doesn't know what he doesn't know and has a fearless approach underneath all that attitude.”

Fearless is an accurate description considering Embiid's trouble-free reaction to the awkward way his leg bent (he hadn’t seen a replay). 

“I kind of had that in college, too,” he said. “I think I’m flexible, so it’s supposed to happen.”