Sixers ride Anderson, Wroten in overtime win

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Sixers ride Anderson, Wroten in overtime win

BOX SCORE

To be fair, not even the Sixers saw this coming. Especially coach Brett Brown.

Nine games into a season in which the roster was quickly cobbled together with no active players older than 25 and a coach who wasn’t hired until August, and the Sixers are 5-4 following a thrilling 123-117 overtime victory over the high-scoring Houston Rockets on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers pulled it off thanks to a triple-double from guard Tony Wroten (18 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) in his first NBA start and a career-high 36 points from James Anderson, who hit six three-pointers and shot 12 for 16. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wroten is the first player since the league kept track of triple-doubles (1970-71) to get a triple-double in his first career start.

Anderson and Wroten?

It was that duo that saved the game for the Sixers with seconds left in regulation. With the Sixers down by three points after a pair of foul shots from Patrick Beverley, Wroten told Anderson to be ready for a pass in the corner. But when the Rockets forced Wroten into the far corner and Anderson strayed away from the opposite one, it appeared as if the Sixers were trapped.

But Wroten turned, leapt and fired a two-handed pass over the top of the defense. Amazingly, Anderson caught the pass, squared up and rose for the game-tying 25-footer from the top of the three-point circle.

Splash!

After the game, Wroten said he noticed that Jeremy Lin was face-guarding Anderson so he thought if he put the pass high enough, Anderson could come down with it.

“Out of the timeout I told him, ‘I’m going to come off the screen and I’m going to hit you in the corner,’” Wroten explained. “But he wasn’t open, so I kept probing and ran out of options. But he was hot, so I just threw it up to him and it’s fortunate for him to make that.”

Anderson said the toughest part of the play was catching the ball. Once he got his hands on it, Anderson knew he’d have a clean look at the hoop.

“Tony told me he was going to look for me, but I was in the wrong spot,” Anderson said. “Somehow he still found me and I was just fortunate to get a shot up.”

Anderson went into the game with 55 points for the season and was shooting 9 for 27 on three-pointers. He also had garnered a tag that he was player that was good at a lot of things but great at nothing. Still, Brown, who was with the Spurs when the team drafted Anderson, said it was just a matter of time for him to find his stroke.

“We drafted him with the idea that he was a scorer. He was an athletic wing,” Brown said. “Maybe he was a shooter, maybe he was a driver, maybe he was a good offensive rebounder. He was all those things, but he was a scorer and to see all the different ways he scored tonight, that’s the way he was at Oklahoma State and that’s why he was drafted.”

The Sixers were fortunate Anderson’s shot went in. From that point, the team committed just one more turnover and hit 11 out of 12 foul shots to slip past the Rockets. The catch and the shot saved the day.

The pass? It worked out, too.

So coach, this 5-4 start to the season with victories over Miami, Chicago and Houston is kind of surprising … right?

“Yes,” Brown said.

Or is it?

OK, a win over the back-to-back NBA champion Miami Heat was a stunner and so was the come-from-behind victory over the Bulls in the second game of a back-to-back. But to beat the Rockets without rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams in a game in which Lin set a floor record with nine three-pointers and the Sixers committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter … that’s pushing it.

But there it is. The young Sixers have shown a late-game tenacity and toughness that belies their age. It seems as when the action gets more heated and the margin for error is paper thin, the Sixers pull together even tighter.

How can a team that has been together a little more than a month have such great chemistry?

“I feel proud of them in regard to their competitive spirit,” Brown said. “I think when you just throw people together -- some players, a coach, a team -- we have no right to have an inherent chemistry or comradery. We’ve just sort of been introduced the past few months. So to manufacture anything like that and think that’s how it happens is very naïve. And I think there are signs that the group trusts each other and enjoys playing with each other and has each other’s back. We’re not going to roll over.”

Down by 10 points with nine minutes left in regulation, the Sixers tightened up on defense and didn’t roll over. Though Lin made those nine three-pointers for 34 points to go with 12 assists in a spot start for James Harden (out with a sore foot), the Sixers forced him to turn it over eight times.

Meanwhile, three Rockets had double-doubles, one by Dwight Howard, who had 23 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and six blocked shots. On top of all of that, the Rockets attempted just five long two-pointers and made 15 three-pointers.

And yet the Sixers had all the answers when it mattered most.

Next, the Sixers hit the road for three games in four days. They open the trip in Atlanta on Friday followed by a game in New Orleans on Saturday. The trip ends on Monday in Dallas before the Sixers come home to face the Raptors next Wednesday.

NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

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NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 210

School: Kentucky

It's tough for a Kentucky star freshman to fly under the radar, but that's exactly what Murray did last season. While Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine dominated the spotlight, Murray was quietly as good as anyone in the country for the second half of the season.

In Kentucky's final 14 games, Murray averaged just under 24 points and shot better than 46 percent from three-point range. For the season, he averaged an even 20 points and connected on 41 percent of his three-point attempts. He also chipped in an impressive 5.2 rebounds. 

Kentucky lost some games early and fell toward the bottom of the Top 25 rankings. But Murray continued to produce and played his best basketball down the stretch, lifting the Wildcats to 27 wins and SEC regular season and tournament titles. 

As good as he was during his only college season, Murray projects to be an even better pro. He's the best guard prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft. 

Strengths
Shooting the ball. He has the best shooting stroke of any prospect in this year's draft. Murray's form on his jump shot is textbook with the results to match. He's able to get his shot off quickly and has range well beyond the NBA three-point line. Murray's outside shot is his greatest asset. Shooters are always in high demand and have never been more valuable in the NBA. The defending champion Warriors offer all the proof you need of that.

However Murray isn't a one-dimensional player. He can get to the basket off the dribble and is a terrific finisher around the basket. He also developed a polished mid-range game during his time at Kentucky. Murray also plays hard — a characteristic that NBA executives monitor closely. He rarely takes a possession off and competes hard on the glass for a perimeter player, as evidenced by his five rebounds per game last season.

Weaknesses
Murray doesn't have a defined position on the NBA level. He's not a true point guard and isn't quite big enough to be considered a prototypical shooting guard. While NBA talent evaluators are concerned by this, I don't necessarily view it as a weakness. Murray projects as a combo guard, capable of playing point guard but also comfortable away from the ball. He's similar to the Trail Blazers' C.J. McCollum in that regard.

Murray isn't an elite-level athlete and by no means is he a great defender. He'll struggle to stay in front of the more dynamic perimeter players in the NBA. But he has a very good work ethic and should be able to improve defensively.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Extremely well. The 76ers need shooters. That need will only become exaggerated if and when they draft Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick. With Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, the Sixers have a significantly frontcourt-heavy nucleus. They need quality guards to balance out their lineup.

The much-discussed hypothetical trade that would send Okafor to the Celtics for the No. 3 pick makes a ton of sense for the 76ers. They could clear out space in their frontcourt rotation as well as acquire Murray with that third pick. Murray would flourish playing alongside Simmons, knocking down the open jump shots that Simmons creates.    

NBA comparison
I see a mix of Bradley Beal and Eric Gordon in Murray's game. Beal and Gordon have similar builds to Murray and both entered the NBA as exceptional shooters. All three are natural scorers who have no problem getting their own shot on the NBA level.

Draft projection
Murray will be a high-end lottery pick. He could go as high as the No. 3 to the Celtics and shouldn't fall any lower than No. 6 to the Pelicans.  

Western Conference Finals: Warriors-Thunder ready for Game 7

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Western Conference Finals: Warriors-Thunder ready for Game 7

OAKLAND, Calif. -- After a record 73 wins and a memorable Game 6 comeback on the road, the Golden State Warriors' goal of getting back to the NBA Finals and defending their title comes down to Game 7 at home against the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder.

All along, the Warriors have said the numerous team milestones and personal accomplishments they set during this special season won't matter a bit unless they repeat as champions.

They need one more victory to become the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 postseason deficit.

"I've learned that our players are tough, they're mentally tough," Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said Sunday, when his team took a day off from film and practice. "I don't know if I really learned that. I already knew that. But they've firmly confirmed that. It's been a great comeback. Now we still have to play. We still have another game."

Kerr just wanted his Warriors to grab back some momentum from Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Now, they have it, all right, heading into the decisive game of the Western Conference finals Monday night after winning two straight.

When his team won Game 5 on Thursday night, MVP Stephen Curry hollered "We ain't going home!" -- and Golden State wants no part of the Thunder having the last say in the Warriors' summer plans.

"We got a big one last night to stay alive, and now we've got some momentum. But it can work in reverse," Kerr said. "One game changes everything, and we've got to come out and play our game and play well to finish the series out."

Golden State hardly considers this a gimmee just because the team is playing at deafening Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost just three times this season. They have had their problems against Durant, Russell Westbrook and the towering Thunder.

Oklahoma City is fueled by trying to reach its first NBA Finals since losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012. James and Cleveland are waiting on Monday's winner.

"It's going to be a hard game. If we thought tonight was hard, Game 7's going to be even tougher," Curry said. "Everybody on both sides of the ball is going to leave it all out on the floor. It's win or go home. So we can't expect just because we're at home that we can just show up and win."

As has been the case all playoffs with Curry ailing, Golden State got a huge performance from Klay Thompson. He made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points in a 108-101 win at Oklahoma City on Saturday night, and will need an encore Monday.

"Lot of people probably counted us out," Thompson said.

Kerr said last week that his group might be different than the all the other teams that have tried to come back from 3-1 down: because the Warriors won it all last year.

The Thunder certainly would have preferred to close out the series at home over traveling back across the country to the Bay Area for the deciding game.

Yet they never expected it to be easy against the 2015 champs.

"This is what you dream about, getting this opportunity. We've got to take advantage of it," Durant said Sunday. "Go up into their building, and it's going to be great atmosphere. ... No matter where you play, you've still got to play. That's how we look at it."

That's partly because first-year Thunder coach Billy Donovan has talked to his team about the mentality it takes to win in a hostile venue like raucous, sold-out Oracle Arena, and Oklahoma City came in and did it in Game 1.

"We lost Game 6, and it was a tough, hard-fought game," Donovan said. "We're disappointed about not having a different outcome. But we haven't lost the series, and we have an opportunity again. I think just being around these guys, they're a resilient group."

Curry and the Warriors expect another entertaining, great game.

From an ankle injury that sidelined him in the first round against Houston to a sprained right knee and puffy elbow, Curry has dealt with his share of pain this postseason. He has to push that aside for what he hopes is one more game this series and then a second straight trip to the Finals and another championship.

"I actually kind of like it, because you understand the moment of the playoffs and just kind of gets you going," he said. "I'll be ready to go and give it everything I've got for Game 7."

Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff

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Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff

It doesn't sound like the Sixers' replacement for Mike D'Antoni will be the most rumored name for the position.

NBA coaching veteran P.J. Carlesimo has decided to not join Brett Brown's staff as associate head coach and instead will remain a television analyst, according to tweets Sunday night by ESPN's Mark Stein.

Stein added that despite "strong mutual interest," Carlesimo made the decision for family reasons.

The 67-year-old Carlesimo has spent parts of nine seasons as a head coach in the league and five more as an assistant. He was last on a NBA bench when he took over as the Brooklyn Nets' interim head coach in 2012-13.

So the Sixers still have a vacancy on their bench after D'Antoni, who joined the Sixers in the middle of last season after Jerry Colangelo joined the organization, signed on to become head coach of the Houston Rockets last week. Who the team's next choice for the role is remains to be seen.