Turner snaps Sixers' skid with OT buzzer-beater

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Turner snaps Sixers' skid with OT buzzer-beater

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It’s no coincidence that the Sixers’ seven-game losing streak ended when rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams returned from a seven-game absence.

Carter-Williams is what makes the Sixers go and it was proven in the 121-120 overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night (see Instant Replay).

Posting 15 points, 10 assists and three steals in his first game back, Carter-Williams was the first one to grab Evan Turner after his driving layup bounced on the rim three times before rolling through for the game-winner at the buzzer.

“It felt like it bounced on the rim 150 times,” Turner said. “I got a couple of good rolls. The basketball gods were looking out for me.”

Turner was ready in case the gods had forsaken him, too. If the ball would have rolled off the rim, Turner said (jokingly) that he was, “just thinking of my reaction if it didn't go in, who I was going to punch.”

Yes, that’s what a long losing streak can do to an 8-19 team.

“We needed to get that win for the sanity of the group, keeping our group together, holding hope,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “For those reasons, as that ball is hanging on a rim and then decides to fall in, for us, given where we are, that is an important win.”

Less of a coincidence is the way players like Turner, Thad Young and Tony Wroten performed with the rookie point guard back in the lineup. With Carter-Williams commanding the ship, there was less of a burden for others to match his production.

As if they could.

“I think he helps Evan and I think he helps everyone,” Brown said about Carter-Williams.

That’s especially the case for Friday night’s hero, Turner. Without the point guard on the floor, Turner shot 38 for 105 (36.2 percent) from the field and scored 13.3 points per game with 12 combined points in the last two epic losses.

But Friday night, Turner was a force, shooting 13 for 22 for a game-high 29 points and 10 rebounds. Turner made his first eight shots to pace the Sixers through the first half, but it was the last two that were the most important.

Turner hit a three-pointer from the corner with 3:12 remaining in overtime to give the Sixers a one-point lead. It was a lead that grew to four points when Young buried a three from the same spot with 2:03 to go.

But four straight misses coupled with a long jumper from Deron Williams and a three-pointer from Paul Pierce left the Sixers down to their last shot.

Afterwards, in the victorious locker room, the Sixers expressed a lot of relief that the losing skid was over. Considering that the team lost to the Nets at the Barclays Center by 36 points just two days after losing by 34 to Portland, Brown thought his team showed a lot of heart.

Maybe heart was all the Sixers had left.

Take Young, for example. It hasn’t been the easiest week for the seven-year veteran. After practices and shootaround, Young has patiently and cordially fielded questions about his future in Philadelphia and trade rumors that seemingly pop up out of thin air (see story).

Despite this, Young has been the model of professionalism. Always a straight shooter, Young didn’t shy away from the questions. More importantly, Young didn’t let it affect his performance on the floor, either. Maybe some players would have been bothered by the off-court distractions, but Young has been able to leave that stuff behind.

Against the Nets, Young scored 25 points on 11 for 18 shooting with three three-pointers, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shot.

Trade that guy?

“Like I told you, at the end of the day I don’t let that stuff affect me or the way I play,” Young said. “I just hoop. This is what I’m paid to do. I’m paid to do a job and provide a service and this is what I’m going to do. Any stories that come up about trades and stuff don’t bother me. I don’t pay attention to it, I just play and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I play my butt off.”

Young won’t find any argument from Brown, who asked his veteran to guard point guard Deron Williams as well as seven-footer Brook Lopez in the post.

“How about Thaddeus Young? That was a performance,” Brown said. “That’s who he is.”

And maybe with Carter-Williams back in the lineup, the Sixers showed who they are on Friday night? After all, the Sixers are 1-10 without the rookie point guard and 7-9 with him.

The Sixers kick off a six-game road trip Saturday night in Milwaukee. After the game, the team returns home for a week before heading off to Phoenix and Los Angeles.

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.”

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA's best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn't dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8 (see full recap).

Scoreboard malfunction, quiet crowd don’t stop Wizards’ rally
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming a sluggish start in front of a sparse, silent crowd and with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Nuggets 92-85 on Thursday night, thanks mainly to Bradley Beal's 26 points and Denver's season-high 29 turnovers.

John Wall scored only 15 points one game after a career-best 52, but nine came in the fourth quarter for Washington, which trailed by as many as 14 in the first half.

With starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay inactive because of what the team said was a sprained right ankle, the Nuggets went 5 1/2 minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

In that final period, they had 10 of their turnovers and shot 1 for 14 on 3-pointers -- including 0 for 4 in one last-minute possession (see full recap).

Gasol, clutch free throws lift Grizzlies over
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game's final six points to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).