Can't Lose 'Em All: Sixers Defend Home Court Against Brooklyn Nets, Play Surprisingly Good Ball

Can't Lose 'Em All: Sixers Defend Home Court Against Brooklyn Nets, Play Surprisingly Good Ball

If it seems like I only write Sixers recaps after they win these
days...it's because I only write Sixers recaps after they win these
days. There's no point in recapping Sixers losses anymore because
they're not really news, they're just the regular course of
action—even losing to the Magic at this point can hardly be considered
an upset, or even "upsetting." It's only worth talking about it when the
team wins now. And for just the second time in the last 14 (!!) games,
the Sixers won tonight, beating the Brooklyn Nets 106-97.

The
really remarkable about this thing isn't just that the Sixers won, or
that they beat a team the Sixers trail by 13.5 games in the standings.
It's that they played really pretty darned well. They shot lights out
from beyond, hitting eight of their 15 threes. They moved the ball
brilliantly, dishing 31 assists with only six turnovers. They defended
with energy, getting burned by some superlative play by Deron Williams,
Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez—Spencer Hawes never had a shot against
Brook—but holding the rest of the Nets to a combined 15-38. They even
got to the free-throw line 27 times, their second highest tally in 2013.
They looked like a competent, professional basketball team—unlike, say,
the one that got outplayed by an 18-45 basketball team last night in
Orlando.

The entire starting lineup was key in this one—yes,
even you, Damien Wilkins, who scored an efficient 13 points on 5-8
shooting, including a couple key corner treys in the second half that
deflated the advancing Nets as they tried to cut into the Sixers' lead.
Thaddeus Young played his third awesome game in a row, scoring 16 on 6-9
shooting with ten boards and some nice tic-tac-toe extra-passing to
Hawes in the paint. And Jrue Holiday finally snapped out of the funk
he's been in the last four games, scoring 15 points on just eight shots
(with eight free-throw attempts!!) with 11 assists and just one
turnover. D-Will might've been slightly more dominant on the night
(27/13/6), but Jrue was right there with him tonight.

The game ball, however, goes to ol' Spencer "Frustration" Hawes,
who had probably his best offensive night of the year, putting up a
season-high 24 points on awesome 10-15 shooting, to go with ten boards
and seven assists, the latter also a season-high. The defense wasn't
necessarily there for Spence tonight, as he got burned badly and
repeatedly by Brook Lopez early on, but he was enormous on the offensive
glass tonight, getting a handful of big putbacks and a couple easy
buckets (including one breakaway dunk I was positive he was gonna
come up a couple inches short on) that helped put the Sixers out in
front on this one. Every once in a while, Spence has one of these
all-around games that make you understand why we were so excited to
spend $13 million on the guy, and though they're still far too few and
far between to merit the contract, it's nice to know he hasn't lost the
capability completely.

Tanking is still probably the way to go
for these Sixers, and I'll admit that while watching the Magic game on
Sunday—a game that would've been depressing even if the Sixers had
managed to win—I was basically hoping Orlando would pull out the W. But
to see the Sixers playing this well against a team as good as the
Nets—like the Warriors, not a great team, but undoubtedly a better one
than this Sixers squad—it's hard not to root for them. I don't want to
go the whole rest of the season without a reminder that there are in
fact guys on this team are capable of playing good ball. Besides, f---
the Nets.

Anyway, the team will almost undoubtedly resume their
plummeting ways during Wednesday's game against the Heat—and then
Saturday's game against the Pacers, and then, in all likelihood,
Mondays' game against the Blazers. All fair game, but I'm not gonna feel
bad about feeling good about this win, a needed oasis in this desert of
tanking.

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks, 1-0, in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).