Sixers Lose, Richardson Out, But Moultrie Alive

Sixers Lose, Richardson Out, But Moultrie Alive

Ugly, ugly game. Few games against the ground-and-pound Indiana Pacers
are pretty, but this one was especially hideous, with the Pacers closing
off all driving lanes and playing the Sixers physical inside, forcing a
whole lotta jump shots, which the Sixers obliged by not hitting.
Remember how I said Jrue and Evan needed to have great games for the
Sixers to win? Yeah, didn't happen: Evan's jumper was off all night, and
he scored just two points with four turnovers, one of his worst games
of hte season. Jrue was better but not much, shooting an astounding 7-22
with only three assists on the night. A game that was close at half got
less so when the Pacers started hitting jumpers and the Sixers
continued clanking, and the Sixers lost their first in four games,
88-69.

Sadly, the loss on the court was not the Sixers' biggest
for the night. It was reported tonight that Jason Richardson, the team's
starting two-guard for most of the year and the only productive return
thusfar from the Andrew Bynum trade, would miss the rest of the season
with a cartliage tear in his kneecap. The news is not terribly
surprising, as J-Rich had missed the last few weeks with ambiguous knee
issues, and Coach Collins basically told reporters not to expect him
back anytime soon. Nick Young has played well as starting shooting guard
in Jason's absence, but he struggled badly tonight, scoring just 7 on
3-8 shooting.

With Thaddeus Young out for most of the remainder
of February, and now J-Rich out for the season, and the Sixers still
well short of the eighth seed in the East, it's probably as good a time
as any to wonder if it's time to just straight-up pull the plug on this
season. Truth told, the Sixers might not have much of a choice—with a
thin rotation and a schedule about to get a lot tougher, it might be too
late to make a playoff push once Thad (and lord willing, the
Funny-Looking Kid With the Big Hair) returns anyway. Luckily, it seems
like the team at least realizes that it's far away enough from competing
not to make a panic trade, but if
there are other teams out there looking for spare parts, they should be
informed that the Sixers are sellers this year, not buyers.

There
was one positive to take from this game—the emergence of rookie Arnett
Moultrie. Obviously, Moultrie hasn't done much for the Sixers thusfar
this year, but you could argue that he hasn't been given a chance
to—Collins has never played him more than spot minutes, and rarely at
consequential points of the game. But without Thad and his 40 rotation
minutes tonight, Collins was finally forced to use Moutlrie, and the
first-year power forward rewarded his coach with 12 points, tripling (!)
his previous career-high, and grabbing three rebounds and a couple
steals in the process.

It's clear to see where Moultrie can be
use of the Sixers, especially with Thad out—he gives them some
all-too-rare athleticism in the frontcourt, also showing a previously
unseen knack for being in the right place with the right time, moving
off the ball and allowing Evan Turner to find him for some easy deuces.
Like Marreese Speights, Moultrie appears to have a nice touch with the
ball and hops to spare, but still occasionally looks lost on set plays
and on defense, and has a tendency to be outworked by physical
frontcourt players on the boards. Still, he gave the Sixers energy and
some much-needed scoring tonight, and hopefully we'll get to see him do a
lot more of that in the weeks to come.

Next for the Sixers: A
very winnable game against the Bobcats on Friday. It's officially just
killing time until FLKWTBH comes back now, but that doesn't mean there's
not learning to be done.

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).