Sixers hurt by 2 blown calls in 4-point loss to Celtics, NBA says

Sixers hurt by 2 blown calls in 4-point loss to Celtics, NBA says

Two missed calls that hurt the Sixers and favored the Celtics in Friday's four-point loss in Boston were highlighted in the NBA's Last Two Minute Report.

According to the league, an offensive foul should have been called on Al Horford with 1:49 remaining and the Celtics up two. Instead, Isaiah Thomas got to the line on that possession and made one of two free throws.

Later, with eight seconds left and the Sixers down, 107-106, Ersan Ilyasova missed a jumper. The NBA concluded that on the rebound attempt, Joel Embiid and Amir Johnson should have been called for a double-foul on each other, resulting in a jump ball. Instead, the rebound was awarded to Johnson and a foul was called on Embiid. Johnson also made one of two.

The NBA began issuing the Last Two Minute Reports in March 2015. The reports look at all calls made in the final two minutes of a game within five points. 

Kevin Durant, following the Warriors' one-point loss to the Cavs on Christmas, recently criticized the reports. 

"You can't fine us for when we go out there and criticize [the refs] and then throw them under the bus for the two-minute report. What about the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter? I think it's bull----," Durant told the San Jose Mercury News. "They should get rid of them. Refs don't deserve that. They're trying their hardest to get the play right, then you look at the play in slo-mo and say it's wrong. I think it's bull---- that they do that. Full of s--- that you throw the refs under the bus like that after the game. Like it matters. The game's over. We move on."

Per ESPN's Zach Lowe, NBA vice president of basketball operations Kiki Vandeweghe indicated the Last Two Minute Reports will continue to be issued and that the league will "probably" advance to issuing game-long reports.

Best of NBA: John Wall, Wizards hold on to beat Cavaliers

Best of NBA: John Wall, Wizards hold on to beat Cavaliers

CLEVELAND -- John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington's victory cut Cleveland's lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston (see full recap).

Clippers beat Jazz to clinch playoff berth
LOS ANGELES -- Jamal Crawford scored 28 points off the bench, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Utah Jazz 108-95 on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight year.

The Clippers trail the Jazz by a half-game in their race for the No. 4 playoff seed in the West.

Blake Griffin added 15 points and DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds for the Clippers.

Rudy Gobert had 26 points and 14 rebounds for Utah, and reserve Joe Johnson added 17 points. The Jazz have dropped four of five.

Utah rallied in the third, putting together a 20-6 spurt to trim Los Angeles' lead to 72-70 heading into the final period. Gobert had nine points and Johnson scored seven during the run that included 10 straight points for the Jazz over one stretch.

Chris Paul and Crawford both got technicals while the Clippers struggled to score and defend (see full recap).

Leonard, Aldridge help Spurs topple Knicks
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the New York Knicks 106-98 on Saturday night.

San Antonio has won four straight heading into home games against Cleveland on Monday and Golden State on Wednesday. The Spurs (56-16) are two games behind the Warriors (58-14) for the league's best record.

San Antonio ensured there would not be a repeat of its disappointing 94-90 loss in New York on Feb. 12, but not without some tense moments.

Derrick Rose and Willy Hernangomez each scored 24 points and Hernangomez added 13 rebounds. Mindaugas Kuzminskas had 19 points starting in place of Carmelo Anthony, who missed his second straight game with a sore left knee (see full recap).

How the Sixers watch the NCAA Tournament, from scouting to reliving

How the Sixers watch the NCAA Tournament, from scouting to reliving

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA Tournament is a different viewing experience for everyone. To some it is a chance to root for an alma mater, to others is a glimpse into future NBA talent, and for the small handful that makes it to the pros, a reminder of moments they cherished. 

From players to the head coach, March Madness has an individual meaning to the Sixers.

---

The draft has been just as much a part of Brett Brown's time with the Sixers as the regular season. The Sixers have been perennial top pick contenders and could be heavily involved in the 2017 draft lottery. They have their own first-round pick and rights to swap with the Kings. They also could get the Lakers' pick if it is outside of the top three. 

How does Brown watch college basketball this time of year? 

"Like I'm going to coach one of them," he said. "You pay attention."

Rather than trying to read into the intangibles, such as being a good teammate or competitiveness, Brown hones in on one skill that he can assess quickly. 

"I'm always paying attention to shooters," Brown said. "It really does, on so many levels, make the world go 'round. It especially does with the group that we're constructing … I'm very opinionated when it comes to shooting. I feel like if I see somebody shoot three or four times and just watch their form, their footwork, their preparation, you form a pretty quick opinion. It takes you about a second to look at their stats and it helps you validate what you think or contradict what you think. But shooters really are what's most on my mind."

---

It was only three seasons ago that Jahlil Okafor was cutting down the nets as an NCAA championship winner. Okafor considers the Duke basketball circle as family and spends his summers on campus. Watching the tournament from a distance stirs up old feelings that really aren't so old. 

"It kind of makes me sad because I want to be out there with my guys," Okafor said. "It makes me a little sad, especially when they lose (second-seeded Duke lost to South Carolina in the second round). It's always fun to watch. I'm so closely removed from it and I'm friends with all those guys on the team."

Okafor said coach Mike Krzyzewski has changed up the system, which was heavily focused on getting him the ball at the basket since he left after his freshman year. The excitement of March Madness, though, still feels very familiar. 

"Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday, sometimes it feels like it was 20 years ago," Okafor said. "It feels like I was just in the tournament."

---

Nik Stauskas will always be attached to Michigan basketball. This season was significant because the teammates he played with before entering the draft in 2014 were still part of the program. 

"It's going to change next year because it will be the first year that I will have not played with anyone on that team," Stauskas said. "But as of right now, I still feel such a huge connection. Most of the coaches are still the same, most of the main players were guys I played with my sophomore year."

Michigan upset Louisville in the second round before losing to Oregon by one point in the Sweet 16. Stauskas was watching along from the Sixers' road trip. 

"To see them make the run, I'm extremely proud," he said. "I don't get emotionally attached to basketball games unless it's Michigan playing. It's fun to be that involved and that engaged into a name."