Crucial foul call seals Sixers' loss to Clippers

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Crucial foul call seals Sixers' loss to Clippers

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The fact that the Sixers could lament a late-game foul with 1:33 left as the final nail in the coffin in the 94-83 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), is a testament to the Sixers’ grittiness.

Despite missing 20 shots during the first quarter and 17 more in the second quarter to barely shoot 30 percent in the opening half, the Sixers were a whistle away from turning it into a two-possession game down the stretch.

At that point, anything could have happened.

Instead, a possible three-point play for the Sixers turned into a seven-point swing for the Clippers when starting two-guard Hollis Thompson was whistled for a charge call on Blake Griffin.

From there, the Clippers scored the final four points to hang on to a 16-point lead they carried throughout the fourth quarter and turned around the momentum of the game. The Sixers had scored six straight points and forced two turnovers from All-Star point guard Chris Paul in the minutes before Thompson’s charge.

After that, the Sixers had no chance.

“By and large, our team has played with an aggression that I’m proud of,” head coach Brett Brown said. “I’m proud of what they did tonight.”

The Sixers didn’t go quietly. Trailing by as many as 21 points during the third quarter with a season-low 36 points scored in the first half, the Sixers gave themselves a chance. With 25 points from Evan Turner and a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds) from Thad Young, the Sixers fought back into the game with aggressiveness and a little chippiness.

Turner got seven buckets in the paint as he tried, in vain, to get to the foul line. Turner’s aggression wasn’t reserved for his drives to the basket. The Sixers’ leading scorer also had a healthy banter with several of the Clippers’ players and a referee or two during the game. During the third quarter, Turner figured out a way to do both at the same time.

While protesting a call near the Clippers’ bench during the third quarter, Los Angeles bench player Ryan Hollins stood up and said something to Turner. Rather than telling Hollins to mind his own business, Turner told the center to be quiet in much more direct and colorful language.

Turner also found himself mixed into a little shoving match along with teammate Lavoy Allen and DeAndre Jordan during the fourth quarter.

“I think we tried to make it tough for them,” Turner said. “In the third quarter, they made some shots, but we tried to make it tough and more difficult for them.”

The Sixers struggled to find an answer for Paul, Jordan and Griffin. Paul scored 25 points on 10 for 18 shooting with 13 assists and had little difficulty getting to wherever he wanted on the floor.

“He never gives up the dribble,” Turner said about Paul. “When you’ve got those two athletes with you, and obviously he has a high IQ and everything like that, it makes it tough.”

Jordan benefitted from the Sixers’ 35.9 percent shooting, pulling down 21 rebounds to go with 11 points. Griffin, when not drawing charge calls, scored a game-high 26 points on 9 for 14 shooting to go with three blocked shots.

That trio shot it at a 62 percent clip while the rest of the team shot 11 for 43 (25.6 percent). And though the Sixers got a few shots to drop during the second half, the 3 for 21 shooting from the three-point range was crippling.

Though the Sixers got 47 shots in the paint, they were forced into taking 24 long two-pointers.

“We have to figure out some things in the half-court offense,” said Spencer Hawes, who was held to a season-low two points. “They scouted us pretty well. They took away what we wanted to do and we’ve got to figure out how to counter.”

The Sixers hit the road for two games starting on Wednesday night when they travel to Minneapolis. After that, the Sixers face the new-look Toronto Raptors on Friday night before returning home to face the Blazers on Saturday night.

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brett Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media.

Once the deal was made official, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo released a statement. 

“We want to wish Nerlens the best of luck in Dallas and thank him for his contributions over the last few years," Colangelo said. "Justin Anderson is a talented, strong and defensive-minded wing who will fit nicely in Brett’s system. I’m certain Justin’s toughness and edge will add a tremendous amount to our team."

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter (see story).

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”