Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Playoffs: Blazers advance on Lillard buzzer-beater

uspresswire-blazers-damian-lillard.jpg

NBA Playoffs: Blazers advance on Lillard buzzer-beater

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer and the Portland Trail Blazers stunned the Houston Rockets 99-98 to take their playoff series in six games and advance to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time in 14 years.

In the raucous postgame celebration, Lillard took the public address microphone and shouted "Rip City!"

Portland, making its first playoff appearance since 2011, had been eliminated in the first round in its last six trips, and hadn't advanced to the second round since 2000.

Dwight Howard's layup and foul shot put the Rockets up 96-94 before Nicolas Batum's fadeaway jumper tied it again with 39.9 seconds left. Chandler Parsons scored on a reverse layup with 0.9 seconds left to give Houston the lead before Lillard won it.

Portland will face the winner of the series between San Antonio and Dallas (see full recap).

Mavs rally past Spurs to force Game 7
DALLAS -- Monta Ellis scored 12 of his 29 points to lead a fourth-quarter comeback, Dirk Nowitzki added 22 and the Dallas Mavericks forced a Game 7 in their first-round series with top-seeded San Antonio, beating the Spurs 113-111 on Friday night.

The eighth-seeded Mavericks bounced back from consecutive losses by handing the Spurs their first road defeat when leading after three quarters this season.

Tony Parker scored 22 to lead the heavily favored Spurs, who are stuck in a tossup series after they won all four games against Dallas during the regular season. San Antonio took a nine-game winning streak against the Texas rival into the sixth postseason meeting between the teams.

The second Game 7 between these teams is Sunday in San Antonio. The Mavericks won the other one there in 2006 (see full recap).

Nets roll over Raptors to reach Game 7
NEW YORK -- Deron Williams scored 23 points, shaking off a second-half injury, and the Brooklyn Nets forced a seventh game in their first-round series by beating the Toronto Raptors 97-83 on Friday night.

Despite appearing to hurt his left foot or ankle early in the third quarter, Williams dominated his matchup with Kyle Lowry and helped the Nets put it away with a 3-pointer with 1:13 left that made it 92-79.

Game 7 is Sunday in Toronto, with the winner advancing to face the defending champion Miami Heat.

It became the fourth first-round series ticketed for a do-or-die game in these playoffs.

DeMar DeRozan scored 28 for the Raptors, who will have to go the distance if they are to win a seven-game series for the first time in franchise history. They haven't won any postseason series since 2001 (see full recap).

2017 Sixers training camp: 5 storylines

2017 Sixers training camp: 5 storylines

Monday is media day, which means the start of training camp is 24 hours away. The Sixers are positioned to be a team to watch in the NBA this season, and with that comes storylines to pay attention to before it kicks off. From health to new additions to contract extensions, here are five things to look for in training camp. 

Restrictions
Minutes. Games. Back-to-backs. Those are in question when it comes to Joel Embiid. Last season the big man was limited to 31 games, did not play in back-to-backs, followed a closely-watched minutes restriction, and underwent season-ending knee surgery in March. Embiid has not been cleared for 5-on-5 yet, making his game availability to be determined during camp.

“It’s not about being ready for the first practice or the first game,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said regarding Embiid last week. “And he will be out there for the first practice and the first game. The question is how much, how little, if at all. Those things will be determined by certain criteria along the way.”

It also remains to be seen if Ben Simmons, who missed all of last season because of a Jones fracture, will end up being placed under restrictions as well. The Sixers have enhanced their medical staff with the addition of Dr. C. Daniel Medina Leal to the newly-created VP of athlete care position. Leal previously worked for FC Barcelona.

Embiid contract extension
The Sixers and Embiid have a very significant decision to make before the start of the regular season. The deadline for Embiid’s contract extension is Oct. 16, two days prior to opening night.

For such a serious business matter, there are so many question marks involved on both sides. How many games will Embiid play? How is his health after yet another injury last season?

If the Sixers offer the max in the extension, would they be overpaying? If Embiid accepts a percentage of the max based on these uncertainties, will he be taking less than if he waited for restricted free agency?

These questions will be answered in less than a month.

Point guard role
The Sixers plan to utilize Simmons as an unconventional 6-foot-10 point guard. Expect him to be tasked with defending power forwards on defense. This role will lend itself to more versatile lineups wherein the Sixers can be a position-less team in many cases. With Simmons at the point, Markelle Fultz will slide over to the shooting guard spot when they are paired on offense. The Sixers traded up to draft him No. 1 in part for his ability to play off the ball.

The backup point guard roles will have to be sorted out. Jerryd Bayless is returning from appearing in just three games last season because of a wrist injury. The veteran can play both guard spots in the backcourt. T.J. McConnell, who started 51 games last season, will once again find himself fighting for minutes.

Jahlil Okafor's future
The Sixers are entering another season with a logjam of centers. Jahlil Okafor still does not have a clearly defined role with Embiid as the starter and Richaun Holmes making a strong case for increased minutes as the backup.

The team remains open to trading Okafor, as they attempted to do last season, if they find the right fit. Okafor’s health will factor into the Sixers’ opportunity to make a deal. He continued to battle right knee soreness after undergoing surgery for a meniscus tear in March 2016. Okafor last played on March 22.

Looking to improve his game, Okafor has gone “mostly” vegan. He is down to 258 pounds, 20 less than his weight in last year’s training camp.

Starting 5
The Sixers had 30 starting lineups last season and will be looking for more consistency this time around. Don’t expect standard roles, either. With Simmons running the point, players will be shifted into different positions depending on matchups.

Back in July, I projected the 2017-18 starting five and that group hasn’t changed, in my opinion. I am going with Fultz, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Simmons and Embiid. 

There are many people who reacted strongly to the idea of Covington as a starter instead of Dario Saric. Covington is key to the Sixers' defense, though, and Saric can thrive as a go-to in the second unit if he embraces that role.

Sixers owners Josh Harris, David Blitzer form sports, entertainment business

ap-josh-harris.jpg
AP Images

Sixers owners Josh Harris, David Blitzer form sports, entertainment business

Sixers managing owner Josh Harris and co-managing owner David Blitzer have formed Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE), a global sports and entertainment business.  

HBSE will encompass multiple sports teams to include the Sixers, New Jersey Devils (NHL), Delaware 87ers (G League), Binghamton Devils (AHL), and Team Dignitas (esports), which the Sixers acquired last September. Harris is the owner/chairman/governor of the Devils and Blitzer is the owner/vice chairman/alternate governor of the team. 

The Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball, the Prudential Center and the GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center, also will be part of HBSE. 

“As we continue to expand our scope in the world of professional sports and entertainment, we’re excited to launch Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment,” Harris said. “We believe this endeavor allows us to continue to grow strategically and innovatively.”

Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil was named CEO of HBSE. 

“This commitment to growth, which started with the acquisition of the Philadelphia 76ers, has quickly emerged as a growing and dynamic sports and entertainment company,” O’Neil said. “The formation of HBSE is a signal that this is just the beginning to an incredible future.”

Brad Shron, Sixers executive VP, general counsel, will be HBSE’s general counsel. Additionally, members of the Sixers' staff were promoted to the following positions and will be involved with HBSE: Chris Heck, Sixers president; Lara Price, Sixers chief operating officer; Jake Reynolds, Sixers chief revenue officer; Katie O’Reilly, Sixers chief marketing officer.

“We take pride in hiring the best and brightest talent from a variety of backgrounds and industries with the goal of shaping a well-rounded, dynamic organization,” Blitzer said. “HBSE provides a unique opportunity to harness the power of our talented management team and our shared resources to fuel growth and expansion, and a means to accelerate and sustain long-term success.”