NBA Wrap: Nets deal Heat second straight loss

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NBA Wrap: Nets deal Heat second straight loss

NEW YORK -- Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson scored 19 points each, and the Brooklyn Nets ended years of futility against the Miami Heat and sent the NBA champions to their first losing streak in 10 months with a 101-100 victory Friday night.

Pierce and Johnson both hit two free throws in the final seconds as the Heat were trying to pull off a comeback. Instead, they fell to 1-2 and have dropped consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 8 and 10.

The Heat got Dwyane Wade back after he missed Wednesday's loss in Philadelphia, and he scored 21 points. LeBron James led Miami with 26.

The Nets ended a 13-game skid against the Heat with their first victory since March 20, 2009, before Miami's Big Three got together and when the Nets were still playing in East Rutherford, N.J. -- two homes ago (see full recap).

Timberwolves roll over Thunder
MINNEAPOLIS -- Two games into the season, and it is clear that Russell Westbrook's knee injury has taken the swagger and ferocity right out of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The last team in the NBA that will have any sympathy for the Thunder is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are showing signs of putting everything together after two years of devastating injuries.

Kevin Love had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Ricky Rubio added 14 points, 10 assists and five steals to lead the Timberwolves to a 100-81 victory over the Thunder on Friday night.

Nikola Pekovic had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota and Corey Brewer led a spirited defensive effort against Kevin Durant. Derrick Williams had 10 points and seven rebounds for Minnesota after not playing in the opener.

Durant scored 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting and had trouble finding clean looks against a Timberwolves team that was supposed to be porous on defense. But the Thunder shot 35 percent and turned the ball over 21 times to get run out of the building (see full recap).

Duncan-less Spurs edge Lakers
LOS ANGELES -- Tony Parker had 24 points and six assists, Kawhi Leonard added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs survived without Tim Duncan for a 91-85 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.

Parker hit the tiebreaking jumper with 2:13 to play, and Manu Ginobili capped his 20-point performance off the bench with a key defensive play and a dunk in the final seconds of the Spurs' road opener.

Duncan sat out after bruising his chest in Wednesday's season-opening victory over Memphis. Boris Diaw hit a key 3-pointer with 1:40 to play and scored 14 points while starting in his place.

Pau Gasol had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who finished their season-opening string of three games in four days with two losses after their season-opening win over the Clippers (see full recap).

Joel Embiid to miss Sixers' next 4 games, targeting March 3 return

Joel Embiid to miss Sixers' next 4 games, targeting March 3 return

Joel Embiid will miss the Sixers' next four games to minimize the risk of another aggravation of his left knee injury.

Embiid's targeted return date is March 3 against the Knicks. He'll miss games against the Wizards, Knicks, Warriors and Heat.

While Sixers doctors do not think Embiid is game-ready, they're encouraged by the progress he's made.

Embiid practiced fully with the Sixers on Thursday for the second straight day.

"I feel great. I want to play. If it was my decision, I’d be playing," Embiid said after practice Wednesday.

"I want to play, but those guys, they know what they’re doing. You’ve just got to trust the process."

Embiid has missed 14 of the Sixers' last 15 games, playing only against the Rockets in a nationally televised, sell-out game on Jan. 27. 

Erson Ilyasova trade means it's Dario Saric's time to shine

Erson Ilyasova trade means it's Dario Saric's time to shine

The departure of veteran Ersan Ilyasova means it's Dario Saric's time to shine.
 
With Ilyasova being traded to the Hawks Wednesday, Saric is now the man at the power forward spot. The 22-year-old rookie started the first 10 games of the season at the four. The Sixers acquired Ilyasova from Oklahoma City on Nov. 1, and the nine-year veteran took over the starting spot a couple weeks later.
 
Ilyasova had earned the role, starting 40 out of the 53 games he was with the Sixers while averaging 14.8 points per game and shooting 36 percent from three-point range. The native of Turkey also garnered the reputation around the organization for being a "true professional." Especially with the young Croatian Saric.
 
But now Saric has earned the starting nod. The 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Saric was acquired from the Orlando Magic on draft night. In perhaps Sam Hinkie's second-best move, he was able to acquire Saric and re-acquire the Sixers' 2017 first-round pick (from the disastrous Andrew Bynum trade) for the rights to point guard Elfrid Payton. It was a two-year wait, but Saric is proving to be worth it.
 
With an increased role over the last six games, Saric is averaging 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He's also shooting 51 percent from the field during that span. His three-point percentage has dipped a tad (34 percent), but his confidence is growing, taking almost six threes a game in the last six games.
 
Beyond the stat sheet, Saric has been an invaluable catalyst to the team. He brings plenty of grit. He's not afraid to mix it up down low and has grabbed several clutch rebounds. His unselfishness also stands out, most notably in a win against the Kings last month where he dished out six assists. If you haven't heard him talk off the court, he's also a whole lot of fun.

The Ilyasova trade, coupled with the trade of Nerlens Noel, could help out a couple of other Sixers as well. Saric is the only true four on the roster. Even during his impressive run over the last six games, Saric is averaging 27.8 minutes per game. He's played 30-plus minutes only five times this season. He's also played in all 56 games. Fatigue may become a factor for a rookie that's never played 82 games.

If Jahlil Okafor remains with the team, he'll obviously be the biggest benefactor of all this. It hasn't gone well when Okafor and Joel Embiid have been paired together, but with Embiid's knee injury, Okafor should see plenty of minutes if he's still here.

The other player that stands to benefit is second-year big man Richaun Holmes. Holmes' game is better-suited to play with Embiid. Holmes has shown the ability to hit from the outside and is a much better fit at the four from an athletic standpoint. It'd be interesting to see if Holmes could keep up with an opposing stretch four.

As for Saric, he now has 26 games to prove to the Sixers that he deserves to be in their starting lineup next season. If he does, the Sixers' future will look even brighter.