Sixers handed first loss by Iguodala, Warriors

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Sixers handed first loss by Iguodala, Warriors

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When the guy you let beat you ends up with a career night in the first half, chances are it’s going to be a long night. For the Sixers on Monday night against the Warriors at the Wells Fargo Center, the night could have lasted forever.

Ex-Sixer Andre Iguodala buried a career-high seven three-pointers -- he hit six of them in the first half -- for 32 points in the Warriors’ 110-90 victory over the Sixers (see Instant Replay). Though the Sixers fell behind by 20 points for the third straight game, there was no magical comeback this time.

The Warriors, and Iguodala, were just too good.

“The guys we let beat us, beat us,” said Evan Turner, who led the Sixers with 18 points. “You can’t go bucket to bucket with a team that can score like that.

“Look at the stat sheet -- the guys who usually make the threes didn’t make them tonight.”

Turner is right about that. Sharp-shooter Stephen Curry went 2 for 9 from beyond the arc, but he did a bunch of other things to make up for his poor shooting. Curry scored 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 12 assists for the second triple-double in the NBA this season (see 5 observations). Curry also had five steals and was the catalyst in forcing the Sixers into a season-high 24 turnovers.

Iguodala’s shooting (7 for 11 from three-point range, 11 for 18 overall) mixed with the turnovers was “deflating,” according to Sixers head coach Brett Brown.

“I think it gets deflating when you turn it over and they run and punish you with threes,” Brown said. “They’re a skilled team in the open court. I think it gets deflating when that happens.”

Still, it was a bit of sweet revenge for Iguodala, who did not receive the warmest of ovations when he was introduced before the game. Traded to Denver after the 2011-12 season in the ill-fated Andrew Bynum deal, Iguodala returned to the Wells Fargo Center with Denver last year and had a poor game.

This time, though, Iguodala couldn’t miss. Maybe he can thank his friend Turner for the motivation.

“Evan actually texted me right after they beat the Bulls. He was kind of talking trash,” Iguodala said. “He said you’re next. He’s the ultimate competitor, no matter who he’s going against. Actually, I wanted to shut him out tonight. I wasn’t even thinking about scoring.”

Iguodala scored 11 points in the first quarter and had 16 more in the second. After the third quarter, he sat down after playing just 20 seconds of the fourth.

“It was almost kind of like a high school game, where you get it going and you can’t miss,” Iguodala said.

Though Iguodala downplayed the revenge factor, saying playing against the Sixers is no big deal. After all, he’s playing for his second team in as many seasons and only Turner, Spencer Hawes, Thad Young and Lavoy Allen remain from his last season with the Sixers.

However, Warriors coach Mark Jackson wasn’t buying it.

“It’s no secret: You want to kill them,” Jackson said. “You say all the right things beforehand, just in case it doesn’t work out, but your mindset is to make a statement.”

Mix the revenge factor with a Sixers’ defense that was packed in the paint in attempt to keep Andrew Bogut and David Lee off the boards while shadowing Curry and Klay Thompson on the perimeter, Iguodala had plenty of time to hit the wide-open shots.

“He changed the game in the first half,” Brown said.

If the turnovers and Iguodala’s shooting weren’t demoralizing enough, the Sixers’ shooting ruined what self-confidence was left. The Sixers shot 35 percent from the field, including 22 for 51 (43.1 percent) from the paint. While the Warriors hit 15 three-pointers, the Sixers went 9 for 37 (24.3 percent) on shots outside the paint.

The result was a 39-point deficit for the Sixers in the third quarter.

Ouch.

“I think we were careless with the ball. I give [the Warriors] credit,” Brown said. “They’re a very underrated defensive team. They’re noted for their offense and they’re noted for their barrage of three-point threats and scorers, but they actually are an excellent defensive team with all the pieces. … I give them credit defensively, but I admit we were sloppy. We were careless. Some of that was a result of their good defense.”

Then again, after three straight improbable wins, the Sixers had to come down to earth at some point (see story). If there was one team it wasn’t going to be able to run against and wear down, it was the Warriors.

The Sixers will get another look at the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Last Friday, the Sixers overcame a 20-point deficit to stun the Wizards with a late surge in the second game of the year.

The case for Kansas' Josh Jackson to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Kansas' Josh Jackson to the Sixers at No. 3

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Josh Jackson

Position: SF
School: Kansas
Height: 6-8
Weight: 203
Wingspan: 6-9¾

Jackson enjoyed an excellent season in his one year with the Jayhawks. Regarded as one of the top high school recruits in the country, Jackson didn't disappoint. The super athletic swingman averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and three assists per game.

Jackson is without a doubt the best two-way player in this draft. He can guard positions one through four. He averaged an impressive 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes, using his length and athleticism to disrupt passing lanes. He's also strong and physical, with the ability to body up ball handlers and cutters, and redirect them.

He's a bit underrated offensively. He struggled with his shot early on, but improved as the season went on. In his last 17 games, he shot 48 percent from three on over three attempts per game. As his three assists a night indicates, he's a good and willing passer. He's also a better ball handler than he gets credit for, with the ability to get to the rim using his left or his right. Oh, and he can finish.

The case for Jackson
He fits the Sixers as an elite wing defender who plays well off the ball. If his shot continues to improve, he could be a great complement to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. 

No, he's not an obvious fit, but he's way too talented at a position they really don't have. And talented wings aren't easy to find. Robert Covington has been a find for the Sixers and should definitely be given a contract extension, but Jackson simply brings more to the table on both ends of the court. The shot is a concern, but we've seen almost every player improve their shot with head coach Brett Brown and the Sixers' staff.

The case against Jackson
You can't just overlook the fact that he shot an abysmal 57 percent from the free throw line. That simply won't get it done. Free throw shooting can also be an indicator of whether a player can improve his stroke from the field. If the Sixers take Jackson, you have to hope that 57 percent is an aberration. 

Jackson also had some trouble off the court. There were two separate incidents. Both cases were recently resolved, but they both show a lack of maturity and, quite frankly, stupidity. 

One case involved Jackson backing up his car into another and then leaving the scene. He was given probation and forced to pay a $250 fine. In a more troubling incident, Jackson kicked the driver's side door and kicked out a tail light of a member of Kansas' women's basketball team after an argument. He reached a diversion agreement that requires him to attend anger management classes, write a letter of apology and refrain from using alcohol or recreational drugs for a year.

The Sixers will have to vet Jackson long and hard to determine if these incidents were out of a character or part of a troubling pattern.

Analysis
Washington guard Markelle Fultz is the No. 1 player on the board and will likely be picked by the Celtics. The consensus seems to be that the Lakers will take UCLA guard Lonzo Ball. With those two players off the board, Jackson is the clear-cut pick at No. 3.

At worst, you have an elite wing defender that can help slow down the likes of LeBron James, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference. He's also going to be a nightmare in the open court running the floor with Simmons. I'd bank on him having at least a modest improvement on his shot.

The off-the-court stuff is definitely a concern, but it's possible they're just dumb decisions by a young kid. He's so talented, you better be certain that there's an issue if you decide to pass on him at No. 3. If he stays out of trouble, he's absolutely worthy of the No. 3 pick.

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

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BOSTON -- The NBA Finals has its first "three-match," courtesy of a King who passed His Airness.

LeBron James scored 35 points and passed Michael Jordan to become the NBA's all-time playoff scoring leader as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 135-102 on Thursday night to claim their third straight Eastern Conference title and another trip to the NBA Finals to meet the Golden State Warriors.

Kyrie Irving added 24 points and Kevin Love finished with 15 for the Cavs, who never trailed and led by as many as 39 points in one of their most dominating wins of the series. The Cavs set an NBA record by winning their 13th consecutive series closeout opportunity.

Cleveland's 4-1 series win gives it a 12-1 record this postseason and sets up a third consecutive matchup with Western Conference champion Golden State, the team it beat in the Finals last season to claim the franchise's first championship.

"I wear the number because of Mike," James said. "I think I fell in love with the game because of Mike, just because of what he was able to accomplish. When you're watching Michael Jordan it's almost like a god. So I didn't think I could be Mike."

It will mark the seventh straight trip to the Finals for James, who hit a 3-pointer late in in the third quarter to nudge past Jordan on the playoff scoring list. He quickly flashed one finger as he backpedaled down the court.

In the postgame trophy presentation backstage, James spent most of it lingering in the background as his teammates celebrated.

But there's no denying that his accolades are putting him in the orbit of Jordan, his boyhood idol.

"The biggest thing is I did it just being me, I don't have to score the ball to make an impact on the basketball game," James said. "That was my mindset. If I'm not scoring the ball, how can I still make an impact on the game?"

As much as this series was about James, Irving helped turn the tide of the series with a 42-point effort in Game 4. But he said both he and his teammates continue to be inspired by their leader.

"He's been the driving force, this entire playoff run, and all of us have just helped us along the way," Irving said.

Coach Tyronn Lue said they've gotten tighter this season.

"This team is a crazy team. They just stayed resilient all year, got to the playoffs, and we really stepped our game up," he said. "Now we can start focusing on Golden State to get ready. As of tonight, I'll get started."

Avery Bradley led Boston with 23 points.

The Cavaliers basically conceded the East's top seed to the Celtics at the end of the regular season by opting to rest their starters in advance of the playoffs. But they displayed their superiority over the final two games to wrap up the series.

After allowing the Celtics to seize the early momentum in Game 4, the Cavs barely gave them the chance in Game 5.

Led by its Big Three, Cleveland quickly built a 21-point lead in the first quarter, while getting lots of contributions from their teammates.

Love continued to knock down shots from the outside, Irving sliced his way into the lane to the rim and James got free for several of his one-handed, tomahawk dunks.

It was a very welcomed sight in Irving's case, after he rolled his left ankle in the third quarter of Cleveland's Game 4 win. He showed no signs of lingering issues, though, beating several defenders off the dribble and handing out seven assists.

Meanwhile, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver helped spread out Boston's defenders by connecting on several wide-open scoring opportunities.

Deron Williams, who had been quiet for most of the series, also got in on the act with a series-best 14 points for Cleveland.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James has scored 30 or more points in 11 of Cleveland's 13 games this postseason. ... Improved to 36-5 against Eastern Conference opponents in the playoffs since 2015. ... The 43 points Cleveland scored in the first quarter set a team postseason record for a quarter.

Celtics: Never led at home in the series. ... Finished the playoffs having made at least 10 3-pointers in 16 of their 18 games. ... Held a pregame moment of silence for the victims of the Manchester bombing.

Making progress
The Celtics did their best to keep up, but the consistent outside shooting, bench scoring and defense they relied on to stun Cleveland in Game 3 wasn't there Thursday night.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said though he's disappointed with how the season ended, he's encouraged that no one in Boston's locker room is satisfied just making it to the conference finals.

"I told our guys: `We made a lot of great strides, but this pain is part of the path to what we ultimately want to be,'" he said.

Showing support
Injured Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas was in attendance Thursday night and gathered with his teammates in a huddle before they took the court for pregame warmups.

The two-time All-Star was sidelined in Game 2 after aggravating a hip injury.