WHEEEEEEEE Sixers Continue Winning Ways, Beat Sinking Knicks 106-94

WHEEEEEEEE Sixers Continue Winning Ways, Beat Sinking Knicks 106-94

This is fuuuuuuun. After losing eight games out of ten, the Sixers have now won three in a row, all against good (yeah, yeah, decent)
teams, all with You Know Who playing lights-out ball. Even with a short
rotation (only eight guys played minutes, and Jodie Meeks played just
6:57) and with two of those guys being offensively invisible (eight
combined points for Jrue Holiday and Nik Vucevic, with Jrue going just
2-14 from the field), the Sixers still were able to pull away late in
the third and early in the fourth, winning by a 106-94 score that was
out of reach for New York the entire fourth quarter.

Efficient shooting nights from our power forwards (27 points on 12-21 FG
for the Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand combo) was a key, as was Jrue's
defense on waning Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin, but today, three guys on
the Sixers really provided the story. Andre Iguodala had a typical
near-triple-double, posting 19 points (on 7-11 shooting with two big
threes), eight assists and seven rebounds, along with four steals and D
that held ("held") Carmelo Anthony to 22 points on 5-13 shooting. ("I
think he's the best perimeter defender in the NBA," Coach Collins said
after the game. "That's cool," said 'Dre in response.) And Sour Patch
Lou Williams was way more sweet than sour today, going off for 12 points
in the final three-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter, busting the
game wide open for the Ballers.

But you know the guy's name that I want to be talking about. Evan Marcel
Turner (and no I didn't even have to Wikipedia that, yikes) was a beast
once more today, proving that it's not just within the friendly
confines of the Wells Fargo Center where he can dominate from the
two-guard position. Turner was absolutely everywhere in the first
quarter, pacing the Sixers through Jrue's tough shooting start, and
delivering two absolutely gorgeous dimes to Andre Iguodala in the open
court (only one of which he was given an assist for, damn MSG scorer).
He nearly had a double-double at halftime and got scorching hot again in
the third, scoring 13 points in the quarter and ending with an awesome
24 points and 15 rebounds, in addition to playing solid D on a rotating
cast of Knick guards (and also power forward Steve Novak, for some
reason). Five TOs is a couple too many, perhaps, but we're certainly not
gonna press it.

That's three games in a row now of incredible play from Turner—three
more than he'd had in nearly two months leading up to the Boston game.
You want more numbers? Here are more numbers: In four games since being
moved to the starting lineup against Milwaukee (where he scored two
points on 1-12 shooting, dragging down a lot of these numbers) Evan is
now averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds on 49% shooting—fine numbers for
a power forward, incredible for a shooting guard. His 66 points
combined in the last three games are more than he had in the 14 leading
up to them, and his 11 free throws (!!) made in the last three are as
many as he had in the 21 games (!!!!) before that. To do it today on the
road, against a division rival, in a team win...you can't say enough
about it.

[VIDEO: watch Turner's sweet over-the-shoulder dish to set up Dre's huge slam]

Of course, you don't want to get too used to this level of production
from ET, given just how much the Knicks' own breakout star has fallen of
late. Jeremy Lin's stat line today wasn't quite unseemly—14 points and
seven assists, though on only 5-18 shooting and with six turnovers—but
clearly, the honeymoon is over with Linsanity. The Knicks have lost five
straight now, with Lin averaging 16.4 points and 7.2 assists over the
losing streak—not bad numbers, but along with four turnovers a game and
on just 39% shooting, while the Knicks' offense has stagnated and their
defense has gone the way of the slap bracelet. Hearty boos rained down
on the 'Bockers from the MSG faithful today—directed largely at Carmelo
Anthony, whose return has more or less coincided with the team's return
to losing ways (though a suddenly much-tougher schedule didn't help
either). Even as a Sixer fan, it's kind of sad to see, and it's a
sobering reminder that as good as the Extraterrestrial and his Sixers
are playing right now, all may be due for a tiny regression at some
point.

One other note about today's game: The Sixers' quest for a thirty-point
scorer—dating back to when Elton Brand scored 33 against the Knicks in
February of 2011—looked like it may finally have been coming to an end,
with Lou's 28 and Evan's 24 midway through the fourth both threatening
to break the seal. Naturally, both players dried up immediately, with
Lou ending the fourth on an 0-6 stretch, and Evan only taking (and
missing) one shot in the quarter. I still have no idea what to make of
this team's inability to find a 30-point scorer, though Turner summarily
shrugged off my question about the streak after the game, and given the
team's 43-32 overall regular season record since that EB performance,
maybe he's right to do so.

A couple days off now for the Liberty Ballers, before they face the
Pacers in Indiana on Wednesday—hopefully with their starting center,
Spencer Hawes, back in the lineup for the first time since February 6th.
With their win this afternoon, the Sixers are now tied for fourth in
the standings with Indiana, though Philly of course gets the edge as a
division leader, and they're just 1.5 games behind Orlando—who,
incidentally, play the Pacers this evening. A week ago, I was thinking
that as long as the Sixers made the playoffs and didn't have to face the
Heat in the first round, I'd be fine with it. Now I'm looking at
standings and projecting potential first-round (and second-round!!)
matchups again. I repeat: This is fuuuuuuuuuuuuun.

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

There's your Philadelphia 76ers season in a nutshell, huh? Nerlens Noel gets traded for an all-lemon pack of Starbursts, Ben Simmons' right foot is still apparently stuck in a beartrap, Joel Embiid can't get himself dismissed from the nurse's office, and Jahlil Okafor is forced back into +1 status after everyone else passed on going to the concert with Bryan Colangelo -- and the Ballers still go out and beat one of the best teams in the East in their first game back from the All-Star break. Nearly everything about the Sixers is depressing right now, except for the team themselves. They're cool. 

Kudos to Brett Brown, man. The team is playing with such fluency and energy right now that it can withstand some losses in personnel without the drop-off being particularly dramatic -- at least for the moment. Replacing Embiid and Noel with Okafor and Holmes for as long as we'll have to do it will catch up with us in time, but for now, all you can do is marvel at the pace, cohesion and (with some mildly glaring moments of exception) discipline that Brown has the guys playing at the moment. I doubt there are five coaches in the league having a more impressive season than him right now. 

But the players were pretty good in this one, too. Dario Saric had 20-11-4 in his first start in three weeks, continuing his unlikely Rookie of the Year surge with his third-straight double-double and fourth game of 20-plus in his last six games. The All-Star Break hasn't cooled Robert Covington's hot hand, as the shooter went 5-9 from deep last night and is now 17-31 on threes over his last four games, also posting a 20-10 night with his 25 points and 11 boards. (Also three assists and four steals, whatever.) Richaun Holmes dunked over some people and reminded a handful of fans why they've gotten way too excited about him at various points earlier in the year. Good times were had by all. 

Games like last night's also just remind you how marginal the difference between winning and losing is. As they've been wont to do forever, the Sixers blew their considerable lead to the Wizards late in this one, which would've undoubtedly resulted in a tragic loss in years past. But these days, the leads are a little bigger going into the Sixers' fourth-quarter tailspins, and their defense is just a little tighter on critical possessions, and that's the difference between losing on a Bradley Beal buzzer-beater and hitting just enough free throws to squeak out a mildly secure 120-112 victory. 

Anyway, after an impossibly discouraging week of Sixers happenings, it turns out some actual Sixers basketball is just what we needed. Hopefully their level of play will continue to get better as news of their off-court developments invariably keeps getting worse .

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).