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The LA Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers agreed on a blockbuster deal that sends forward Tobias Harris to partner with the Sixers’ Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler to pursue an Eastern Conference title, league sources told ESPN.\
The Sixers paid a steep future price to the Clippers, including rookie guard Landry Shamet, Philadelphia’s own 2020 protected first-round pick and an unprotected 2021 first-round pick via the Miami Heat, league sources told ESPN.
The Sixers also sent forwards Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala and 2021 and 2023 second-round picks to the Clippers (via the Detroit Pistons) in the trade, sources said. Center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott were shipped to the Sixers.
The Clippers wanted to move themselves into contention as players in the marketplace for stars wanting to get to the Los Angeles market, and the picks could go a long way to building a significant arsenal. The Clippers didn’t make the deal specifically to pursue New Orleans Pelicans All-NBA center Anthony Davis, sources said, but for star players like him who invariably become available in the marketplace.
Davis included the Clippers on a list of teams he would be willing to commit to long term if traded, but Clippers president Lawrence Frank and general manager Michael Winger didn’t make the trade with the primary objective to pursue Davis, league sources said. New Orleans could have interest in the Clippers’ assets prior to Thursday’s trade deadline — and perhaps again in the offseason, if Davis remains on the Pelicans’ roster.
For first-year Sixers general manager Elton Brand, it is the second significant deal of the season — bringing Harris and Butler into the Sixers’ lineup. Along with Butler, Harris will be a free agent this summer, and the Sixers plan to be aggressive in re-signing him to an extension, league sources said.
The Clippers considered Harris, 26, close to a max-level player in the marketplace, and that would’ve been difficult for them to pay with the franchise’s lofty free-agent aspirations. The Clippers are planning to pursue several All-NBA-caliber players, including the Toronto Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers have salary-cap space to sign two maximum-contract players.
Lowry, a Philadelphia native and former Villanova star, had 17 points in the first half and finished with 20. He seemed unfazed by a report from Sports Illustrated that Toronto had offered him to Memphis as part of a trade package for Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.
“I personally want to be in Toronto,” Lowry said. “I’ve never asked for a trade. My goal is to try to win a championship here, and that’s what I want to do.”
Serge Ibaka also had 20 points to help the Raptors overcome the Joel Embiid-led Sixers. Embiid had 37 points and 13 rebounds for his league-leading 44th double-double, while Ben Simmons scored 20 points and Jimmy Butler had 18.
With the Sixers trailing by 18 early in the fourth quarter, Embiid ripped off 12 points in a three-minute stretch to slice Toronto’s lead to 108-101 with 6:59 left and get the home crowd on its feet for the first time all night. But the Raptors (39-16) never let the Sixers (34-20) get closer than seven.
“Offensively, defensively, they were just better than us,” Embiid said. “But I’m proud of our effort in the second half.”
After erupting for 40 points in the first quarter behind 11-for-11 shooting from the free-throw line, the Raptors built a 21-point advantage midway through the second quarter. Lowry, who missed Toronto’s last game due to back soreness, fueled the run with three 3-pointers in a two-minute stretch.
With Wilson Chandler (quad) and JJ Redick (nausea) sidelined, remaining starters Embiid, Jimmy Butler, and Ben Simmons each played over 39 minutes.
“I felt like it’s our only chance to win,” Brown said of his stars’ endurance. “It is not an ideal volume of minutes.”
Butler recorded 18 points, five assists, and two steals, while Simmons scored 20 points and grabbed seven boards.
But the Raptors controlled the bulk of Tuesday’s contest, leading by as many as 21 points.
The Sixers cut the lead to seven twice in the fourth quarter, as Embiid hit a 2-point shot with 6:59 remaining to make it 108-101.
Embiid brought the Sixers within seven once again, 112-105, after a T.J. McConnell steal and assist led to a dunk from the big man with 3:47 on the clock.
The team appeared to cut the Raptors’ lead to five on a Landry Shamet 3-pointer with 2:45 to go, but Shamet was instead called for an offensive foul, negating the shot.
From then on, the game belonged to the Raptors.
Kawhi Leonard led his team with 24 points and seven rebounds. Five other Raptors finished in double-digits: Pascal Siakam (16 pts, 6 reb); Serge Ibaka (20 pts, 10 reb); Kyle Lowry (20 pts, 6 ast); Norman Powell (14 pts); and Greg Monroe (10 pts).
The Raptors took 89 shots to the Sixers’ 70, and forced 18 Sixer turnovers resulting in 30 points. The Sixers went 1-3 in their regular season series with the Raptors.
The Raptors ran into some adversity to start the third when Ibaka was hit with his fourth and fifth personal fouls in quick succession. With Greg Monroe entering in Ibaka’s place the fouls continued to pile up for the Raptors, as they found themselves in the bonus with over 8 minutes left in the quarter. Though the Sixers paraded to the line and ground the pace to a halt, the Raptors eventually got a counterpunch from their defence, as Kawhi Leonard forced multiple turnovers to create the transition opportunities the Raptors needed to re-establish their lead. Leonard struggled from the field all night, ending 3/11 from the floor, but he was still able to make a positive impact through his defence, and ended up leading the Raptors in scoring with 24 points due to his own ability to get to the line; he finished 16/17 from the stripe on the night.
The fourth saw the Sixers come out with a surge, as the Raptors started to bend under the stress of mounting foul trouble. Leonard had closed the third quarter with the bench, and Lowry and Ibaka had four and five fouls respectively. As such Nick Nurse attempted to squeeze in a stretch of all bench minutes. This meant Greg Monroe guarding Joel Embiid. Monroe, to his credit, would finish with an efficient 10 point and 7 rebounds, but the Raptors still struggled immensely with him in the game, as Embiid both drilled threes in Monroe’s face and pump-faked him into oblivion. The bench minutes saw the Sixers turn an 18 point lead into a single-digit game.
The Sixers had cut the Raptors’ lead to 10 midway through third quarter after trailing by as many as 19 but Toronto responded with a quick 11-4 run punctuated with a corner three from Leonard as he did some good work alongside the Raptors bench unit — which was sparked by Norm Powell who finished the quarter with a lay-up that gave him 14 points on six field goal attempts as the Raptors led 100-82 after three quarters.
Everyone was in on the act with contributions from big dogs Kyle Lowry (20 points, six assists) and Leonard, as well as nice-when-you-get-it nights form Delon Wright (eight points and five assists) and Greg Monroe (10 points and seven rebounds). But getting Lowry and Leonard together was key, and will be:
“I think let’s look at this from a good news-bad news situation. The bad news is we’ve lost a lot of [man] games already this year,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse of the Raptors challenges in fielding a full rotation. “…So we’re probably leaning to getting them together a little bit more … we’re getting these guys back so we should be able to manage the rest of it just fine. But I would imagine, it feels to me, like there’s only about 25 games left [26 after Tuesday], and we’re gonna be playing [everyone in them]”
The question as the NBA trade deadline looms Thursday afternoon is who Valanciunas — or anyone else — will be playing with when that moment comes.
There was a simple story for the first half of this game. The Raptors didn’t miss a shot. Let me correct myself. The Raptors didn’t miss too many shots. They shot 61.9% from the field in the first quarter and 44.4% in the second quarter. Serge Ibaka was 8-11 from the field in the first half for 16 points and four rebounds. Kawhi Leonard was only 2-6 from the field, but he went 7-7 from the free throw line for 12 points.
Then there was Kyle Lowry dropping bombs in the first half scoring 17 points by way of four made threes (among other things). Lest we forget the 7:30 stretch of Norman Powell that was frustrating to watch him shoot perfect from the floor and the free throw line.
Joel Embiid had a good first half with 19 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks, but it was negated by the fact that no one else on the roster was doing anything to help him. Jimmy Butler had 12 points, but shot 3-9, and Ben Simmons had nine points, four rebounds, and four assists. He also had four turnovers.
Add all that up, and it put the Sixers in a serious hole early as the lead got as high as 21. At one point in the second quarter, the Raptors scored on eight straight field goals while the Sixers got a point here and two points there at the line. There was no momentum for the Sixers at the half going into the locker room down by 17.
Really? It’s going to be ANOTHER damn game like this to the Raptors?
For another quarter, at least, it seemed that way. The Raptors continued to shoot well in the third quarter going 10/20 in the quarter keeping the lead at double digits, 100-82, after three quarters. Then, the fourth quarter happened.
The ability of Lowry to block out the noise further exhibits the maturation of his game this season. In the past, Lowry had a reputation of poor shot selection and settling for jumpers too much rather than attacking the basket or deferring to teammates. He is averaging a career high in assists at 9.2 a game and is a big reason why the Raptors are in second place in the Eastern Conference.
However, Raptors president Masai Ujiri is not afraid to shake things up if he believes the right deal can be had to improve his team. Toronto decided to move on from fan favorite and franchise staple Demar DeRozan this past offseason to be the main piece in the Kawhi Leonard deal. By trading Lowry, it will further alter what has been the identity of the team for the past seven seasons.
The duo of Lowry and DeRozan always had a reputation of playing strong in the regular season, only to bow out in frustrating fashion in the postseason. By letting go of last year’s NBA Coach of the Year Dwane Casey as well as DeRozan, it is clear Ujiri is not the sentimental type.
Toronto’s next contest will in Atlanta on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
• Kawhi Leonard is really freaking good.
It seemed like he was everywhere Tuesday night. When you look at his stat line, nothing special stands out (23 points, six rebounds, three steals), but he was able to get in the paint at will, fought for every loose ball and continued to suffocate Ben Simmons — though this was by far the best game Simmons has had against Leonard.
His presence opened things up for Kyle Lowry (20 points) and Serge Ibaka (20 points).
• After depth and defense, the Sixers’ next biggest issue has to be turnovers. They turned it over 18 times. The Raptors turned that into 30 points. The biggest culprits were Simmons (six), T.J. McConnell (four) and Joel Embiid (four).
• If you’re looking for a bright spot for the Sixers, Embiid continued his dominant ways. He was too much for Ibaka and Greg Monroe inside and hit 3 of 6 threes. He poured in 37 points (10 of 18) and 13 rebounds for his league-leading 44th double-double.
If it wasn’t for Embiid, this game would’ve never gotten close. Brett Brown even sensed that and played Embiid a season-high 41 minutes, barely resting him in the second half. That’s after he played the big man 39 minutes against Sacramento Saturday.
• It was a pretty pedestrian game from Jimmy Butler offensively. Brown has said on numerous occasions and reiterated again before the game that he’d like to see Butler be more aggressive on that end of the floor. His fourth quarter against the Kings looked like an encouraging sign and he appeared aggressive early in the first few minutes of this one. Ultimately, he finished with just 16 points on 4 of 11 from the field.
Wright stuff: Delon Wright had one of his best games of the season Sunday against the Clippers on Sunday, with 14 points in an aggressive performance. He only went 1-for-7 from the field Tuesday but continued to play aggressively, adding six points from the free-throw line.
Blistering start: The Raptors scored 72 points and led by 17 at halftime. It was their highest scoring first half of the season and tied the highest scoring half in any game, 72 in Portland.
Shooting them up: Toronto will have a fourth participant in the NBA’s all-star weekend festivities Feb. 15-17 in Charlotte.
• I didn’t think the final score was representative of how outclassed the Sixers were for a lot of Tuesday evening. I was half expecting to look up at the scoreboard and see them down by 35 points at different times throughout the game. Even when they went on a spurt early in the third, they made all of five points back while playing Embiid for seven-plus minutes to open the quarter.
You can’t really say, “They don’t beat good teams!” after watching them beat the Warriors (and when they’re playing without two starters), but it was disappointing to see them outclassed by the Raptors yet again. The only time they’ve beaten Toronto this year was with a bunch of Toronto’s main pieces out. That doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.
The game certainly speaks volumes about how good Embiid is, at the very least.
• Kawhi Leonard junks up a lot of things the Sixers like to do. And really, that comes down to how miserable he makes like for Ben Simmons, who can not seem to figure out what to do when Leonard is on the floor.
A lot of teams choose to concede the perimeter to Simmons in order to pack the paint and take away the only area where he finds success as a scorer. This can sometimes backfire when it allows Simmons to build up a head of steam and either finish or dish from the paint.
Leonard’s combination of strength, size, and speed allows Toronto to play tight coverage on Simmons without any real repercussions. He gets Simmons out of his comfort zone and it ends up bogging down the offense, which is not exactly wonderful in a halfcourt setting as it is.
“Anything that shakes out, I don’t know,” said Brown, whose squad suffered a 119-107 setback to the Raptors at Wells Fargo Center. “I would not be telling the truth if you say something is incredibly imminent.”
Joel Embiid scored 14 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth quarter. His heroics enabled the Sixers, who trailed by 21 points, to close the gap to seven points (112-105) with 3 minutes, 47 seconds remaining.
After Kawhi Leonard made a foul shot to put the Raptors up eight points, Landry Shamet made what appeared to be a three-point attempt with 2:47 left. However, the shot was called off as official Tony Brown said Shamet committed an offensive foul on Pascal Siakam during the play.
The Raptors went on to win by 12.
Embiid also had 13 rebound, three rebounds and four turnovers in what was his 44th double-double of the season. Ben Simmons added 20 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, three steals and 6 turnovers. Jimmy Butler (18 points) and Furkan Korkmaz (11) were the team’s other double-figure scorers.
The loss dropped the Sixers (34-20) to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, while the second-place Raptors improved to 39-19.
Know this about the Sixers: They are well aware of the reality of their current situation. Things might not be as dire as they looked Tuesday night — JJ Redick was sidelined with nausea, while fellow starter Wilson Chandler continues to recover from a quadriceps injury — but they are hardly ideal. The fact that the franchise’s chief decision-makers have readily acknowledged these things should hearten fans as they project this roster forward into the postseason. They will do something. Exactly what, and exactly when, are the operative questions.
The Sixers are fortunate in the turn the NBA has taken over the past month or so, with borderline playoff contenders such as New Orleans, Memphis, and Orlando settling down toward the bottom of their respective conferences’ standings. Like last season, when the Sixers ended up signing Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova after both players were bought out by the Hawks, the marketplace currently offers ample opportunity for some sort of package acquisition. Their wish list is threefold: 1) a two-way wing who can play defense and knock down an open three-point shot, 2) a rim-protecting big man who can keep the defense afloat when Joel Embiid is off the court, and, 3) a two-way guard who brings a more complete skill set to the court than the Sixers are getting from T.J. McConnell.
Each of those aforementioned teams boasts expendable pieces that can check off multiple needs without eating into the Sixers’ payroll flexibility for next season. The ideal scenario might be in Atlanta, where a package of Taurean Prince and Dewayne Dedmon would give the Sixers the wing and the big they lack. In Memphis, guards Garrett Temple and Justin Holiday would help to solve the problems that have plagued coach Brett Brown’s reserves on the perimeter this season. And the Pelicans feature a three-point shooting big man in Nikola Mirotic and a three-point shooting wing in E’Twaun Moore who would both slide into significant roles in the Sixers’ current rotation.
The head coach, Nick Nurse, said he was pleased to have Lowry back, and he talked about how important it would be to have his point guard being a primary scorer again and doing all those little things he does.
But by Tuesday afternoon, word had seeped out that Lowry was among the players in trade discussions ahead of Thursday’s NBA deadline. So, he’s either an essential part of the Raptors’ plans to contend this season, or he’s on the move. One or the other.
Trade talks are often meaningless. The rumours floated on Tuesday, which had Lowry and injured centre Jonas Valanciunas in a potential swap for guard Mike Conley and centre Marc Gasol from Memphis, was just this side of plausible. But the fact that the possibility of such a blockbuster couldn’t be dismissed out of hand is, at the least, further proof that the continuing issues with Lowry’s back, and his wonky shooting, have thrown a lot of doubt into a Raptors season that has so much riding on it.
As this franchise rose through successive strong regular seasons and various levels of disappointment in the playoffs, the team acquired a well-earned reputation as post-season underachievers, with Lowry and his one-time sidekick, DeMar DeRozan, sharing much of that burden.