LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — There were plenty of things that went wrong in Saturday night’s 127-121 loss for the Philadelphia 76ers to the Indiana Pacers. However, nothing was more emblematic of the team’s dysfunction on this night — and throughout this bizarre, never-ending season — than what happened at the end of the first quarter between Joel Embiid and Shake Milton.
After Milton, who replaced Al Horford in the starting lineup, had a rough first quarter, Embiid appeared to say something to him as he walked off the court at intermission. Once Milton realized it was Embiid, the Sixers guard started yelling back, and tried to get in his face before teammates broke it up.
“That’s just basketball,” Embiid said afterward. “Everyone makes mistakes. It’s going to happen and it happens everywhere. We discussed about what was going on in the game, but you move on and try and find a solution. That’s life. It happens. It happens on every team, but you just keep moving forward.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown downplayed it, too. And, in reality, it probably didn’t mean much. These things happen from time to time on basketball teams, and Milton is very well-liked in Philadelphia’s locker room.
But it was emblematic of the mess the Sixers let happen Saturday, allowing T.J. Warren to score 53 points — and the Pacers to score 46 in the fourth — to blow their opening game in the bubble, and losing the series advantage with Indiana in the process. — Tim Bontemps
Pacers not surprised by Warren’s 53-point performance
As soon as Warren exited the court at ESPN Wide World of Sport Complex on Saturday night, calls and text messages flooded his phone.
After scoring a career-best 53 points in Indiana’s 127-121 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, the Pacers forward certainly saw the notifications but refused to get too high or too low while enjoying the moment.
“I’ve always been the underdog,” said Warren, who also matched the franchise record for 3-pointers in a game with nine, previously held by Paul George. “I feel like that’s kind of like my permanent position so I’m kind of comfortable with that.”
Pacers coach Nate McMillan wasn’t one of the people blowing up his phone to congratulate him on becoming the fourth player in franchise history with a 50-point game — joining Reggie Miller, Jermaine O’Neal and Billy Knight — but Warren’s performance reminded him of their conversation during the hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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“I told him that I want him to really work on his 3-point shooting,” McMillan said. “Because I felt that Victor [Oladipo] and Malcolm [Brogdon] were going to be handling the ball a lot. He was going to be that guy that would be spreading and that kick out would come to him. Tonight, he was making all kinds of 3s.”
Warren listened. He worked at his North Carolina residence throughout the league’s suspension to stay sharp, and it showed Saturday.
Without Brogdon (cervical strain) and Domantas Sabonis (plantar fasciitis), Warren helped Indiana overcome a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit for its first victory in the bubble.
Warren, who was drafted out of NC State as a first-round pick in 2014 primarily due to his scoring ability, has the backing of teammates who know he’s capable of filling it up at any moment.
“If you know T.J. Warren, you know he’s a bucket so it’s not surprising to me,” Pacers guard Aaron Holiday said.
If Warren can keep scoring this way, and the Pacers can get fully healthy, Indiana’s chances to surprise in the playoffs could be quite high. — Eric Woodyard
The King finds The Brow
The Lakers star’s love for football is far from new, as James played football for two seasons at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, scoring 27 touchdowns and attracting the attention of Ohio State and Notre Dame.
Pelicans running out of time?
Clips set franchise record for 3s
George led the way with eight triples, as 10 Clippers connected from deep. They also tied a franchise mark for 3s in a quarter (9) and in a half (16). Their 16 3s in the first half was one shy of the Golden State Warriors‘ NBA record for 3s in a half (17).
The Clippers would go on to win 126-103 over the Pelicans.
Oladipo’s decision to play crucial for Pacers
Sabonis’ absence from the bubble due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which caused him to leave to seek treatment from a specialist, made Oladipo’s decision to participate in the restart all the more crucial for the Pacers. During scrimmage games, McMillan replaced the All-Star Sabonis with smaller lineups featuring Warren at power forward, creating more need for Oladipo’s presence on the wing — to say nothing of his ability to create shots.
While finishing fourth or fifth is irrelevant with all games played on neutral courts, Indiana will want to avoid dropping to sixth and more than likely facing the Boston Celtics in the opening round of the playoffs. Saturday’s victory was a move in the right direction. — Kevin Pelton
LeBron, KD and Spida?
Donovan Mitchell reached the 5,000-point milestone for his career Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Mitchell hit the mark in only 221 games, the third-fastest active player to do so, per Elias Sports Bureau research. The two to do it quicker? LeBron James (197) and Kevin Durant (205).
Hello, Mr. Roberson
Olynyk heats up in fourth quarter
Before the hiatus, Heat center Kelly Olynyk hadn’t scored 20 points in a game this season. Then, after going scoreless in the first three quarters against Denver on Saturday, he exploded for 20 points in the fourth quarter to help Miami finish off a 125-105 win.
According to @ESPNStatsInfo, Kelly Olynyk is the first Heat player to score 20 points in the fourth quarter of a game since Dwyane Wade in February 2009.
Butler changes jersey before tipoff
Miami Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler said he wanted to wear a jersey with no social justice message and no name on the back for the NBA restart and took the floor wearing exactly that before Saturday’s tipoff against the Denver Nuggets. However, Butler had to head to the sideline and change into a jersey with his last name under his number before the game actually began. Full story
Bol Bol makes long-awaited NBA debut
After missing the entire season before the March 11 shutdown, Nuggets rookie Bol Bol made his official regular-season debut Saturday. Bol, the No. 44 pick in the 2019 draft, shined in Denver’s first scrimmage, flashing the form that had some projecting him as a lottery pick before the draft. He entered Saturday’s game against Miami at the start of the second quarter and needed just 25 seconds to make his first NBA basket.
As a reminder: while stats count from these games, Bol will still be eligible for next season’s Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie teams. https://t.co/sRyi3FJ4cR
Nuggets down three starters Saturday
The Denver Nuggets entered their first seeding game short-handed, as starters Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton were all declared out against the Miami Heat. Denver went on to lose 125-105. Murray, who played 25 minutes in the Nuggets’ final scrimmage on Monday, has been dealing with left hamstring tightness. Harris, who was a late arrival to the bubble, has a sore hip, and Barton has been nursing right knee soreness. Harris didn’t play in Monday’s scrimmage, while Barton was limited to 18 minutes.
The only bubble team playing on Saturday was New Orleans (vs. Clippers). And it was also the last time the Pelicans play a team with a winning record. So while the schedule gets “easier” on paper for New Orleans, the Pelicans will face teams playing for their playoff lives for the rest of the month after Saturday, just like they will be.
8. Memphis Grizzlies | 32-34 (.485) | —
9. Portland Trail Blazers | 30-37 (.448) | 2.5 GB
10. San Antonio Spurs | 28-36 (.438) | 3 GB
11. Sacramento Kings | 28-37 (.431) | 3.5 GB
12. New Orleans Pelicans | 28-38 (.424) | 4 GB
13. Phoenix Suns | 27-39 (.409) | 5 GB
Miami Heat 125, Denver Nuggets 105 | Box score
Oklahoma City Thunder 110, Utah Jazz 94 | Box score
LA Clippers 126, New Orleans Pelicans 103 | Box score
Indiana Pacers 127, Philadelphia 76ers 121 | Box score
Toronto Raptors 107, Los Angeles Lakers 92 | Box score
The Trail Blazers got off to exactly the kind of start they needed, taking down the Grizzlies in the opener to close the gap — because things start to get tougher from here. The Celtics played the Bucks to the wire, getting a terrific game from Marcus Smart and looking every bit prepared, conditioned and ready. The Trail Blazers are definitely a better team today than they were in March. They’re going to need to show it against Boston. — Young
There’s a decent chance the Bucks might drop 190 points on Houston. But then again, the Rockets might return the favor, because the microball is still cooking. James Harden didn’t show any signs of rust, and for the most part, Houston just continued on with what it was doing in March. If anything, the restart might have given the Rockets more of a chance to work out some issues, and a showdown against the Bucks is a great chance to try it out in a rematch of both teams’ season opener. — Young
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