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Short-handed Philadelphia 76ers spoil Alvin Gentry’s debut as interim head coach of Sacramento Kings

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SACRAMENTO, Callif. — A short-handed Philadelphia 76ers team missing four of its starters beat Sacramento 102-94 on Monday night, spoiling Alvin Gentry’s debut as interim Kings coach.

Gentry was promoted to interim coach after the Kings fired Luke Walton on Sunday. Gentry most recently served as head coach for the New Orleans Pelicans (2015-20). He has also had head-coaching stops with Miami, Detroit, the LA Clippers and Phoenix.

Not much looked different, however, as Sacramento again had trouble finishing.

The Kings led by nine early in the fourth quarter but were outscored 25-8 over the final 9:45, extending their losing streak against the 76ers to seven games.

“Bottom line, you have to step up and make shots,” Gentry said. “We got some good looks at it and we didn’t make them. That’s where we’ve kind of struggled. We played a team that had a lot of their starters missing and we didn’t get the job done.”

Tyrese Maxey had 24 points. Shake Milton scored 16 and Matisse Thybulle added 15, helping the Sixers to their second win in eight games. Andre Drummond had nine points and 23 rebounds.

“Guys stepped up tonight,” Maxey said. “We really buckled down defensively in the last four minutes. We got so many consecutive stops and guys like Shake hit big shots late. It was just a team collective effort.”

Sixers coach Doc Rivers was forced to juggle his roster yet again to make up for missing players. Philadelphia, already minus Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, also played without Tobias Harris (left hip) and Seth Curry (back tightness).

Maxey helped the team overcome those absences despite a rough night from the floor. The 76ers guard shot 8-of-22 and came up empty on four attempts beyond the arc.

But he had six points as part of Philadelphia’s fourth-quarter blitz. Milton and Georges Niang also scored six during the decisive surge.

“Like I said before the game, we can get it to the fourth quarter, we felt like we had a chance to win,” Rivers said. “They went up [nine], we didn’t let go of the rope. We got to the last six minutes and we didn’t know who was going to make the bucket but we played great defense and we executed offensively and the ball found the open guy. That’s a good lesson for us.”

Philadelphia’s defense made the biggest difference down the stretch, limiting the Kings to 12 points in the fourth quarter. Drummond, who had three blocks, played a big role with three rebounds over the final two minutes while controlling the middle.

De’Aaron Fox had 23 points and Buddy Hield scored 21 for the Kings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Jonas Valanciunas goes 7-for-7 from 3 in first half, scores career-high 39 as Pelicans beat Clippers again

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Jonas Valanciunas wasn’t exactly a marksman when he entered the NBA in 2012. In fact, in his first five seasons in the league, he went 1-of-4 from 3-point range.

But those days are long gone.

Valanciunas hit his first seven 3-pointers on Monday night — all in the first half — as he helped lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 123-104 win over the LA Clippers.

The 6-foot-11, 265-pound bruiser has slowly started to add the three-point shot to his game since 2017, but he’s never had a night like Tuesday when he scored a career-high 39 points to go along with 15 rebounds.

“Guys were calling him Dirk Valanciunas,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said, referencing Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki. “But we want him shooting the ball when he’s open and mixing it in. He still wants to go to the post, which I love about him. He’s a physical guy. But just explaining to him how it’s going to open our offense up with his ability to shoot the ball the way he can, it was amazing to see tonight.”

Valanciunas joined Stephen Curry as the only players this season to record at least 35 points, 10 rebounds and 7 3-pointers in a game — and both did it against the Clippers. Valanciunas also became the first player in NBA history to have seven 3-pointers and seven offensive rebounds in the same game.

He is just the sixth player since play-by-play tracking began in 1996 to go at least 7-of-7 from 3-point range in a half, joining Trevor Ariza (2014), Curry (2013), Ben Gordon (2012), Shawne Williams (2011) and Raef LaFrentz, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

In his first 18 games, Valanciunas was shooting 56.4% from deep. But he went 1-for-11 in his three games prior to Tuesday and it appeared that his percentages were coming back down to Earth.

But when the first two shots went in, Valanciunas kept letting them fly. He went on a personal 14-4 run in the second quarter, including a stretch during which he made back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers that sent the Pelicans bench into a frenzy.

By the time the night was finished, Valanciunas had improved to 30-for-58 on 3-pointers this season — a league-leading 51.7%. He’s two away from tying his career high for 3 in a season, which he set two seasons ago in Memphis.

But he knows he has a long way to go before he can live up to his new nickname.

“Well, I’m still Jonas Valanciunas,” the 10-year veteran said with a chuckle. “Everybody wants to be [Dirk]. He’s one of the greatest big guys in the game. But I still gotta work a lot to be like him.

“I’m just taking what’s out there. If I have an open shot, I’ll take it. If I’m making it, I’ll keep taking it. It’s as simple as that.”

Valanciunas’ career-high 7 3s comes just 10 days after he set his previous career high when he went 5-of-9 on Nov. 19 against the same Clippers team, although that game was played in New Orleans.

“We just couldn’t stop him,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said Monday night. “We were due for a bad defensive game, but Valanciunas made 7 3s.”

ESPN’s Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.

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Orlando Magic lose Jalen Suggs to fractured thumb

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Orlando Magic rookie Jalen Suggs fractured his right thumb during Monday night’s 101-96 loss at the Philadelphia 76ers and will be out for an extended period, the team said.

Suggs will travel back to Orlando, Florida, to get the thumb reevaluated before there’s a clear timetable on his return, but he is expected to miss several weeks.

The guard had 17 points before leaving the game for good in the second half with the injury.

Suggs, the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft out of Gonzaga, has been a bright spot for the four-win Magic, averaging 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 20 games.

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Coach Tom Thibodeau removes struggling Kemba Walker from New York Knicks’ rotation

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New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters Monday afternoon that he is removing guard Kemba Walker from not only the team’s starting lineup but also the rotation as a whole, beginning with Tuesday’s showdown with the crosstown-rival Nets in Brooklyn.

“It’s a tough decision to make, but you always have to do what you think is best for the team,” Thibodeau said after practice Monday in explaining his decision. “I view Kemba as a starter, and so it’d be tough to play three small guards together. I gave it consideration, and I’ve got great respect for who Kemba is as a person and all he’s accomplished in this league.

“But I have to do what I think is best for the team.”

In this case, Thibodeau decided that meant benching Walker in favor of Alec Burks. Walker, a four-time All-Star and New York City basketball legend, returned home this past summer on a two-year, $20 million deal after being bought out by the Oklahoma City Thunder following a trade from the Boston Celtics.

After seeing Burks go for 23 points in 39 minutes in Saturday’s win in Atlanta over the Hawks — a game Walker didn’t play in after scoring 17 points in New York’s loss to the Phoenix Suns at Madison Square Garden the night before — Thibodeau has opted to put him in the starting five moving forward.

“I want to tighten the rotation. I liked the way the team functioned, so it will be similar to what we did in the Atlanta game.”

Walker, 31, is averaging career lows across the board, including points (11.1), rebounds (2.6), assists (3.1), field goal attempts per game (9.8) and minutes (24.5). After a hot start to the season, his numbers have tailed off dramatically, as he averaged 10 points on 39% shooting overall — and 29% from 3-point range — through 12 games in November.

Meanwhile, New York’s starting lineup has simply not worked. Entering Monday night’s action, the team’s typical starting lineup — Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson — is the NBA’s most-used five-man lineup, logging 287 minutes. It has also been outscored by 15.6 points per 100 possessions in those minutes, and has what would be the NBA’s worst defensive rating (118.9). Individually, the Knicks are being outscored when Walker is on the court by 13 points per 100 possessions, and are outscoring teams by 11 points per 100 possessions when he isn’t.

Walker spent the past two seasons in Boston after the Celtics signed him to a four-year max contract in 2019 to replace Kyrie Irving once the latter left to sign his own max deal with the Nets. After making the All-Star team his first season and helping Boston reach the Eastern Conference finals with strong play in series victories over the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors along the way, Walker struggled with knee issues last season, missing 29 games in the regular season and the final two games of Boston’s five-game loss to Brooklyn in the first round.

In his first significant move as president of the franchise, former coach Brad Stevens chose to trade Walker to the Thunder, along with the No. 16 pick in July’s NBA draft, to bring center Al Horford back to Boston. Horford has seamlessly fit right into Boston’s lineup, particularly with starting center Robert Williams missing chunks of multiple games with various injuries early on this season.

Walker, on the other hand, eventually agreed to a buyout with the Thunder, allowing him to return home to New York to play a smaller role with his hometown team. But after being benched down the stretch repeatedly over the past several weeks, along with other members of the starting lineup, as New York’s bench has consistently outperformed it, Thibodeau decided Monday to take things a step further.

The Knicks are currently 11-9, putting them in the middle of the tightly bunched Eastern Conference standings. New York is three games behind the East-leading Nets and one ahead of the 76ers in 11th.

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