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PHILADELPHIA — Anthony Davis and the Pelicans got going in a big way after a slow start.
Davis had 31 points and 16 rebounds to lead New Orleans over the Philadelphia 76ers 108-93 on Tuesday night in a matchup of struggling teams.
Davis scored 11 in New Orleans’ dominant second quarter and Terrence Jones finished with 17 points and 10 boards for the Pelicans, who avenged a Dec. 8 home loss to the 76ers while winning for only the third time in 11 games.
“We just tried to make this a statement game for us,” Davis said.
Perhaps they were trying too hard in the opening quarter. Davis went 1 for 8 from the field, New Orleans was 6 for 22 and the Pelicans trailed 23-15 after one.
“We just had to find our rhythm,” Davis said. “We just weren’t moving the ball in that first quarter.”
They figured things out from that point on.
Davis and Tim Frazier combined for 21 points in the second period as the Pelicans doubled up the Sixers 42-21 to take a 57-44 halftime lead.
Davis missed eight of his first nine shots but finished 12 for 30.
“My jump shot wasn’t on tonight, so I started going to the rim,” Davis said. “You just adjust to the game. I wasn’t going to keep settling. I just had to attack, and that’s it.”
New Orleans shot 55.6 per cent (15 for 27) from the field, including 66.7 per cent (4 for 6) from 3-point range, in the second. The 42 points represented the most in a quarter for the Pelicans all season.
“I thought we did a good job of just moving the basketball, moving people into space and taking the opportunities that were there,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.
Ersan Ilyasova had 14 points to pace Philadelphia (7-21).
“That was the game,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said of the second quarter. “The other periods are acceptable.”
The Pelicans (10-20) built on their 13-point halftime lead and were up 18 early in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia got as close as 95-88 on Nik Stauskas’ 3-pointer with 5:25 left and had chances to pull closer, but misfired on two straight possessions.
Ultimately, the Sixers couldn’t overcome the second period.
“That’s a lot of points for one period,” Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor said. “That really got them going for the rest of the game.”
New Orleans shot 48 per cent (34 for 71) from the field after the opening 12 minutes.
Brown sat ineffective big men Joel Embiid and Okafor for most of the third quarter, instead inserting Nerlens Noel with 6:49 left in the period. Noel has been the odd man out at a crowded centre spot.
Brown said Sunday that Noel, a 2013 first-round draft pick who missed the first 23 games while recovering from knee surgery, won’t be part of the regular rotation while he sees if Embiid and Okafor are a fit on the floor together. Embiid and Okafor started alongside each other for the fourth straight game. Both had 11 points.
Fans gave Noel a rousing ovation when he entered and a louder cheer when he scored on a follow basket with 5:40 left in the third.
“I just really want to thank the fans for how they supported me,” Noel said. “That really meant a lot to me. I got the chills.”
Brown also was grateful for the crowd’s response.
“I can see why they would do that,” he said. “Nerlen plays hard, he plays defence, he’s appreciated by the city. It didn’t surprise me. I was glad they gave him a warm welcome.”
Pelicans rookie guard Buddy Hield scored 10 points and continued his strong shooting from outside. Hield was 2 for 2 from 3-point range and is shooting 52 per cent (25 for 48) from beyond the arc this month.
Pelicans: Tyreke Evans (rest) didn’t play. … Solomon Hill returned to the lineup after missing two games for the birth of his daughter. Hill had two points and three rebounds in 33 minutes. … Jrue Holiday played his first four seasons with Philadelphia.
76ers: Stauskas returned from a one-game absence due to left knee soreness only to leave in the first quarter after going hard to the floor on a charge against Frazier. Stauskas returned in the third quarter. … Philadelphia finished 1-3 on a four-game homestand.
Pelicans: Begin a five-game homestand by hosting Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.
76ers: Open a four-game Western road trip Friday night at Phoenix.

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Whoever becomes the next coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars won’t be tied at the hip to Blake Bortles.

Anointed to find a successor for Gus Bradley — who was fired on Sunday — retained general manager Dave Caldwell made it clear that he remains open to a fresh opinion on Bortles, the struggling quarterback who Caldwell hand-selected with the No. 3 overall pick in 2014.

“There won’t be any mandates for anybody that comes in,” Caldwell said. “I think there (are) no untouchables in this organization, including myself and any player, no matter how they got here, whether it was through a draft pick or a high-priced contract.”

Caldwell interrupted the following the question, though, to back his young signal-caller.

“I do still believe in Blake very much,” Caldwell said. “But the head coach will have a lot of input into who the quarterback will be.”

For now, that means the embattled Bortles will remain under center heading into Sunday’s game with the Tennessee Titans.
Interim head coach Doug Marrone emphasized as much, saying: “I’m sticking with Blake.”

Bortles has been an on-field mess this season, displaying faulty mechanics and ranking 28th in Total QBR above just Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum. Serving as a dangerous turnover machine, the third-year passer has comprehensively regressed.

It’s a sticky situation that might scare off certain candidates, but Caldwell emphasized that no starting position is set in stone.

“I would encourage a different kind of perspective. I want the right perspective,” Caldwell said, adding of Bortles: “I know we’re very close to him and we hold him in high regard in terms of what we think his capabilities are. I still believe he has a very high ceiling, but I want to be realistic about it, too.”

Caldwell acknowledged that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the next coach’s take on Bortles sits “somewhere in the middle,” saying: “Blake, yeah, he does have to play better, but we also have to play better around him, too.”

Caldwell knows that forcing a broken quarterback on a flock of candidates is no way to go about a coaching search. If Bortles can’t be fixed, it’s time for the Jaguars to start over at the most important position in sports.

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The Houston Texans took a big step toward a division title by sweeping the season series against the Colts with a 22-17 victory on Sunday. Here’s what we learned:

1. This was the formula for success for Houston to play around their struggling quarterback. On a day the Texans only had 131 yards passing, Lamar Miller keyed a 185-yard effort from the Texans ground game. Rotating with Alfred Blue (55 yards), Miller found big holes all afternoon against a depleted Colts defense.
2. This game showed the Colts’ many limitations on a day where Andrew Luck was not at his best. Luck was hit a ton and turned the ball over three times, although only one of those turnovers was his fault — a particularly ugly interception where he tried to force a pass. Colts receivers other than T.Y. Hilton failed to make tough catches all day and the Colts didn’t trust their running game. (Frank Gore had 10 rushes for 41 yards.) These looked like two teams lucky to be in any playoff race.

A dejected Luck after the game: “Disappointed in myself.”

3. Benardrick McKinney made a terrific play on the Colts’ final offensive play, recognizing a screen pass attempt on fourth-and-one near midfield. McKinney, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney have been excellent all year and came through Sunday, especially Clowney. Playing through an injury, Clowney hit Andrew Luck on one interception, forced a fumble, had three QB hits and drew a big holding penalty. The Texans had 13 QB hits (but only one sack) as they won the battle up front on both sides.
4. While Brock Osweiler was his usual depressing self for most of the game, give him some credit for key throws on Houston’s fourth-quarter field goal drive which took 6:19 off the clock. If you only watched the fourth quarter of Colts-Texans games this year, you’d think Osweiler has delivered for Houston. The team’s comeback victory in Week 6 now looms large with Houston (7-6) having swept the season series.

5. Indianapolis’ wideout depth has been an issue all season. After Donte Moncrief left with a hamstring injury in the first quarter, Phillip Dorsett dropped 2-3 passes. He wound up with 19 yards on eight targets.

6. Now 6-7 and third place in the AFC South, the Colts head on the road the next two weeks in Minnesota and Oakland. With Tennessee and Houston both at 7-6, Indianapolis may have to win out to get in the tournament. They aren’t complete enough to do that.

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The one-win Niners are back on the Kap Train.

Offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins announced Tuesday that Colin Kaepernick will start at quarterback Sunday against the flailing New York Jets, per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
Kaepernick was historically awful in last Sunday’s loss to the Bears. Hampered by the snowy elements, the former Super Bowl starter was 1-of-5 passing for just four yards before coach Chip Kelly yanked him in favor of low-wattage backup Blaine Gabbert. Sacked five times in defeat, Kaepernick became just the second quarterback since 1970 with more takedowns than passing yards in a single game.

“We had been playing good football on offense and the thing had been trending in the right direction,” Modkins said of Kaepernick’s handiwork prior to the Chicago implosion.

This is the right decision for San Francisco, giving the Niners a better chance for victory against a Jets team that looked utterly lost against the Colts on Monday Night Football.