Okafor, Noel lead 76ers to 103-98 win over Nets



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PHILADELPHIA — T.J. McConnell channeled his inner Ish Smith.

McConnell, filling in for injured starting point guard Ish Smith, tied his career-high with 17 points to help the Philadelphia 76ers down the Brooklyn Nets 103-98 on Saturday night.

Jahlil Okafor had 22 points and 17 rebounds and Nerlens Noel added 18 points, including a key dunk late in the fourth quarter, for Philadelphia.

McConnell, a rookie, was a huge reason why the 76ers were able to earn their eighth win while snapping a four-game losing streak.

"He was inspirational," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said.

McConnell credited Smith, who injured his ankle while scoring 22 points in Philadelphia's 106-94 loss at Washington Friday night.

"I was just trying to do my best impression of him tonight," McConnell said.

Although they improved to just 8-43, the 76ers have been improved since acquiring Smith in late December from New Orleans, going 6-13 with him in the lineup.

"From the moment he got here, I think our team played for the better," McConnell said. "Even while Ish was on the bench, he was showing leadership."

Thaddeus Young scored all 22 of his points after halftime for Brooklyn, which was trying to win consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 10. Young added 10 rebounds and Brook Lopez had 17 points for the Nets.

The Nets trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half and were down 69-64 entering the fourth quarter. Markel Brown's third 3-pointer of the contest with 6:59 remaining gave Brooklyn its biggest lead, 86-81. But the 76ers scored eight of the next 10 and went back up on Hollis Thompson's 3 from the left wing that made it 89-88 with 4:44 left. Philadelphia's lead was still one point once when Robert Covington drained a 3-pointer with 1:16 to play that made it 97-96. Both teams missed field goals on ensuing possessions before McConnell's steal with 30 seconds left led to Noel's dunk with 21.3 ticks remaining that made it 99-96 and was enough for Philadelphia to earn their seventh win in the last 20 games.

Brooklyn dropped to 4-19 on the road.

"When you get consistent how you play, then we'll start turning these games into wins," Nets interim coach Tony Brown said. "I commend them for getting back in it, but obviously there's still a lot of work we have to do."

MARKEL'S NIGHT

Markel Brown, who entered averaging just 2.5 per game, was perfect from the field while setting a season-high with 15 points for the Nets. Brown made all five of his shots, including three 3-pointers.

"He was very decisive," Tony Brown said. "It was good to see that. He saw shots and took them, and the ball was falling for him."

Markel Brown, known as a defensive specialist, said he's been working hard on his jump shot.

"I'm trying to elevate my game to not be one-dimensional," he said.

NOT SAME NETS

The Nets set a season-high for points in Friday's 128-119 home win over the Kings, but they mustered just 12 points while sleepwalking through the first quarter. Brooklyn turned the ball over 11 times and missed 12 of 17 shots while falling behind 24-12 after one.

"That hurt us and that triggered down through the whole game," said Joe Johnson, who had nine points. "We never got in sync."

Philadelphia's lead grew to as many as 15 points early in the second quarter before the Nets responded with 27 of the final 37 points of the quarter to enter halftime down 41-39.

After setting a season-high with 18 3-pointers against Sacramento on Friday, the Nets went 5-for-15 from the arc against Philadelphia.

TIP-INS

Nets: Tony Brown said prior to the game that there is no firm date set yet for the debut of Chris McCullough. The rookie was active for the second straight game on Saturday and could play as early as Monday at home against the Nuggets. ... The loss snapped Brooklyn's three-game road winning streak against the 76ers. . The last time the Nets had a winning streak was Dec. 8 and Dec. 10 when they defeated Houston and the 76ers, respectively.

76ers: Philadelphia honored the late Darryl Dawkins with video tributes, a halftime interview with former teammates World B. Free and Bobby Jones and posters to the first 15,000 fans. Dawkins played the first seven seasons of his 14-year career with the 76ers, who drafted him fifth in 1975. ... F Richaun Holmes (sprained right ankle) missed his second straight game. ... The 76ers had three three-second violations.

UP NEXT

Nets: Host Denver on Monday.

76ers: Host Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.

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