Today is Saturday, December 16, 2017.
|Saturday, December 16, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
|Trail Blazers||vs.||Hornets||7:00 (EST) Preview|
Hornets, Blazers look for points from point guards
Saturday, December 16 at 12:43 AM (EST)
Two of the premier point guards in the NBA go head-to-head Saturday night when the Portland Trail Blazers visit the Charlotte Hornets.
Both teams will be playing the second half of a back-to-back, with the Trail Blazers having won 95-88 at Orlando on Friday night and the Hornets falling 104-98 at home to Miami.
Damian Lillard's 21 points led the way at Orlando for the Trail Blazers, who have opened a five-game trip with two straight wins after a loss at Golden State.
Portland began the Eastern portion of its trip with a win at Miami on Wednesday that snapped a five-game losing streak.
CJ McCollum, Lillard's backcourt sidekick, led the way against the Heat with 28 points, then complemented his teammate's 21 points with 20 of his own.
Lillard was happy to note afterward that the Portland defense, which was scorched for 103 or more points in all five games of the losing streak, had limited its second straight opponent to 98 or fewer.
"Every year, for every team, adversity hits at some point and I feel like it was just hitting for us," he said. "We hadn't been defending well; we hadn't been playing good offensively."
Kemba Walker, meanwhile, had 25 points, but they weren't enough in Friday's loss to Miami.
The Hornets were opening a four-game homestand that continues Monday against New York and Wednesday against Toronto.
The problem against the Heat was that none of Walker's teammates scored more than 15 points, and the Charlotte bench got blitzed 51-35 by the Miami backups.
"They showed their depth tonight," Hornets interim coach Stephen Silas said of the Heat. "They had seven guys in double figures and no one over 16 points. When you play like that, it's a winning combination."
Lillard has gotten the better of Walker in their head-to-heads in careers that have mirrored each other in many ways.
Both have played only for one team, with Lillard joining the league in 2012-13 and Walker a year earlier.
The Trail Blazers have gone 7-3 against the Hornets since Lillard was drafted, although the clubs dueled on even terms last season, when both won at home.
Lillard had a game-high 27 points when the Trail Blazers beat the Hornets 115-98 in January in Portland. Walker countered with a team-high 22 points in the loss.
The Portland bench, paced by Meyers Leonard (12 points) and Moe Harkless (10), outscored their Charlotte counterparts 55-41.
Thirteen days earlier, it was Walker with game-high point total (23) in leading the Hornets to a 107-85 home win over the Trail Blazers. Lillard had a team-high 21 points for Portland.
Again, the benches played a key role. This time, the Hornets' backups got the better of it, 44-22, behind Frank Kaminsky's 11 points.
The 27- and 21-point outings against the Hornets were the ninth and 10th of Lillard's career in his 10 games against the Hornets.
Walker, who has gone 3-8 in his career against Portland, has one career double-double (15 points, 11 assists) and four 20-point games in his meetings with the Trail Blazers.
|Jazz||vs.||Cavaliers||7:30 (EST) Preview|
Odds against Jazz in matchup vs. Cavaliers
Friday, December 15 at 11:42 PM (EST)
CLEVELAND -- If you believe in scheduled losses, Saturday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers sure looks like one for the Utah Jazz.
To wit: The Jazz are smack in the middle of a brutal six-game road trip. Yes, Utah beat the Boston Celtics 107-95 on Friday, but then had to fly two hours to play a rested Cavaliers team that has been home and beating teams there all week.
The Jazz had dropped four straight before the win over the Celtics, but lost its two starting bigs -- Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors -- to injuries in the first half. Favors (stitches above his eye) would be more likely to play Saturday than Gobert (left knee injury).
Favors passed concussion protocol, while ESPN speculated that Gobert may have suffered an MCL sprain. Coach Quin Snyder told reporters Gobert, who's already missed time with a knee injury this season, had a "sore knee."
"It was an excellent effort and we managed to continue to try to do the things we felt we had to do to win the game, no matter who was out there," Snyder said. "Obviously Ekpe (Udoh), with Derrick (Favors) and Rudy (Gobert) out, did a terrific job. Ricky (Rubio) was great and it was good to see Ricky in the moment and competing. This group has got character and they're going to compete no matter the circumstances and they did."
The Jazz were led Friday by Rubio's 22 points. Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Hood scored 17 apiece off the bench, and rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 17 despite a 6-of-18 shooting performance.
Utah hasn't won a game in Cleveland since March 5, 2012. And LeBron James is averaging 30 points at home against the Jazz over the last three seasons.
The Cavs remain the NBA's hottest team with wins in 16 of their last 17 games. They've also won 10 straight at home, and James is averaging a triple-double in those games (29.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 10.2 assists).
"He's the best player in the world, he better (carry us)," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He's going to carry a team. That's what he's been doing his whole career. But we got a lot of guys that are playing well and chipping in and helping him. ... A lot of guys are chipping in, playing well and that's what we need: a total team effort."
Perhaps Cleveland's biggest surprise has been the play of 36-year-old point guard Jose Calderon, who's 12-2 overall as a starter this season. He's averaging 12 points and shooting .66.7 percent (12 of 18) from 3-point range over his last four games, with 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals.
"First of all he's a true professional," James said. "And that's what we have around here. Guys that show up, no matter when they're number's called, they're just ready to go. But at the end of the day, it takes a little time to get into a new system and this is a new system for him."
Tristan Thompson is expected to return for a few minutes against the Jazz, according to cleveland.com, following his late scratch before Thursday's win over the Lakers due to left calf soreness. He has missed 20 games this season because of the injury.
|Thunder||vs.||Knicks||7:30 (EST) Preview|
Thunder's Anthony set for return to MSG
Saturday, December 16 at 12:37 AM (EST)
NEW YORK -- Coming off arguably his team's most important win of the season, Carmelo Anthony makes his return to Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night for the first time as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
On Friday, the Thunder edged Philadelphia in a triple-overtime thriller, with Anthony scoring 24 points -- his highest-scoring output in more than a month -- in a 119-117 win. The victory sets up a crucial battle between two hot teams, as Oklahoma City has won three of four and six of its last eight games, while New York has won three straight and four of five.
One prominent Knick might not be part of Anthony's welcoming party: leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis exited the team's 111-104 win at Brooklyn on Thursday night with a knee injury. He is listed as day-to-day with knee soreness and is questionable for the matchup.
Even if an absent Porzingis takes away some of the thunder from the game, Anthony and his new squad should make up for it. Anthony told Thunder reporters earlier in the week that he was eagerly awaiting his MSG return.
"I'm excited to go back and play in the Garden," Anthony said. "Play in front of those fans. Play in front of my family, my friends. But at the end of the day, it's business to me. But I'd be lying if I said I'm not ecstatic to be going back and playing there. Like I said, I got a different feeling with New York. A different relationship, different bond with the city, with the fans, with the people. It's a little bit special for me."
The Knicks expect a warm reception for their former team captain, who was traded to Oklahoma City in September for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick.
"I think he was as professional as he can be in his time here in New York, so I don't see why they would not receive him with love," Porzingis told ESPN on Thursday.
Asked if he expected the MSG crowd to boo Anthony, who helped lead New York (15-13) to its first division title in 19 years in the 2012-2013 season and averaged nearly 25 points per game in his six-plus-year stint with the Knicks, forward Lance Thomas said he was not anticipating jeers.
"I don't think they will (boo Anthony)," Thomas said. "I don't think he deserves to be booed. But you never know."
Knicks fans may just be happy enough with the haul they got back from the Thunder (14-14) to harbor any ill will. McDermott has been a valuable bench player for New York, and Kanter has been downright terrific, averaging 13.4 points and 10.3 rebounds with 12 double-doubles on the year. His gritty defense in the post has freed Porzingis to take more risks, and Porzingis ranks third in the NBA in blocked shots per game (2.08).
After showing up to the team's 111-107 win over Atlanta on crutches -- and leaving on crutches, as well, the after-effects of a knee to the hip two days prior -- Kanter drew rave reviews from his teammates.
"He's the first guy I've ever seen come to a game on crutches and still start the game and he's about to leave on crutches," Jarrett Jack said. "I've never seen that before in my 13 years in the league."
|Bucks||vs.||Rockets||8:00 (EST) Preview|
Rockets' Paul bearing responsibility to produce vs. Bucks
Saturday, December 16 at 2:21 AM (EST)
HOUSTON -- What represented the first legitimate obstacle for the Houston Rockets since guard Chris Paul returned from his 14-game injury hiatus last month proved to be little more than a speed bump on Friday night.
Facing a stretch of two to three weeks without reserve forward Luc Mbah a Moute, sidelined by a dislocated right shoulder, the Rockets (23-4) took their first step in divvying up his 25 minutes per game against the San Antonio Spurs.
Trevor Ariza tied a season high with 42 minutes in a 124-109 victory. Houston, which will host the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night at Toyota Center, extended its winning streak to 12 games.
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni toyed with a three-guard lineup featuring Eric Gordon, James Harden and Chris Paul. He intimated that P.J. Tucker could get more minutes against the Bucks after Tucker logged only 25 against the Spurs.
Options abound for the Rockets, whose defense is sure to suffer without Mbah a Moute, although it was strong in the early going on Friday night.
"It's something we want to look at anyway, because there will be a lot of games we finish with those three guys on the floor," D'Antoni said of the three-guard set. "We have to take advantage of the next two weeks to look at it.
"I always feel good when those guys are on the floor. When you've got Eric, James and Chris, it's hard for it to go bad."
Even without Mbah a Moute, D'Antoni didn't put a heavy workload on Gordon (27 minutes), Harden (33) or Paul (32).
The wire-to-wire victory helped, particularly with the Rockets leading by as many as 28 points midway through the second quarter. But one game into the experiment, only Ariza extended himself, and according to D'Antoni, Ariza likes the labor.
"He never gets tired," D'Antoni said. "He just looks at me and goes, 'I'm fine, Coach.'"
The Bucks (15-12) fell to the Chicago Bulls 115-108 at home on Friday night and dropped consecutive games for the first time since losing to the Mavericks and Wizards in late November.
Despite having won six of seven games before those back-to-back losses, the Bucks continues to scuffle defensively, having allowed at least 100 points in seven consecutive games.
Milwaukee is 28th in the NBA with a 110.5 defensive rating in December.
"We got to do a better job guarding defensively and just playing harder," Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said. "Because up to this point that's what we do well, and right now we're going away from it."
In their first season under coach Jason Kidd, the Bucks fashioned a reputation as a defensive-minded team. But since that 2014-15 campaign, Milwaukee has ranked in the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency, and the inability to improve in that aspect continues to undermine the progress the Bucks have made adding pieces around Antetokounmpo.
"If you don't get stops, there is no way to turn it around, no matter how many points we score," Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon said. "Defensively we didn't play as a unit."
|Clippers||vs.||Heat||8:00 (EST) Preview|
Heat face Clippers, Spoelstra win from breaking record
Saturday, December 16 at 12:51 AM (EST)
MIAMI -- Coach Erik Spoelstra doesn't want to pass his mentor Pat Riley, but that's what now seems inevitable.
Spoelstra won his 454th career game on Friday night when his Miami Heat held on to defeat the Charlotte Hornets 104-98.
On Saturday night at American Airlines Arena, the Heat (14-14) faces the visiting Los Angeles Clippers (11-16). With a win, Spoelstra would pass Riley on the Heat career win list.
"That would seem like a misprint to me," Spoelstra said of passing Riley on the wins list. "Pat has meant everything to me as a coach and a mentor. I want to win (Saturday) night, but I don't want to pass Coach Riley in wins.
"We all think of him as the guy who should have all the records. He's the one who built this, along with (owner) Mickey (Arison). ... I am humbled."
The Heat would seem to have a good shot of beating the Clippers, who lost to the Washington Wizards 100-91 on Friday night.
Los Angeles is just 5-9 on the road this season. In addition, the Clippers are 0-8 in road games in which they enter the fourth quarter trailing as was the case on Friday.
The Clippers are without guard Austin Rivers, who has a concussion, and star forward Blake Griffin, who has a knee injury. Guard Patrick Beverley (knee) is out for the season, and forward Danilo Gallinari (buttocks) has missed three straight game.
Clippers guard Milos Teodosic is still not all the way back from a plantar fascia injury, and he missed Friday's game.
"It's been that type of season," Clippers coach Doc Rivers told the Los Angeles Daily News when asked about injuries.
Without all that firepower, the Clippers' main threats are center DeAndre Jordan and guard Lou Williams.
Jordan, a two-time NBA rebounding champion, is averaging 10.9 points, 14.6 boards and 1.2 blocks.
Williams, who could be a candidate for NBA Sixth Man of the Year, is averaging 20.0 points and 4.8 assists.
As for the Heat, they are dealing with two key injuries of their own. Center Hassan Whiteside, who has led the league in rebounds and blocked shots, is out with a knee injury and likely won't be back until the end of the month at the earliest.
Heat forward Justise Winslow (knee) has missed the past six quarters and is questionable to return against the Clippers.
In their absence, the Heat has received balanced scoring. On Friday, seven Heat players scored in double-figures.
Miami's leading scorers on Friday were a pair of reserve guards -- Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington.
Johnson, who missed the previous game due to a migraine headache, was highly efficient, making 5-of-6 shots from the floor, including 4-of-4 on three-pointers. He was also 2-of-2 from the foul line.
Missing Miami's 102-95 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers bothered Johnson, who was not healthy enough to participate.
"It's hard to explain to other people, but when you are going through (a migraine), you have to weather that storm, and you will be good later," Johnson said. "It's frustrating because I wanted to be out there to help my team and my brothers."
There is one other thing that bothers Johnson and his teammates and staff: Miami's 5-7 home record.
"We were just talking about that," Johnson said when asked why Miami is 9-7 on the road but struggles at home. "Most of our activity efforts -- the games where we had the most deflections and were flying around -- were all on the road.
"It's something we have to figure out because if we are going to make it to the playoffs, we have to hold down home court. We owe that same type of (road) effort to our fans (at home)."
|Suns||vs.||Timberwolves||8:00 (EST) Preview|
Timberwolves take on slumping Suns
Friday, December 15 at 7:53 PM (EST)
MINNEAPOLIS -- Karl-Anthony Towns is a young, talented and proud player, but the Minnesota Timberwolves' star center's pride took a big hit when his Philadelphia 76ers counterpart, Joel Embiid, left Minneapolis on Tuesday with a near triple-double (28 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists) and a 118-112 Sixers' win.
Towns publicly shamed himself afterward, shouldering the blame for Embiid's monster game and his team's loss. Two nights later, Towns funneled that frustration into a 30-point, 14-rebound and a season-high five-block performance in Minnesota's 119-96 home win over the Sacramento Kings.
"I came to be an assassin tonight, not a basketball player," Towns said Thursday night. "I wanted to try to be as active as possible and just disrupt the game as much as possible as well."
Towns added five assists as the trio of Towns, Jimmy Butler and point guard Jeff Teague combined for 20 of the Timberwolves' 29 assists.
"When we play like that and share the ball, we're going to score," said coach Tom Thibodeau, whose Timberwolves host the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.
Towns praised his team's effort on both ends of the court.
"We did a great job with team defense, stopping the transition points, which has been a problem for us," Towns said. "We did a great job of alleviating that tonight."
In its three December losses, Minnesota (17-12) has averaged nearly an 11-point deficit in fast-break points whereas the Timberwolves have outscored their opponents by an average of six points per game on the break in four wins this month.
For the season, Minnesota is in the NBA's bottom 10 in both fast-break points scored (9.2) and allowed (13.0) per game. After being outscored 14-5 on fast-break points by Philadelphia on Tuesday, the Wolves topped the Kings 13-3 in Thursday's win.
Minnesota hopes to build off that against a Suns team allowing 13.7 points per game in transition, but the Timberwolves don't expect much of a defensive battle when the Suns visit Target Center.
The NBA's 25th (Minnesota) and 30th (Phoenix) rated teams defensively have split two previous meetings this season with each team winning on its home floor and averaging a combined 228 points per game.
Phoenix (9-21) arrives in Minneapolis having dropped each of its last five games and 10 of its last 12 following Wednesday's 115-109 home loss to Toronto. The Suns are 0-4 since losing leading scorer Devin Booker (24.3 points) to an adductor injury, and frustration is mounting.
"We want to get some wins," point guard Tyler Ulis told the Arizona Republic. "We're going out there and fighting, playing our hearts out, but we just want to come up with a couple."
The Suns battled the No. 3 team in the East hard, but came up short despite 55 points from the bench, including a career-high 32 points and seven 3-pointers from Troy Daniels.
The Suns' bench ranks eighth in the NBA with 39.4 points per game, while Minnesota's 25.7-point bench average is 27th in the league.
"I thought our bench was really good tonight, and that's why they played as many minutes as they did," Phoenix coach Jay Triano said. "We rolled with them because they were earning the minutes."
Daniels made seven of his 10 3-point attempts to join Wesley Person as the only Suns player with multiple games of seven-plus triples off the bench in a season.
"We tried to keep him on the floor as much as we can," Triano said. "He's got an NBA skill of being able to really shoot the basketball and it's good to see him have a great night."
"My teammates were finding me," said Daniels who is averaging 14.8 points on 50.0 percent shooting from the field and 43.6 percent from 3-point range. "I had a couple go in early, which is very important, and the rest were just falling."
His teammates struggled from beyond the arc, however, going just 1 of 14 from long range. Phoenix ranks 29th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage (32.9), but the Timberwolves don't offer much in the way of deep threats either. Minnesota ranks in the bottom five in the NBA in 3-point attempts (22.8) and makes (8.1) and are No. 21 in percentage (35.8).
Phoenix has won nine of its last 16 games at Target Center where Minnesota's 10-5 home record this season matches its second-best 15-game start at home in club history. The Suns lead the all-time series 68-39, including 29-23 in Minnesota.
|Mavericks||vs.||Spurs||8:30 (EST) Preview|
Spurs, Mavericks meet for final time this season
Saturday, December 16 at 1:21 AM (EST)
The San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks will conclude their compressed season series and look to get back on the winning track when they square off Saturday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
The Spurs are 2-1 against the Mavericks this season. Saturday's game is the fourth time the teams have played since Nov. 14 and the final time they will face each other in the regular season.
Dallas heads to the Alamo City on the heels of a 112-97 loss at Golden State on Thursday in which Harrison Barnes led the Mavericks (8-21) with 16 points and seven rebounds. Barnes had scored 25 points in each of his two previous homecomings to the arena in which he began his professional career.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points to complement Barnes' 16 for the Mavericks, who had held their previous 10 opponents to an average of 97.8 points.
Dallas led by as many as eight points in the first half and were still within 80-73 at the end of the third quarter before the defending champs took charge.
"We're right there in games," Barnes said. "It's just a matter of winning games. We can't continue to have games where it's 36 minutes, 38 minutes, 40 minutes of hard play. It's got to be 48 minutes and a win."
The Mavericks dropped to 3-4 in December after going 1-7 in October and 4-10 in November. They committed 12 turnovers, their sixth consecutive game with 12 or fewer giveaways.
Many fans thought Saturday's game might be the final one in San Antonio for Nowitzki, but the 39-year old told the Dallas Morning News before a loss to the Warriors on Thursday that he's seriously considering a return next season, which would be his 21st in the NBA.
"I'm not going to say 100 percent I'll be back, but it's looking like it," Nowitzki said. "I feel fine so far. I've played every game. I'd love to play all 82. That would be amazing at (age) 39. We'll see how the body feels. But so far, it's been fine."
The Spurs enter the game on a two-game losing streak and on a quick turnaround after falling at Houston 124-109 on Friday night. San Antonio never led in the game and trailed by as many as 28 points in the second quarter, after which it only got within 13 points twice.
The Spurs' bench outscored the starters 73-36 in the defeat, which was the first matchup of the season with the retrofitted Rockets. LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio with 16 points and reserve forward Joffrey Lauvergne added 14, Patty Mills hit for 13 points and Davis Bertans and Bryn Forbes scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Spurs (19-10).
It was the second game of the season for Kawhi Leonard, who missed 27 games with a quad injury; San Antonio has lost both games its played this year with its star forward, who was limited to 12 points in 17 minutes on Friday.
Leonard is on a minutes restriction, which affects San Antonio's rotation and continuity, a situation the Spurs will deal with, and do so happily, as a trade for getting back their best player.
"It's a pain in the --- for everybody," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said before Friday's game. "Rotations are screwed up. If a guy is only going to play so many minutes, do you go to him the whole time to get him going and get him back in the flow? Do you just do what you usually do? It makes it a little bit tough that way."
The Spurs and Mavericks played Tuesday in Big D, with Dallas capturing a 95-89 victory. Leonard made his season debut, recording 13 points and six rebounds in just under 16 minutes of court time. His performance marked his 109th game in a row in double figures, the longest Spurs streak since David Robinson's 157 from 1994 to 1996 and the third-longest streak in Spurs history.
|Celtics||vs.||Grizzlies||9:00 (EST) Preview|
Celtics look to get well against the Grizzlies
Saturday, December 16 at 1:33 AM (EST)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Boston Celtics just might be getting exactly what the doctor ordered Saturday night when they visit the staggering Memphis Grizzlies.
The Celtics lost for the third time in five games Friday night, falling 107-95 at home to the Utah Jazz.
The losses have stunningly occurred following a 22-4 start that had given the Celtics the best record in the NBA.
"There's going to be times like this," Celtics standout Kyrie Irving assured after Friday's loss. "We've probably hit a little fatigue. We've probably hit a patch where we need to kind of all collectively and individually just kind of slow down for a quick second, gather ourselves and move forward."
Irving had 33 points in the loss, which came in the first meeting between the Celtics and Jazz since Gordon Hayward left Utah for Boston as a free agent in the off-season.
Hayward broke his ankle in the Celtics' opener against Cleveland and isn't expected to play again this season.
The Celtics get an opportunity to turn things back in a positive direction Saturday night against a Grizzlies club that has lost 16 of its last 18 games.
Even in a rare win Friday night, they were extended to the wire by fellow lightweight Atlanta, holding on for a 96-94 victory that ended a five-game losing streak.
Like the Celtics, the short-handed Grizzlies, still without star point guard Mike Conley, will be playing the second night of a back-to-back Saturday.
For a change, they'll be seeking a create a winning streak thanks to Friday's nail-biter.
"Winning always feels better than losing," Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff boasted. "I think some plays went our way."
Those plays included three potential game-tying or game-winning shots missed by the Hawks in the final 3.5 seconds.
Saturday's game tips off a two-game trip for the Celtics, who next travel to Indiana for a contest Monday night. Boston has alternated wins and losses in its last six games.
The Celtics also won't be at full strength on Saturday, with backup big man Daniel Theis having suffered a facial fracture in the loss to the Jazz.
Boston already was playing without Hayward and fellow starter Marcus Morris (strained left knee).
The Celtics swept the two-game season series over the Grizzlies last year, with a Conley absence helping produce different types of contests.
He had 19 points in a 112-109 overtime loss at home in December, a game in which Isaiah Thomas exploded for 44 points for the Celtics.
A week later, with Conley on the sidelines, the Grizzlies couldn't keep pace in Boston, losing 113-103. Thomas contributed 21 points to the win.
Conley remains sidelined indefinitely with an Achilles issue. Tyreke Evans has become the club's chief offensive option.
Evans had a game-high 22 points, including the eventual difference-making hoop with 1:03 remaining, in Friday's win over the Hawks.
It was Evans' 10th game of 18 or more points in Conley's 16-game absence, during which the Grizzlies have gone 2-14.
|Friday, December 15, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
Wizards hold on to defeat Clippers
Friday, December 15 at 11:06 PM (EST)
WASHINGTON -- Mike Scott did not imagine he would play or shoot at this level in his first season with the Washington Wizards. He is not alone. The forward simply credits the hard work he puts in every day.
Scott matched his season-high with 22 points off the bench and Bradley Beal had 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Washington Wizards overcame their latest uneven performance for a 100-91 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
The Wizards (16-13) could not put away their short-handed opponent until a decisive 17-5 run started with 4:52 remaining. Washington won its second consecutive game and gained revenge after falling to the Clippers last week.
John Wall had 15 points in 29 minutes in his second consecutive game after sitting out nine in a row following injections in his knee to help with inflammation.
Lou Williams had 23 points and Jawun Evans scored 15 for the Clippers (11-16). Los Angeles had won three in a row, starting with a 113-112 win over the Wizards on Dec. 9. DeAndre Jordan finished with 12 points and 16 rebounds.
Scott sank 9-of-10 shots from the field. Signed to a one-year veteran minimum contract during the offseason after a trying year on and off the court, the ex-Atlanta Hawk is shooting 34 of 43 (79.1 percent) over his last six games.
"Just in the zone," said Scott who battled injuries and legal issues during the 2016-17 season. "I still work on my game every day after shootaround and practice. Just having the same work ethic. The same routine."
Washington needed Scott's production because of issues with its starting frontcourt.
Otto Porter played only three minutes before exiting in the first quarter with a right thigh bruise. Markieff Morris was saddled with foul trouble before halftime. He picked up his fourth 52 seconds into the third quarter.
"Mike has been great for us all year," Morris said. "He was a great addition to our team. I'm glad we got him. We're looking forward to later in the season when we really need him."
Morris (hip, ankle) had eight points after sitting out Wednesday's 93-87 win over Memphis and his field goal broke an 82-82 tie. Kelly Oubre's four-point play with 3:11 remaining highlighted the key surge.
Already without star forward Blake Griffin (left MCL sprain) and guard Patrick Beverley (knee surgery), Los Angeles faced Washington without forward Danilo Gallinari (left glute contusion), third-leading scorer Austin Rivers (concussion) and guard Milos Teodosic.
"That's all you can ask," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of his side competing despite numerous injuries. "We're just going to try to stay in games and steal them at the end. That's what we tried to do tonight."
Ultimately, Los Angles committed too many turnovers (21) and miss too many shots, finishing at 38.8 percent from the floor.
The Clippers opened a four-game road trip with Wednesday's 106-95 win at Orlando.
Williams, who made his sixth start of the season Friday, scored 35 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds in the Clippers' home win over the Wizards. He committed four turnovers and finished 5-of-14 from the field in the rematch.
"We could have stole this one," Williams said. "I think we had three turnovers in a row. It might have been a turnover and a couple of missed shots, and they were able to capitalize on those missed shots for runouts."
Both meetings with the Clippers typify the Wizards struggles putting teams with losing records away.
Washington led in Los Angeles by four points and had two free throws pending with 51 seconds remaining in the first game.
The Wizards led by as many as 18 points early, but entered halftime up 48-43. After pushing the lead to 15 in the third quarter, they once again squandered their advantage. Evans, a defensive pest throughout, tied the game 79-79 on a jumper with 6:54 remaining.
Similar scenarios will be problematic with the second-best record in the East arriving next.
"I know one thing: We have to play better," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "With Cleveland coming here (Sunday), we're going to have to play much better on both ends of the floor."
NOTES: Washington hosts Cleveland Sunday in the first meeting since LeBron James scored 57 points against the Wizards on Nov.3 in the Cavaliers' 130-122 win. ... Clippers G Milos Teodosic is expected to play in Saturday's game at the Miami Heat. The point guard played in the previous two games after missing 22 while recovering from a plantar fascia injury to his left foot. ... Wizards coach Scott Brooks said he implemented a no-dunking rule for Wall in practice to help the point guard protect his body similar to one he had with G Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Did it work? "They just looked at me and smirked, but they don't listen," Brooks cracked.
Reserves help Heat hold off Hornets
Friday, December 15 at 10:45 PM (EST)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Miami Heat gave coach Erik Spoelstra a franchise record-tying 454th career victory on Friday night with a 104-98 win over the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center.
But Spoelstra had some reservations afterward about being tied with his mentor, Pat Riley.
"That would seem like a misprint to me," Spoelstra said when asked what it meant to tie Riley. "Pat has meant everything to me as a coach and as a mentor. I want to win tomorrow night, but I don't want to pass Coach Riley in wins. We all think of him as the guy who should have all the records. He's the one who built this, along with Mickey (Arison). So, I'm just humbled to be there."
Spoelstra couldn't celebrate until the final minute of a bizarre game.
The Heat led by 17 with less than seven minutes to go but the Hornets got as close as two in the final two minutes. Ultimately, Dion Waiters hit a jumper with 1:08 remaining to push a two-point lead to 102-98, and then after two Charlotte misses, Goran Dragic iced the game with two free throws with 9.0 seconds left.
"That's the NBA," Spoelstra said. "Sometimes even crazier things happen in this league. With the advent of the three-point shooting and the volume of three-point shooting, leads can go very fast. You have to be prepared to play a full 48 minutes.
"I like our guys having to go through all that stress and anxiety and having to execute under duress in the context of a close game. We still need to get better, but we'll get there."
Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington came off the bench to lead the Heat with 16 points apiece on a night when the Heat's bench outscored the Hornets' bench 51-35. Ellington was 5 of 10 from 3-point range and Johnson was a perfect 4 of 4 from beyond the arc.
The Heat also got 12 points from Waiters and 11 each from Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo.
The Heat (14-14) have now won three of their last four, and they feel they should have won what turned out to be a seven-point home loss to Portland on Wednesday night.
"Last game we felt like we should have won that," Ellington said. "But it was good to get a good one tonight. I feel like we're turning a corner. We're heading in the right direction for sure. We're realizing what our strengths are on the offensive end of the floor, and we realize where we need to be on the defensive end of the floor. If we continue to do that, we're trending in the right direction."
Ellington's 3-pointer gave Miami a 94-77 lead with 7:30 remaining.
"Actually, in that stretch where we pulled away I thought it was our defense more than anything," Ellington said. "We were really getting it done on the defensive end, and that enabled us to get out and run the floor and get some good looks."
The Hornets (10-18) have now lost nine of their last 11. They received a chorus of boos from the Spectrum Center crowd during a time out when they were down 16 in the fourth, before the late surge. That's the first time all season the Spectrum Center crowd has booed so loudly.
"We're not slacking," said Hornets associate head coach Stephen Silas, who again filled in for the ailing Steve Clifford. "We're not not playing hard at all. Some of those turnovers were not smart. So part of it is playing smarter. But part of it, to me, is also making shots. If we would have made some shots tonight, we would have had a better chance."
Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 25 points. Dwight Howard had 15 points and 16 rebounds. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 13, Jeremy Lamb 12 and Frank Kaminsky 10. But the Hornets shot just 41 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers.
"Sometimes they say it's a make or miss league," Silas said. "We had some open shots, like wide open shots, that we didn't make. The ball was moving pretty well and they didn't go for us. I mean, we shot 41 percent and they shot 50 percent. They just had stretches in the game where we turned the ball over and they came down and scored."
NOTES: The Heat won the only previous game between the teams this season, 105-100 in Miami on Dec. 1. They will meet two more times. ... The Heat were without C Hassan Whiteside (left knee bone bruise), F Justise Winslow (left knee strain), G Rodney McGruder (left tibia surgery) and F Okara White (left foot surgery). ... The Hornets were without F Cody Zeller (left knee surgery). ... The Hornets are now 2-5 since coach Steve Clifford left the team to deal with an unspecified health issue. There is still no time frame on Clifford's return. ... Both teams were coming off Wednesday losses. The Heat lost to Portland 102-95 at home, while the Hornets lost at Houston 108-96. ... The Heat have been better on the road this season (9-7) than at home (5-7).
Pistons fend off comeback by Pacers
Friday, December 15 at 11:04 PM (EST)
INDIANAPOLIS -- Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy insisted the thought never crossed his mind about how his team blew a 22-point lead in a collapse last month at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
But as the Indiana Pacers rallied late once again, quickly cutting a 16-point deficit to just two in the final quarter, Pistons players admittedly experienced deja vu, at least for an anxious moment or two.
"We felt it coming again, but we were like, 'Nah, not today,'" forward Stanley Johnson said of the Pistons holding of the Pacers for a 104-98 road victory.
Guard Reggie Jackson hit two key free throws to provide a 102-98 lead with 18.1 seconds remaining.
Pistons center Andre Drummond, who scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, blocked Victor Oladipo's step-back 3-point attempt on the next possession to seal the win. Drummond also added a three-point play off an offensive rebound basket down the stretch.
"When he's playing like that, being a monster, this is our guy," forward Reggie Bullock said of the 6-11, 279-pound Drummond. "When his energy is up the team's energy is up and we just feed off him."
Bullock contributed a season-high 15 points.
"We had a tough fourth quarter, but we were able to just grind it out," Van Gundy said.
The Pistons (16-13) were not able to do that on Nov. 17, when they lost 107-100 at Indiana despite leading by 10 entering the final quarter. This time, the lead reached 16 in the final quarter before the Pacers (16-13) made it interesting with a 9-0 run.
"I don't know what's up with us," said Pacers center Myles Turner, who had 24 points and eight rebounds. "It's like we play better coming from behind, but we can't be that team coming down the stretch. We can't put ourselves in that position."
Oladipo led Indiana with 26 points, but the Pistons made him work for it with 8-of-22 shooting.
"The thing about basketball is you're going to be put in that position more than once," Oladipo said of the Pacers' inability to finish late. "Sometimes you're going to come out on top, sometimes you're not. The biggest thing is you just can't get too down on yourself and you just got to continue to keep lifting each other up. Stay positive. Stay aggressive."
The Pistons won their second straight road game on back-to-back nights after enduring a seven-game losing streak.
"We were able to win on the road and hold a great offensive team to under 100 points," Van Gundy said, "so I'm really proud of the guys."
The Pacers lost their second consecutive home game after a four-game winning streak.
"The third quarter, we normally have good starts," Pacers guard Darren Collison said of the Pistons opening the second half on a 7-0 run. "We've got to be better. No excuses. We've got to be better."
Thaddeus Young scored 12 points for Indiana and Collison added 10.
NOTES: Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy celebrated his 500th career NBA victory. ... Pistons C Andre Drummond had his 20th double-double of the season. ... NBA Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, father of Pacers F Domantas Sabonis, was in attendance to watch his son play. ... The Pistons defeated the Pacers for just the second time in 11 meetings and snapped a six-game losing streak at Indiana. ... Pistons rookie G Luke Kennard scored nine points in his first career NBA start as Avery Bradley rested with a hip injury. ... The Pacers concluded a six-game homestead that was the franchise's longest since a six-game stretch in 2007. ... Pacers C Myles Turner, the league leader in blocked shots (2.43 blocks per game), extended a streak of at least one blocked shot to 26 consecutive games, third longest in team history.
Westbrook's triple-double helps Thunder beat 76ers in 3 OT
Saturday, December 16 at 12:05 AM (EST)
PHILADELPHIA -- Russell Westbrook proved once again that he can dominate a game even when his shot is off.
Westbrook's drive and pinpoint pass to Andre Roberson for the winning basket late in the third overtime lifted the Oklahoma City Thunder to a thrilling, triple-overtime 119-117 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
"I told him, 'If you're open, I'll hit you again,'" Westbrook said, referring to the fact that Roberson missed a similar shot at the end of the second overtime.
Westbrook registered 27 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists. He shot 10 of 33 yet managed to notch his 10th triple-double of the season and the 89th of his career.
Paul George and Carmelo Anthony scored 24 points apiece for the Thunder, who improved to .500 at 14-14 with their third straight road win.
"We always think we're in the game regardless of what the score is," Westbrook said. "Tonight, we stuck it out, got stops when we needed and won the game."
It was also their 17th consecutive win over the Sixers.
Raymond Felton had 14 points for the Thunder.
"We still kept battling and kept fighting," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "We didn't give up."
Joel Embiid led the Sixers (14-14) with 34 points while playing a career-high 48 minutes. Embiid appeared to be wincing with a stiff back through the overtimes and in the postgame locker room.
"Embiid felt good about playing," Sixers coach Brett Brown said of his extended minutes. "We listened to him as a staff and thought it was going to work. Maybe in the light of day, we could have given him a minute here or there."
Embiid has yet to play in a back-to-back scenario all season as the team continues to be cautious with its franchise cornerstone.
"I might need a year of rest," joked Embiid after shooting 11 of 20 to go along with eight rebounds, six assists and seven turnovers. "Nah, I'm fine."
J.J. Redick scored 19 points and Dario Saric added 16. Jerryd Bayless had 14 points and Ben Simmons had 12 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.
Robert Covington returned after missing two games with a bruised lower back but struggled mightily on the offensive end with 11 points, going 4 of 21, including 3 of 15 from 3-point land.
The Sixers launched a season-high 46 3-pointers but only made 13 in their first triple-overtime game since 2006 against the Boston Celtics.
"I'm proud their effort," Brown said. "We fought in a great atmosphere. Our home crowd was excellent. We'll go back and there will be a lot of things to look at."
Oklahoma City led 81-77 after three quarters and went up 84-77 when Josh Huestis opened the fourth with a 3-pointer from the baseline.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Felton and George pushed the Thunder's advantage to 90-81 with 7:16 left.
Saric dropped in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to close the gap to 94-92 with 1:55 remaining. On the Sixers' next possession, Embiid found Simmons open down low for a dunk to tie the game at 94 with 53.1 seconds left.
Embiid turned the ball over and George missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
In a wild first overtime, the Sixers went ahead 102-97 only to have the Thunder score five straight to equalize again at 102 with 36.3 seconds remaining. Westbrook's driving layup tied the game once again.
Saric tossed up an airball as time expired and the game went into a second overtime.
Following a turnover by Simmons, Westbrook knocked down a short jumper for a 111-109 lead with 1:33 left, but Embiid scored to tie it.
Roberson missed a point-blank layup in the closing seconds and the game moved into a third overtime.
The game knotted at 117 with 27.2 seconds left before Roberson connected on a layup after receiving Westbrook's 15th assist for a two-point lead with 9.6 seconds left.
"He keeps playing. He keeps persevering," Donovan said of Westbrook. "He keeps fighting. That's what you have to love about him."
The Thunder had jumped out to a 17-point lead with 5:45 remaining in the first half, but the Sixers fought their way back.
NOTES: The Sixers played without Gs Markelle Fultz (shoulder) and Justin Anderson (shin splints). F Trevor Booker injured his left ankle during the third quarter and never returned. X-rays were negative. ... Thunder G/F Andre Roberson returned after missing the last two games with a sprained left ankle. ... The Sixers entered the game last in the league in turnovers, averaging more than 17 per game. They had 26 in Tuesday's overtime win at Minnesota.
|Trail Blazers||95||vs.||88||Magic||Final Recap|
Lillard, McCollum lead Blazers past Magic
Friday, December 15 at 10:57 PM (EST)
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Damian Lillard never got worried during the Portland Trail Blazers' five-game losing streak, so why should he get stressed when the other team is making a late run?
Lillard scored 21 points and CJ McCollum added 20 as the Trail Blazers held off a late Orlando Magic challenge for a 95-88 victory on Friday.
The Blazers won their second straight game following the five-game skid, and they handed the Magic their fourth straight loss.
Lillard had 13 third-quarter points as he gave Portland its biggest lead of the game on a driving lay-up that made it 71-54 with 5:04 remaining in the third quarter.
Orlando closed to 75-69 on Marreese Speights' 3-pointer with 11:12 remaining, but the Blazers went on a 10-0 run to take an 85-69 lead on a Zach Collins' alley-oop with 8:04 left.
The Magic closed to within five points twice, the last at 93-88 on a Jonathon Simmons layup with 26 seconds to play, but Al-Farouq Aminu answered with a dunk that concluded the scoring.
"We just had a stretch where we weren't making good reads or passes, and it gave Orlando opportunities to go the other way," said Portland coach Terry Stotts. "Other than that, it was a really good win."
Portland (15-13) snapped its skid by coming back to defeat Miami, but Friday's win was a matter of maintaining an advantage.
"The other team's going to make a run," said Lillard. "Winning on their home court is always going to be tough. You have to be ready for it."
Portland was flirting with its best defensive effort since holding Phoenix to 76 points on opening night. This was the Trail Blazers' third time this season that they kept an opponent under 90 points.
"Every year, a team is going to have adversity," Lillard said. "We had been defending well (during the skid), we hadn't been scoring, but we had to find ways to get around. We did a good job of addressing the issues and stayed locked in."
Aminu added 15 points as the Trail Blazers (15-13) swept the season series.
Orlando, meanwhile, continues to deal with adversity in the form of injuries.
Nikola Vucevic led an injury-wrecked Orlando (11-19) team with 26 points and 14 rebounds, while Simmons and D.J. Augustin added 15 and 14 points, respectively. Aaron Gordon, who returned to the Magic after missing three games with a concussion, had 13 points before leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter with a right calf strain.
"We're banged up," said Magic coach Frank Vogel. "Guys are just playing with fight and heart."
Aminu was 3 of 4 from 3-point range and was complemented by balanced scoring that helped Portland turn an early six-point deficit into a double-figure lead.
"When (Aminu) is shooting the way he's shooting, it really spaces the court," Stotts said. "Other teams are starting to respect that a little bit and that opens things up for other guys."
Portland's biggest lead of the first half came on a Lillard 3-pointer with 2:40 remaining that made it 48-35, but Orlando cut that to 50-43 at halftime despite Gordon picking up his third foul midway through the period.
Despite shooting just 39.1 percent (10 of 24), Portland managed a 24-20 first-quarter lead with Aminu and McCollum combining for 14 points. Gordon got off to a strong start, making four of his first five shots for 10 first-quarter points, but Orlando lost its early lead by missing eight of its final 10 shots.
"Rhythm wasn't a problem," Vogel said about his team's offense. "We had a lot of positive possessions, we just didn't get a lot of payoff."
NOTES: Trail Blazers C Jusuf Nurkic (sprained ankle) started, but was on a minutes restriction; he finished the night playing 25 after missing the last three games. He led Portland with 11 rebounds. ... Portland is now 6-2 on the road against Eastern Conference teams this season. ... Magic coach Frank Vogel got in a one-liner during pregame availability when asked if Aaron Gordon's minutes would be limited in his return. "48," Vogel said. ... Magic G/F Arron Afflalo missed his second straight game due to back spasms. ... Orlando F Jonathan Isaac practiced for the first time since his Nov. 11 ankle sprain on Thursday, but did not play Friday. ... Also out: Evan Fournier (ankle sprain) and Terrence Ross (knee sprain). ... The Magic sent Khem Birch to its Lakeland (Fla.) G League team
Jazz lose two players but beat Celtics
Friday, December 15 at 11:14 PM (EST)
BOSTON -- With two starters lost to injury in the first half and playing one of the NBA's best teams, the Utah Jazz seemed destined to suffer their 10th straight TD Garden loss on Friday night.
No Rudy Gobert. No Derrick Favors. No problem.
"This group's got character and they're going to compete no matter what the circumstances and they did," Utah coach Quin Snyder said after his team snapped a four-game losing streak by stunning the Boston Celtics 107-95 for the Jazz's first win on the parquet since 2008.
Gobert (knee) and Favors (left eye laceration, six stitches) left the game, with Gobert departing before the game was two minutes old.
But an 0-of-18 Boston shooting drought that lasted more than 10 minutes bridging the first and second quarters allowed the Jazz (14-15, 3-10 on the road) to take control of the game.
"It was an excellent effort," Snyder said. "We managed to continue to try to do the things we felt we had to do to win the game no matter who was out there. Ricky (Rubio) was great. It's good to see Ricky just in the moment competing."
Rubio had 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Rookie Donovan Mitchell scored eight straight points for his team late, finishing with 17 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
Ekpe Udoh came off the bench because of the injuries and had eight rebounds, a steal, a block and five points in 28:51.
Mitchell was 3 of 14 from the floor before hitting three straight shots to hold the Celtics (24-7) at bay late.
"I tell the kid he's got all the talent in the world, so 'just stay in your lane, you can take this game over whenever you want, just play, let the game come to you and do your thing,'" said former Celtic Jonas Jerebko, who scored a season-high 17 points and had seven rebounds in his first return to the TD Garden. "I tell him that every fourth quarter and the kid can play."
Most people say Mitchell doesn't need to be told. He already has become a fearless NBA scorer.
Rodney Hood also scored 17 points and Joe Ingles had 12 points and eight rebounds -- he was 4 of 6 from 3-point range -- for the Jazz.
It was a big day for Jerebko, who received a nice ovation when he replaced Gobert and went on to play 24:18.
"It felt great," Jerebko said. "Ever since shootaround this morning I've been just ready to just play. To get this win tonight it was just great. It felt really good.
"It's great to be back in the Garden see the fans. Some might have yelled some things, but I loved it. I loved being back here. There was a lot of love, a lot of hate, it was great."
It wasn't great for the Celtics, with coach Brad Stevens clearly not thrilled. His team was hammered on the boards for a second straight game (Boston won the other game).
At one point, a frustrated Stevens had four guards and no one taller than 6-7 on the floor.
"I'm concerned about our lack of fight when things aren't going our way," Stevens said.
Kyrie Irving had 33 points, six assists and four rebounds. Al Horford returned from a one-game absence with a sore knee and added 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Irving and Horford were the only Celtics players to reach double figures.
Irving, told about his coach's comments, said, "Any observation that Coach sees is pretty much going on out there. He's as truthful as it comes."
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted the early diagnosis on Gobert was a left MCL sprain. He missed 11 games earlier this season with a knee bruise and also suffered a knee injury in last year's playoffs. He was injured when Favors fell into his leg going for a rebound.
The Celtics lost Daniel Theis (broken nose) in the first half.
NOTES: Celtics F Gordon Hayward, who would have played his first game against his former team, met the media just before the game and, asked if he could return this season, said, "My mind is open to that. I'm trying to get back as fast as I can. It all depends on how I heal, and taking it day by day, goal by goal." ... Jazz F Joe Johnson, a former Celtic, returned, playing his first game since Oct. 30. "I'm just glad to be out there on the court," Johnson said before playing 15 minutes. "I didn't have an injury to my lower extremities, so it was just about getting rest and getting strength in my wrist." ... Former Celtics F Jonas Jerebko returned, saying earlier in the day, "I had three great seasons here. Playoffs every year. The fans are great. Organization's great. Good teammates, good coaches. I've got all good memories from here." ... The Jazz continue their six-game road trip at Cleveland on Saturday night. The Celtics are at Memphis as both teams complete back-to-backs.
Lowry gets triple-double, Raptors rout Nets
Friday, December 15 at 11:30 PM (EST)
TORONTO -- The way Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey put it, he gave his point guard Kyle Lowry two minutes to complete his triple-double in the 120-87 rout of the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.
Lowry needed one rebound to complete the 11th triple-double of his career -- and nine with the Raptors -- and got it early in the fourth quarter before being removed from the game.
He finished with 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds while DeMar DeRozan led the scoring with 31 points.
"I told him in the timeout, he had two minutes," Casey said. "I don't believe in messing with the game, but I owe it to my veterans if they have something like that to get it done. ... if he hadn't gotten it in two minutes, he wasn't going to do it."
"Coach wanted me to get that triple-double, so he left me in a little longer," Lowry said. "My teammates did good job tonight. We passed the ball well and DeMar had a great game."
The Raptors (19-8) won their second game in a row and the eighth in their past nine while the Nets (11-17) lost their second in a row.
"We were really improving up until the last two games," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "It's about consistency and how we can we do it six games or seven games in a row. We'll have two or three or four games in a row where we play well defensively and then we'll tail off a little bit."
The Raptors have defeated the Nets in the past nine meetings between the teams. The last time the Nets beat the Raptors was April 3, 2015.
The Raptors took a 27-point lead after the third quarter and had the lead up to 29 when Norman Powell made a pullup jumper to open the fourth.
Serge Ibaka added 18 points and eight rebounds for Toronto, Jonas Valanciunas contributed 14 points and Jakob Poeltl and Powell scored 11 each.
Nik Stauskas scored 22 points and had seven rebounds off the bench for Brooklyn. Isaiah Whitehead added 13 points and Jahlil Okafor had 10 for the Nets.
Stauskas, who is from the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, Ont., and Okafor were playing their first games for the Nets since being acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in a trade on Dec. 7.
"They're going to help us," Atkinson said. "It's just going to take time. It's a process. They're going to have to integrate into the group and we're going to have to help them to integrate."
"For me it was just more exciting to be back out there," Stauskas said. "I don't think I've played more than seven or eight minutes in a game this year in Philly, so just to play meaningful minutes in a game and being back home was just really exciting for me. Once I saw the first one go down that's when my confidence started growing and just let them fly from there."
"Just to be out there and run up and down and play basketball was great," said Okafor, who was little used in Philadelphia. "Obviously, it was tough overall tonight, but for me personally to be out on the court after not playing for so long was good."
Toronto led 30-20 after the first quarter, but Stauskas opened the second quarter with three straight 3-pointers to cut the lead to one.
The Nets took a four-point lead om a dunk by Quincy Acy and a driving layup and a free throw by Stauskas.
The Raptors rallied and led by 10-point after Lowry's 3-pointer with two minutes left in the first half.
The Raptors led 58-44 at the intermission, keyed by 20 points from DeRozan.
Toronto upped its lead to 20 points with 6:53 to play in the third quarter when Valanciunas made a turnaround jumper.
A 3-pointer by Ibaka had the lead at 26 with 3:56 remaining in the third.
The Raptors led 91-64 after the third quarter.
"I think it's a combination of things," DeRozan said of the Raptors improved play over the past nine games, particularly by the starters. "Understanding out mistakes, understanding what got us down and what put us in a position that we had to fight out of."
NOTES: Nets G/F Allen Crabbe (sore left knee), F DeMarre Carroll (rest) and G D'Angelo Russell (left knee surgery) did not play Friday. Carroll played the previous two seasons with Toronto. ... Nets G Isaiah Whitehead was recalled from Long Island of the G League Friday. ... Raptors G Delon Wright (dislocated right shoulder) was activated Friday after missing 12 games and scored seven points. ... Toronto G/F C.J. Miles (sore left shoulder) did not play. ... The Raptors are home to the Sacramento Kings Sunday afternoon. ... The Nets play the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center Sunday night.
Bulls beat Bucks to extend winning streak to five games
Friday, December 15 at 11:51 PM (EST)
MILWAUKEE -- Less than two months have passed since Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic fought each other on the floor of the Chicago Bulls' practice facility, leaving Mirotic sidelined with a fractured face.
Now that duo is powering the Bulls through their best stretch of the season.
Chicago extended its winning streak to a season-high five games Friday night, riding 27 points from Portis and 22 from Mirotic to a 115-109 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center.
"Me and Niko, we don't really care about that situation (their fight) anymore," Portis said. "Everything's for the team. We're professionals, we're basketball players and this is our job.
"Ultimately we have to come in here every day, put our shoes on and play together, find a way to make it work. I feel we've done that up until this point. It's been fun playing with Niko. He's a hell of a player. He's been playing out of his mind ever since he's been back and I'm happy for him."
Mirotic made his season debut Dec. 8 and the Bulls haven't lost since.
"It's been crazy, to be honest," Mirotic said. "Never thought about it, you know. We both have stepped up. I think we've learned how to play with each other during the game. But we need to give the credit to (head coach Fred Hoiberg) because Fred is the one who is putting us in the right spot, Bobby and me.
"When I'm there, I'm just trying to enjoy. Right now, we're both playing a little minutes together because it's working, the team is playing well."
Portis finished with 12 rebounds while Mirotic and Robin Lopez grabbed eight apiece for the Bulls, who out-rebounded Milwaukee, 50-43, but dominated the Bucks on the offensive glass with Lopez grabbing six of Chicago's 14 offensive boards.
The Bulls used those opportunities to their advantage, scoring 24 second-chance points.
"We stopped the first shot, but they didn't miss their second shot and we couldn't get a rebound," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "It wasn't just the bigs, it was whoever was on the floor. We couldn't come up with a rebound, Portis and Lopez dominated the boards offensively and they capitalized on their second-chance shots."
While both teams shot 48 percent from the floor, Milwaukee was hurt by off nights from Malcolm Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe and Rashad Vaughn. That trio combined to miss 21 of 39 attempts from the floor and were 3-for-17 from beyond the arc.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton led Milwaukee (15-12) with 29 points each but Middleton struggled, too, going 9-for-19 from the floor and 2-for-9 from distance.
"We got a lot of wide-open shots that just didn't go down for us tonight. You have to play perfect when you're down, both offensively and defensively. We couldn't get stops and we couldn't make an open shot tonight."
Trying to bounce back from their first loss in four games, the Bucks led 16-6 early but Kris Dunn rattled off five in a row on his own and the Bulls tied the game at 22 with 4:22 left in the opening quarter.
Chicago took advantage of foul trouble by the Bucks in the second quarter and went 6-for-11 from the free throw line to take a 59-58 lead at halftime.
A 5-0 run to close the third let the Bucks head into the fourth tied at 82.
Bledsoe fed Vaughn for a 3 that tied it at 98 and, after Mirotic missed a 20-footer, Middleton's layup put the Bucks up 100-98 with five minutes remaining.
A Mirotic 3-pointer made it a 109-104 game and gave the Bulls some breathing room with 2:42 to play but Dunn fouled out with 1:24 left, fouling Middleton on a 3-point attempt.
He made all three, cutting the deficit to two, but Mirotic drew just enough contact on an underarm lob to head to the line and Chicago took a 112-107 lead after he converted the three-point play.
NOTES: Bulls C Lauri Markkanen did not travel with the team to Milwaukee and missed a third consecutive game because of back spasms. Head coach Fred Hoiberg said Markkanen was feeling better but that a two-hour bus ride to Milwaukee might be "counterproductive." ... Milwaukee has scored 100 points in 11 consecutive games -- the longest streak of 100-point games by a Bucks team since 1990-91, when they did it in 12 straight contests. ... The Bulls have won 12 of their last 16 games in Milwaukee.
Grizzlies edge Hawks, end five-game slide
Saturday, December 16 at 12:04 AM (EST)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies were on a five-game losing streak and had lost 16 of their last 17 games. To break that streak and beat a team from the Eastern Conference for the first time all season, they went down to the buzzer with the lowly Atlanta Hawks Friday night at FedExForum.
Ahead by two points, the Grizzlies caught a break when guard Dennis Schroder (18 points and 11 assists) missed a running floater with 41 seconds left. They then survived center Marc Gasol's eighth turnover of the game as the Hawks got off two long jumpers in the closing seconds that missed and Memphis held on for a 96-94 victory.
"Happy we won," said Gasol, who had 13 points with six rebounds.
"We had 22 turnovers. It was ugly," said Memphis interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff. "We found a way to pull it out. ... It's not always going to be a basket that makes a difference in a close game. You look at the end, Tyreke (Evans) did a great job closing out on (Ersan) Ilyasova, and then Drew (Andrew Harrison) got out on (Taurean) Prince and got the deflection there. Those are plays that are going to win ballgames."
The last shot before the buzzer was a 3-point attempt from Kent Bazemore (19 points and five assists). Harrison (10 points) worried the entire time it was in the air.
"I took a breath," Harrison said. "It was high enough, definitely."
It missed, and Grizzlies had the win.
Evans scored 22 points and made a driving layup with 1:02 left in the fourth quarter to give the Grizzlies (9-20) the two-point lead that stood up.
"Tough loss, but we kind of weathered the storm," Bazemore said. "We know what kind of team we can be and we show glimpses of it."
The Hawks (6-23) lost their fourth straight and fell for the sixth time in their last seven games.
Memphis trailed by seven at the half, and Gasol was scoreless with six turnovers. But he put up 13 points in the third quarter and Harrison went 3 of 3 from deep for a nine-point quarter. After leading by many as 12 points, the Hawks led 73-72 going into the fourth quarter.
"We persevered," Harrison said. "Marc took over the third quarter and hit those two big threes coming out of halftime."
A layup from Schroder gave the Hawks a 94-91 advantage with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter. But Memphis' Mario Chalmers (16 points and four steals) hit a 3-pointer with 1:44 left to tie the score 94-94, setting the stage for Evans' game-winning shot.
Prince finished with 17 points and made a career-high five triples. Marco Belinelli had 14 points off the bench.
"We're really encouraging him to shoot threes," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said of Prince. "That will open up his drive game and the other things he can do."
The Grizzlies got 12 rebounds and eight points from forward JaMychal Green and nine points and four assists from Chandler Parsons.
The Hawks shot 44.7 percent from the floor and went 12 of 30 from 3-point range for 40 percent. Memphis shot 46.2 percent from the field while going 12 of 25 from distance for 48 percent.
Atlanta led 47-40 at halftime and the Grizzlies had a season-worst 14 first-half turnovers. Memphis outscored the Hawks 32-26 in the third quarter and 24-21 in the fourth to get the victory.
"Winning always feels better than losing," said Bickerstaff, who is now 2-8 since taking over for the fired David Fizdale. "Moral victories only go so far. The guys needed to be rewarded."
NOTES: Atlanta entered Friday's game ranked fourth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage at 38.3 and fifth in steals per game with 8.6. ... Memphis PG Mike Conley is still out with a sore Achilles tendon and the Grizzlies are 2-15 without him. ... Memphis is now 1-10 vs. Eastern Conference teams. ... The Grizzlies had a 43-34 edge in rebounds in their victory over the Hawks, but Atlanta had a 21-13 margin on fast-break points.
Barton leads Nuggets to OT win over Pelicans
Saturday, December 16 at 1:20 AM (EST)
DENVER -- Will Barton missed a chance to give the Denver Nuggets a win five days ago, but he atoned for it with a dominant overtime performance against New Orleans.
Barton scored 11 of his 19 points in the extra time in his return to the lineup and the Nuggets rallied from 18 points down to beat the Pelicans 117-111 on Friday night.
Gary Harris had 21 points, Trey Lyles scored 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and Nikola Jokic had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets (16-13) in his first game back after missing seven with a sprained left ankle.
Jokic said he was thinking about the ankle during his 22 minutes on the court but feels good overall.
"It felt a little sore. I could run, I did a lot of stuff I normally do," he said. "Just a couple of motions, couple of weird moments I kind of felt it but that's not a big deal. That's a normal thing."
DeMarcus Cousins scored 29 points, Anthony Davis had 28 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, and Jrue Holiday scored 25 points for the Pelicans (15-15).
Davis played the last 3:33 of regulation and all of overtime despite rolling his left ankle. He had a slight limp the rest of the game but scored eight points.
"I just wanted to play," said Davis, who added that the ankle was fine.
Jokic received an ovation when he checked into the game with 5:32 left in the first quarter but sat most of the fourth quarter and overtime. Barton picked up the slack after missing Wednesday's game with a back injury.
"Will Barton's a gamer. In the first half, you could tell his back was bothering him," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "You could tell it wasn't him. As that second half went on, he loosened up and got his swag back. And in overtime he brought it home."
It was a different feeling from Sunday when Barton missed a 19-footer against Indiana that would have given Denver a win in regulation. The Pacers dominated overtime to beat the Nuggets.
"I didn't close that game," Barton said. "I had the ball in my hands to win that game and I didn't come through, and I took that personally."
On Friday, Barton carried Denver to a win.
Davis gave the Pelicans the lead to start overtime and then Barton took over. He hit a 3-pointer, a floater in the lane and a fast-break dunk to give Denver a 111-108 lead with 1:33 left.
Davis' layup made it a one-point game, but another 3-pointer from Barton made it 114-110. Jamal Murray hit two free throws and Cousins was fouled on a 3-point attempt. He split the first two and intentionally missed the third foul shot, but Denver got possession and closed it out.
Barton called it a big win and relished the chance to carry his team down the stretch.
"I take a lot of pride in being a closer for this team," he said. "My teammates trust me, the coaching staff does. To be able to do that, to have that trust in me, means the world."
The Nuggets rallied from 16 down in the second half to take the lead with a 12-0 run in the fourth quarter. The Pelicans got a scare when Davis stepped on Mason Plumlee's foot and rolled his left ankle. He stayed in the game and scored four straight points to tie it at 100.
The lead changed hands twice in the final minute, and the game went to overtime after Holiday's 19-footer was blocked by Torrey Craig at the horn to send it to overtime tied at 104.
"He started late, he should have started a little earlier," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said of Holiday. "I think he was worried about us definitely getting the last shot, but we wanted him to drive and maybe somebody would help and we'd find an open shooter, but we settled for a jumper."
NOTES: Pelicans G Jrue Holiday was well short of his season high of 37 points. His career high is 38. ... Nuggets G Emmanuel Mudiay left the game with a sprained right ankle and didn't return. Mudiay was injured in the second quarter and finished with four points in eight minutes. ... New Orleans G E'Twaun Moore came in averaging 19.6 points on 63.3 percent shooting from the field and 67.4 percent 3-point shooting in December. He scored only four points against Denver. ... Nuggets F Torrey Craig was recalled from Sioux Falls of the G-League and made his first career start.
Paul carries Rockets past Spurs
Saturday, December 16 at 2:48 AM (EST)
HOUSTON -- Play-making and defensive wizardry have long been foundational characteristics for Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul.
So much so that his ability to score frequently gets so lost in the shuffle that when he showcases that skill, observers are often stunned.
Paul continued his run of assertive offense while maintaining his prowess defensively as the Rockets defeated the San Antonio Spurs 124-109 on Friday night at Toyota Center.
Paul finished with 28 points, eight assists and a season-high seven steals as the Rockets (23-4), unbeaten with Paul in the lineup this season, extended their winning streak to 12 games. In the last four games, Paul is averaging 26.5 points (on 54.5 percent shooting) and eight assists.
"He's been amazing, the way he's playing," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It's just a good combo between him and James (Harden). When one gets a little tired, the other takes over and they just go back and forth. (We have) so many weapons out there that they're taking advantage of all of them."
With Paul and Harden (28 points, seven rebounds, six assists) co-piloting, the Rockets stressed the Spurs' vaunted defense, sinking 18 3-pointers to match the most by a San Antonio opponent this season. Harden struggled with his shot, but the Spurs (19-10) failed to keep him off the line, with Harden sinking 14 of 16 free throws to offset his 2-of-11 3-point shooting.
The Rockets seized control of their wire-to-wire victory with a 17-4 blitz that closed the first quarter. While the Spurs missed all six of their 3-pointers in the quarter, Houston shot 6 of 14 from deep.
In the second quarter, the Rockets enjoyed a stretch of five field goals all coming from behind the arc, and when Trevor Ariza capped a 13-0 run with a transition dunk, they led 51-23.
All five Rockets starters scored in double figures, with Clint Capela (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Ryan Anderson (12 points, 10 rebounds) posting double-doubles. Ariza added 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The Rockets are 13-0 with Paul in the lineup.
"We did a really good job of staying locked in. All 48 minutes," Ariza said. "From the start we were aggressive on both ends of the court, and we didn't let up."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pulled his starters in the third quarter, with that unit logging a total of 22 minutes after the intermission.
LaMarcus Aldridge paced the starters with 16 points in just 26 minutes. Kawhi Leonard, playing in just his second game after a quad injury, sat out the second half after adding 12 points, two steals and two blocks before the break.
The Spurs' starting backcourt of Tony Parker and Danny Green combined for four points on 2-of-8 shooting and four turnovers in 36 minutes. San Antonio starters hit just 1 of 8 3-pointers.
"We lost the game and our starters let us down," Popovich said.
"Obviously, they played their game tonight," Leonard said of the Rockets. "They're a great team in transition, they set a lot of picks, a lot of mismatches, and you have to give them credit. They knocked down a lot of open shots. We fouled shooters and fouled guys on the drive. We weren't communicating and we fell in the hole early."
The Spurs missed their first 10 3-point shots before Bryn Forbes sank a corner 3 with 3:42 left in the first half. The Rockets led by 23 by that juncture, and while the Spurs' bench played valiantly in slicing the deficit to 14 in the fourth quarter, the Rockets maintained control through the finish.
NOTES: With Spurs F Kawhi Leonard and Spurs G Tony Parker on minute restrictions, both will likely rest Saturday night when San Antonio hosts the Dallas Mavericks in the second game of a back-to-back. Leonard eclipsed his minutes total (16) from his season debut on Tuesday by logging 17 minutes in the first half. ... Rockets F Luc Mbah a Moute will miss two to three weeks after suffering a dislocated right shoulder on Wednesday night. An MRI the following morning revealed no significant damage. ... All five Rockets starters scored in double figures for the fifth time this season. The Rockets improved to 5-0 in those games.
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