Today is Wednesday, December 13, 2017.
|Wednesday, December 13, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
Clippers, Magic trying to emerge from funks
Tuesday, December 12 at 5:33 PM (EST)
The Los Angeles Clippers and Orlando Magic began their seasons by getting off to promising starts.
Since the early optimism, both teams have dealt with long losing streaks and are coping with injuries to derail some of their early success.
The Clippers will be looking for their third straight win Wednesday night while the Magic are trying to avoid a third straight loss when the teams get together in Orlando.
Los Angeles won its first four games and five of its first seven contests. Starting with a 113-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 4, Los Angeles has since gone 5-13.
The loss to Memphis triggered a nine-game losing streak that lasted through Nov. 20. The Clippers won three straight by beating Atlanta, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers but then dropped their next four before getting a one-point win against Washington last Saturday and a 96-91 win over Toronto on Monday night.
"We talked about it at halftime that (playing hard) had got to be one of our talents right now," Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said. "Teams have so much talent, but even with all our guys out, you can't account for a team that's going to play hard, and I thought that's what we did all game."
The four-game skid coincided with Blake Griffin spraining the MCL in his left knee and since the injury, three different players have started two games apiece at power forward and combining on 60 points in those absences. Montrezl Harrell started the first two games there. Jamil Wilson started Monday after Danilo Gallinari was lost to a second occurrence of the glute injury that sidelined him for 13 games from Nov. 7-Dec. 3.
Gallinari scored 25 points Saturday but also injured himself in a fall and the Clippers went back to Wilson at starting power forward. Wilson did not score Monday while Harrell produced 17 points.
Wilson is expected to start again while Gallinari sits out.
"It's been this kind of season thus far," Rivers said. "But things can change. And they are. They keep changing back to somebody getting hurt."
So far, the Clippers have lost a combined 88 man-games due to various injuries.
Despite the injuries, Austin Rivers, DeAndre Jordan, and Lou Williams have appeared in every game and the trio played prominent roles in Monday's win.
Jordan totaled 14 and 17 rebounds for his 15th double-double, Williams scored 17 while Rivers contributed 15. Williams is averaging 25.4 points in his last seven games while Rivers is averaging 19.5 in his last seven.
Orlando began with six wins in its first eight games and held an 8-4 record after a 16-point win at Phoenix on Nov. 10. The Magic began a nine-game losing streak the next night in Denver and have lost 13 of their last 16 games.
Orlando stopped its losing streak Nov. 29 with a home win against Oklahoma City but followed up an overtime win vs. Atlanta last Wednesday by getting swept in a back-to-back set against Denver and Atlanta.
The Magic played both games without Evan Fournier, who sprained his ankle in overtime last Wednesday. Fournier is Orlando's second-best scorer at 18.3 points, which is his career-high.
Fournier is expected to miss his third straight game and his replacement Arron Afflalo could also miss the game. Afflalo played about 25 minutes in his first two starts but is questionable with back spasms.
Besides Fournier, the Magic may be without leading scorer Aaron Gordon. Gordon remains in the concussion protocol, is questionable and coach Frank Vogel said his status would not be determined until near tip-off.
Gordon sustained his concussion in Friday's loss to Denver when his face collided with the shoulder of a defender. Gordon said Monday that he is not showing any symptoms and feels good.
"You always want to be cautious, especially if it is something to your head," Gordon told reporters after practice Monday. "Concussions are dangerous and anything with the brain, but I feel better and I'm going through the protocol. I'll see if I can get back, but there's no rush."
Without Gordon on Saturday, the Magic started Mario Hezonja. Hezonja played 31-plus minutes and finished with seven points and six rebounds while Wes Iwundu played 26 minutes.
Those aren't even the only injuries for Orlando, which spent Monday's practice emphasizing its defense after allowing Denver to shoot 49 percent and Atlanta to make 51 percent of its shots.
Rookie Jonathan Isaac will miss his 16th straight game with a sprained right ankle while Terrence Ross will miss his seventh consecutive contest with a sprained right MCL and a non-displaced fracture of right tibial in his knee.
"It's disappointing," said center Nikola Vucevic, who scored 31 points Saturday. "Obviously we had a very tough stretch this past month. But I thought the guys that did practice did good work. Frank did some of the drills that we needed to work on."
Now the Magic will see if their depleted roster can end a seven-game losing streak to the Clippers.
Last season, Rivers scored 25 while Jordan totaled 22 and 13 rebounds in a 113-108 win at Orlando on Dec. 14. On Jan. 11 in Los Angeles, Jordan grabbed 20 rebounds in a 105-96 win.
Wall could return as Wizards host Grizzlies
Wednesday, December 13 at 1:14 AM (EST)
WASHINGTON -- Sure, the Memphis Grizzlies continue their slide down the Western Conference standings. That might just spell trouble for the Washington Wizards.
Concluding a five-game road trip, the Wizards fell to the Brooklyn Nets 103-98 on Tuesday for their second consecutive loss. Both defeats came against teams with losing records and without key players. The Blake Griffin-less Los Angeles Clippers rallied from four points down inside the final minutes for a 113-112 win over Washington on Saturday.
The Wizards (14-13) haven't been at full strength for the past nine games, but that could change when the Grizzlies (8-19) visit Wednesday.
Washington point guard John Wall participated Monday in his first full practice since late November. He has been sidelined due to left knee inflammation.
Washington is 4-5 without the four-time All-Star. While the reserves, namely guard Tomas Satoransky and forward Mike Scott, found a rhythm without Wall, the starters outside of Bradley Beal largely floundered. Coach Scott Brooks played the big tandem of Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat a combined eight seconds in the fourth quarter against Brooklyn.
"I thought our guys off the bench did a great job of competing," Brooks said. "We have to get more effort from our starters, bottom line."
Washington scored just 20 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday and fell behind 100-98 on Allen Crabbe's 3-pointer as the Nets took advantage of a defensive lapse. Down three points with 8.8 seconds left after Brooklyn's free throw, the Wizards lost possession with a five-second violation on the inbounds pass and ultimately fell due to another maddening performance late.
"We're still confident. We're still together," said Beal, who scored 28 points and has averaged 34.5 points over the past four games. "There's no selfishness going on. There's no pointing the finger at anybody. It's just frustration. We're tired of losing. The only thing you can do about it is go and win. It's plain and simple. We're not getting in our own head. We're not sitting here and giving up on our year, saying that we're not a good team. We know we're a good team. We just have to go out and do it."
Memphis has dropped four in a row and 15 of 16. The latest setback, a 107-82 home loss to the Miami Heat on Monday despite trailing by only three points at halftime, left star center Marc Gasol frustrated -- with good reason.
The Heat shot 56.1 percent overall and sank 14 of 27 from 3-point range. Memphis allows 101.8 points per game but ranks 25th in 3-point-shooting defense.
"We gave up (37) points in the fourth quarter," Gasol said. "We always had a mindset where you can have a tough night offensively, but if we don't score, you don't score. When you play defense together, basketball has a way of taking care of you on the other end. You get stops, you get an open court, the ball gets moved better. Communication. Guys see that you care about them because they might have a mismatch.
"I don't see guys on a string. I see guys worrying too much about their own situation, their own dilemmas. And that's not something you can build on."
The Grizzlies, who have made the postseason seven consecutive seasons, are 1-7 since coach David Fisdale was fired on Nov. 28, and they are 1-14 without injured point guard Mike Conley.
"Everybody has to look in the mirror, and as a man, you have to take it personally," Gasol said, "because wearing this jersey means a lot."
The teams split the season series in 2016-17, with each winning on its home court.
Thunder's George returns to Indiana to face Pacers
Wednesday, December 13 at 10:13 AM (EST)
INDIANAPOLIS -- The view of many analysts was the Indiana Pacers did not get enough from Oklahoma City in the Paul George trade in late June.
The Pacers received Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for George, a four-time All-Star who told the Pacers he would not re-sign with the team after this 2017-18 season.
The Oklahoma City Police Department jokingly sent out a tweet saying they were investigating the theft by the Thunder.
No one is calling it highway robbery by the Thunder anymore. Oladipo is averaging a team-high 24.5 points on 48.5 percent shooting in leading the Pacers to a 16-11 mark heading into Wednesday night's home game with Oklahoma City (12-14). Sabonis is averaging 12.1 points on 54 percent shooting and 8.5 rebounds.
Meanwhile, George is averaging 20.6 points, hitting 41.8 percent of his shots,
Oladipo has no desire to stoke the fire.
"I'm kind of getting sick and tired of the comparisons with Paul George and myself," Oladipo said. "He moved on and I moved on from my situation. Life takes its course. I'm happy here. I wish him all the best. I'm feathery right here as a Pacer. I don't have no disrespect toward him. I'm just grateful to be able to put on this jersey every night."
George told the media after Tuesday's practice that he expected boos Wednesday night.
"The Pacers fans outweigh the Paul George fans," George said. "If for whatever reason, I'm booed. I'll embrace it. I'm going to thrive on it and that is going to give me the energy to play better."
Oladipo, a former Indiana University standout, said he has no special incentive for the game.
"It's another game we're looking forward to on a home floor," he said.
When told it was a game that the fan base seemed fired up about, Oladipo said, "We want to win every game really bad, no matter who we're playing. I hope they feel that way about every game."
Oladipo said he understands the media and fans will hype the game.
"We got to play Pacers basketball and execute, defend home court and try to get a win," Oladipo said.
The Pacers have won the first four games of their six-game homestand.
Pacers guard Lance Stephenson said it should be even with cheers and boos.
"He did so much for Indiana and how well he played and carried us when he was here," Stephenson said. "I think he'll get more cheers than boos."
Oklahoma City beat the visiting Pacers 114-96 on Oct. 25 in the first of two meetings.
Visiting Charlotte knocked off the Thunder 116-103 Monday night. Oklahoma City is 3-10 on the road.
"We're not getting off to a great start," George said. "It's playing its way all the way through until we get late in the game. We're a completely different team that last four or five minutes every game. That's why we have to bottle it up for 48 minutes."
Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook said there are still 56 games to go.
"It's up to us, honestly," Westbrook said. "We just have to figure it out and play the same way every night."
Nuggets visit Celtics in clash of banged-up clubs
Wednesday, December 13 at 1:14 AM (EST)
BOSTON -- Two teams with serious injury questions meet when the Denver Nuggets close a six-game road trip against the Celtics at TD Garden on Wednesday night.
The Nuggets, who hammered the Pistons in Detroit on Tuesday night in the front end of a back-to-back, have been playing without Paul Millsap (wrist surgery) and Nikola Jokic (ankle) and there seems to be some hope Jokic can return for the trip finale.
"He's getting closer. He's definitely moving in the right direction," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before Tuesday night's game. "The ankle is still very, very sore, but he's moving better. He's managing the pain, and whether he's available tomorrow night, we'll wait and see."
The Celtics, who lost Gordon Hayward probably for the season in the first quarter of the first game of the season, lost in Chicago on Monday night without Kyrie Irving (quad) and Marcus Morris (knee). Irving is listed as probable for Wednesday, but Al Horford, who played with a knee problem Monday, will rest. Morris is likely out for weeks.
Jokic -- averaging 15.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists -- missed his sixth straight game Tuesday night, but the Nuggets led wire-to-wire to improve to 2-3 on the trip and 15-12 on the year. Millsap (15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds per game) has been out for 11 straight games.
Malone said Jokic is "our best player with Paul Millsap being out. You need Nikola Jokic to be a guy that's looking to score and carrying the load offensively, but the great thing about Nikola is that he's going to demand a crowd, a double-team, and he's always going to make the right play.
"I think he takes greater satisfaction out of making his teammates better than he does scoring himself. But, when you have the injuries that we've had, when he does get back, he needs to be a guy that's looking to score, regardless if he's double-teamed or not, because we need his productivity."
And the Celtics need Irving, who has been an MVP candidate in leading the Celtics to a 23-5 start before the loss to the Bulls on Monday.
"It was a collective success for them," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, "and a collective failure for us.
"Sometimes you get your butt kicked. It's as simple as that. Chicago played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did."
After playing Sunday and Monday, the Celtics host the Utah Jazz on Friday and visit Memphis on Saturday night, giving them five games in seven days.
The Nuggets dominated on the road Tuesday night and know what's waiting for them in Boston on Wednesday.
"We've got to go out and defend, try to do the same thing we did tonight," Denver's Trey Lyles said. "The offense will come. As long as we're doing what we're supposed to do on the defensive end, we'll be all right."
The Nuggets swept the two games series from the Celtics last season, but Boston had won the previous four contests against Denver at TD Garden.
Trail Blazers hope to end skid in Miami
Tuesday, December 12 at 9:39 PM (EST)
MIAMI -- The Portland Trail Blazers, who visit the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, are on a season-high five-game losing streak.
But a case can be made that the Blazers (13-13) are not playing that poorly, especially in their past two losses, both by seven points against two Western Conference powers, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.
Portland point guard Damian Lillard scored a season-high 39 points on Monday against Golden State. It was his 10th game this season in which he has exceeded 30 points.
In addition to Lillard's heroics, Portland shot 92 percent from the foul line on Monday, making 23 of 25 shots. And Portland also turned the ball over just nine times -- plus five in that category.
So there is a lot to build on as the Blazers challenge the Heat (13-13). Portland has been a solid road team this season (6-5), and Miami is just 5-6 at home.
In fact, Miami had to go south of the border to find its groove, traveling to Mexico City to defeat the Brooklyn Nets by 12 points on Saturday. The Heat then went to Memphis two nights later and routed the Grizzlies by 25 points, stretching Miami's modest win streak to two games.
Miami is still without center Hassan Whiteside (left knee), who probably won't return until January.
Whiteside will miss his seventh straight game on Wednesday, and his absence is making an impact on Miami's style of play. In Monday's win over Memphis, for example, the Heat had zero second-chance points and just two offensive rebounds.
Instead of crashing the boards, Miami won by shooting lights out -- 56.1 percent from the floor and 14 of 27 on 3-pointers (51.9 percent).
In the second half, Miami outscored Memphis by 22 points, and that pleased Heat point guard Goran Dragic.
"We've had trouble in the third quarter in the past, but we're figuring things out," Dragic told the media. "As long as we can continue to do that, we will win a lot of games."
Heat rookie center Bam Adebayo, who had 14 points, four rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes off the bench against Memphis, has been stepping up since Whiteside went down.
"He really used his technique, energy, multiple efforts and mental stability to be in a lot of places that were pretty disruptive," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Adebayo.
Dragic leads Miami in scoring (17.3) and assists (4.4), but he will have a tough challenge in trying to contain Lillard, who is averaging 26.6 points and 6.2 assists.
Both men are considered among the NBA's top 10 point guards, but Lillard is playing at an elite level. He is ninth in the league in scoring and is making 92.7 percent of his free throws.
Better yet for Portland fans, Lillard doesn't plan on jumping off the Blazers team to start a super team elsewhere.
"This is an organization where I plan on being for the rest of my career," Lillard told NBC Sports earlier this year. "It's an honor (to play for the Blazers)."
Davis questionable as Pelicans brace for Bucks
Wednesday, December 13 at 1:55 AM (EST)
NEW ORLEANS -- Playing without Anthony Davis on Monday night, the increasingly explosive New Orleans Pelicans scored virtually at will against the Houston Rockets before eventually falling 130-123 on the road in a game that had an ABA, red-white-and-blue-basketball feel.
The Pelicans (14-14) likely will be without Davis again Wednesday night when they host the Milwaukee Bucks (15-10).
The big man is nursing a left adductor (groin) strain he aggravated in a 131-124 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Davis was listed as questionable Tuesday by the Pelicans, who probably will be careful rushing him back after he experienced the setback against the Sixers.
Davis' absence could be a major problem against the Bucks, who come to town with one of the NBA's shooting stars in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The "Greek Freak" ranks second in the NBA in scoring (29.8 points per game) on 54.6 percent shooting and averages 10.4 rebounds.
The 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo leads the Bucks in virtually every statistical category, including assists (4.5), steals (1.71) and blocks (1.63). The Bucks have won three consecutive games and also have the benefit of a three-day rest, last playing Saturday night when they rolled past the Utah Jazz 117-100.
With guards Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore finding their shooting range, the Pelicans have turned into a formidable offensive team, but they have played nonchalantly at home en route to a 7-7 record in New Orleans.
Holiday finished with a season-high 37 points and Moore had a career-high 36 against the Rockets, combining to shoot 31 of 41 from the floor and 10 of 15 from long range as the Pelicans set a franchise record with 18 made 3-pointers.
"We've just been clicking," Holiday said.
Moore added, "We have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things with talent. When we get things together on the defensive end, we're going to be hard to beat. Things got a little tough for us in the fourth quarter (Houston outscored the Pelicans 34-20), and the game got real fast. We need to keep working and hopefully we can pull off those games down the line."
Moore leads the NBA in long-range shooting in December, making 25 of 37 3-point attempts in the past seven games.
The Pelicans also rank No. 2 in the league in December (behind the Rockets) with a 114.7 offensive rating per 100 possessions. With Davis mostly out of the lineup in December, missing four of the last six games, Holiday has responded by picking up the scoring slack, averaging 24.3 points in his past 10 games.
However, New Orleans has struggled mightily to stop teams. The Rockets, of course, can score on anyone, but they shot 54.5 percent overall and made 17 3-pointers Monday. In the past nine games, the Pelicans have allowed no fewer than 114 points. Those defensive numbers represent a freefall from last year when New Orleans was a top-10 defensive team.
The Pelicans got some other bad news when swingman Tony Allen, a defensive standout, sustained a broken left fibula against Philadelphia. He will miss will miss at least the next three weeks.
The Bucks are feeling good about their chances after resting the past three days.
"I think we have a unique opportunity here as a team," Antetokounmpo said. "We're doing well right now, and we've got to keep it up. We know that things are going well, we're feeling ourselves right now, playing great as a team, but we've got to keep playing hard."
Mirotic-led Bulls look to stay hot vs. Jazz
Wednesday, December 13 at 1:34 AM (EST)
CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic is not short on confidence to begin with, but these days, the numbers are backing him up.
Before the Chicago Bulls' 108-85 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday, Mirotic announced the Bulls would be 3-0 in games he has appeared in this season.
After Mirotic scored 24 points and teammate Bobby Portis added 23, the Bulls -- who had lost 10 straight games before Mirotic made his season debut Dec. 8 in Charlotte -- won their third consecutive game.
Now, the Bulls, owners of the NBA's second-worst record (6-20), hope to continue their winning ways on Wednesday against the Utah Jazz at the United Center.
Mirotic has been a major reason for Chicago's recent success.
"Niko's been awesome," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after the Monday win. "(That's) obviously an understatement in getting him back and winning all three games."
However, Portis and the Bulls' bench have also played a key role. On Monday, Chicago's reserves accounted for 55 points against the Celtics. The Bulls were without rookie forward Lauri Markkanen, who had back spasm. Mirotic replaced him in the starting lineup.
Hoiberg said Monday he doesn't believe Markkanen will miss a lot of time with a back issue that also flared up in the preseason. But Mirotic, who missed the first 23 games of the season with facial fractures and a concussion he sustained in a fight at practice with Portis in October, has established a bond with Portis on the floor.
It has proven to be a winning combination although both Portis and Mirotic would just as soon leave their past actions in the rearview mirror.
"I don't want to keep talking about me and Niko," Portis said after the win over Boston. "We're just playing our games, playing off of each other and just trying to play within Fred's offense. Our second unit has been clicking real well. It's been fun."
The Jazz (13-14) enter Wednesday's game having lost three straight. Utah has been idle since Saturday, when it opened a six-game road trip with a 117-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Jazz returned to Salt Lake City following that game and traveled to Chicago on Tuesday as a way to refuel before they play three games in four days, starting with Wednesday's contest.
Utah beat the Bulls 110-80 on Nov. 22, which started a six-game winning streak.
The Wednesday meeting could mark the return of leading scorer Rodney Hood, who has missed the past seven games due to ankle soreness. Hood, who averages 17.7 points per game, participated in a non-contact workout on Monday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Guard/forward Joe Johnson, who has missed the past 20 games with wrist tendon instability, also took part in that workout with the hopes of joining Hood and the rest of his Jazz teammates on the rest of the road trip.
Utah guard Raul Neto is also uncertain for the Wednesday game after he left the Saturday loss and entered concussion protocol. The Jazz had not announced whether any of the three players would see action against the Bulls.
"We've had a tough run of the year with different guys out," Jazz forward Joe Ingles said Monday, according to the Tribune. "It's nice to have most of our group back. Obviously (Hood and Johnson are) two pretty key pieces of what we do."
After 'mud' game, Raptors visit cold Suns
Wednesday, December 13 at 2:11 AM (EST)
PHOENIX -- One of the hottest teams in the NBA will meet one of the coldest when the Toronto Raptors visit the Phoenix Suns on Thursday at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Raptors (17-8) have won six of seven, their six-game winning streak broken in a road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.
The Suns (9-20) have lost four in a row, six of seven and 16 of 21, the last two after failing to hold leads in the fourth quarter. They will again be without top scorer Devin Booker when they meet the Raptors for the second time in nine days.
Toronto had won 10 of 12 before its 96-91 loss to the Clippers, the third game of a four-game trip. The Raptors are thriving even though they have played 15 of their 25 games on the road.
Despite possessing a more up-tempo offense this season, the Raptors scored a season-low against the Clippers. A rare offensive spark that game came from center Jonas Valanciunas, who tied season highs with 23 points and 15 rebounds. With Valanciunas scoring two baskets, Toronto led by seven early in the fourth quarter before taking its first loss since Nov. 24.
"We were playing in mud," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Psychologically we were a step behind. After we lost that lead, we couldn't get our traction back.
"All the way around, coaches and players, we just weren't sharp, and we didn't do anything to deserve a win."
Even with the new style, the Raptors continue to rely on the 1-2 punch of guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is 16th in the league with a 23.2-point scoring average, and he had scored at least 20 in five consecutive games before getting 17 at the Clippers. He is averaging 5.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Lowry is averaging 16.4 points, 7.0 assists and 6.4 rebounds, joining Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Ben Simmons as the only players to average 16/7/6. He has made 75 3-pointers and is on a pace for a career-high 246 -- although he was 0-for-8 from long distance at Los Angeles.
Lowry tallied 20 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in the Raptors' 126-113 victory over the Suns on Dec. 5, when Booker strained a left adductor while playing defense in the fourth quarter. Booker is expected to miss two to three weeks.
The Suns will finish their eighth set of back-to-back games against Toronto after falling 99-92 at Sacramento on Tuesday, when they were outscored 19-4 after taking an 85-80 lead with six minutes remaining.
Without Booker, the Suns have called on small forward TJ Warren take up an even larger portion of their scoring load. Warren is averaging 21.7 points in the past three games, up from his season average of 18.8 points, a career-high pace.
Warren scored 18 points at Sacramento, but it took him 24 shots to get there. Reserve guard Mike James recorded 17 points and five assists in 20 minutes off the bench. Without Booker, the Suns attempted 32 3-point field goals and made just seven (21.9 percent). James was 1-for-3 from beyond the arc.
"Devin attracts so much attention for us, and now they know TJ is that guy," Suns interim coach Jay Triano said. "We ask him to do a lot of things for us. You'd like to be able to spread the floor and make those (3-point) shots. We couldn't make shots in the second half. We have to get better at shooting the 3-ball. The game is trending that way, and we have to be able to make more than 2 of 17 in a half."
Phoenix played one of its best games Saturday, when it overcame a 19-point deficit in the third quarter and led the San Antonio Spurs in the final half-minute before falling 104-101 at home. James (25 points) and reserves Greg Monroe (eight points, 11 rebounds) and Troy Daniels (10 points) played key roles.
"Took us 24 minutes to find a group that would play with the right energy," Triano said. "I was mixing guys in and out, trying to look for offense, defense, anything that would give us some juice. Finally got it in the second half."
Phoenix played two sets of back-to-back games on its most recent six-game trip, including the loss at Toronto in which Booker was hurt. The Suns are 0-3 in his absence.
Small forward Josh Jackson is averaging 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in the three games he has started for Booker, who is 11th in the NBA with a 24.3-point scoring average. Jackson scored seven points and shot 3 of 14 from the field against the Kings.
|Hornets||vs.||Rockets||9:30 (EST) Preview|
Hornets next to challenge versatile Rockets
Wednesday, December 13 at 1:55 AM (EST)
HOUSTON -- It was yet another showcase of the Rockets' enviable offensive weaponry, with Houston eclipsing the 120-point plateau for the sixth time this season despite a quiet night from sharpshooter Ryan Anderson and an 0-fer shooting performance from Luc Mbah a Moute.
But the Rockets' 130-123 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night at Toyota Center was as much about what their small-ball lineup provided defensively as it was about their usual offensive exploits.
Houston (21-4), which will host the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night, went small down the stretch for a second consecutive game, and the Rockets found the intensity it sought after its opponent torched its defense over the opening three periods.
With undersized power forward P.J. Tucker manning center, the Rockets did a superior job of getting into the Pelicans defensively. Subsequently, New Orleans produced just 20 points in the fourth quarter after averaging 34.3 through the third quarter.
Houston managed a similar defensive turnaround at Portland two nights earlier, limiting the Trail Blazers to 19 fourth-quarter points in a 124-117 come-from-behind victory at Moda Center.
"With a small lineup, we can do that," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Other times we need bigger lineups in there, and that's cool. But (Monday) was another night (where going small worked). That's a little bit out of the Golden State playbook, where they throw guys out there and switch and the defense becomes really tough."
Charlotte (10-16) answered a desperate call with a 116-103 victory in Oklahoma City on Monday, just its second road win. The Hornets have been hamstrung by injuries yet mustered the fight necessary to win.
The Hornets snapped a three-game skid and a stretch of seven losses in eight games. They did so via remarkable offensive balance, with six players reaching double figures in points; second-year guard Treveon Graham produced 12 points in 20 minutes off the bench.
That scoring depth, and 53.1 percent shooting while making 13 of 25 3-pointers, represented a needed first step for the Hornets offensively. Charlotte has grown overly reliant upon the scoring prowess of dynamic guard Kemba Walker, whose individual exploits haven't prevented Charlotte from ranking 20th in offensive rating (103.3) while also sitting in the bottom 10 in field-goal percentage (27th) and effective field-goal percentage (29th).
Charlotte is 24th in 3-pointers made (nine) and attempted (25.3) per game, thus its shooting against the defensive-minded Thunder offered some promise. What the Hornets need is more of the same, with Walker getting the support he surely deserves.
"I think (Monday night) gave us somewhat of a vision of how we can be," Walker said. "And now we've just got to be consistent. Now we've got to go to Houston, and they're playing as well as anyone in our league at this point. But we've got to go in there with the same mindset, play hard, and do what we can to try to go win a game."
|Tuesday, December 12, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
Cavaliers use 3-pointers to beat Hawks
Tuesday, December 12 at 11:07 PM (EST)
CLEVELAND -- The Atlanta Hawks are an inviting opponent for the Cleveland Cavaliers in at least one way.
The Cavs sure make a ton of 3s against them.
Cleveland set a season high with 20 3-pointers and blew past the Atlanta Hawks 123-114 on Tuesday night. LeBron James scored 25 points and tied a career high with 17 assists. He made two 3s.
Kyle Korver (19 points) drained six 3-pointers, Kevin Love (17 points, 12 rebounds) added four 3s, and so did Jose Calderon (14 points, tying a season high).
"We're in a good rhythm right now," said James, whose .894 field-goal percentage (11 of 13 shooting) was the third highest of his career. "We know what we want to run, we know where guys are going to be out on the floor, we kind of know how defenses have been playing us as of late and guys are moving and sharing the ball extremely well. When the ball is moving, energy is behind it and guys are in rhythm."
The Cavs, who led by 24 in the fourth quarter, shot 20 of 38 from 3-point range. Their previous season high of 18 3s came against the Hawks on Nov. 30. The Cavs also hold the NBA records for 3-pointers in a regular-season game (on March 3) and a playoff game (Game 2, 2016 conference semifinals). Both are 25, and each came against the Hawks.
Atlanta nailed 16 from long range and was led by Taurean Prince's 24 points. Kent Bazemore scored 20 points and made six 3s.
"It's a tried and true formula," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "You have a great player and you put 3-point shooting around him and it makes it tough. They had even more 3-point shooting tonight. LeBron is obviously a great facilitator and a great passer. They made the plays, not just him."
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said the Hawks' defense is vulnerable to James' passing on the perimeter.
"I think they do a lot of double-teaming and tilting with the bigs so that allows LeBron to just pick the guys apart," Lue said. "He's able to make passes over the double team or to guys cutting for layups. When we're playing with pace and getting out in transition it's tough for those guys to get back and get matched."
J.R. Smith set a season high with eight assists for Cleveland. Jae Crowder scored 13 points and Jeff Green added 17 points off the bench,
Tristan Thompson, playing for the first time since Nov. 1 because of a strained left calf, played six minutes -- all in the first quarter. He didn't score or grab a rebound, and was not on the bench for the second half. Lue said before the game that Thompson's minutes would be restricted.
"We wanted to give him a six- or seven-minute burn in that first quarter," Lue said. "Then in the second half it was already the game plan that he wasn't playing in the second half. Wasn't able to work him back in in that second quarter."
The Cavs were 9 of 13 from distance in the first quarter, tying an NBA high for 3s in a quarter this season. They had 11 total field goals in the first quarter and the game was tied at 31.
Cleveland pulled ahead 62-48 by halftime. Love scored all of his 17 in the first half; Korver added 13 in the first half with four 3s; and James registered nine points and nine assists. The Cavs made 13 3-pointers in the first half.
This was Cleveland's 21st consecutive game with at least 100 points. It is 2-1 against the Hawks this season.
Hawks rookie Tyler Cavanaugh made his first NBA start, contributing 11 points and nine rebounds at center.
"It's tough because they kind of took it to us tonight," Cavanaugh said. "They're a very good team but we gave way too many open looks at times. We struggled at times with what our coaches wanted to do defensively, me especially."
NOTES: Cavs G Dwyane Wade missed his second game this season and first since Oct. 25 with left knee soreness. Wade is averaging 11.5 points, 3.9 assists, and shooting a career-best 35.5 percent from 3-point range. His 12.3 points off the bench (he made three starts to begin the season) are eighth in the league. ... Cavs F LeBron James played Wade's minutes as the backup point guard. To do that, coach Tyronn Lue brought Cavs C Tristan Thompson off the bench first to sub for James. Thompson hadn't played since Nov. 1 because of a left calf injury. ... Hawks rookie F John Collins (left AC joint sprain) missed his sixth consecutive game. He hasn't played since suffering the injury against the Cavs on Nov. 30. The Hawks "assigned" Collins to their "G" League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks, because they were practicing in Cleveland on Tuesday. The recalled him after practice.
Porzingis, Knicks slip past Lakers in OT
Tuesday, December 12 at 11:30 PM (EST)
NEW YORK -- All the focus was on Lonzo Ball and his famous family's first foray to iconic Madison Square Garden.
LaVar Ball and his other two sons -- LiAngelo and LaMelo -- sat courtside, looming large.
Not as large as Kristaps Porzingis, though. The New York Knicks forward somehow was lost in the shuffle, as if it is easy to lose all 7 feet, 3 inches of him.
He reminded the crowd early and late, scoring 12 first-quarter points en route to a 37-point, 11-rebound, five-block performance in a 113-109 overtime win over Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
After scoring 29 points in the first three quarters, Porzingis went cold for much of the fourth quarter until hitting a fadeaway with just over two minutes left to give the Knicks a five-point lead. He scored on another fadeaway on the next possession.
Perhaps Lakers coach Luke Walton summed it up best.
"Porzingis is pretty good at this game of basketball," Walton said.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope paced the Lakers with 24 points. Ball (17 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Kyle Kuzma (19 points) played well in their Madison Square Garden debuts.
Kuzma hit a 3-pointer with 23.9 seconds left to tie the game at 99, but New York's Michael Beasley had two baskets as well as an assist on a Doug McDermott layup during a 69-second run in overtime to give the Knicks a six-point lead they would not relinquish. Beasley finished the game with 13 points, and McDermott had 10.
"Beasley is a talent," said Knicks guard Courtney Lee, who had 10 points and a team-best plus-11 plus/minus ratio. "You give him the ball in his sweet spot, there isn't much you can do. We gave him the ball, he made the right plays."
Despite his own success, Beasley signaled out Ball for his play after the game.
"I think Lonzo is awesome," he said. "You guys are hung up on him not scoring the ball, but what rookie comes in and averages 50 points. There aren't a lot of 20 (point), five (rebound), five (assist) guys out there. He's a great point guard."
New York (14-13) rebounded from an uneven first half to claim a six-point lead minutes into the second half on a Porzingis 3-pointer, but the Lakers battled back and the teams exchanged the lead a half-dozen times in the quarter.
"We fought," Kuzma said. "Could've kept the lead in that second quarter and got back in the game, but it happens."
Los Angeles (10-16) led by as much as seven in the first quarter before building a double-digit lead in the second quarter. The Knicks gradually cut into the deficit and eventually overtook the Lakers with 1:22 left in the half, leading 47-46, but Los Angeles claimed a 51-50 halftime lead.
"You have to give them credit for making plays, but as a team you always look at what you can do better as a group, as an individual, and there is a lot tonight that we could have done better to give ourselves a better chance to win that game," Walton said.
Enes Kanter had 14 points and 11 rebounds for New York. Knicks rookie Frank Ntilikina added a career-high 13 points.
"He is a great player," Ball said of Ntilikina. "He is young like me, playing in a big city."
Brook Lopez had 14 points for the Lakers, but second-year forward Brandon Ingram had one of his worst games, shooting 2 of 12 from the field while scoring five points and committing five turnovers in 41 minutes.
NOTES: The Lakers had their two-game winning streak snapped. They had two other two-game winning streaks on the year. ... The Knicks improved their home record to 13-5. They are 1-8 on the road, the lone win coming at defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland. ... Knicks SG Tim Hardaway Jr., who is sidelined due to a lower left leg stress injury, attended the game in a large walking boot. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated next Tuesday. ... The Lakers conclude their four-game road trip on Thursday in Cleveland to face LeBron James and the Cavaliers. ... The Knicks head to Brooklyn on Thursday for a matchup with the Nets, their second of the year.
Nuggets clamp down on Pistons
Tuesday, December 12 at 10:39 PM (EST)
DETROIT -- Near the end of a lengthy road trip, the Denver Nuggets delivered one of their strongest defensive performances of the season.
Ranked second to last in the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage, the Nuggets held the slumping Detroit Pistons to 35.4 percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers in a 103-84 victory on Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena.
The Nuggets (15-12) held just two other opponents below 40 percent shooting prior to Tuesday and also won those games. They are 2-3 on a six-game road trip that concludes Wednesday in Boston. Denver limited the Orlando Magic to 89 points in a 14-point victory earlier in the trip.
"When we defend like that, we're a good team," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "We saw that defense in Orlando and then we saw it again tonight. I hope it comes to Boston with us. We did it for 48 minutes, which was great to see."
Second-year guard Jamal Murray fired in 28 points to lead the Nuggets' offensive attack. He scored 19 after halftime.
"Early in the game, I was just trying to call a couple plays to get him going, get him looks," Malone said. "Once Jamal sees the ball go through the net early on, he starts shooting into a very big basket as the game goes along."
Reserve forward Trey Lyles tossed in 20 points while making all seven of his field-goal attempts. Wilson Chandler scored 18 points, while Mason Plumlee supplied 10 points and a season-high 13 rebounds for the Nuggets, who never trailed. Gary Harris added eight points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals to the winning cause.
Plumlee outplayed counterpart Andre Drummond, the league's leading rebounder. Drummond scored just five points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
"Start to finish, we were solid," Plumlee said. "I would say this was our best job staying in coverages and doing what we said we were going to do in the game plan with the exception of (Detroit's Langston) Galloway coming off those screens. We really guarded the way we wanted to."
Nuggets center Nikola Jokic missed his sixth consecutive game due to a left ankle sprain.
A pair of reserves led the Pistons with season highs in points. Galloway had 18 and Boban Marjanovic contributed 14 points for the Pistons (14-13), who have lost seven straight. The losing streak is Detroit's longest since it dropped 10 straight during February and March 2015.
Pistons forward Tobias Harris was held to no field goals on seven attempts and two points, the first time all season he failed to reach double digits. Detroit's starters shot a combined 10-for-36 from the field, scored just 31 points and were responsible for 16 turnovers.
"It was extremely bad basketball, mindless basketball," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Forcing plays, no energy, just as a unit, no chemistry, no energy. They just took us out of everything."
The Nuggets shot 50.6 percent (40-for-79) from the field, while the Pistons' turnover total tied a season high.
"Our minds were not in it tonight," Van Gundy said. "Everybody's got their dilemmas, whatever they are. Some guys hanging their heads. I'm not singling out every individual, but as a group we have guys feeling sorry for ourselves, and that's not going to cut it."
Denver outscored Detroit 31-20 in the third quarter for an 80-60 lead. Murray scored 13 points during the period, including seven in the first 1:30.
"From the start, we locked down defensively, got up into them and disrupted what they were trying to do," said Lyles, who was coming off a season-best 25 point outing in Indiana. "The third quarter we really exploded, and offensively, we started to click, too, and started making a lot of shots."
The Pistons never got closer than 15 the remainder of the game.
NOTES: Nuggets C Nikola Jokic, who hasn't played during the six-game road trip due to an ankle sprain, could return as early as Wednesday's game at Boston. "He's getting closer. He's definitely moving in the right direction," coach Michael Malone said. "The ankle is still very, very sore, but he's moving better. He's managing the pain, and whether he's available (Wednesday) night, we'll wait and see." ... Detroit swept last season's two-game series. The clubs meet again in Denver on March 15. ... Pistons C Andre Drummond has 247 double-doubles since the 2012-13 season, tops among Eastern Conference players. ... The Nuggets have already used 10 starting lineups.
Clutch Crabbe shot pushes Nets past Wizards
Tuesday, December 12 at 11:29 PM (EST)
NEW YORK -- Perhaps Timofey Mozgov put it best when jokingly describing the confidence the Brooklyn Nets expressed in a player struggling to make shots all night.
"Shooters shoot the ball," Mozgov said in the background as Spencer Dinwiddie spoke to the media crowd.
What Dinwiddie was discussing was Allen Crabbe's go-ahead 3-pointer with 44 seconds remaining that gave the Nets a 103-98 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
Crabbe hit his biggest shot of the season on a night when he made 3 of 15 shots and misfired on 11 of 14 3-point attempts. It was his final shot that ultimately lifted the Nets (11-15) to their fifth win in eight games.
After Bradley Beal's layup gave Washington a 98-97 lead with 51.7 seconds remaining, the Nets called their penultimate timeout. Dinwiddie caught the subsequent inbounds pass and found Crabbe as the Wizards switched defenders.
Crabbe gained possession, and the guard simply spotted up from 26 feet out behind the top of the key and hit an uncontested 3-pointer.
"I don't care about any of that," Dinwiddie said of Crabbe's shooting woes. "He was one of the best 3-point shooters in the league last year. I don't know what his percentages are this year, but my man can shoot. Any time he's open, I'm going to find him."
Crabbe's percentage from 3-point range dropped from 39.6 percent to 37.9 percent on Tuesday, but numbers ultimately proved irrelevant.
"I still have confidence in him, and (a) great pass by Spencer," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "Spencer had a choice of getting to the rim or Allen sets a back screen and pops. So he had the choice, and Spencer did a really good job finding him and trusting it."
Crabbe's shot occurred after the Nets missed their previous seven 3-point attempts and on a night when they shot 23.3 percent (10 of 43) from behind the arc.
"I think it was just that I-don't-care attitude," said Crabbe, who is a career 40.8 percent shooter from 3-point range. "If you miss, you miss. That used to be my problem in the past, missing so many shots and I would start getting tentative and looking to pass up on shots."
After Crabbe's 3-pointer, Beal and DeMarre Carroll traded missed mid-range jumpers. Brooklyn's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson grabbed the rebound of Carroll's miss with 13 seconds left, and after the Nets used their final timeout, Dinwiddie split a pair of free throws with 8.8 seconds left.
The Wizards had one more chance to tie, but Tomas Satoransky was called for a five-second violation on the inbounds pass intended for Beal. Caris LeVert iced the game at the line.
Crabbe finished with 13 points and was among seven in double figures for the Nets, who won despite shooting 6 of 20 in the fourth quarter.
LeVert and Hollis-Jefferson led the Nets with 16 points apiece, Carroll added 15 and Tyler Zeller contributed 12. Dinwiddie finished with 11 points and a career-high 12 assists though he and Crabbe were a combined 4 of 25 from behind the arc. Jarrett Allen scored 11 points.
Beal led the Wizards with 28 points. He missed his first five attempts, was 3 of 15 in the second half and 11 of 33 overall, including 0 of 7 on 3-point tries.
After Beal, Washington's other four starters combined for 27 points as the Wizards fell to 4-8 in games decided by five points or fewer.
"I don't know what it was," Beal said. "Same bad habits. We're just not playing well."
Before Crabbe's dramatic shot, the Nets took a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter and settled for a 79-78 advantage going into the fourth. The Nets held an 89-82 lead with about nine minutes left on a 3-pointer by LeVert, but Washington came right back to go up 95-94 on a hoop by Kelly Oubre Jr. (12 points) with about 5 1/2 minutes left.
"I feel like we were getting complacent," Oubre said. "We're not doing the necessary things to get us these wins."
NOTES: Washington G John Wall (sore left knee) worked out on the court before the game but missed his ninth consecutive contest. Coach Scott Brooks said Wall may play Wednesday against Memphis depending on how he feels. ... Newly acquired C Jahlil Okafor and G Nik Stauskas worked out on the court of the Nets' practice facility Sunday with coach Kenny Atkinson. Asked about slowly integrating his new players into the lineup, Atkinson said: "This isn't CYO when you show up at 4 o'clock and you haven't met your teammates and you just throw them out there." ... Washington C Ian Mahinmi (sore right knee) missed a game for the first time this season.
Leonard sharp in season debut, but Spurs lose
Wednesday, December 13 at 10:10 AM (EST)
DALLAS -- Kawhi Leonard made his long-anticipated season debut Tuesday night and looked to be in midseason form, although his San Antonio Spurs fell apart in the fourth quarter without him and lost to the Dallas Mavericks 95-89 at American Airlines Center.
The Spurs' All-Star forward missed the first 27 games of the season because of a quad injury. Upon returning to the starting lineup, he quickly displayed his all-around excellence, producing 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting and adding six rebounds, one assist, one steal and a block.
He did it all in only 16 minutes as coach Gregg Popovich promised a gradual reintroduction. Leonard's lone offensive rebound was a tip-out to himself that led to a bucket for a 55-50 Spurs lead midway through the third quarter, and Popovich pulled him soon after.
Leonard made his way to the locker room toward the end of the third quarter, raising a few eyebrows, but his early exit from the floor apparently was for planned treatment. Afterward Popovich said Leonard's performance was "wonderful," but that it was frustrating for him to sit out the fourth quarter because he felt he had just started to get loose.
The Spurs' slippage without Leonard the rest of the way raised Popovich's ire. Dallas, sparked by guard J.J. Barea's aggressive drives to the basket, opened the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run, went up 91-80 with 4:01 to go and held on to snap the Spurs' four-game winning streak as well as end their own three-game skid.
"He's trying to get some rust off and that kind of thing. Obviously he's confident. He's a heck of a player," Popovich said of Leonard. "And it was really frustrating for him to just start getting loose and have to come off the court, so that's a tough situation for him."
Dallas (8-20) got the win without speedy rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. (hip). However, the Mavericks appeared headed for another tough loss after forcing the Spurs to play from behind in the first half.
The Mavs' 11-point, second-quarter lead slipped to 46-44 at halftime, and a 7-0 run by the Spurs to start the third quarter gave San Antonio its first lead since 2-0.
However, without Leonard, the Spurs' offense missed eight consecutive shots during a 13-1 Dallas run early in the fourth.
Harrison Barnes led the Mavs with 17 points while Barea, Wesley Matthews and Yogi Ferrell each scored 16. Reserve forward Dwight Powell notched his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
"We have been waiting for a game like this where we go out and play a full 48-minute game," Ferrell said. "We've had some good games this season, but we put it all together tonight even when they made a run in the third quarter."
LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio with 23 points and 13 rebounds. While he paced the team, Dallas managed to hold him to 9 of 23 from the floor after he scored 65 points in the Spurs' two victories against the Mavs this season.
"We were in much more of a scrambling mode and frenetic, I would even say. That is what it is going to take for us," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of his team's defensive effort. "I was really happy for our players. They have been fighting so hard and not getting much in terms of rewards for it. But, tonight, it was a win that was really earned."
Rudy Gay was the only Spurs player other than Aldridge and Leonard to score in double figures, finishing with 21 off the bench.
Leonard, Popovich said, will continue to be on a minutes restriction when the Spurs return to action Friday against the Houston Rockets.
"He looked good," Aldridge said. "It's going to take time to get back to the Kawhi that we know. I thought he looked good. First game in a long time. He looked comfortable out there making plays."
NOTES: The Spurs lost in Dallas for the first time in six games. ... San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich needs seven more victories to pass George Karl (1,175) for fifth on the NBA's all-time list. ... Mavs G Dennis Smith Jr. missed his third consecutive game because of a hip injury, and coach Rick Carlisle said he also would miss the next two games at Golden State and San Antonio. ... F Dirk Nowitzki moved five rebounds away from passing Bill Bridges (11,054) for 28th on the league's all-time list.
76ers power past Wolves in OT
Wednesday, December 13 at 1:53 AM (EST)
MINNEAPOLIS -- Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns were showing why they are two of the NBA's most dynamic young big men.
J.J. Redick and Jimmy Butler were providing big buckets as the veteran leaders of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively.
Ultimately, Embiid, Redick and Philadelphia had more at the end on Tuesday night.
Embiid compiled 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, Redick scored 26 points, and the 76ers pulled out a 118-112 overtime win against the Timberwolves.
"We found a way," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. "You get down nine on the road against a really good team, a really well-coached team, and most times that's not going to work out so well. Especially with six minutes (left), down nine with six minutes, the fact that we found a way to stay together and grind out a win, we needed that. I'm glad for the guys."
Ben Simmons was held scoreless until 1:17 remained in regulation, but he ended up with seven points and eight assists for the 76ers. Philadelphia (14-13) snapped a four-game losing streak by scoring the first six points of overtime and holding on in the back-and-forth game.
The 76ers were 3 of 4 from the field in the overtime session and 11 of 13 from the free-throw line.
"Yeah, we needed this," said Embiid, who returned after missing two games. "We lost four games in a row. We needed this pretty bad."
Butler nearly willed Minnesota to a win, scoring a season-high 38 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter. However, the weary Timberwolves couldn't close out the game. They shot just 40.7 percent and were 5 of 29 from 3-point territory.
Towns had his league-leading 22nd double-double, with 19 points and 16 rebounds. Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins scored 20 points but shot 8 of 24 from the field and 1 of 7 from 3-point territory.
"Just didn't make the plays we needed to make. I didn't, definitely, at least," Towns said. "You've got to make those plays to win the game. Jimmy was fantastic tonight. I didn't do anything to help him. It's hard to look in the mirror and say, 'You were the reason for this loss.'"
There were 15 lead changes and neither team was on top by more than nine points in the game. Philadelphia survived a season-high 26 turnovers, which led to 31 points for Minnesota, in part by going 27 of 32 at the free-throw line.
"We were lucky to get out of it with a win when you have that many turnovers," Brown said.
Butler, Towns, Wiggins and Taj Gibson all played at least 40 minutes as the Timberwolves (16-12) continue to use a short bench.
With exhaustion worn on their faces, Minnesota tightened in the fourth, a quarter that has been a problem spot all season long. The Sixers had no field goals and five turnovers in the first nine minutes of the quarter as the Wolves built their lead to seven, but Philadelphia rallied.
The Wolves were 1 of 22 from 3-point range before Butler's 3-pointer gave them a 97-96 lead. Simmons scored on the other end, and Butler came right back with another trey. Embiid hit two free throws to tie the score, and Butler's jumper at the buzzer came up short.
The Sixers controlled the overtime session and ended the night with a 28-11 advantage in bench points. Minnesota shot 4 of 12 in the overtime.
Butler wouldn't use fatigue as a reason for the loss.
"I think we need to get in better shape if we're tired," Butler said. "Do whatever it takes for this team, this organization, to win. If you're tired, run some extra laps at practice."
NOTES: Philadelphia F Robert Covington missed his second consecutive game due to a lower back contusion. Richaun Holmes started in Covington's place and had his first double-double, 15 points and 11 rebounds. ... Sixers PG T.J. McConnell returned after missing two games with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. He scored seven points. ... Minnesota F Nemanja Bjelica missed his 10th straight game with a left mid-foot sprain. ... The 26 turnovers were the most for a Timberwolves opponent this season. Minnesota committed just 10 turnovers. ... Philadelphia is off until hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. Minnesota hosts the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.
Randolph delivers down stretch as Kings rebuff Suns
Wednesday, December 13 at 1:52 AM (EST)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. --- When the Sacramento Kings signed Zach Randolph to a two-year, $24 million contract over the summer, they were pleased with the consistent scoring and rebounding numbers he could bring to a club in need of it.
They were more excited about what his previous 16 seasons in the league might mean to a collection of kids trying to make their way.
Randolph's lessons Tuesday night brought the Kings a 99-92 victory over the Phoenix Suns at Golden 1 Center.
"Stick with it," Randolph said after scoring 11 of his 17 points in the final quarter and leading a decisive 13-0 blitz. "I told the guys, 'You never stop playing.'"
Randolph, the Kings' leading scorer (15.3 points a game) and rebounder (7.0), struggled for three quarters, tallying only six points on 3-for-10 shooting. But his scoring burst turned an 85-80 deficit into a 93-85 advantage with 1:50 left and helped the Kings end a three-game home losing streak.
He made all four of his shots in the fourth quarter.
"It's a 48-minute game," said Randolph, who averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Memphis Grizzlies a season ago. "Just stick with it. Do other things. Rebound. Set the pick-and-roll. Those things."
George Hill scored 18 points, and Buddy Hield contributed 14 points off the bench for Sacramento (9-18). Center Willie Cauley-Stein returned from a three-game absence and had 13 points and six rebounds.
T.J. Warren scored 18 points to lead the Suns (9-20), who have dropped four in a row and nine of their past 11. Reserve Mike James scored 17 points in 20 minutes, and Tyler Ulis added 10 points.
Tyson Chandler recorded seven points and 10 rebounds for the Suns.
Ultimately, the game came down to Randolph.
"We went small the last four or five minutes of the game," Kings coach Dave Joerger said. "It gave Zach a lot more room. Zach got aggressive. ... That's what you pay big stud muffins like that for, to go deliver the mail."
The teams exchanged leads 11 times in the first three quarters and were tied 74-74 entering the final 12 minutes, when Phoenix appeared to make a move.
Big man Alex Lin hit a bucket on a post move. Fellow big man Dragan Bender canned a 3-pointer, and Ulis and Warren each made baskets during a 9-1 run that produced an 85-80 lead.
However, Randolph scored on two consecutive moves to the lane, then found Hill for the layup to put Sacramento ahead for good, 86-85.
Hield then hit a 3-pointer from the right wing. Randolph converted two more free throws after being fouled on another drive to the lane and then converted another layup for a 93-85 lead.
After Ulis made two free throws and James made a driving reverse layup to cut the deficit to 93-89, Randolph drove the lane and converted while being fouled by Chandler. He sank the free throw for a three-possession lead with 44.9 seconds left.
"They made shots down the stretch," Suns coach Jay Triano said. "It was back-and-forth the whole game. Down the stretch, we missed a couple of good shots. I thought they were good shots. They made theirs. That's the difference in the game."
Reserve rookie point guard Frank Mason scored six points and had four assists in a career-best 27 minutes for Sacramento. He played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. Starter De'Andre Fox, the team's top pick in June's draft, sat the entire last quarter. He finished with seven points in 21 minutes and did not have an assist.
Marquese Chriss, a Sacramento native, finished with seven points and six rebounds in 23 minutes for the Suns.
NOTES: Kings G George Hill returned to the starting lineup after missing Sunday's game against Toronto because of personal reasons. Hill has started all 24 games he has played, the only Sacramento player on the roster to not come off the bench this season. ... Phoenix F Dragan Bender told the Arizona Republic he may be able next week to ditch the mask he has worn since mid-November. Bender began wearing the mask after breaking his nose against Chicago on Nov. 19 and told the paper it's "definitely uncomfortable." ... Sacramento's starters needed 2:06 to get the club's first basket. On Sunday, they needed 3:15. Sacramento is averaging 22.9 points per first quarter this season. ... Phoenix F Marquese Chriss, a Sacramento native, is averaging 16.3 on 46.2 percent shooting and 6.3 rebounds per game in his past four contests against the Kings.