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  • NBA roundup: Kings' Bjelica beats buzzer to stun Rockets
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, December 10, 2019

    Nemanja Bjelica drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Sacramento Kings claimed a 119-118 victory over the host Houston Rockets on Monday.

    • Bjelica drilled a 33-footer off an inbound pass from Cory Joseph to answer a driving layup from Rockets guard Russell Westbrook on the preceding possession. Bjelica scored over PJ Tucker to cap his 17-point performance as the Kings finished 20 of 45 from behind the arc.

      Westbrook scored a season-high 34 points, primarily on driving layups as the Kings offered scant rim protection. His basket countered a game-tying 3-pointer from Kings guard Buddy Hield (team-high 26 points), whose trey matched a 3-pointer from Ben McLemore with 22.7 seconds left.

      The Rockets had won 18 of 20 meetings against the Kings, who received 19 points and eight rebounds from Harrison Barnes. James Harden paired 27 points with 10 assists for the Rockets while Tucker grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds

      Detroit Pistons 105 - New Orleans Pelicans 103

      Derrick Rose scored a team-high 21 points, capped by a last-second, game-winning jumper as Detroit won at New Orleans.

      The Pistons inbounded the ball with 14.7 seconds left and cleared out for Rose, who dribbled down the clock, penetrated and hit a jumper from just inside the foul line. The Pelicans called timeout with 0.3 seconds left, but their subsequent pass was deflected, and they lost their ninth straight game.

      Langston Galloway added 16 points, Luke Kennard scored 14 and Andre Drummond had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit. Brandon Ingram scored 31 and Jrue Holiday scored 20 to lead New Orleans.

      Milwaukee Bucks 110 - Orlando Magic 101

      Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as Milwaukee extended its NBA-best winning streak to 15 games with a victory over visiting Orlando.

      Khris Middleton scored 20 points and Donte DiVincenzo added 12 as the Bucks improved to 11-1 at home and matched the Los Angeles Lakers for best record in the NBA at 21-3.

      Evan Fournier scored 26 points and Terrence Ross added 23 as the Magic saw their season-best four-game winning streak come to an end, but not before putting together a late run.

      Toronto Raptors 93 - Chicago Bulls 92

      Pascal Siakam scored 22 points, and visiting Toronto overcame an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Chicago and end a three-game losing streak.

      Kyle Lowry added 11 points and made the go-ahead layup with 50.9 seconds remaining for the Raptors, who have won 11 in a row against the Bulls. Norman Powell had 17 points, Serge Ibaka had 11 points and 14 rebounds, and OG Anunoby scored 10 for Toronto.

      Zach Lavine scored 20 points -- all in the first half -- and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who have lost three straight.

      Boston Celtics 110 - Cleveland Cavaliers 88

      Kemba Walker scored 22 points, Gordon Hayward had 14 in his return from a hand injury, and Boston beat visiting Cleveland.

      Jaylen Brown added 20 points, Jayson Tatum 19 and Daniel Theis 10 as all five Celtics starters scored in double figures. Boston improved to 10-0 at home and won for the sixth time in its past seven games.

      Jordan Clarkson had 19 points and Tristan Thompson 17 for the Cavaliers, who lost their seventh straight and fell for the 13th time in their past 14 games.

      Los Angeles Clippers 110 - Indiana Pacers 99

      Paul George made seven 3-pointers to highlight a 36-point performance against his former team as Los Angeles held on to beat Indiana in Indianapolis.

      George was booed by the crowd in his third game back at Bankers Life Fieldhouse after requesting a trade from Indiana, with which he spent his first seven NBA seasons. George was sent to Oklahoma City in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in July 2017 before the Thunder traded him to the Clippers in the latest offseason.

      Montrezl Harrell had 26 points and eight rebounds for the Clippers, who played without Kawhi Leonard (left knee soreness). Leonard sat out the latter half of a back-to-back set with a Wednesday showdown looming against his former team in Toronto, marking his first return to the city since he led the Raptors to the NBA title in June.

      Oklahoma City Thunder 104 - Utah Jazz 90

      Dennis Schroder scored 27 off the bench to lead Oklahoma City to a win over Utah in Salt Lake City.

      Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 20 points and Chris Paul had 16 points and seven assists for the Thunder, who overcame 26 points from Utah's Donovan Mitchell.

      The Thunder played without a pair of starters. Terrance Ferguson missed his third straight game due to right hip soreness while Danilo Gallinari missed a game for the first time this season after sustaining a left ankle sprain.

      Phoenix Suns 125 - Minnesota Timberwolves 109

      Devin Booker had 26 points and three 3-pointers, and Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 24 points on his 24th birthday as host Phoenix pulled away from Minnesota.

      Dario Saric had 20 points and was a rebound short of his fifth double-double in the last eight games, and Ricky Rubio added 16 points and 14 assists for the Suns, who beat Timberwolves for the second time in 17 days to get within one game of .500.

      Karl-Anthony Towns had 33 points and 15 rebounds, Andrew Wiggins put up 23 points, and Jeff Teague had 16 points and four assists off the bench for the Timberwolves, whose season-high losing streak reached five games.

      Memphis Grizzlies 110 - Golden State Warriors 102

      Memphis used six 3-pointers to bolt to a 24-11 lead in the first 7:19 of the game, then never trailed thereafter in a victory over Golden State in San Francisco.

      Rookie star Ja Morant returned from a four-game layoff caused by back spasms to lead the way with a game-high 26 points and seven assists. He helped the Grizzlies win for just the second time in their last 10 games.

      D'Angelo Russell and Alec Burks shared team-high scoring honors for the Warriors with 18 points.

      --Field Level Media

  • Knicks hope Miller can help end losing skid vs. Blazers
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, December 10, 2019

    The New York Knicks lost by just a single point in interim coach Mike Miller's first game on the job.

    • That doesn't seem so bad when you consider the club lost by 44 and 37 in David Fizdale's last two contests before being dismissed.

      Miller seeks his first NBA coaching victory and the Knicks attempt to halt a nine-game skid when they visit the struggling Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

      Miller, a former college and G League head coach, got the Knicks to play well in his debut on Saturday night before they succumbed 104-103 to the visiting Indiana Pacers. Knicks forward Julius Randle split two free throws with 0.1 seconds to play as New York came up short.

      "You get in those games, you've got to make another play, and we just didn't make another play," Miller said afterward. "Loved the effort. That was fun."

      Fun hasn't often been a word used to describe anything about the Knicks, who own the worst record in the NBA at 4-19.

      New York has lost seven games by 20 or more points and hasn't notched a victory since defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 18.

      The stop in Portland is the first of a road trip in which the Knicks play four games in six nights. Games against the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets follow.

      Miller is hoping the club can stem periods of inconsistency that plague its chances of recording victories.

      "Our focus has been on the consistency on both ends of the floor, that's where it's at," Miller said. "The players, we have a high character group of players, they're professional, they come in and work every day. The message is we want to be more consistent. And we're going to be more consistent in what we do and how we work play to play and possession to possession."

      The Trail Blazers have problems of their own as they have lost three of four games and rank as one of the league's biggest underachievers with a 9-15 record after reaching the Western Conference finals last season.

      Their troubles continued on Sunday night when they took a 108-96 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

      Portland shot just 36 percent from the field, including 9 of 33 from 3-point range, in a game in which it was outhustled by the Thunder. Making it more maddening to star point guard Damian Lillard is that the Trail Blazers previously defeated Oklahoma City twice this season, including a solid 136-119 home win on Nov. 27.

      "I just thought our urgency wasn't where it needed to be," Lillard said afterward. "You come out with an opportunity to get some momentum going into another home game with another opportunity to win against a team that we just played a few games ago and blew them away, played a great game.

      "Then the ball's not going in, so we don't lock in and stay sharp on the defensive end. We just allowed them to do pretty much what they wanted."

      Lillard scored 26 points, but he was one of the cold shooters, going 8 of 24 from the field, including 2 of 12 from 3-point range.

      Forward Carmelo Anthony shot 4 of 18 while scoring nine points, guard Kent Bazemore was 3 of 11 while also scoring nine points and shooting guard CJ McCollum made 8 of 21 shots while tallying 20 points.

      There is plenty of time for the Trail Blazers to turn things around, but there are some team habits that Lillard doesn't like.

      "I think we kind of just play well in stretches, and we don't really have the luxury of playing well in stretches," Lillard said. "We're a team that if the ball's not going in, we gotta be getting to the 50-50 balls, we can't be letting teams get second and third opportunities. We foul every 30 seconds.

      "I mean, we are doing a lot of things as a team that are putting us at a disadvantage."

      Portland has fared well against the Knicks of late, winning the past five meetings.

      --Field Level Media

  • Nuggets aim to end Sixers' unbeaten home mark
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, December 10, 2019

    The Philadelphia 76ers will attempt to remain undefeated at home when they host the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.

    • The Sixers improved to 12-0 at home with a 110-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. Philadelphia held on despite committing 11 turnovers in the fourth quarter and seeing the Raptors go on a late surge.

      Tobias Harris scored 26 points, rookie Matisse Thybulle added a career-best 20 and Ben Simmons had 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

      Every home win during the run hasn't been picturesque, but the Sixers simply continue to grind out victories at Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia also has won six of its past seven games overall.

      "I think we're getting different nights from different guys that are stepping up," Harris said following the Sunday game. "Ben (on Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers) was just dominant, and I think everyone was flowing off of that (Saturday). Today, we just came out to get another win, and we look to do that next home game."

      All-Star center Joel Embiid struggled Sunday and was benched in the fourth quarter by coach Brett Brown. Embiid committed seven turnovers but did contribute 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

      "I think that his energy and his presence tonight was good," Brown said of Embiid. "At the end, they pressed and he had some rough decisions. It's unfortunate because for the large part of the game, he's one of the main reasons we won. It won't jump out to you on the statsheet, but it's Joel Embiid and his length. You can feel his presence really affected their rim work."

      Thybulle knocked down five 3-pointers and helped carry the Sixers on a night Embiid was off. The University of Washington product has hardly looked like a rookie in recent games.

      "I think I'm incredibly blessed," Thybulle said. "I'm so grateful, and to have the guys that we have on this team and to have the opportunity that I have is nothing short of a blessing."

      The Nuggets, who already defeated the Sixers earlier this season in Denver, enter play Tuesday having lost four of their past five games.

      Denver fell 105-102 on the road against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday as Jamal Murray missed a potential game-tying 3-point attempt as time expired. Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists while Murray added 21 points.

      Jokic averages a double-double (16.1 points and 10.1 rebounds) and also leads the team in assists at 6.1 per game.

      Denver's defense allowed 66 points in the paint against the Nets, which was a crucial reason the Nuggets lost again.

      "It can't be that easy. We've just got to be stronger down there," Murray said of the team's interior defense. "If you've got to take a foul, take a foul, but that was just the whole game."

      The Nuggets have had a difficult time recently getting their offense and defense to mesh in the same game, even though they are holding opponents to an NBA-low 101.9 points per game. Forwards Paul Millsap and Will Barton ranked among the top five in the league's defensive rating stat through the weekend, trailing only Embiid and the Milwaukee Bucks duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe.

      Millsap has arguably been the Nuggets' most consistent player all season. It won't always show in the statistics (13 points, 5.9 rebounds per game).

      "He's been the quiet unsung hero of our team," coach Michael Malone said. "We've had a lot of younger guys who have been up and down, inconsistent. If you looked at our first 20 games, Paul has been Mr. Consistency for us, and that's what you expect from a 14-year veteran."

      --Field Level Media

  • Heat aim to complete hat trick over visiting Hawks
    By Field Level Media / Monday, December 9, 2019

    The Miami Heat can expect to have a slightly different obstacle in their path Tuesday night when they seek to complete an early season hat trick over the visiting Atlanta Hawks.

    • The Heat beat the Hawks twice in a three-day, home-and-home series in October, prevailing 112-97 at home on a night when Atlanta star Trae Young suffered a sprained right ankle, then 106-97 two days later in Atlanta when Young had to take the night off.

      The Heat figure to see a fully healthy Young this time around, with the second-year scoring machine having gone for 39 and 30 points in his last two outings.

      Young is averaging 34.4 points over his last eight games.

      The Hawks lost the first five of those eight, but have since won two of three, including 122-107 at Charlotte on Sunday in the opener of a three-game trip.

      Young admitted over the weekend that's it's no consolation winning individual scoring duels when his team suffers a defeat.

      "I hate that feeling when I play good individually, numbers-wise, but we don't win," he insisted. "Because you can't enjoy it, especially if you're a competitor like me."

      Young lasted just 11 minutes, scoring five points, before suffering his ankle injury when the Hawks lost the opener of their earlier double-header against the Heat. He then had to watch Miami rookies Tyler Herro (29) and Kendrick Nunn (17) combine for 46 points in the run-away win.

      Two nights later, it was much of the same -- except that Young was a fulltime observer. Nunn had 28 points and Herro 17 to complete the sweep.

      The early attention-grabbers were the start of something big for the two rookies, one (Herro) a high-profile collegian at Kentucky who was a first-round pick, the other (Nunn) a relative unknown at Oakland University who went undrafted.

      Among rookies, Nunn began the week third in scoring at 15.3 points per game, one spot ahead of Herro (14.5). Nunn also ranked second in assists (3.4), while Herro was tied for eighth in rebounds (4.0).

      It's probably a stretch -- short of a sooner-than-expected comeback by Zion Williamson -- for anybody other than Ja Morant to believe they can win Rookie of the Year honors this season given the start that the Memphis standout has experienced, but Nunn surely hasn't given up the fight.

      "I definitely feel like I'm the Rookie of the Year," he boasted recently to reporters. "It's early, but the way I've been performing, definitely, I'm in the running for that."

      Nunn also is in the running for the unofficial title as Greatest Undrafted Rookie in NBA History.

      It's been 10 seasons since any undrafted rookie averaged 15 or more points in his first season (Reggie Williams finished at 15.2 in 2010), and 70 since one averaged more than Nunn's current 15.3 (Frankie Brian, 17.8 in 1949-50).

      Miami's three-headed rookie monster includes Chris Silva, who ranks first in rebounds (84) and blocks (14), and third in total points (82) among the NBA's current two-way players.

      Silva totaled eight points and seven rebounds in the two earlier wins over the Hawks.

      --Field Level Media

  • NBA denies Rockets' protest
    By Field Level Media / Monday, December 9, 2019

    The NBA denied the protest the Houston Rockets filed in regard to their 135-133 double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs last Tuesday night.

    • The Rockets held a 102-89 lead in the fourth quarter when star guard James Harden scored on a dunk. The force of the slam caused the ball to go back through the net and over the rim, and the officiating crew ruled that Harden missed the dunk.

      Houston's appeal said that the rules were misapplied by the crew when it failed to grant the club a requested coach's challenge to have the play reviewed. The NBA agreed with the Rockets' contention, but commissioner Adam Silver determined that the Rockets had "sufficient time to overcome the error during the remainder of the fourth quarter and two subsequent overtime periods and thus the extraordinary remedy of granting a game protest was not warranted."

      The NBA said the officials -- crew chief James Capers, Kevin Scott and John Butler -- were disciplined for misapplying the challenge rule. The league didn't disclose the nature of the punishments.

      Capers told a pool reporter that the crew watched replays of the dunk after the game and that it should have been ruled a "successful field goal." He said there was a 30-second period for which the Rockets could request a review and that the period passed while Houston was contesting the call.

      The NBA also said it will work the competition committee to develop procedures that will prevent a situation like Harden's from occurring again.

      --Field Level Media

  • Wizards, Hornets look to overcome defensive struggles in Charlotte
    By Field Level Media / Monday, December 9, 2019

    A couple of teams that have numerous defensive issues to sort through meet Tuesday night at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C.

    • The Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets are coming off losses that tended to be defined by shortcomings on defense.

      "Lack of focus at the end of the floor in our coverages," Hornets coach James Borrego said.

      The Hornets allowed 71 second-half points in a 122-107 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Wizards were drilled in a 135-119 setback to the Los Angeles Clippers.

      "Our biggest problem right now is defense," said Wizards guard/forward Troy Brown Jr.

      Washington has won only one of its past six games. The Wizards have allowed at least 125 points in four of those losses.

      The Hornets tend to have waning aggression at times and that has allowed openings for opponents.

      "It caught up to us in the end," Hornets forward Miles Bridges said. "We have to come out more aggressive. When we're playing aggressive, we're playing at our best."

      So even for a Charlotte team that has evolving lineups and some glitches on offense, particularly when perimeter shots aren't falling, it tends to come back to what's going on defensively.

      "We'll come in, work on our defense some more and get after it another day," Borrego said.

      Part of the problem from a defensive standpoint came on the perimeter during the weekend, with Atlanta knocking in 18 shots from 3-point range.

      "We have to do a better job of getting in there, being on task and staying with the game plan," rookie forward P.J. Washington said.

      Bridges, who scored 31 points in a loss to Washington last month, said, "Defense has been our main focus the whole year, but we'll try to get it back next game."

      Washington, who scored 20 points in Sunday's game, exited in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle. His status might be unclear for this week.

      Borrego is trying different combinations, even without injuries impacting rotations. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who hadn't been on the court for 10 straight games, was used in Sunday's game.

      "He stayed ready," Borrego said. "He's working."

      The Hornets are 1-3 as part of the five-game homestand that closes with the Washington game.

      Defense has continued to let down the Wizards, who average the second-most points per game in the Eastern Conference with 118.2. That production often goes for naught when Washington can't get the job done at the other end of the court.

      Frustrations have boiled in recent games, with some of the angst directed at officials. Not allowing that to become a distraction is something the Wizards are working on.

      "We're all in this together," guard Bradley Beal said. "We've obviously got to continue to play basketball."

      This is the beginning of a three-game stretch of road games for the Wizards, who've lost their past three road games. Each of the three opponents in the upcoming stretch is below .500 and none of them have reached the 10-win mark for the season. Of course, the Wizards, with a 7-15 record, are also in that category.

      --Field Level Media

  • Leonard sitting out vs. Pacers with Raptors looming
    By Field Level Media / Monday, December 9, 2019

    Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard will miss Monday's road game against the Indiana Pacers due to soreness in his left knee.

    • Leonard has experienced persistent soreness with the knee and tweaked it during Sunday's victory over the Washington Wizards.

      Also looming for Leonard is Wednesday's game against the Toronto Raptors. It will mark Leonard's first return to the city since he led the Raptors to the NBA title last June.

      Leonard filed for free agency after the season and signed with the Clippers in early July.

      Leonard is averaging 25.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 18 games for the Clippers (17-7).

      --Field Level Media

  • Jazz look to get back on track vs. visiting Thunder
    By Field Level Media / Monday, December 9, 2019

    The Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder will each be missing key starters when they meet Monday night in Salt Lake City at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

    • For the Jazz, veteran point guard Mike Conley is expected to miss his third consecutive game with hamstring tightness. The Thunder are missing small forward Terrance Ferguson, who is expected to miss his second consecutive game with hip soreness.

      Utah has dropped five of its last seven games, but won its most recent contest, 126-112 over the Memphis Grizzlies. Oklahoma City is coming off a 108-96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, the Thunder's second straight win.

      With Conley out against the Grizzlies, forward Joe Ingles served as the team's main offensive playmaker, scoring 12 points and dishing out 10 assists. Emmanuel Mudiay also saw more action as a result of Conley's absence, scoring 11 points to go with his seven assists in 22 minutes.

      Utah had lost three straight games prior to the Memphis victory.

      "It felt good to get back on a winning track. The way we played today was the way we're supposed to play," forward Jeff Green told the Salt Lake Tribune. "We just had to look ourselves in the mirror and figure it out as individuals, how to better the team by doing your job."

      A big part of Utah's slump-breaking performance was their 3-point shooting. The Jazz made 19 of 34 shots from beyond the arc against Memphis, good for a 55.9 percent clip, their best of the season thus far. Prior to Saturday, Utah had not made more than 50 percent of their 3-point attempts this season.

      For the Thunder, Abdel Nader started in Ferguson's place Sunday night in Portland, scoring seven points in 19 minutes of action.

      "I think they're really trying to get some time where that can quiet down," coach Billy Donovan said regarding Ferguson's injury. "And I think what they don't want to do is put him in a position where potentially he re-aggravates his hip and it sets him back even further."

      Oklahoma City's scoring has been very balanced recently. On Sunday night, the Thunder had three players with 20 or more points and none with more than 21. That came a game after a franchise-high five players scored at least 20 in a win over Minnesota.

      Veteran point guard Chris Paul has been on a tear in the last two games, scoring a combined 50 points. Prior to that, he'd scored in single digits in two of the previous three games.

      This is the second meeting between the two teams, who opened the 2019-20 season against one another. The Jazz won that one 100-95. Oklahoma City held an eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Jazz scored 32 points in the fourth to come back and win.

      Donovan Mitchell scored 32 points and 12 rebounds that night, becoming the first Utah player since Carlos Boozer to have at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a season opener.

      --Field Level Media

  • Improving Suns look to defeat Wolves again
    By Field Level Media / Monday, December 9, 2019

    Phoenix got a little feisty in the final game of its recent road trip, when stars collided.

    • The Suns' Devin Booker and Houston's James Harden got into a brief shoving match after Booker put a semi-hug foul on Harden as he attempted a layup with just less than six minutes remaining in the Rockets' 115-109 victory Saturday.

      It could have been a sign of frustration -- the Suns led by as many as 11 points in the game, and a victory would have made their four-game trip a marked success after close victories over Charlotte and New Orleans around a decisive loss to Orlando.

      "Just competing," Booker told the Arizona Republic.

      "If you guys don't like that, you don't like NBA basketball, for real."

      The Suns have become real and relevant in coach Monty Williams' first season, and they will bring that into an attempt to beat Minnesota for the second time in 17 days when the teams meet in Phoenix on Monday.

      The Timberwolves will look for their first victory in the last stop of their four-game trip that has included a seven-point loss to Dallas, an improbable loss to Oklahoma City -- they had a two-point lead with 1.1 seconds remaining before losing in overtime -- and a blowout 142-125 loss to the Lakers on Sunday.

      The trip has gotten progressively worse. The Wolves have given up 121, 139 and 142 points in the three losses, and Anthony Davis had 50 against them on Sunday, when Minnesota had eight players in double figures.

      Karl-Anthony Towns had 19 points against the Lakers but was only 1-of-7 from 3-point range. Towns had made 72 treys on 43.4 percent shooting and was averaging 3.8 makes a game as the Wolves use a scheme designed to take advantage of his range. He is on pace to more than triple his previous season high of 142 treys set last year.

      "What that does is that it creates more space for other guys to drive," Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said of putting Towns on the perimeter. "When ‘fives' are out of the paint and along with ‘KAT' on the perimeter, that opens up driving lanes. We just have to get better finishing at the rim."

      The Suns have not been over .500 since their 100-98 victory over the Timberwolves on Nov. 23, when they moved to 8-7, but despite losing five of the last seven, the progress is undeniable.

      The Suns needed 42 games to get their 10th victory in 2018-19. They halved that this season, getting there in 21.

      "We never get too high, we never get too low, and we've been talking about that since the beginning of the season," Booker told the Republic.

      "That's one of my favorite things about this team. When we won three games in a row, it was the same spirit in the gym as when we lost three in a row. We've got to remain that through 82 games. Come in every day and no matter the results, control what we can control and play hard."

      Booker scored 35 points against Houston after getting 44 against New Orleans, his first consecutive back-to-back 30-point games in a season strewn with them. He has three 30-point games in the last eight and four in the last 10.

      Booker was one assist short of his first career triple-double the last time the teams met, with 35 points and a season-high 12 rebounds.

      Aron Baynes (calf) has missed the last four games and is not expected to play against Minnesota, and Mikal Bridges (finger) and Dario Saric (back) are questionable.

      Bridges, a reserve, has taken advantage of more playing time recently and has scored in double figures for five straight games while making 25-of-39 field goal attempts with five 3-pointers. Bridges had 14 points and made all five of his field-goal attempts against Houston.

      --Field Level Media

  • Westbrook aims to extend streak as Rockets host Kings
    By Field Level Media / Monday, December 9, 2019

    The debate over the significance of triple-doubles will likely rage eternally, but for those inclined to laud the statistical accomplishment, Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook has posted three in succession.

    • What that means for Westbrook and the ongoing examination of his fit with the Rockets, who will host the Sacramento Kings on Monday at Toyota Center, remains undetermined. That Westbrook has recently reclaimed his identity as a stat-sheet stuffer allows for the knee-jerk reaction that his performances are improving as the season trudges along, with Westbrook averaging 20.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 10.7 assists during this familiar burst of productivity.

      For Westbrook, there likely is some level of fatigue over the entire discussion on his fit and how he is meshing with his new cast of teammates. To his credit, he appears receptive to the notion that his acclimation is a steady process, and that perhaps he is showing signs of comfort.

      "Yeah. Slowly, but surely," Westbrook said when asked if his uptick in production is a byproduct of growing familiarity with his teammates. "Like I said before, it's always going to be a steady dose of what I see, and how I can affect the game, and help us win games. That's all I care about."

      Detractors, or those less enamored with triple-doubles, will note Westbrook is shooting 32 percent overall including a ghastly 13.3 percent on 3-pointers over the past three games. The crux of the argument from those unconvinced that his addition would ease the burden on James Harden was Westbrook lacking the perimeter touch to space the floor for the two-time scoring champ.

      On Saturday, Harden shot 3 of 17 on 3s in the Rockets' win over the Phoenix Suns. Harden scored 18 of his team-high 34 points in the fourth quarter to help Houston eke out the 115-109 victory, but Westbrook was as integral down the stretch, attacking the rim with impunity to lighten the load for Harden on a night when he struggled to score with relative efficiency.

      "James doesn't have to do it all," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "But James is James. He's going to be that way, play with anybody or any team or any coach. He's James Harden. He's that good."

      The Kings won the second game of their trip through the Texas triangle on Sunday, fending off the Dallas Mavericks 110-106 after blowing nearly all of their 24-point advantage.

      The victory provided a needed boost for Sacramento, which coughed up a nine-point, fourth-quarter advantage in falling at the San Antonio Spurs in overtime last Friday. The Kings remain in search of the cohesion that was a presumed hallmark entering this season, with injuries to De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley stalling their collective development.

      The Kings had dropped five of six games and have turned to others to offer some thrust, with Nemanja Bjelica filling that role against Dallas by matching his career high of 30 points to show what Sacramento can accomplish.

      "We showed that also against San Antonio," Bjelica said. "This is a different team this year, and we just need to play 48 minutes. We need to respect our opponent because everybody can play and everybody can score in this league.

      "We are missing Fox, Bagley, so this team is growing. We have (a) bright future, but we're here to win the games. We had a bad start to the season, but now we just need to play harder."

      --Field Level Media

  • Raptors look to end three-game skid vs. Bulls
    By Field Level Media / Monday, December 9, 2019

    The Toronto Raptors will be trying to end a season-long three-game losing streak Monday night when they visit the Chicago Bulls for the second time this season.

    • The NBA champions have won 10 straight against the Bulls, including 108-84 in their first meeting this season. The teams have yet to meet in Toronto this season.

      Both teams played on the road Sunday with the Raptors losing 110-104 to the Philadelphia 76ers and the Bulls losing 110-105 to the Miami Heat in overtime.

      The Raptors thrived when both Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry were injured, going 8-2 without both in the lineup. Their return last week coincided with a jump in the degree of difficulty of the Raptors' schedule. In their recent drought, they have lost to some of the better teams in the league -- Miami, the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia.

      Until that point the Raptors' performance had been considered surprising since they lost Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green as free agents after winning their first championship.

      The Raptors, who had not dropped three in a row since November 2018, lost Fred VanVleet on Sunday with a right knee contusion. He scored two points and played 12 minutes before being declared out for the remainder of the game and likely will not play Monday.

      Pascal Siakam, who entered Sunday's game averaging 25 points a game this season for Toronto, was held to 16 points and seven rebounds Sunday. Lowry had 26 points, and OG Anunoby had 19 points and 10 rebounds.

      "I think we've got to be really happy with where we are at this point," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "Just because I think we've looked at some players, played some really good basketball, we've played hard, I think, most nights -- you can't argue with the effort -- and I think we've built a deeper team in this stretch."

      The Raptors trailed by 21 points on Sunday, but played a strong fourth quarter, forcing 11 turnovers leading to 16 points and outscoring the Sixers 36-24.

      "Our identity is pretty clear," Raptors center Marc Gasol said. "What kind of team we are and what we stand for defensively and what our pillars are on both ends of the floor. Now it's a matter of putting everything together, and we will."

      The Bulls came close to giving the Heat their first loss in 10 home games this season. They had a one-point lead in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

      The Heat went up by two points on a 3-pointer by Tyler Herro with 7.1 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, and Zach LaVine tied it for Chicago with two free throws with two seconds left in regulation.

      "We got a lot from a lot of guys," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "We battled."

      LaVine finished with 18 points and Lauri Markkanen scored 22.

      The Bulls had a 40-38 advantage over the Heat in points in the paint, an area they have worked on. But the Heat had 12-8 edge in second-chance points and a 43-39 advantage in rebounds.

      Chicago's Chandler Hutchison (right shoulder sprain) missed his fifth consecutive game, but is getting closer to a return. "Every day, his shoulder gets less sore, more loose," Boylen said.

      --Field Level Media

  • Clippers visit, will provide Pacers' next test
    By Field Level Media / Monday, December 9, 2019

    The Indiana Pacers are still attempting to get a gauge on just how good they are.

    • While no doubt a contender in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers will test their mettle against one of the West's best as the Los Angeles Clippers pay a visit to Indianapolis on Monday.

      For starters, the Pacers have won eight of their last 10 games overall and boast a 9-2 record at home entering the start of five of their next six contests at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

      "We're a hard-working team that really hangs our hat on the defensive end," guard Jeremy Lamb said, per the Indianapolis Star. "We really move the ball on offense. More games than not, we've had 25-plus assists. That's what we try to focus on. On the defensive end, we've got perimeter defenders, shot blockers, we got size."

      Fellow guard Malcolm Brogdon noted that the Pacers tend to play up or down to the competition, underscored after they barely escaped with a victory at New York to conclude a five-game road trip on Saturday.

      "Everybody hasn't hit their stride yet. We're getting there," said Brogdon, who sat out the 104-103 victory over the Knicks with a sore right hand.

      T.J. Warren scored 25 points and Domantas Sabonis added 19 and 15 rebounds to send Indiana home with a victory.

      "When I get to my spots, I can be aggressive and productive, kind of make plays just scoring the ball and being myself," Warren said. "My teammates did a great job of finding me early and getting me going."

      The Pacers have won five of their last six meetings with the Clippers, who rebounded from a lopsided loss to Milwaukee on Friday with a 135-119 victory over Washington two nights later.

      Kawhi Leonard collected 34 points and 11 rebounds against the Wizards for his first double-double in nine games.

      "We played terrible last game," Leonard said, referring to the 119-91 loss to the Bucks. "So we tried to slow it down. Get in our offense. ... We have to keep being consistent and do it against competitive teams."

      Former Pacer Paul George chipped in 27 points as the Clippers improved to 4-6 away from home and 1-1 on their current six-game road trip.

      With Los Angeles set to play on back-to-back nights, coach Doc Rivers told The Athletic that Leonard or George could be rested against Indiana, with another three-game stretch in four nights beginning on Wednesday.

      Montrezl Harrell has stepped up his play thus far this month, averaging 20.0 points in December after hitting that number on the nose against the Wizards.

      Harrell scored nine points in the fourth quarter for the Clippers, who turned a four-point lead into a runaway victory following a 22-10 run over the final 6:30 of the fourth quarter.

      "We ran stuff today. If it's not Paul, it's Kawhi. If it's not Kawhi, it's Lou (Williams). If it's not Lou, it's (Harrell)," Rivers said. "And everyone else is making shots through space."

      --Field Level Media

  • NBA roundup: AD drops 50, Lakers beat Wolves
    By Field Level Media / Monday, December 9, 2019

    Anthony Davis scored a season-high 50 points, sparking the Los Angeles Lakers to a 142-125 victory over the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.

    • Davis connected on 20 of 29 shots from the floor and converted all 10 of his free throws in 39 minutes. It was his fourth career 50-plus scoring game. Davis also had seven rebounds, six assists and four steals.

      LeBron James had 32 points and 13 assists for the Lakers, who won their fourth in a row and 14th in 15 games. Alex Caruso added 16 points, while Danny Green finished with 12.

      Andrew Wiggins, who missed Friday's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder with a left thumb sprain, and Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 19 points each. Josh Okogie added 18 points, while Robert Covington had 16 for the Timberwolves, who lost their fourth consecutive contest. Eight players scored in double figures for the Timberwolves.

      Brooklyn Nets 105 - Denver Nuggets 102

      Spencer Dinwiddie scored the go-ahead layup with 26.3 seconds left, and Brooklyn came up with defensive stops on Denver's final two possessions to win at home.

      Dinwiddie led the Nets with 24 points and using a high screen set by Taurean Prince, he glided through the middle of the lane. He got by Gary Harris and gave the Nets a 103-102 lead just before Jerami Grant could provide help.

      The Nuggets called their last timeout with the intention of getting the ball to Nikola Jokic, but the Nets immediately provided a double team with Prince and Jarrett Allen. The ball wound up in Will Barton's hand, but he missed an off-balance jumper in the paint.

      Philadelphia 76ers 110 - Toronto Raptors 104

      Tobias Harris scored 26 points, and host Philadelphia improved to 12-0 at home this season in a narrow win over Toronto.

      Rookie Matisse Thybulle added five 3-pointers for a career-high 20 points, and Ben Simmons contributed 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Sixers. James Ennis III and Al Horford had 11 points each, and Joel Embiid had 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists along with seven turnovers.

      Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 26 points, while OG Anunoby added 19 points and 10 rebounds. Pascal Siakam chipped in with 16 points for the Raptors, who dropped their third in a row for the first time this season. Marc Gasol went scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting.

      Los Angeles Clippers 135 - Washington Wizards 119

      Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Paul George added 27 points, and Los Angeles pushed past host Washington thanks to a dominant fourth quarter.

      Leonard played an outstanding all-around game, shooting 12-of-18 from the floor and, in addition to his own scoring contributions, dishing five assists. George also distributed the ball well with six assists, matching Lou Williams and Washington's Chris Chiozza for the game-high total.

      Davis Bertans led the Wizards with 25 points, while Troy Brown Jr. added 22, both off the bench. Wizards leading scorer Bradley Beal, who came in averaging just below 29 points per game, finished with 20 points on 5-of-18 shooting.

      Sacramento Kings 110 - Dallas Mavericks 106

      Nemanja Bjelica matched a career high with 30 points, and Buddy Hield added 26 as Sacramento snapped a three-game losing skid with a victory at Dallas.

      Bjelica made 13 of 18 attempts from the field to finish with 30 points. Hield went 10 of 15 from the floor for the Kings, who swept the three-game season series against the Mavericks in 2018-19 and have won five in a row in Dallas.

      Dallas' Luka Doncic collected 27 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to mark the 19th consecutive contest in which he recorded at least 20, five and five in those categories. That snapped a tie with Michael Jordan (1988-89) for the longest such streak since the NBA-ABA merger, but Oscar Robertson holds the all-time record (29).

      Oklahoma City Thunder 108 - Portland Trail Blazers 96

      Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recorded 21 points and nine rebounds, and Dennis Schroder also scored 21 points as Oklahoma City fended off host Portland.

      Chris Paul added 20 points, and Nerlens Noel had 13 points and 12 rebounds as the Thunder won for the fifth time in the past seven games. Danilo Gallinari had 12 points for Oklahoma City.

      Damian Lillard scored 26 points for the Blazers but was a woeful 8 of 24 from the field, including 2 of 12 from 3-point range. CJ McCollum added 20 points, and Hassan Whiteside recorded 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots for Portland, which has lost three of its last four games.

      Miami Heat 110 - Chicago Bulls 105 (OT)

      Tyler Herro scored 27 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 38.2 seconds remaining in overtime, and Bam Adebayo finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds as Miami continued the best home start in franchise history at the expense of Chicago.

      Miami improved to 10-0 at AmericanAirlines Arena this season. The Heat trailed 92-89 with 2:32 to go but pulled ahead behind a strong showing from the free-throw line. Miami went 35-for-44 from the line, with Jimmy Butler contributing 17 of those makes en route to 23 points.

      Herro swished five treys. Kendrick Nunn added 18 points for Miami, while Butler (seven) and Adebayo (six) paced the team in assists. Lauri Markkanen scored 22 points to lead six Bulls players in double figures. Zach LaVine had 18 points and Kris Dunn followed with a season-high 16.

      Atlanta Hawks 122 - Charlotte Hornets 107

      Trae Young scored 30 points, and Atlanta won for just the second time in its last 13 games by knocking off host Charlotte.

      The Hawks had a huge second half, scoring 37 points in the third quarter to move to an 88-83 lead. Then Atlanta outscored Charlotte 19-8 to begin the fourth quarter. Young posted seven of those points.

      Jabari Parker poured in 19 points and Vince Carter, coming off the bench, racked up 17 points as Atlanta received 57 points from its reserves. PJ Washington and Miles Bridges scored 20 points apiece for the Hornets. Washington was 12 of 13 on free throws.

      --Field Level Media

  • Healthy Warriors hopeful in again facing skidding Grizzlies
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, December 8, 2019

    The Golden State Warriors are expected to suit up 12 healthy players for the first time since before Halloween when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.

    • Golden State welcomed back Draymond Green, D'Angelo Russell and Kevon Looney during their just completed five-game Eastern swing, which they capped with a 100-98 win at Chicago on Friday.

      All 11 Warriors who suited up scored against the Bulls.

      Warriors coach Steve Kerr indicated at the end of the trip that Jacob Evans, who has missed the last 21 games with a strained left adductor, has been given the green light to join the action on the two-game homestand that tips off Monday night and continues Wednesday against the New York Knicks.

      The last time Golden State suited up 12 healthy players was in its fourth game of the season against Phoenix on Oct. 30.

      Kerr took time after Friday's win, which came in the wake of 25- and 15-point losses at Atlanta and Charlotte, respectively, to praise his guys for hanging in there while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are sidelined, and while an assortment of others have been in and out of the lineup.

      "Our guys have been fighting and competing all season long," he assured reporters. "The last two games (before Chicago), we sort of got off track. I think they knew that, they took that to heart, and everyone who stepped on the floor (in Chicago) came out with a purpose."

      The win was just Golden State's fifth of the season. The short-handed club did not respond well to its first four wins, losing three, seven, three and four in succession immediately after a victory.

      One of those wins came at Memphis last month, a game in which the Warriors suited up just nine guys, with Russell and Looney yet to return from their injuries.

      Remarkably, all nine who played not only got into the scoring column, but also each had at least one rebound and one assist.

      The Grizzlies offered no such balance in the defeat, with Ja Morant (20 points), Dillon Brooks (18), Brandon Clarke (17) and Jae Crowder (15) combining for 70 of the team's 95 points.

      Things have gone from bad to worse for the Grizzlies, who lost for the ninth time in their last 10 games Saturday night in Utah, 126-112.

      Memphis has lost three of four since losing Morant to a back injury.

      Fellow rookie Clarke went down one game later with a strained left oblique. The Grizzlies have dropped all three in his absence.

      Clarke, a former standout at San Jose State in the San Francisco Bay Area, has been ruled out of Monday's potential homecoming. Morant is questionable.

      Clarke's injury has created more playing time for Grayson Allen, and the first-year Grizzlies forward has taken advantage.

      The former Duke star celebrated a return to Utah -- which traded him in the Mike Conley deal over the summer -- with 13 points in Saturday's loss, and has scored in double figures in three of the last four games.

      Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters in Salt Lake City that Allen has been an asset to the franchise even while he wasn't playing much earlier in the season.

      "He does a great job of rallying the group together," Jenkins noted. "He's obviously been through so many battles at the highest levels, and when we first sat down, he said, ‘I want to impart that wisdom on our guys.' He's great at communicating.

      "And then he's competitive, plays super-hard. He sets the tone for us."

      --Field Level Media

  • Pelicans looking for more effort against Pistons
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, December 8, 2019

    The New Orleans Pelicans are one of the worst teams in the NBA.

    • Coach Alvin Gentry said they stopped competing during a 46-point loss to Dallas on Saturday, their eighth consecutive defeat.

      Perhaps they can learn something from the visiting Detroit Pistons, their opponent Monday night whose last performance represented a significant bounce-back effort.

      "I don't think we competed," Gentry said after the 130-84 loss to the Mavericks. "When they got separation, I didn't think we competed. I think that's the worst thing in the world to do, (is) to stop competing.

      "So, it's a terrible game, a poorly played game, a poorly coached game, (and) all of us got to take responsibility. I take as much responsibility as they do, because I've got to find a way to get them playing at the highest level that they can and competing, and they didn't do that."

      The Pelicans overhauled their roster in the offseason, and they have adjusted to a series of injuries. As a result, they don't have a stable lineup or rotation and no identity.

      "We control our own destiny," Gentry said. "We've got to be the ones that compete. We've got to be the ones that play hard. We've got to be the ones that (don't) turn it over. We've got to be the ones that rebound. We've got to find the open guy. All of those things right there.

      "We don't want to become the pin cushion for the NBA -- and the way we're doing it right now, that's where we're headed -- we'll be the pin cushion for the NBA. Everybody will come in and think they can get a win. Everybody will think at home they're going to get a win, and that's the worst thing you can be in this league."

      The Pistons also have a poor record and were similarly discouraged after a 127-103 loss to division rival Milwaukee on Wednesday, but they bounced back to beat Indiana on Friday.

      Detroit was tied with the Pacers before scoring the final seven points in a 108-101 home victory.

      The decisive run began with a little more than a minute remaining when Derrick Rose made an acrobatic basket from the lane.

      Indiana tied the score before Rose fed Blake Griffin for a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left. Rose added another basket to put the Pistons in control.

      "He was the MVP (in 2011) for a reason," Griffin said of Rose. "He's very poised with the ball in his hands -- doesn't get rattled, doesn't get sped up, really, especially in late game. That was really, really good execution, about as well as we could've done it."

      Andre Drummond contributed his fifth 20-20 game of the season, finishing with 25 points and 22 rebounds.

      "I think we definitely played tough," Drummond said. "Everybody, one through 12, the guys that played, when they came in the game they sustained the same toughness and the outcome was a win. We played our (backsides) off in that fourth quarter and came out with a great win."

      --Field Level Media

  • Hayward nearing return as Celtics host Cavaliers
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, December 8, 2019

    After back-to-back wins against two of the best teams in the league, the Boston Celtics switch gears to face one of the NBA's worst teams Monday night when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    • The Celtics, winners of five of their last six, are coming off victories of 19 and 13 points over the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets, respectively. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, have lost six straight and 12 of 13, a skid extended by a 47-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

      It marked the second time this season Cleveland has lost by more than 40 points, after a 143-101 defeat against the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 22.

      "Our schedule has been relentless," first-year Cavaliers coach John Beilein said. "Almost everywhere that we've played has been a playoff team. Teams are just better than us. There have been a couple recent games that we could have won. All the other games that we've lost were against teams that are frankly better than us at this point of the season."

      Boston certainly fits that mold. The Celtics have been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, especially at home, where they are a perfect 9-0. And the bulk of that has come without Gordon Hayward, who returned to practice Sunday and is questionable Monday as he nears return ahead of schedule from a broken hand that has sidelined him since Nov. 9.

      "The last couple of days have been really good," Hayward said. "Tomorrow's a possibility."

      Without Hayward, the Celtics have received extra contributions from the dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Such was on display against the Nuggets, when Tatum scored 26 points and Brown added 21 as Boston coasted to victory over one of the Western Conference's top teams.

      "We feed off each other," Brown said. "We have different games, kind of opposite, but it makes sense. It's like fire and ice."

      Celtics coach Brad Stevens expressed his appreciation for how Brown and Tatum have worked together.

      "Those guys are still getting better," Stevens said. "They're clearly improving in a lot of areas, but I think they're really enjoying playing together and figuring it out with the rest of our team. And it is more fun to be a central player that we're going to in those occasions, and they're taking advantage of it and doing a really good job of it."

      That type of sync between young players is what the Cavaliers hope to progress toward. Reportedly willing to deal veteran big man Kevin Love ahead of the February trade deadline, Cleveland is expected to build around its young backcourt of second-year guard Collin Sexton and rookie Darius Garland, who have combined to lead the team in scoring across the last five games.

      "There's no question that we're making strides with them everyday," Beilein said last week. "Their experience playing at this level is obviously limited. It's fun watching it as it happens. For me, it is. Never quick enough, but it is (fun)."

      The Celtics have won the last five meetings against the Cavs, including a 119-113 victory in Cleveland last month.

      --Field Level Media

  • Magic next up for steamrolling Bucks
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, December 8, 2019

    On Wednesday, Milwaukee Bucks' star Giannis Antetokounmpo was poked and prodded by the Detroit Pistons. Two days later, on his 25th birthday, he got his revenge on Kawhi Leonard, who led the Toronto Raptors as they eliminated the Bucks last spring, when the Bucks beat his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers.

    • The inspiration for Monday night's home matchup with the Orlando Magic is simply to continue the success that has brought the Bucks to a 14-game winning streak and the best record in the Eastern Conference at 20-3.

      Antetokounmpo is scoring a conference-best 30.8 points per game, which is up to 31.9 during a winning streak that started on Nov. 10 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

      During a month's worth of victories, the reigning NBA MVP has a 50-point contest against the Utah Jazz (Nov. 25) and a triple-double against the Portland Trail Blazers (Nov. 21) when he had 24 points, 19 rebounds and a career-best 15 assists.

      Without a clear way to stop Antetokounmpo, the Pistons tried to rattle the 6-foot-11 forward in a physical game Wednesday that included six technical fouls. Refusing to take the bait and retaliate, the Bucks star instead turned in a 35-point performance and a 127-103 blowout victory.

      "Obviously, yes, I'm a little more confident with my jump shot," Antetokounmpo said about the difference in his game this year as opposed to last. "I believe in myself more. I think my teammates believe in me even more this year. But I'm just aggressive. I think since the year started, I've been on a mission to help my team win every night and I've stayed on that path."

      The Magic will enter on a winning streak of their own, taking a season-best four-game run to Milwaukee. But those came against the likes of the Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bucks represent a giant step up in class from those teams.

      Terrence Ross is coming off a team-best 21-point night against the Cavaliers, his second consecutive game of at least 20 points and his third on the season. Evan Fournier leads the Magic with 19.7 points per game, while Nikola Vucevic has 11.6 rebounds per game to go along with 17.1 points.

      But the Magic are just 3-7 on the road this season, with two of those road victories coming since Tuesday. Now they go to Milwaukee where the Bucks are 10-1 at home.

      In recent victories over the Wizards and Suns, the Magic scored 127 and 128 points respectively. At Cleveland on Friday it was a far different pace in a 93-87 victory. It might have been an ugly one to some, but the Magic felt comfortable with the grind-it-out style.

      "It's just a matter of getting back to Magic basketball, which is a hard-playing team, out-execute teams and just be disciplined defensively," Fournier said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

      --Field Level Media

  • Unbeaten at home, 76ers host Raptors next
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, December 8, 2019

    The Philadelphia 76ers will be looking to improve 12-0 at home when they host the defending-champion Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

    • The Sixers captured their 11th straight home victory with a 141-94 rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Philadelphia built a 41-point lead in the first half without injured guard Josh Richardson (hamstring) and All-Star center Joel Embiid (hip). Both players' status for Sunday's game is unclear.

      Richardson has missed five consecutive games with this nagging hamstring issue.

      "A hamstring is one of those things where you can think that you're fine, and then you take a wrong step and it's a week or two-week setback," Richardson said. "I don't really want to get into that whole cycle. ... It's just one of those things where I just don't really know where I'm at most of the time. It always feels like I'm tiptoeing, trying not to do too much."

      Ben Simmons scored a career-high 34 points, including his second career 3-pointer and 26 points in the first half on 11-of-12 shooting, on Saturday. The Sixers' 41-point margin was the largest halftime lead in franchise history. Mike Scott and Trey Burke each added 21 for the 76ers, who have won nine of 11 overall.

      "I just stayed locked in," said Simmons, who added seven assists, three rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots. "Just being aggressive and keeping that mentality."

      "He just was really, really aggressive attacking," head coach Brett Brown added of Simmons.

      The Raptors will enter on a two-game losing streak for the first time this season. They fell 119-109 at home to the Houston Rockets on Thursday despite 24 points from Pascal Siakam, 20 from Fred VanVleet and 19 from Kyle Lowry.

      Toronto's defense wasn't the issue in the loss. If the Raptors hope for a better result in Philadelphia, their offense must improve.

      "I don't think we played offense well enough," Toronto head coach Nick Nurse said. "I thought we missed open shots. ... A few careless possessions where they scored in transition, so it really had nothing to do with the double teams and offensive rebounding. I think the transition defense is where they did a good job of capitalizing when we turned the ball over."

      VanVleet scored at least 20 points for the sixth time in his past eight games. In addition, VanVleet has scored at least 20 points on 10 occasions this season after accomplishing the feat seven times in his first three seasons combined.

      Even with two straight losses, the Raptors are 15-6, despite Lowry and Serge Ibaka being out for multiple games because of injuries. Before the season even began, the Raptors had to deal with significant losses of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Yet their 15-6 mark is the third-best stretch to open a season in franchise history.

      "You don't overreact when you're 15-4, and you don't overreact when you're now 15-6," Nurse said. "Just get back going to work and taking them as they come, because you're probably gonna win quite a few games if you put the effort forward, and you're gonna slip up every now and then because that's basketball."

      --Field Level Media

  • NBA roundup: Knicks lose to Pacers in interim coach's debut
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, December 8, 2019

    Julius Randle missed a game-tying free-throw attempt with one-tenth of a second remaining, and Indiana handed host New York its ninth straight loss in the debut of Knicks' interim coach Mike Miller.

    • A day after David Fizdale was fired, the Knicks had numerous chances to get their first win, but they went cold down the stretch, missing 13 of their final 14 shots. The Pacers went scoreless for the final 5:17 and missed their final seven shots.

      The Knicks' last miss was when Myles Turner blocked Mitchell Robinson at the rim with two seconds left. Randle grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Aaron Holiday. Randle made the first free throw, but his second free-throw attempt was long, and the game ended with New York dropping to 4-19.

      T.J. Warren scored 25 points for the Pacers, who won for the eighth time in 10 games. Domantas Sabonis collected 19 points and 15 rebounds for his eighth straight double-double. Marcus Morris scored 25 points for the Knicks. Randle contributed 16 points and 12 rebounds.

      Houston Rockets 115 - Phoenix Suns 109

      James Harden single-handedly outscored Phoenix 17-10 over a key stretch of the fourth quarter, sending host Houston to its 12th straight win over its Western Conference rival.

      Harden lost his personal duel with Devin Booker, one that featured a technical foul on each, 35-34 but came through down the stretch for the Rockets, who rallied from an early 11-point deficit and later blew a pair of 13-point leads before outlasting the guests.

      Russell Westbrook contributed 24 points, a game-high 14 rebounds and 11 assists for the Rockets, while Clint Capela added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Ricky Rubio (10 points, game-high 13 assists) and Dario Saric (13 points, 12 rebounds) registered double-doubles for the Suns.

      Dallas Mavericks 130 - New Orleans Pelicans 84

      Luka Doncic scored 26 points as Dallas stayed hot while New Orleans remained cold in the Mavericks' 130-84 victory.

      Boban Marjanovic added 15 points and 16 rebounds, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson scored 14 points each, Kristaps Porzingis had 13 and Seth Curry 11 as Dallas won for the 10th time in 11 games and New Orleans lost its eighth consecutive game.

      Doncic had nine assists and six rebounds and played just 26 minutes in the lopsided game. JJ Redick led the reeling Pelicans with 15 points, Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram scored 14 each and rookie Jaxson Hayes had 11.

      Philadelphia 76ers 141 - Cleveland Cavaliers 94

      Ben Simmons scored 26 of his career-high 34 points in the first half as Philadelphia remained undefeated at home in 11 games by trouncing Cleveland, which lost for the sixth straight time and the 12th in 13 games.

      Simmons made 12 of 14 shots from the floor, and Trey Burke and Mike Scott each chipped in 21 points for the 76ers, who beat the Cavaliers for the third time this season. Scott scored 16 of his points in the first half while playing in place of All-Star center Joel Embiid, who reported discomfort in his hip following Philadelphia's 119-13 loss to the Washington Wizards on Thursday.

      Darius Garland finished with a team-high 17 points, Tristan Thompson added 12, and Kevin Love returned from a one-game absence due to illness to finish with six points for Cleveland.

      Utah Jazz 126 -- Memphis Grizzlies 112

      Donovan Mitchell scored 22 points, and Utah notched a season-best 32 assists en route to victory over Memphis in Salt Lake City.

      Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert and Jeff Green scored 19 points apiece as the Jazz won for just the second time in the past seven games.

      Royce O'Neale scored 14 points, Joe Ingles had 12 points, 10 assists and four steals, and Emmanuel Mudiay added 11 points and seven assists for the Jazz. Gobert was 8-of-9 shooting and contributed 11 rebounds and five assists for Utah, which shot 56.2 percent from the field, including 19 of 34 from 3-point range.

      --Field Level Media

  • After bizarre loss, Wolves reset vs. red-hot Lakers
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, December 7, 2019

    The Minnesota Timberwolves had played well on the road until they suffered a disastrous finish at Oklahoma City on Friday.

    • Minnesota will face a challenge regrouping when they visit the red-hot Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

      The Wolves dropped a 139-127 overtime decision to the Thunder when a series of mistakes cost them the game.

      "I ain't never been a part of something like that," said Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting with eight assists.

      Towns was at the free-throw line with 1.1 seconds remaining with Minnesota clinging to a 121-119 lead. Towns missed the first free throw before Jordan Bell checked in and was called for delay of game for having his jersey untucked. That resulted in a technical foul.

      Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari made a free throw to slice the deficit to one, but Towns converted his second free throw for a two-point Minnesota advantage.

      However, Thunder center Steven Adams threw a full-court pass to Dennis Schroder, who hit a buzzer-beating layup to force overtime.

      The Wolves, who fell for the third straight game, were outscored 17-5 in the extra session.

      Jeff Teague had 32 points and nine assists for the Wolves, who are 7-4 on the road.

      "I've been playing basketball for a long time, and I've never seen that before," said Minnesota guard Josh Okogie, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

      The Lakers are on one of their best runs in a long time. They capped a three-game swing with a 136-113 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday for their 11th consecutive road win. It's the third best run in franchise history and the longest streak since the 1972-73 Lakers won 12 in a row. The club record is 16 straight road wins by the 1971-72 Lakers.

      The Lakers, who were tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for the best record in the NBA at 20-3 entering Saturday's games, are 9-2 at home. The Lakers have won three in a row and 13 of their last 14 contests. A 114-100 defeat at home by the Dallas Mavericks is the lone loss during that stretch.

      On Friday, Anthony Davis had 39 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while LeBron James finished with 31 points, eight assists and seven boards for the Lakers. Kyle Kuzma added 15 points off the bench for Los Angeles, which shot 54.1 percent from the floor and converted 17 of 36 3-pointers (47.2 percent) against Portland.

      "Our offense is starting to catch up with our defense a little bit," said James, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Lakers ranked first in the league in field goal percentage at 48.5 percent. Los Angeles also was among the top defensive clubs, leading the NBA in blocks at 7.4 and fourth in points allowed at 103.7 per game through Friday.

      "We knew at some point that the cohesiveness and the rhythm would start to get better and better," James added. "It's been behind our defense for the majority of the season. Tonight it caught up with our defense, and it gave us a good boost closing out the road trip."

      The contest against the Lakers will be the first of back-to-back games for the Wolves. They visit the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

      --Field Level Media

  • Doncic looks to continue streak as Mavs host Kings
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, December 7, 2019

    Luka Doncic has put himself in exclusive company, joining Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the lone NBA players to record 18 straight games with at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.

    • Doncic will look to continue his torrid stretch as the Dallas Mavericks vie for their sixth straight victory in Sunday's home game against the Sacramento Kings.

      The sophomore sensation matched Jordan's sterling 18-game run in 1988-89 after collecting 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds in three quarters of Saturday afternoon's 130-84 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Robertson holds the all-time record by accomplishing the feat in 29 consecutive contests.

      The Mavericks scored a season-high 104 points over the first three quarters to allow Doncic -- and the majority of the starters -- to sit out the fourth and rest up for Sunday's contest.

      Dallas has punctuated a sizzling 10-1 stretch with 48-, 46- and 42-point victories, marking the first time that the team has captured three wins of at least 40 points in a season in franchise history.

      "Look, it's great to be winning games more consistently than the last three years," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "That was the goal. But we've just got to keep our eye on the ball.

      "It's all very tenuous. Patting ourselves on the back right now isn't the way to go."

      Boban Marjanovic came off the bench to record season highs in points (15) and rebounds (16) on Saturday. An impressive performance to be certain, considering the towering 31-year-old entered the contest averaging 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 12.0 minutes of action.

      "Can't stop Bobi. Once he gets the ball in the paint, you really can't do much about it," forward/center Kristaps Porzingis said.

      While Doncic averaged 22.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in three games against Sacramento during his NBA Rookie of the Year season of 2018-19, the Kings walked away with a series sweep.

      Sacramento is heading in the other direction this season with three straight losses, including the first two contests of a four-game road trip.

      The Kings squandered a nine-point lead in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and dropped a 105-104 overtime decision in San Antonio on Friday.

      "No, I'm not frustrated," shooting guard Buddy Hield said after his 23-point performance. "I mean again, make or miss it, you tell me Trevor (Ariza) is going to get open threes, two of them, I'll take that. But he got a nice rebound and had a clean look, too. I'll take that as well.

      "That's not frustrating, what's frustrating is the turnovers at the end of the regulation. That's something that we can't do as a group."

      Fellow guard Cory Joseph knows that all too well after two of his turnovers led to breakaway dunks to fuel the Spurs' comeback late in the fourth quarter.

      "It was a tough one for us because we felt like we had it," the 28-year-old Joseph said. "We made, including myself, a couple of bonehead mistakes at the end."

      --Field Level Media

  • Clippers look for road improvement at Washington
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, December 7, 2019

    The Los Angeles Clippers visit the Washington Wizards on Sunday in the second leg of a six-game road swing, looking to gain some more momentum away from home.

    • The Clippers have been excellent in Los Angeles at Staples Center, winning nine straight -- including a 150-125 rout of the Wizards on Dec. 1. Away from home has been considerably spottier.

      Los Angeles won back-to-back road games for the first team all season on Nov. 26 and Nov. 27 over Dallas and Memphis, but have since dropped two straight on the road. The most recent was a 119-91 blowout defeat at Milwaukee on Friday, in the first game of the current swing.

      "We just got to compete better. But sometimes teams play better than you. They want a game more than you. I think tonight they showed that. I think we just showed up to play," guard Lou Williams told the Los Angeles Times following the loss.

      The Clippers are just 3-6 away from home. Washington has been up-and-down both on the road and at home, but comes into Sunday's matchup having recently knocked off an opponent that, like the Clippers, has legitimate NBA Finals aspirations.

      Washington beat the Philadelphia 76ers at Capital One Arena on Thursday, 119-113. Reflective of the Wizards' season, however, they dropped the follow-up game Friday in Miami, 112-103.

      "One of the toughest back-to-backs in the East, playing Philadelphia and then a long flight down to Miami and playing against a good, physical, talented, aggressive, tough basketball team," Wizards coach Scott Brooks told the Washington Post. "We competed. Nothing to be ashamed of. We ran out of gas a little bit."

      Washington running into depth issues could be a concern again with its third game in four days, and a bevy of injuries. The most notably absences from the lineup are guard Isaiah Thomas with a calf injury, and center Thomas Bryant with a stress fracture in his foot.

      Those are in addition to the loss of All-Star guard John Wall, who sustained a torn Achilles' tendon in November of 2018.

      The Wizards have leaned heavily on Bradley Beal in the meantime. He is averaging better than 28 points per game. Forward Rui Hachimura has also been key for the Wizards, garnering some early Rookie of the Year buzz with his 14.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

      Los Angeles has rarely had the same lineup with any consistency on the season, playing the first month without All-Star forward Paul George. Reigning NBA Finals Kawhi Leonard has also missed time to rest a knee injury.

      At Milwaukee, the Clippers were without JaMychal Green and Landry Shamet. Patrick Patterson was pulled from the loss due to a back injury.

      Leonard has been the Clippers' pillar with averages of 24.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists, while the bench duo of Williams and Montrezl Harrell provide the depth and spark that Washington's injury-plagued lineup has struggled to find.

      Between Leonard, Harrell, Williams and George, Los Angeles has four players averaging at least 18 points per game. Washington has only Beal producing above that mark.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Wizards G Thomas (calf) not ready to return
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, December 7, 2019

    Washington Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas expects to miss at least two more games with a left calf strain that has kept him out of the last two contests, according to an NBC Sports Washington report.

    • Thomas was first held out of Thursday's 119-113 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers and was also inactive for Friday's 112-103 defeat at the Miami Heat. At the very least, he is also expected to miss Sunday's home game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

      "I'm good," Thomas said Saturday from a charity event. "I think I will be out a few more games and then be able to come back."

      Thomas, 30, has averaged 12.6 points per game with 5.1 assists in 17 games (14 starts) during his first season with the Wizards. He has averaged 18.4 points and 5.1 assists over his nine-year career with the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Wizards.

      The two-time All-Star averaged a career-best 28.9 points with the Celtics in the 2016-17 season, but has not played more than 32 games in a season since.

      --Field Level Media

  • Coming off big win, Thunder face sputtering Blazers
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, December 7, 2019

    The Oklahoma City Thunder look to follow up an improbable victory with another triumph when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.

    • Oklahoma City was just more than a second from losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night before big man Steven Adams became a quarterback and Dennis Schroder morphed into a wide receiver to combine for a basket that forced overtime. The Thunder then dominated the extra session for a 139-127 victory.

      "We knew once we made the shot, we had a lot more work to do, and we were willing to do whatever it took to win," Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said afterward.

      The craziness began at the 1.1-second mark when Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns went to the free throw line for two shots with his club leading by two points.

      It got more wild after Towns missed the first free throw. The Timberwolves subbed in forward Jordan Bell, who entered with his uniform untucked.

      Thunder point guard Chris Paul noticed the violation and pointed it out to official Scott Foster, who called a delay of game warning. Since it was Minnesota's second such infraction of the game, Oklahoma City was awarded a technical free throw and forward Danilo Gallinari made the shot to pull the Thunder to within one.

      Towns then was under orders to miss his second free throw with Oklahoma City out of timeouts. Instead, the ball bounced off the rim and the backboard and went through the hoop for a 122-120 Minnesota lead.

      Adams quickly retrieved the ball, wound up and tossed a superb length-of-the-court heave. Schroder had taken off in a sprint and hauled in the throw, despite the coverage of Timberwolves point guard Jeff Teague, and banked in the tying basket as time expired.

      "We had it in practice a couple of times," Schroder said afterward of the play. "I mean Steve-O, he's a helluva passer. We're just communicating well defensively and offensively."

      The Thunder outscored Minnesota 17-5 in overtime to wrap up their third win in the past four games.

      Another unique aspect of the game was that Oklahoma City became the first team to have five players score 20 or more points in an NBA game since 2004. Paul scored 30, Gilgeous-Alexander recorded 29, Schroder tallied 25, Adams added 22 and Gallinari had 21.

      "It speaks more to their unselfishness as a group," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of the feat. "We've got really good guys that try to play the right way, try to play together, and they try to move the ball. It wasn't a huge assist night for us but the moving the ball, the attacking and the playing downhill was good for us."

      Portland's Friday night wasn't anywhere near as fun as it was routed 136-113 by the visiting Los Angeles Lakers.

      Making the setback more demoralizing was the loss of swingman Rodney Hood, who is done for the season after tearing his left Achilles tendon.

      The injury happened after Hood collected a rebound. He landed and then fell to the ground and immediately reached for his lower left leg.

      "It's tough," Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said afterward. "You hate to see injuries in the league, period, but you hate to see one of your teammates go down with an injury like that, especially a starter and somebody that's a really good person, having a great season, fitting in really well with our team and a big part of what we do.

      "You feel for him personally more than anything. Just sad to see that happen to him."

      Hood averaged 11 points and 3.4 rebounds in 21 games (all starts) this season. He was in the process of establishing career highs for field-goal percentage (50.6) and 3-point accuracy (49.3).

      Portland forward Carmelo Anthony termed the injury as "sad" and "unfortunate," but the veteran is well aware the team needs to put the setback aside immediately.

      "We don't have a choice but to move forward," Anthony said. "I think these are times where the troops got to rally now. Everybody come together, everybody rely on one another. It's going to be hard to replace that, what he was able to bring to this team, what he was able to do, but it's going to take multiple people to kind of contribute to what we're trying to do."

      The Trail Blazers are 2-0 against the Thunder this season. Portland won 102-99 in Oklahoma City on Oct. 30 and prevailed 136-119 at home on Nov. 27.

      --Field Level Media

  • Heat put perfect home record on line vs. Bulls
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, December 7, 2019

    The Miami Heat will look to continue their torrid start at AmericanAirlines Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.

    • "This shouldn't be a place a team can come in on a back-to-back and feel like they are confident it will be an easy game," Erik Spoelstra said after Friday's 112-103 win over Washington, which was playing on consecutive nights.

      The Bulls won't be on a back-to-back, but the game still figures to be a major challenge for a team that is 4-7 on the road.

      Miami is off to the best home start (9-0) in franchise history and is 10 games over .500 overall, while the Bulls seek to dig out of the sluggish beginnings to a season that began with Eastern Conference playoff aspirations.

      The Heat are enjoying contributions from veterans and newcomers alike. Jimmy Butler, a former Bull, notched his second triple-double in four days on Friday, contributing 28 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds against the Wizards.

      Third-year center Bam Adebayo added a career-high 24 points to go with 14 rebounds, while rookie Tyler Herro scored 22 points, giving him five 20-point games.

      Spoelstra called Adebayo "the center version of Jimmy Butler in terms of being a two-way complete player."

      The Heat beat the Bulls 116-108 in Chicago on Nov. 22, withstanding a late charge from the hosts after controlling most of the game.

      Miami surged to a 15-0 lead and led 34-16 after one quarter as Chicago missed its first eight shots amid some developing disarray.

      Coach Jim Boylen substituted Ryan Arcidiacono for Zach LaVine early in the game, and although LaVine led the team with 15 points, he felt a strain from Boylen's postgame suggestion that LaVine needed to "think" about "three egregious defensive mistakes" in the early going.

      Further, Boylen said, "Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen and our starters have got to play better in order for us to become what we can become." LaVine took heed the following night in Charlotte, scoring a career-high 49 points and swishing a franchise-record 13 3s -- the last with 0.8 seconds remaining to help the Bulls to a 116-115 come-from-behind victory.

      LaVine (22 points) and Markkanen (20) paced Chicago against visiting Golden State on Friday, but the Bulls were unable to score in the final 1:03, seeing a two-game winning streak end with a 100-98 defeat.

      "It needs to be more of the 48 (minutes)," Boylen said after the Warriors game. "That's the development part. So as much as I like some of those moments, there are moments when we've got to do better."

      Injuries have impacted a few regulars in the Bulls' rotation while allowing others to get additional minutes.

      Forward Otto Porter Jr. missed his 14th successive game Friday while recovering from a bruised left foot, and the team announced he will wear a walking boot in the hopes of accelerating his recovery. The Bulls have not provided a timetable for Chandler Hutchison, who is dealing with a sprained right shoulder, while fellow forward Thaddeus Young wasn't available against Golden State due to personal reasons. He is set to rejoin the team against the Heat.

      Miami was without Goran Dragic (right groin strain) and Justise Winslow (back strain) on Friday. Dragic is out for Sunday, while Winslow was considered questionable.

      --Field Level Media