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Latest NBA Headlines

    Chris Paul had 28 points, eight assists and seven steals to lead the Houston Rockets to their 12th straight victory, a 124-109 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.Paul became the first player in NBA history to post 28 points, eight assists and seven steals in a game against the Spurs. In the past 10 years, that stat line has been achieved just 10 times — Paul has done it six of those times. The Rockets are unbeaten when he plays this season.Paul's dazzling performance came on a night James Harden had one of his worst 3-point shooting nights of the season, making 6 of 18 from the field, including 2 of 11 from 3. Harden had 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists, scoring half his points on 14-of-16 shooting from the free-throw line.The Rockets are on the fourth-longest win streak in franchise history and the longest since a franchise-best 22 straight in the 2007-08 season.All Rockets starters and reserve Eric Gordon had scored in double figures by the end of the third quarter. Clint Capela had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Gordon scored 14 points, Ryan Anderson had 12, and Trevor Ariza added 11.The Rockets beat the Spurs for just the third time in their last 12 meetings.LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 16 points. Joffrey Lauvergne had 14, Patty Mills had 13 and Davis Bertans scored 12, all off the bench for San Antonio.The Rockets jumped to a 31-16 lead at the end of the first quarter and led 60-43 at the half. The Rockets entered the fourth quarter with a 92-72 lead.Kawhi Leonard played in his second game back after making his season debut on Tuesday night in Dallas after missing the first 27 games of the season with a right quadriceps injury. Leonard, who has been recovering from a quadriceps condition that causes pain and weakness in the knee, started and had 12 points in 17 minutes, all in the first half.Before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich hinted before the game that Leonard and Tony Parker were unlikely to play Saturday night in Dallas in the second half of San Antonio's back-to-back.TIP-INSSpurs: SF Kyle Anderson missed his sixth straight game with a sprained left MCL, but he is progressing well and could return after San Antonio's back-to-back in Houston and Dallas, possibly as early as Monday when the Spurs host the Clippers. ... Danny Green started and played through left groin tightness, scoring two points in 19 minutes.Rockets: Houston played its first game without Luc Mbah a Moute, who suffered a dislocated right shoulder on Wednesday night against Charlotte. Mbah a Moute could be out 2-3 weeks with the injury. ... The Rockets improved to 19-1 when leading after the third quarter, winning by double digits for the 17th time in 27 games.UP NEXTSpurs: Host Dallas on Saturday night.Rockets: Host Milwaukee on Saturday night.___For more NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Russell Westbrook said goodbye to a three-overtime thriller and trolled Joel Embiid with a smile and a wave.'I was telling him, 'Go home,'' Westbrook said.Embiid irked Westbrook earlier in the game when the 76ers' social media star waved goodbye toward the crowd once Oklahoma City center Steven Adams fouled out. Westbrook got the last laugh, and capped his triple-double, 52-minute effort with the final assist of the game, and the Thunder pulled out a 119-117 victory on Friday night.The early contender for NBA game of the year was led by perhaps the game of Embiid's career. Embiid scored 34 points in 49 minutes with an achy back, saved the game in the first overtime with a block on Westbrook and trash talked Carmelo Anthony.He waved his arms and exhorted the crowd to get louder with each chant of 'Trust the Process!'I'm not about to get in a back-and-forth with him,' Westbrook said. 'I'm not about to give him my energy.'Westbrook had an off night from the floor (10 of 33; missed a driving dunk at the end of regulation), yet finished with 27 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists. He even saved Andre Roberson from goat status in the third OT. Roberson failed to even look at the basket and then missed a layup in a stunning sequence to close the second OT, then earned redemption when Westbrook fed him for the winner with 10 seconds left in the game.'Just trusting it,' Westbrook said.It's a twist on the Sixers catchphrase popularized during Embiid's absence over his first two seasons with injuries.Embiid, Philly's franchise center, grabbed his lower back when he took a hard foul on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter. Embiid grimaced during timeouts on the bench and trudged into position a few times.Embiid, who said he just needed treatment, brushed off Westbrook's wave and took a shot at the Thunder guard's stats.'They did a lot of things. But, I mean, the dude shot 10 for 33. I wish I would had shot 33 times. I guess we would have had a better chance of actually winning the game,' Embiid said 'But he told me to go home. This is my home. I ain't going nowhere.'Embiid sucked it up and carried the Sixers in the fourth and the first overtime. His feed to a charging Ben Simmons on the baseline for a two-handed dunk tied the score at 94-all with 53 seconds left in the quarter. The Sixers closed the fourth on an 11-0 run.Embiid scored the first bucket of OT and the Sixers led for the first time in the game. The Sixers' five-point lead with 1:20 left in overtime was wiped out on Paul George's 3-pointer and a Westbrook bucket that made it 102-all. The Sixers blew their final possession on an ill-conceived 3 for Dario Saric.Round 2 was just as fun.Westbrook and Robert Covington exchanged 3s and George tied it at 109 on a driving layup. Westbrook and Embiid swapped buckets that kept it even and the Sixers had one more chance to win it Embiid lost the ball late in the second OT.Embiid and Westbrook combined to score eight straight points in the third overtime, and Embiid waved see-ya later when Adams fouled out of the game.But Embiid seemed gassed at the end and there's no telling how the heavy workload may affect his availability the rest of the week.The Sixers were featured on ESPN on Friday as part of Philadelphia All Access, and Sixers' related content was aired throughout the day on all platforms.'I'm not a fan,' coach Brett Brown said. 'I like living behind closed doors.'But Brown understood the exposure would help build the brand and serve as a recruiting pitch of sorts to any free agents intrigued about becoming part of The Process. The Sixers put on a show in the fourth until Embiid gave them a scare.Embiid's health woes have dogged him since his college career at Kansas and every slip, ache or bump throws Sixers fans into a panic. Embiid has been banged-up lately but he calmly went to the line after he smacked the court and made both free throws. He fell again when he tripped over Adams, who earned a foul, and sank two more free throws to make it 78-72.TIP-INSThunder: Roberson had missed two games with a sprained left ankle. ... Coach Billy Donovan was drilled in the face on an errant no-look pass — as in, Donovan wasn't looking — by Sixers forward Richaun Holmes.76ers: F Robert Covington shot three airballs in the first half.MELO BACKCarmelo Anthony warmed-up for his New York homecoming with 24 points. Anthony cracked the 20-point mark for only the second time in his last 10 games and perhaps gave Knicks fans a glimpse of what's ahead when he returns to Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Anthony had struggled headed into Friday's game, averaging just 17.7 points on 40 percent shooting. He made 11 of 17 shots.'I became entrenched into not just the Knicks but the city as a whole,' Anthony said. 'Those are my roots. The people there, I became one of them. I've embraced New York City, I've embraced the culture.'50 MINUTE MENAdams, Westbrook, JJ Redick and Simmons all played 50-plus minutes.UP NEXTThunder: It's Melo vs. the Knicks at MSG on Saturday.76ers: Play Monday at Chicago.___For more NBA coverage: https://apnedws.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Lonzo Ball got an up-close look at the biggest baller of them all.LeBron James recorded his 59th career triple-double in front of Ball and his brothers, Kevin Love scored 28 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the 16th time in 17 games, 121-112 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.James finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to move into a tie with Larry Bird for sixth place on the career triple-doubles list. James also put the Lakers away in the final minutes with a dunk and short runner, leading Cleveland to its 10th straight home win.For Ball, his first on-court encounter with James was eye-opening.'Watching him doesn't do him justice,' Ball said. 'He has that size, that speed. I'd say he's the best player in the world right now.'James, who has been complimentary of the 20-year-old Ball in the past, met with the Lakers highly touted rookie on the floor following the game. As cameras recorded the moment, James and Ball, whose all-around games and backgrounds are very similar, covered their mouths so the world couldn't listen in on their conversation.James said he was humbled to learn the former UCLA star patterned his game after him. James has become a fan of Ball's game.'It's always team,' James said when asked what he admires most about Ball. 'He passes the ball. Pushes the ball up the floor. Someone you want to play with. This is a team game. Everyone gets so caught up in this whole individual thing and it's, the whole team game gets overlooked, but then, I'm not going to go there.'Love scored 13 in the third quarter, when the Cavs opened an 11-point lead. Jose Calderon added a season-high 17 points for Cleveland.Brandon Ingram scored 26 for the Lakers and Ball had 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.The first game between James and Ball had the buildup of a playoff game as the world's best player matched up against a budding star.Ball's father, LaVar, did not attend the game but his brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, sat behind L.A's bench. LaVar Ball launched his 'Big Baller Brand' to promote his three talented sons. James gave the family a lesson in the business of basketball.Of course, James' impending free agency has led to speculation he may sign with the Lakers. Because of his connections to Los Angeles (he owns a film production company, and recently bought another home there) and some Twitter posts he's made about Ball, the Lakers are believed to be a potential landing spot for the three-time NBA champion, who scoffed at the conjecture about his future or his relationship with Ball.'I see all the stupid noise that happens,' he said. 'You know I can't buy a home in L.A., I can't live in L.A. It's funny noise. But I don't get involved in it. When I post things I don't look at comments because I'm so far removed from the white noise and the noise doesn't matter to me.'TIP-INSLakers: C Brook Lopez shot consecutive air balls from the foul line in the second quarter, drawing a huge cheer from the crowd. ... Rookie G Josh Hart made his first career start in place of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was scratched for personal reasons. ... Coach Luke Walton has been impressed with how well Ball has adapted to the pros. 'He plays the hardest position in the NBA,' Walton said. 'He's 20 years old and he's doing it in a huge market and one of the greatest organizations in sports. He's handled all that, good press, bad press, people talking about his shot, people talking about this and that. He's been solid. Teammates love him.'Cavaliers: F Tristan Thompson was a late scratch after he experienced soreness in his left calf while warming up. Thompson returned on Tuesday and played six minutes in his first game since Nov. 1. ... Coach Tyronn Lue did not have any update on G Isaiah Thomas, nearing a return from a hip injury that has delayed his Cleveland debut. The All-Star recently started taking contact and playing 4-on-4. ... Thomas will have his No. 2 jersey retired by Washington on Feb. 15. ... With his second 3-pointer, J.R. Smith passed Chauncey Billups (1,830) for 11th place on the career list. ... Cleveland made 15 3-pointers and has made at least 10 in a club-record 18 straight games.BIRD IS THE WORDJames was humbled to move into the same company as Bird.'He's one of the greatest players to ever play the game,' James said. 'Kid from French Lick (Indiana). Boston. He just played until he literally couldn't play the game no more. He gave everything he had. And for young guys that don't know him, they think of Larry Bird as a jump shooter. But he was so much more than that. He was a passer. He averaged double-digit rebounds. He defended. He took charges. And it's just straight up complete basketball player and me as a small forward, Scottie (Pippen), Bird, Doc (Julius Erving), George Gervin, the guys I kind of looked up to being a small forward.'I've always been a fan of Larry Bird and if I'm linked with any of the greats, especially like him, it's pretty cool.'UP NEXTLakers: Host Golden State on Monday.Cavaliers: Host Utah on Saturday.___For more NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Debuting a new NBA All-Game format in which players will pick teams in an effort to energize the event, the league has unveiled the voting schedule for its 2018 showcase.The NBA had previously announced that the Eastern vs. Western Conference format would be scrapped for the first time, replaced by captains choosing sides in the latest effort to generate more enthusiasm and perhaps competitiveness for the game.The West has won six of the last seven games, scoring nearly 200 points in the lackluster last two. Following last February's 192-182 victory in New Orleans, players association president Chris Paul told Commissioner Adam Silver something had to be done to fix the game, and the league has responded with changes to the selection process.The hope is that the changes better balance the rosters after All-Stars such as Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Jimmy Butler went from East to West over the summer, and trigger buzz about who wants to play with what players.The starters from each conference with the highest total of fan votes will serve as the captains. They will then pick from the eight remaining starters first, then choose from the pool of players voted as reserves. It could lead to some intriguing scenarios — would LeBron James pick Kyrie Irving if he's a captain? Would Russell Westbrook choose Kevin Durant?Unfortunately, the captains' selections will be conducted before the full rosters are unveiled during a TNT program on Jan. 25.The league announced Thursday that voting begins on NBA.com and the NBA App on Dec. 21. Voting through all other formats, such as Twitter and Facebook and including Amazon Alexa for the first time, starts on Christmas Day before the annual five-game slate.There will also be five 2-for-1 days where ballots cast through the NBA App and NBA.com, along with Sina Weibo and Tencent in China, will count twice. Those days are Dec. 31, Jan. 4, Jan. 11, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 — the day balloting ends.Continuing a policy instituted last season, players and media will join fans in the voting process. The fan vote accounts for 50 percent, while players and a media panel each account for 25 percent.That change led to some debate last season when it kept eventual MVP Westbrook out of the starting lineup by a tiebreaker, but the league hopes the changes this season will create even more interest for the game at Staples Center in Los Angeles.___More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Leaders from the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball players associations helped unveil a universal declaration of player rights that is designed to establish a new approach to governing sports and protecting athletes.Among the 17 articles laid out in the declaration are rights to unionize and collectively bargain, express opinions freely and receive equal pay for equal work. The declaration was made Thursday by the World Players Association, which is affiliated with 100 organizations that represent 85,000 professional athletes.'It will change the content and the terms under which sport is regulated,' said Brandon Schwab, the association's executive director. 'And secondly it will change the culture of sport. Sport must now be run in partnership with the players and sport must act proactively to prevent and minimize and address any adverse human rights impacts.'Executive directors DeMaurice Smith of the NFL Players Association, Michele Roberts of the National Basketball Players Association, Don Fehr of the NHL Players' Association and Tony Clark of the Major League Baseball Players Association are part of the group of more than 100 unions that released the declaration.'The importance of the declaration is actually philosophically bigger than just the issue of collective bargaining,' Smith said as the NFLPA hosted the gathering of 40 union representatives. 'It's reminding everyone that where we start in this process is the men and women who play sports did not choose to give up the basic human rights that we would want for every worker.'The launch of the universal declaration of player rights comes on the heels of Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Roberts said she and members of the NBPA 'full-throatedly support' the declaration that seeks to provide athletes worldwide with the type of constitutional protections that exist in the United States.The World Players Association recently negotiated a binding human rights agreement with FIFA, and Schwab said it is in talks with the International Olympic Committee to amend hosting contracts to add human rights requirements.Schwab said the declaration came about after surveys of thousands of players and in concert with human rights experts. Smith said a key piece is recognizing that human rights cannot be ignored because players put on uniforms.'We demand a respect, a certain humanity that comes with who they are before they decided to do what they decided to do,' Smith said.
  • Paul George struggled on homecoming night.He still left town with the crown.On a night the four-time All-Star was repeatedly booed and couldn't seem to make a shot, he finally sunk two free throws with 10.7 seconds left Wednesday to seal Oklahoma City's 100-95 victory at Indiana.'Yeah, I'm happy this circus is over with. Everybody can move on,' George said. 'I understood what the environment was going to be, so it wasn't a surprise.'Everything from finding the visiting locker room to dealing with the fans was different, and it seemed to take a toll.George went 3 of 14 from the field, 2 of 7 on 3-pointers, had two rebounds and four turnovers. But spurned fans who are still upset George's camp went public with his free agent intentions last summer made sure the box score was the most pleasant part of George's night.When first he walked onto the court for warmups, one fan shouted 'traitor!' During player introductions, the boos reached a crescendo and every time he touched the ball, the boo-birds returned with full force. The only cheers came when George made a mistake or drew a foul.Fortunately, George's friends helped him out.Steven Adams finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds while reigning MVP Russell Westbrook recorded his ninth triple-double of the season — 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists.And when George came up with the final steal of the game, he pumped his arms and his teammates savored the moment as much as he did.'I thought he had incredible poise tonight,' Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. 'Everybody was asking how is he and I hadn't really noticed anything different. I thought his defense — certainly on the side out of bounds play — was really critical for us.'The trade for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis was widely panned as below market value, but has turned out pretty well so far for the Pacers.Oladipo led Indiana with 19 points and nearly brought them all the way back from an 11-point deficit with 5:16 left. The Pacers got to 96-94 with 1:07 to go and had a chance to tie it when they got the ball with 15.2 seconds left and down 98-95.Instead, George came up with the steal and made the free throws to seal the win, silence the crowd, end the Pacers' four-game winning streak and leave town as the king of the night.'That team showed us that when you're playing against these elite teams, it's going to be a physical game and we didn't match that tonight,' Pacers coach Nate McMillan said.TIP-INSThunder: Westbrook was 3 of 17 from the field, 1 of 3 on 3-pointers and 3 of 7 at the free-throw line. ... Oklahoma City is 4-10 on the road. ... Oklahoma City got its first series split with the Pacers since 2012-13. ... Oklahoma City had 17 offensive rebounds and was 13 of 29 on 3-pointers.Pacers: Bojan Bogdanovic had 15 points while Thaddeus Young had 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals. ... Sabonis wound up with eight points and six rebounds. ... Indiana made 11 3s but fell to 14-3 when making 10 or more 3-pointers in a game this season. ... Myles Turner had three blocks, his 12th game this season with three or more. ... Former Colts coach Tony Dungy attended the game. He's in town for Thursday night's NFL game between the Colts and Broncos.ALL-STAR DAYThe Pacers got a win before they even took the floor.A little less than three hours before tip, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Indiana would host the 2021 All-Star Game. It will be the first time the Pacers have hosted the marquee event since 1985.The move comes seven months after Larry Bird hand-delivered the formal proposal at the league's New York headquarters in an IndyCar.QUOTABLEThunder: 'Let's put all this to rest,' George said. 'I had an amazing seven years here. I was blessed to play in front of a great Indiana fan base — which, as you saw, showed up and showed out tonight. I'm grateful to have played in this organization, but ultimately I didn't achieve what I wanted to do here, so I moved on. Both sides moved on. So, let's all move on.'Pacers: 'It was the first time I've had a defender guard me like that since I've been on this team,' Oladipo said after going 9 of 26 from the field. 'They were just trying to deny me and he (George) can move his feet.'UP NEXTThunder: Faces Philadelphia on Friday, trying to improve to 17-1 in the series since moving to Oklahoma City.Pacers: Host Detroit on Friday, seeking a seventh straight home win in the series.___More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Jalen Brunson helped Villanova continue its remarkable reign of Philadelphia.Brunson had 22 of his career-high 31 points in No. 1 Villanova's dominating first half and Omari Spellman scored 27 to help lead the Wildcats to an 87-67 rout of Temple on Wednesday night.'He was incredible,' Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Brunson.Donte DiVincenzo added 12 points for Villanova (11-0), which won its unprecedented 22nd straight Big 5 game.The Wildcats, who moved into the top spot in the rankings for the third straight season this week, looked like the best team in the country in a dominating opening 20 minutes.With his dad Rick - a former Temple standout and current assistant coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves who played nine seasons in the NBA - sitting two rows behind the Villanova bench, Brunson led the way.The 6-foot-2 junior point guard made 8 of 10 shots, including 5 of 7 3-pointers, and added four assists while controlling the opening 20 minutes.'I try to keep the same mindset, try to set the tone defensively and play my game, be aggressive, try to be a killer,' Brunson said. 'Today was one of those nights.'Brunson didn't know his dad was making the trip. Rick Brunson coached the host Timberwolves against the 76ers on Tuesday night and will fly home early Thursday morning for that night's game against the Kings. He's glad he squeezed in the trip to see his son.'I thought he came out and set a tone and the rest of the team followed,' Rick Brunson said. 'As long as you compete, play hard and get a win, I'm happy.'Jalen Brunson added six rebounds and five assists and ended 11 for 16 from the field and 6 for 10 from beyond the arc in 38 turnover-free minutes.The performance surely impressed Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown and Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons, who were among the sellout crowd of 10,206 at Temple.Owls coach Fran Dunphy had high praise.'He was just spectacular,' Dunphy said. 'He's just terrific, plays with a great pace, so smart, great toughness. His efficiency is ridiculous.'Quinton Rose scored 27 points for the Owls (6-3), who began the week No. 11 in the RPI rankings. It was the third straight season Temple played Villanova as a No. 1, and the Owls fell to 2-18 all-time against No. 1-ranked opponents.The Temple student section was fired up in the pregame, hoping to help the Owls end Villanova's Philadelphia dominance, but the Wildcats gave them little for which to cheer.'You can't make a mistake,' Dunphy said. 'When you do, they take great advantage of it.'The Wildcats scored the first seven points as Temple came out cold, missing its first five shots and committing three turnovers.And Villanova went from there.The Wildcats took their biggest lead of the half on DiVincenzo's 3-pointer that made it 25-5 with 11 minutes left before the break. And the lead reached 20 again on Brunson's 3-pointer that made it 28-8 44 seconds later.Temple rallied by scoring the next 13 points over 3 1/2 minutes to pull within 28-21 on Josh Brown's jumper with 6:45 left before the break.But Villanova continued making shots and Brunson, appropriately, finished the first-half scoring with a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left that gave the Wildcats a 46-29 lead.Villanova shot 59 percent from the field and 50 percent from the arc in the opening 20 minutes.The second half was a mere formality.BIG 5 DOMINANCEThe Wildcats last lost a contest in the Philadelphia round-robin series to Temple on Dec. 5, 2012. The Big 5 also consists of La Salle, Saint Joseph's and Penn.Wright credited the Wildcats' talent for the streak.'We've had a run of four or five years of very good players who remained in the program,' Wright said. 'I hope to God they keep coming.'UNDER THE RADARWright laughed when describing Philadelphia's low-key reaction to the Wildcats being tabbed No. 1 on Monday, the same day Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz was deemed out for the season with a knee injury.'I was a little depressed, too,' Wright said. 'We love basketball in Philadelphia, but there's something different about the Eagles. That's like religion in this town.'BIG PICTUREVillanova: The Wildcats likely will hold the top spot in the rankings for at least another week, as they will take nine days off for exams before returning to the court. They will next play a nonconference game against Hofstra, the program Wright led before coming to Villanova, on Dec. 22 before beginning Big East play on Dec. 27 at DePaul.Temple: The Owls host another Philadelphia school, Drexel, on Saturday and then play at Georgia on Dec. 22 before starting American Conference play on Dec. 28 against Tulane. The Owls will be looking for their 33rd NCAA Tournament appearance and will need a high finish in the conference to get there.UP NEXTVillanova: After a break for exams, the Wildcats play Hofstra on Dec. 22 in Uniondale, New York.Temple: Hosts Drexel on Saturday night.___More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are going back to old homes that are doing just fine without them. Indiana and New York are winning, bolstered by players they acquired for their superstars. While Oklahoma City remains underwhelming, Pacers and Knicks fans are even thinking they also won the trades. George gets the first homecoming when the Thunder travel to Indianapolis on Wednesday, while Anthony makes his first trip back to New York on Saturday. Indiana wasn't eager to deal its All-Star forward last spring, but had little choice with no commitment he would stay beyond this season. So the Pacers shipped him off to Oklahoma City in June for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The Pacers have won four straight and are solidly in the middle of the Eastern Conference at 16-11. They average 109 points, sixth in the league, and Oladipo was Eastern Conference player of the week last week for the second time this season after his career-best 47 points on Sunday in a victory over Denver hiked his average to 24.5 per game for the season. In New York, Enes Kanter has become the starting center, an offensive rebounding force and a fan favorite. Doug McDermott, the other player in the September trade for Anthony , has played an important role off the bench for the 14-13 Knicks. Of the three teams, the only one that wouldn't be in the playoffs at the moment is Oklahoma City. The Thunder are just 12-14, Russell Westbrook and his two star sidekicks are all shooting around 40 percent, and Anthony, at 18 points per game, appears headed for the worst offensive season of his career. Maybe some familiar scenery can finally get them going. 'This is a chance for us to be even closer, even tighter, be more connected, because in those two arenas that's all we got,' George said. 'And we have to play that way.' ___ Other games to watch: —Lakers at Cleveland, Thursday. One of those games that figures to spark conversation about LeBron James' future. —San Antonio at Houston, Friday. First meeting between two of the West's best since the Spurs eliminated the Rockets in the conference semifinals. —Utah at Boston, Friday. The Jazz lost Gordon Hayward to Boston over the summer. The Celtics lost him to injury on opening night. —Warriors at Lakers, Monday. Golden State's only road game in a span of 10 games, and the defending champs don't even have to leave California for it. ___ PISTONS NOT PUMPING It's been a dismal December in Detroit. The Pistons are 0-7 this month after a strong start to the season in which they racked up a number of impressive road victories. That spurred them to a 14-6 record and a spot near the top of the Eastern Conference after they missed the playoffs last season. But once December started, the victories stopped. Detroit dropped its seventh in a row when it was blown out 103-84 at home on Tuesday by a Denver team playing without Nikola Jokic. 'I've got to find the answers,' coach Stan Van Gundy said. 'I'm not running from the responsibility. This is on me. I selected these players, I decide who plays, I decide what we run on offense, I decide how we play defense. That was an embarrassment tonight.' One that was hard to see coming when the Pistons won at Golden State, Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Boston in October and November. Part of their problem has been a difficult schedule that has included games against the Spurs, Warriors and Celtics within the last 10 days. But the Pistons also are misfiring from 3-point range and Van Gundy sees chemistry issues, even shuffling his starting lineup before Tuesday's loss. But he said changes won't matter if Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley don't play better. 'We're in holes too many nights with them and I've got to find an answer to that,' he said. 'I'm not out there running them down, I'm just telling you they have to play better.' ___ STAT LINE OF THE WEEK LeBron James, Cleveland: 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting, 17 assists in a 123-114 victory over Atlanta on Tuesday. James had a career high in assists but finished with seven rebounds, leaving him still one behind Larry Bird for sixth in NBA history with 59 triple-doubles. ___ More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Lonzo Ball was having a dazzling stretch, every basket bringing his father farther and farther off his courtside seat for an emphatic celebration.By the end, the New York Knicks were the ones celebrating.Kristaps Porzingis had 37 points and 11 rebounds, Michael Beasley made the biggest plays in overtime, and the Knicks beat the Los Angeles Lakers 113-109 on Tuesday night.Beasley finished with 13 points, including the tiebreaking follow shot, and had an assist in the extra period as the Knicks went back over .500 at 14-13. Thirteen of their victories have come at Madison Square Garden.Rookie Frank Ntilikina went the whole fourth quarter and overtime in a strong defensive effort that helped slow down Ball after his third-quarter flurry.'A lot of effort, big plays, just keeping our poise on the court, not being stressed and not being overrun by the moment,' Ntilikina said. 'So I mean that was great and for a young team like this to play like that, it's a huge step in our process.'Ball had 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists, but had just two points after the third quarter.'It was a lot of fun. I heard the crowd the whole game. It was crazy,' he said. 'Would have been nice if we got the win, but it was very eventful.'Ball went high to slam down a lob pass from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, nailed a 3-pointer, drove for a layup, and then fed Brook Lopez for a 3-pointer in the third, with LaVar Ball jumping up with arms waving from his sideline seat next to Lithuania-bound sons LiAngelo and LaMelo.'I know how he is,' Lonzo said of his father. 'I like his energy. Some people don't.'The Knicks essentially won it with Beasley's stretch of a tip-in, a pass inside to Doug McDermott for a basket, and a driving layup that turned a 103-all game into a 109-103 lead with 1:24 remaining in the overtime.'Just thinking go get the win, try to do everything the team needs,' Beasley said. 'Dive on the floor. Just the little things.'Caldwell-Pope scored 24 points for the Lakers, who had won two in a row on their trip. Rookie Kyle Kuzma added 19 points off the bench.'We were right there. It says a lot about our group of guys and the way they compete and how far they've come to be in a road game with that type of environment on national TV,' coach Luke Walton said. 'Obviously disappointed that we weren't at our best, but still finding a way to give ourselves a chance and I'm proud of our group for that.'The Knicks were in good shape when Porzingis' basket made it 99-94 with 1:29 remaining in regulation and Ball threw away a pass. But Caldwell-Pope tipped in a miss and Kuzma made a 3-pointer to tie it with 23.9 seconds to go, before Porzingis missed a 3 at the buzzer.TIP-INSLakers: Brandon Ingram missed his first 10 shots before a three-point play with 40 seconds left that made it 79-76 heading to the fourth. Ingram finished with five points on 2-for-12 shooting. He entered as the Lakers' leading scorer and averaged 19.2 points in the previous 11 games, scoring in double digits in all of them.Knicks: Former Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire was at the game and led a countdown to the lighting of a menorah on the overhead videoboard to celebrate the start of Hanukkah. It was the seventh anniversary of Stoudemire setting a franchise record with his eighth straight 30-point game.LUKE ON JACKSONWalton, who played for Phil Jackson with the Lakers, said he still talks to his former coach. He was asked his feelings about Jackson's departure in June after three seasons as Knicks president.'I don't know all the details on what was going on here,' Walton said. 'Obviously a mentor to me like that, someone that means as much to me as Phil does, I'm not in favor of it happening. But again, I'm coaching on the West Coast and I'm not around out here to see everything and how and why everything played out the way it did.'ROUGH ROADThe Lakers are about to enter one of the toughest stretches of the season for an NBA team. They visit LeBron James and Cleveland on Thursday, return home to host the defending champion Warriors on Monday, welcome NBA-leading Houston on Dec. 20, and visit Golden State on Dec. 22.UP NEXTLakers: Visit Cleveland on Thursday.Knicks: Visit Brooklyn on Thursday.___For more NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are starting to draw attention for their play together instead of their fight with each other.Mirotic scored 24 points, Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.Owners of the NBA's worst record, the Bulls (6-20) built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.Leading the way were two players who made headlines for all the wrong reasons before the season started.Their fight at practice left Mirotic with facial fractures, causing him to miss the first 23 games. Portis served an eight-game suspension.But the two have played well together the past two games.'We need to give the credit to (coach Fred Hoiberg),' Mirotic said. 'Fred is the one who is making us play. He's the guy who is calling the plays for us and putting us in the right spots to play.'As for the fight?'Man, that situation's over,' Portis said. 'Everybody's talking about that. But that doesn't matter anymore. We're just trying to win games.'Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms and shot 9 of 14 with eight rebounds. Through three games, the 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 16.3 points.Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.Al Horford scored 15 for Boston (23-6). Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics' most lopsided loss of the season.'Sometimes you get your butt kicked. It was simple as that,' coach Brad Stevens said. 'Chicago dictated the whole game. They played harder than we did. They played with more presence than we did. They played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You're not going to win many games when you play like that.'PULLING AWAYBoston got within 12 in the fourth quarter before Portis hit a 20-footer and Mirotic made a 3 to make it 90-73 with just under eight minutes left. The Bulls remained in control the rest of the way.Mirotic came through with 16 points as Chicago grabbed a 56-42 halftime lead. Portis scored 15 in the first half.The Bulls wiped out a four-point deficit and led 52-34 after a 24-2 run in the second quarter. Portis scored 10 during that stretch, nailing two 3s, and Mirotic finished it with a short hook.QUOTABLE'It feels like it's March, but it it's not,' said Mirotic, who has averaged 16.5 points in March during his career — more than in any other month.TIP-INSCeltics: Stevens said he doesn't expect Irving to be out long, though he added: 'Who knows with muscular injuries.' ... Stevens also said doctors will re-evaluate F Marcus Morris' ailing left knee on Tuesday. Morris sat out for the second straight night and the third time in four games. He also missed the first eight games of the season. ... Horford had five assists. ... Boston's 85 points were a season low.Bulls: Markkanen participated in the morning shootaround and got treatment afterward. But coach Fred Hoiberg said the prized rookie's back continued to tighten. ... Kris Dunn had 12 points, his career-high fifth straight game in double digits. ... David Nwaba had 13 points and six rebounds.UP NEXTCeltics: Host Denver on Wednesday.Bulls: Host Utah on Wednesday.___More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball