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  • Short-handed Warriors try to break skid at Suns
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, February 29, 2020

    The Golden State Warriors aren't expecting Stephen Curry back until Sunday, but they'll nonetheless feature two familiar faces when they visit the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

    • Curry has scrimmaged twice with end-of-the-benchers and Warriors coaches this week in his attempt to complete a comeback from a broken left hand suffered in October.

      The Warriors have indicated -- but not promised -- that Curry could return Sunday, when the club completes a back-to-back sequence with a home game against Washington.

      A final determination likely will not come until pregame warmups.

      In the meantime, the club will take an eight-game losing streak into Phoenix to face a Suns team that began a back-to-back of its own Friday with a 113-111 home loss to the Detroit Pistons.

      The Warriors' healthy bodies these days include Marquese Chriss, who played his first 2 1/2 seasons with the Suns after having been the No. 8 overall pick of the 2016 draft, and Dragan Bender, who Phoenix snatched four picks earlier in 2016.

      Neither came close to living up to expectations in Phoenix, where Chriss averaged 8.5 points in 154 games, while Bender played 171 games and averaged 5.3 points.

      Chriss was dealt to Houston and then to Cleveland before landing with Golden State as a non-guaranteed free agent this season. He played so well that he was eventually signed to a guaranteed contract through the end of next season.

      Bender, meanwhile, left Phoenix for Milwaukee as a free agent last summer, only to get waived by the Bucks earlier this month. He got a 10-day contract with the Warriors 13 days later.

      "Dragan picks things up really easily," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after Bender's Golden State debut earlier this week. "I'm excited about him. He's a really talented player, and he could be a good fit for us. He's just gotta get comfortable."

      Bender will make his first return to Phoenix as a visitor, while Chriss will get a third homecoming, having contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds to a 112-106 Warriors road loss to the Suns earlier this month in his most recent visit.

      While the Warriors hope to get Andrew Wiggins back from the back soreness that kept him out of Thursday's 116-86 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Suns won't have the services of Kelly Oubre Jr. anytime soon. He suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee earlier in the week.

      Oubre had 15 points in the Suns' win over the Warriors 17 days ago.

      Before Friday's loss to Detroit, veteran Ricky Rubio spoke to reporters of the importance of Oubre.

      "I've been saying since Day 1 he's kind of the heart of the team," Rubio observed. "He brings a lot, and not just scoring. He brings energy, momentum. Good energy and he just, on and off the court, helps us. Hopefully he can come back soon."

      Rubio had 16 points and 13 assists in Friday's loss to Detroit. Devin Booker led the Suns with 26 points, while Deandre Ayton had a double-double of his own with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

      The Suns fell to 0-2 on a six-game homestand.

      --Field Level Media

  • Spurs aim to get back on track against surging Magic
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, February 29, 2020

    With time running out for the San Antonio Spurs in their quest to extend their postseason playoff streak, they can't afford to lose focus, or another game, when they host the Orlando Magic on Saturday in the Alamo City.

    • San Antonio will look to get back on track after a 109-103 loss at home to Dallas on Wednesday that kept the Spurs three games behind Memphis for the final Western Conference playoff spot.

      San Antonio trailed by as many as 19 points in the second quarter before rallying to tie the game at 96 on a Lonnie Walker IV 3-pointer with 4:01 to play. Dallas responded with the winning run to hand the Spurs their second straight loss.

      "I think the game plan that I came out with was poor, and they took advantage of it in the first quarter, and we turned it over nine times in the first half," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "So, that got us in a hole."

      DeMar DeRozan led San Antonio with 27 points in the loss. Marco Belinelli (14), Walker IV (12) and Bryn Forbes (10) also scored in double figures.

      "I'm really proud of the effort and the stick-to-itiveness of our guys, where they could have hung their heads and cashed it in, and they came back and played their ass off after that," Popovich added. "So, a lot of good things."

      The Spurs (24-33) have already tied the NBA record of 22 consecutive playoff appearances, but they are on the outside looking in for the postseason with 25 games to play. San Antonio's streak is the longest active playoff run in any major North American sports league.

      Orlando heads to the Alamo City in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and after a 136-125 win over Minnesota on Friday. The Magic (27-32) have won three in a row and five of their past six games.

      Aaron Gordon racked up his second career triple-double in leading Orlando, scoring 17 points, dishing out 12 assists and taking 11 rebounds in the win.

      Terrence Ross paced the Magic with a season-high 33 points, with Nikola Vucevic adding 27 points and 10 rebounds, Markelle Fultz hitting for 14 points, and D.J. Augustin and Evan Fournier scoring 12 and 11 points, respectively.

      Gordon has been one of the catalysts for the Magic's move up the pecking order and into solid contention for the playoffs.

      "I've just been more focused, working on my game, my craft," Gordon said. "I'm just being more focused with who I am as a ball player. They need that glue. They also need a person who can produce, and they see me as a teammate who can produce in a lot of different ways."

      Orlando coach Steve Clifford likes the production Gordon has brought to the team at the power forward position.

      "Aaron's playing at a super high level, and we need that," Clifford said. "We're a different team. With the injuries that we've had, that's a position where we need good play, and he's playing almost exclusively there now, and he's not just scoring. He's playing an all-around game."

      The Magic took the first meeting of the year from San Antonio, 111-109, on Nov. 15 in Orlando. The Spurs have won 15 of the last 20 meetings overall between the teams and eight of the last 10 at home.

      --Field Level Media

  • Lakers may be without LeBron again at Memphis
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, February 29, 2020

    The Los Angeles Lakers may not know if LeBron James is available to play Saturday until close to tip-off.

    • The 35-year-old James is dealing with soreness in his left groin and could miss his second consecutive contest when the Lakers visit the Memphis Grizzlies in search of their eighth straight win.

      Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel isn't interested in guessing at James' status, but the game against Memphis is on the front end of a back-to-back. The Lakers visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

      James apparently tweaked the groin during Tuesday's 118-109 home win over the Pelicans, in a contest in which he scored a season-high 40 points.

      His presence wasn't missed as the Lakers rolled to a 116-86 road victory over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

      However, All-Star power forward Anthony Davis was pleased to see the quality of play with James not suited up.

      "We got to get better at that," Davis told reporters. "Usually when (James is) playing and he comes off the floor, we kind of take a dip in all aspects of the game. Just the way, the same way we played (Thursday) without him, we got to play like that when he's playing, but when he's not on the floor."

      James isn't the only Los Angeles starter in jeopardy of sitting out the contest. Shooting guard Danny Green (hip) is considered doubtful.

      Davis scored a team-best 23 points in the win over Golden State. The easy nature of the victory presented an opportunity to give newcomer Markieff Morris a long look.

      Morris played 19 minutes and contributed eight points and four rebounds in his second game since joining the club. He recently accepted a buyout from the Detroit Pistons.

      "I think defensively he's getting more comfortable with our coverages, and you saw him knock down two threes, got him a couple of post touches, another way we can use him," Vogel told reporters of Morris. "I think every minute he's out there with these guys gets him more comfortable."

      The Lakers are looking to complete a four-game season sweep of the Grizzlies. Los Angeles earned win No. 3 last week with a 117-105 home triumph on Feb. 21.

      Memphis is reeling, with five straight setbacks after losing 104-101 at home to the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

      The Grizzlies reside in the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot but the fast-charging Pelicans are just two games behind.

      "I feel like it is good pressure," shooting guard Dillon Brooks said of the skid coming in the middle of the playoff pursuit. "We were playing well, but we've hit a big adversity like this. We're hitting it now, and we're being tested."

      Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins was putting up a brave face after the game as he attempts to keep his young squad from getting flustered during its slump.

      "The guys are finding a way. Unfortunately it didn't lead to a win," Jenkins told reporters. "The resolve and competitiveness from our guys was great."

      One player who did great was Brooks, who scored a season-best 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting. It marks the first time Brooks has shot 50 percent or better all month.

      The slumping Brooks scored 11 or fewer points in six straight games -- he was in single digits in five of them -- before scoring 22 against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

      Brooks was just 34-of-120 shooting (28.3 percent) over the past eight games prior to Friday's strong outing.

      "He's definitely back. It's a credit to all the work he's been putting in," Jenkins said of Brooks. "He's had a great mental state where he's competing his tail off on the defensive end, which has been great, especially when you are having a little bit of a slump offensively."

      Memphis center Jonas Valanciunas collected a career-high 25 rebounds against the Kings, while point guard Ja Morant contributed 20 points and 11 assists.

      --Field Level Media

  • Pacers on roll heading into meeting with Cavaliers
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, February 29, 2020

    The Indiana Pacers appear to have turned the corner from a season-high six-game losing streak by winning four of their last five contests.

    • The Pacers hope their recent success travels well on Saturday when they open a five-game road trip against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

      Domantas Sabonis recorded his 45th double-double of the season by collecting 20 points and 11 rebounds, as Indiana posted a 106-100 home victory over Portland on Thursday.

      "We started being aggressive," Sabonis said. "We didn't have enough energy in the first half. We've got a lot of weapons, and when we get stops, it's tough to guard us in transition."

      Malcolm Brogdon has embraced the Pacers' new-found aggressiveness, a welcome change he figures, considering the club needed time to adjust to constant lineup changes in the face of myriad injuries this season.

      "At this point we've had so many adjustments, so many guys out, it's a choice mentally that guys have to make, especially me," Brogdon said, per the Indianapolis Star. "Just go out and play basketball regardless of who's on the floor. Not settling. I'm not settling anymore. I'm going at people."

      Brogdon erupted for 30 points and 10 assists in the Pacers' 110-99 setback in Cleveland on Oct. 26 before scoring 25 points in a 102-95 victory against the Cavaliers on Nov. 1.

      Victor Oladipo is showing signs of returning to form after a year-long absence from a ruptured tendon in his right knee, scoring 12 of his 15 points on Thursday during the third quarter. The All-Star guard admitted during an on-court interview that it's a work in progress to get his body and mind on the same page.

      "It's like I want to do it, but my body is like, 'Hold, on, wait a second,'" Oladipo said. "Eventually it will catch up to my mind. And I'm just going to keep playing. Everything else will take care of itself."

      While Oladipo is hoping for modest gains in his return from injury, the Cavaliers also appear content with taking small steps forward in their rebuilding process.

      Cleveland had won three of its first four games under J.B. Bickerstaff before it dropped a 116-104 decision to New Orleans and rookie Zion Williamson on Friday.

      Second-year guard Collin Sexton matched a career high with 31 points and is shooting 20-for-36 from the floor in his last two contests. The 21-year-old has scored at least 20 points in 10 of his last 13 games overall and had 21 in the Cavaliers' setback to Indiana on Nov. 1.

      Friday's setback wasn't going to deter Sexton, however.

      "The adjustments are going to get made. We're going to watch film (Saturday) and be ready for Indiana," Sexton said. "We can't dwell on this loss because it's the NBA. You've got to put it behind you and do better the next day."

      Rookie Kevin Porter Jr. added 16 points off the bench for Cleveland, which played its second straight game without center Andre Drummond. The center is nursing a strained left calf.

      --Field Level Media

  • Heat look to build win streak vs. Nets
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, February 29, 2020

    Adversity has struck the Miami Heat for most of February, while it is a recent development for the Brooklyn Nets. Only the Heat did enough on Friday night to get a reprieve from their recent woes.

    • The teams will be looking to start getting on a hot streak Saturday night when Miami hosts Brooklyn in the second night of a back-to-back for both.

      Miami (37-22) enters in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, one half-game ahead of Philadelphia and two in front of sixth-place Indiana. The Heat were tied with Boston for third place after a 137-106 win over Philadelphia on Feb. 3 but are 3-7 in their last 10 games.

      Miami's rough patch includes road losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz, but it also features three losses to teams well under .500 in Cleveland, Atlanta and Minnesota.

      On Friday, the Heat rebounded from back-to-back close defeats by controlling most of the fourth quarter in a 126-118 home win over Dallas. The Heat scored the first 13 points of the fourth quarter and outscored Dallas 38-25 in the final 12 minutes after blowing a 12-point lead in the third.

      "I liked seeing that fourth quarter, just managing as Pat (Riley) used to say, (the) game can be broken into skirmishes," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "And they won a key one in the third quarter. I was encouraged (by) how we responded to that. We had to gut something out against a really good team."

      Gutting it out against Dallas occurred after late collapses in the previous two games. On Monday, the Heat held an 18-point lead after three quarters in Cleveland and Wednesday, they squandered a 12-point lead in the final 4:22.

      Jimmy Butler scored 26 points for his highest point total since getting 38 on Feb. 3, while Duncan Robinson added 24, his most since getting 34 against Atlanta on Dec. 10.

      Brooklyn endured 12 losses in 14 games from Dec. 26-Jan. 23 and then entered the All-Star break with seven wins in 10 games. Since the break, the Nets have dropped four of five, allowing an average of 112.8 points.

      The first three losses in the stretch were close, but Friday's 141-118 loss in Atlanta got away from the Nets in the fourth quarter. They were within six early in the fourth but were outscored 33-16 over the final 10-plus minutes.

      "We are seventh in the league in defense, and tonight we looked like were 800th in defense." Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "We lost our defensive identity tonight. It's one game. I'm not going to change things and go crazy."

      The Nets allowed their most points since Oct. 18, 2017 at Indiana and a total of 19 3-pointers. The ugly defensive night came after Brooklyn lost on a last-second shot by Jerome Robinson Wednesday in Washington, and after the Nets coughed up a 19-point lead in a 115-113 home loss to Orlando on Monday.

      Spencer Dinwiddie scored 24 points for the Nets, who allowed the Hawks to shoot 52 percent Friday.

      The slump also dropped the Nets into eighth place in the East and a half-game behind the Magic, who are on a three-game winning streak.

      The teams split a pair of meetings in Brooklyn defined by fourth-quarter runs. On Dec. 1, the Heat scored the final 10 points in a 109-106 win and Jan. 12 Brooklyn used a game-ending 17-4 run to get a 117-113 win.

      --Field Level Media

  • Trail Blazers won't have it easy against host Hawks
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, February 29, 2020

    The Portland Trail Blazers can't afford to lose games to the teams in the league's bottom echelon if they want to remain in contention for the playoffs in the Western Conference. But they aren't likely to get a light touch on Saturday when they make their only visit of the season to Atlanta.

    • The Hawks have won only 18 games, one more than Eastern Conference cellar dwellers New York and Cleveland. However, Atlanta has emerged as a competitive team on its home court. The Hawks have won seven of their last nine games at home, which includes wins over playoff teams Philadelphia and Miami.

      The Hawks hammered the Brooklyn Nets 141-118 on Friday night to give them some momentum into the second half of a back-to-back. They have yet to win both ends of a back-to-back this season, going 0-3 in the second game when they've won the first night.

      "We've all been putting in a ton of work in practice, extra work on our jump shots and defense," Atlanta rookie Cam Reddish said. "But to see our shots go down was a great feeling."

      Reddish had a career-high 26 points on Friday and has continued to develop as an offensive threat. John Collins scored 33 points with 13 rebounds, and Trae Young had 22 points and 14 assists. The lopsided win allowed Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce the luxury of limiting Young only 31 minutes.

      "It was a real example of all our guys trending in the right direction," Pierce said. "To put together that type of win was really encouraging to see."

      Portland comes into the game in 10th place in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers have won only three of their last 10 games and trail Memphis by 2 1/2 games in the quest for the final playoff spot. Portland dropped a 106-100 decision to the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, the first stop on a three-game road trip.

      "That was a tough loss for us, but we fought," Portland's Carmelo Anthony said. "The first game on a road trip is always important, but we still have a chance to go get two more on this road trip, so that's what we're looking forward to."

      "We already understand the position we're in," Trevor Ariza added. "I think we've just got to figure it out. It sounds easy, but it's not. We have the personnel in here to do it. We've got to continue to stay confident, stay together and chip away."

      C.J. McCollum, who scored 28 in the loss to Indiana, averages 22 points per game. Anthony continues his remarkable comeback season and averages 15.5 points and 6.4 rebounds. Hassan Whiteside averages 15.9 points and 14.2 rebounds.

      Damian Lillard, who averages a team-leading 29.5 points, has missed the last four games with a right groin injury, but could return before the end of the road trip.

      Portland has won four consecutive games against the Hawks dating back to Jan. 5, 2018. The Blazers won the first game in the season series 124-113 on Nov. 10. Lillard scored 30 points in the first meeting, while Young had 35 points and 10 assists in the first meeting.

      --Field Level Media

  • NBA roundup: Thunder's streak ends in blowout loss to Bucks
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, February 29, 2020

    Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 133-86 home blowout of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

    • It was the Bucks' third win of 40 or more points, tying the NBA record for most such games in a season. The margin narrowly missed being the largest in the NBA this season. The Los Angeles Clippers beat Atlanta by 49 earlier this season.

      The Bucks, who won their fifth straight game coming out of the All-Star break, hit 21 3-pointers, their most of the season. Both Wesley Matthews and Pat Connaughton hit four from behind the arc. They each finished with 14 points, as did Bucks teammate George Hill.

      Oklahoma City was without second-leading scorer Danilo Gallinari, who hasn't played in the second night of a back-to-back since November. Chris Paul scored 18 points, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 11 for the Thunder, who had a five-game winning streak snapped.

      Los Angeles Clippers 132 - Denver Nuggets 103

      Paul George scored a game-high 24 points, and Los Angeles hammered visiting Denver.

      George, who struggled offensively in the previous two games with 11 and seven points, connected on 6 of 8 3-pointers and 9 of 15 overall from the floor, as the Clippers won their third straight game.

      Kawhi Leonard contributed 19 points, Montrezl Harrell had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Lou Williams finished with 17 points for Los Angeles, which had seven players score in double figures. Williams hit 5 of 7 shots from behind the arc.

      New Orleans Pelicans 116 - Cleveland Cavaliers 104

      Rookie Zion Williamson scored 24 points for his 10th consecutive game with at least 20, and host New Orleans routed Cleveland for its third win in four games since the All-Star break.

      Brandon Ingram scored 29, Jrue Holiday added 22 and E'Twaun Moore and Nicolo Melli had 10 each for the Pelicans, who were playing their first home game in 15 days and started a three-game homestand over five days.

      Collin Sexton tied his career-high with 31 points to lead the Cavaliers, who are just 17-42 but entered the game with a 3-1 record under coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who took over when John Beilein resigned during the All-Star break.

      Miami Heat 126 - Dallas Mavericks 118

      Jimmy Butler scored 26 points, and Duncan Robinson added 24 to lead host Miami past Dallas and run its home record to 24-4.

      Dallas guard Seth Curry had a career-high 37 points. The younger brother of Warriors star Stephen Curry, he made 13 of 15 attempts from the floor, including 8 of 9 on 3-pointers, with the eight makes marking a career high.

      Miami got 16 points each from Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn, and Heat center Bam Adebayo had 14 points and 11 rebounds for his 35th double-double of the season. Kristaps Porzingis had 24 points and 13 rebounds for Dallas.

      Orlando Magic 136 - Minnesota Timberwolves 125

      Terrence Ross scored 19 of his season-high 33 points in the fourth quarter as host Orlando handed Minnesota its 19th loss in 21 games.

      Ross made seven 3-pointers and Nikola Vucevic recorded his team-best 31st double-double (27 points, 10 assists) this season for the Magic, who have won five of six after losing eight of their previous nine. Aaron Gordon added his first career triple-double with 17 points, a career-high 12 assists and 11 rebounds.

      D'Angelo Russell scored 12 of his team-high 28 points in the first quarter, and Juan Hernangomez added 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Timberwolves.

      Sacramento Kings 104 - Memphis Grizzlies 101

      De'Aaron Fox returned from a one-game absence to score a team-high 25 points, and Sacramento survived a frantic finish to record a win over host Memphis.

      Playing the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings rallied from an early 12-point deficit to dominate a majority of the final three quarters to earn a second win in three tries against Memphis this season, clinching the season series.

      Despite getting a season-high 32 points from Dillon Brooks and a career-high 25 rebounds from Jonas Valanciunas, the injury-riddled Grizzlies lost their fifth straight.

      Utah Jazz 129 - Washington Wizards 119

      Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points, and host Utah held off Bradley Beal and Washington to end a four-game losing streak.

      Beal led all scorers with 42 points on 17-of-33 shooting and added 10 assists for Washington, which has lost four of five since the All-Star break. He notched his 10th 40-point game of the season and his 17th consecutive game with 25 of more points, tying the franchise record set by Walt Bellamy in 1961-62.

      Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 points for Utah, and Jordan Clarkson added 20.

      Atlanta Hawks 141 - Brooklyn Nets 118

      John Collins totaled 33 points and 13 rebounds, and host Atlanta pushed Brooklyn into eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a victory.

      Collins recorded his ninth game with at least 30 points this season, and his game-high rebound total helped the Hawks to a commanding 52-38 edge on the boards. Rookie Cam Reddish scored 17 of his career-high 26 points in the third quarter. Trae Young collected 22 points and 14 assists for his 25th double.

      Spencer Dinwiddie collected 24 points and 13 assists but shot 6 of 16 from the floor as the Nets lost for the fourth time in five games since the All-Star break. Caris LeVert and Joe Harris added 18 points apiece for the Nets, who shot 45.7 percent and hit 18 3-pointers.

      Charlotte Hornets 99 - Toronto Raptors 96

      Terry Rozier made one free throw to break a tie with 2.1 seconds to play as Charlotte defeated host Toronto.

      Rozier finished with 18 points. Devonte' Graham also scored 18 points for the Hornets, who have won two in a row. Miles Bridges had 17 points, P.J. Washington 15 and Bismack Biyombo 13 points and 11 rebounds.

      Pascal Siakam had 24 points -- 14 in the third quarter -- and nine rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost two in a row. Norman Powell, who had missed the previous nine games with a broken finger, scored 22. Kyle Lowry had 21 points and OG Anunoby had 16 points and nine rebounds.

      Pistons 113, Suns 111

      Derrick Rose poured in 31 points as visiting Detroit snapped a seven-game losing streak by edging Phoenix.

      The Pistons hadn't won since Feb. 5, at home, also against Phoenix. Christian Wood supplied 19 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Brandon Knight contributed 19 points off the bench. Svi Mykhailiuk tossed in 13 points and made four assists.

      Devin Booker led the Suns with 26 points, six rebounds and six assists, while DeAndre Ayton had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Ricky Rubio contributed 16 points, 13 assists and six rebounds, and Mikal Bridges added 13 points and five assists.

      --Field Level Media

  • Hot Rockets to test Celtics' home prowess
    By Field Level Media / Friday, February 28, 2020

    The Boston Celtics face a tall task in trying to extend their home winning streak to eight games as they host the red-hot Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

    • The Celtics return from a 3-1 road trip that ended Wednesday with a 114-103 victory over the Utah Jazz. Boston is 23-5 at home this season, its last loss at TD Garden coming Jan. 18.

      The Rockets, meanwhile, have won five straight and scored north of 120 points in each of their last four. Houston is 17-12 on the road this season.

      The teams met in Houston on Feb. 11 with the Rockets pulling away in the third quarter on their way to a 116-105 victory. James Harden had 42 points, and Russell Westbrook scored 36 with 10 rebounds. Gordon Hayward paced the Celtics with 20.

      Jayson Tatum had just 15 points in that game, his only outing where he scored less than 20 in his last 15 games. Tatum has taken his offensive game to the next level of late, highlighted by three straight games shooting over 60 percent with more than 30 points to finish Boston's West Coast swing.

      "We're in a good spot," Tatum said after putting up 33 points and 11 rebounds in the win over the Jazz. "We're just trying to continue to get better every game."

      Tatum's surge has come at a good time for the Celtics, who have been without fellow All-Star Kemba Walker (knee injury) since Feb. 13. The team is targeting Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets for the guard's return.

      "I think the plan of attack is for him to go harder in the morning, maybe even ramp it up Sunday and then go from there," coach Brad Stevens told reporters Friday. "So hopefully back by Tuesday, but out for tomorrow is what I've heard last."

      Stevens added that big man Robert Williams III, out since early December with a hip injury, could be cleared to play Saturday.

      Similar to Tatum, Westbrook has been surging for the Rockets, with 30 or more points in nine of his last 11 contests. After missing a win over the New York Knicks on Monday with a thumb injury, Westbrook returned to action with team highs of 33 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a 140-112 blowout of the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.

      "The excitement that he brings to the game, I just don't know another player in the league who brings that kind of intensity and is actually skilled," said Harden, who added 30 points in just 28 minutes of play against Memphis.

      Harden has been just as dangerous of late, surpassing 30 points in eight of his last 11 contests. His 35.2 points per game leads the league by a wide margin.

      "Those guys are two of the best in the world," Stevens said after the last meeting in Houston.

      The Rockets have won four straight in their season series with the Celtics.

      --Field Level Media

  • Carter close to return as Bulls visit Knicks
    By Field Level Media / Friday, February 28, 2020

    The Chicago Bulls have lost nine of their past 10 games entering Saturday's visit to the New York Knicks, but the team might at last be gaining an important piece of its rotation.

    • Center Wendell Carter Jr., out since Jan. 6 with a high ankle sprain, estimated he has an "80 to 90 percent chance" of being part of the rotation at Madison Square Garden. He likely will be under a minutes restriction when he returns.

      "It's been pretty frustrating because I've been wanting to get back out there right after All-Star break, but I knew it was going to be a process," Carter said. "So, just getting my wind back. They told me (the ankle) is not going to be 100 percent perfect when I come back. Just moreso getting my strength back in my ankle because I haven't been playing for over a month now. It's going to be a little bit weak but continuing to play, continuing to put more stress on it is going to make it stronger."

      Long-range shooting specialist Denzel Valentine, out for the past seven games with a hamstring injury, also could be back for the Bulls, coach Jim Boylen said.

      The injury news that came from Thursday's practice wasn't all sunny, however. Rookie guard Coby White injured his back during warm-ups before the workout and did not practice. White has scored at least 33 points off the bench in the past three games and was set to undergo additional treatment Friday before the team determines his status for the Knicks' game.

      The Bulls also announced that Luke Kornet will miss the next six to eight weeks with a severe left ankle sprain and left foot fracture.

      New York has lost six straight after opening February with four straight wins. Saturday marks the beginning of a five-game homestand for the Knicks, who are 8-20 at the Garden.

      The Knicks contended with injury issues of their own during Thursday's 115-106 loss at Philadelphia. After taking an elbow to the head in the first half, Dennis Smith Jr. did not return to the game. Frank Ntilikina missed this third straight game with an injured groin, while former Bulls forward Taj Gibson (back) also was held out.

      Julius Randle earned his 25th double-double for the Knicks, registering 30 points and 10 rebounds. New York outscored Philadelphia by six after halftime.

      "The big thing that we're looking at as a staff is how well we're playing just collectively and what we're doing. ... They went out, got some stops, and scored a little bit and were right back in the game," Knicks interim coach Mike Miller said.

      Veteran guard Zach LaVine has remained a constant for the Bulls, starting each of the club's 59 games while averaging a team-best 25.5 points and 34.7 minutes.

      LaVine is coming off a 41-point effort in Tuesday's 124-122 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. His six 40-point games this season rank fifth in the league.

      The Knicks and Bulls split their first two meetings this season but haven't squared off in nearly four months. Each team has won on its home floor, with the Knicks defeating the Bulls 105-98 at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 28 before Chicago responded with a 120-102 rout at United Center on Nov. 12.

      The Bulls lead the all-time series 123-108, but the Knicks are 66-45 in games played at home.

      Chicago is set to host New York on March 28 to conclude the season series.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Graphic photos of Kobe crash scene shared by deputies
    By Field Level Media / Friday, February 28, 2020

    Graphic photos of the Kobe Bryant crash scene were shared by Los Angeles County sheriff deputies, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.

    • The Times reported that a public safety source had viewed a photo on the phone of another official that displayed the scene and victims' remains. The source told the newspaper the incident wasn't related to the investigation of the crash.

      The Sheriff's Department said the "matter is being looked into," the Times reported after making multiple inquiries about the situation.

      The 41-year-old Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others died in the Jan. 26 helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif.

      The Times reported that it remains unclear if the photos were widely circulated.

      Meanwhile, TMZ reported one of the deputies being investigated allegedly "tried to impress a girl" at a bar by showing her the gruesome photos of the crash site. A bartender reportedly overheard the conversation and filed an online complaint with the Sheriff's Department.

      TMZ reported the bar incident happened within days of the crash and that authorities had known of it for about three weeks.

      The crash happened in foggy conditions and the helicopter slammed into a hill. Bryant's widow, Vanessa, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Monday, alleging deceased pilot Ara Zobayan was negligent and should have aborted the flight.

      Kobe Bryant, the former Los Angeles Lakers' star, frequently used helicopters to get from his Orange County home to other parts of the Los Angeles area.

      On Jan. 26, he was making the approximately 90-mile trek to a youth basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks at his Mamba Sports Academy. Gianna Bryant and two other girls who died in the helicopter crash -- Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester -- were players on a team coached by Bryant. Assistant coach Christina Mauser also died in the crash.

      Others who perished were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli and his wife, Keri, as well as parent Sarah Chester, in addition to Zobayan.

      --Field Level Media

  • Grizzlies look to get back on track against Kings
    By Field Level Media / Friday, February 28, 2020

    The Memphis Grizzlies get an opportunity to avenge a recent defeat and add some distance between themselves and their Western Conference playoff competition at the same time when they host the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

    • Neither team enters the contest in an ideal situation, with the injury-plagued Grizzlies having lost four in a row, while the Kings will be enduring the second night of a road back-to-back after a tough loss at Oklahoma City on Thursday.

      Memphis, which will begin the night in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, has suffered back-to-back drubbings since losing Jaren Jackson Jr. to a sprained left knee last week.

      Jackson isn't expected back until at least mid-March.

      Jackson had 16 points when the Grizzlies began a four-game trip last Thursday with a 129-125 loss at Sacramento.

      He suffered the injury in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers the next night, then missed a 124-97 thumping at the hands of the LA Clippers and 140-112 defeat to the Houston Rockets before the Grizzlies returned home to begin a two-game homestand on Friday.

      The Lakers also come to town on Saturday.

      The Grizzlies also lost valuable reserve Brandon Clarke to a strained right quad on the trip. He is out indefinitely.

      "There's no magic recipe," Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said of potential solutions with two key players out. "We've got to roll with the guys we got, the depth that we've always trusted all season long. No matter who's out there, we got to play at a higher level. We got to play better."

      Memphis lost at Sacramento 128-123 on Jan. 2 after beating the Kings 119-115 at home in December, so the Grizzlies are looking to even up the season series.

      The Kings have moved within four games of the Grizzlies in the playoff chase thanks in large part to a three-game winning streak that began with last week's win over Memphis. Sacramento won that game by owning the 3-point line, outscoring the Grizzlies 57-36 from deep.

      The Kings had that winning streak come to an end in Thursday's 112-108 loss at Oklahoma City.

      The Kings also outscored the Thunder 36-27 on 3-pointers in the loss, but the hosts forced 15 Sacramento turnovers and had a 21-14 edge at the free throw line to overcome the long-range disparity.

      Sacramento went without star guard De'Aaron Fox, who had been expected to play but showed up at the arena with a tight lower right abdomen.

      It's possible he'll be rested, healthy and ready to face the Grizzlies.

      Kings coach Luke Walton was asked about Fox's nagging injuries after he played through a sore shoulder to score 21 points in Tuesday's win over Golden State.

      "We'll go about it smartly," he told reporters. "We'll give him off days where he needs it."

      With Marvin Bagley III also out of action, Harrison Barnes has helped take up the scoring slack for the Kings.

      He had 32 points, including seven 3-pointers, in the win over the Grizzlies last week, then contributed 21 points to the win over Golden State on Tuesday.

      He had another 21-point effort in Thursday's loss to Oklahoma City.

      --Field Level Media

  • Surging Thunder try to take down NBA-best Bucks
    By Field Level Media / Friday, February 28, 2020

    The Oklahoma City Thunder were supposed to be entering a rebuilding phase after dealing stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the offseason.

    • Don't look now, but the Thunder are a season-best 15 games over .500 as they try to upset the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.

      Oklahoma City (37-22) has won five straight games and 14 of 17 entering the contest in Milwaukee. The hot stretch has seen the Thunder pass the Utah Jazz and move into fifth place in the Western Conference.

      Though Oklahoma City does have an All-Star in point guard Chris Paul, the squad is made up mostly of young players and castoffs who are fitting together well in coach Billy Donovan's schemes and methodology.

      "Our intensity and character are two things that are getting better and better," veteran forward Danilo Gallinari said after Thursday's 112-108 comeback victory over the visiting Sacramento Kings. "That's what you want, especially in the second part of the season."

      Gallinari scored 24 points for the second straight game, as Oklahoma City rallied from a 19-point, third-quarter deficit to defeat the Kings. The Thunder are his fourth team, and he was nearly traded to the Miami Heat at the trading deadline earlier this month before talks broke down.

      Gallinari and Paul give Oklahoma City a solid veteran presence, while young gun Shai Gilgeous-Alexander rates as the future go-to force.

      Gilgeous-Alexander scored 20 points against the Kings, and Paul added 17 points and seven assists in a contest that seemed destined to be a Sacramento victory through the first 2 1/2 quarters.

      "For the first 30 minutes of the game, we were back on our heels," Donovan said afterward. "They were the aggressor. We were not doing the things that were necessary."

      There will be little margin for mistakes against the well-rested Bucks.

      Milwaukee (50-8) last played on Tuesday, when it delivered a sharp 108-97 road win against the Toronto Raptors. The victory was the club's fourth in a row and ninth in the past 10 games.

      The Bucks are on pace to become just the third 70-win team in NBA history. Only the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors (73-9) and 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10) have reached 70.

      Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded 19 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists against the Raptors in his latest strong effort, and he said the team prospers from a simple approach.

      "We just come out and try to do our job," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "We have a winning culture. So it doesn't matter if you are hurt, it doesn't matter if you are tired -- the next guy up is ready to go. Everybody wants to play, everybody wants to win, and that's why we win games."

      Veteran forward Marvin Williams is a newcomer who is still surveying the scene.

      The victory over Toronto was his fifth with the Bucks, and Williams said he has been impressed that the atmosphere isn't the least bit tense.

      "Guys here are very relaxed," Williams told reporters. "Honestly, much more relaxed than I thought they would be before I got here. It's their comfort zone, so it's kind of fun to watch. Their preparation -- they are very relaxed and focused about how they go about doing things."

      Williams knocked down three 3-pointers while recording nine points and five rebounds in 16 minutes against the Raptors.

      All-Star small forward Khris Middleton scored 22 points against Toronto and has topped 20 in four straight games. Middleton is averaging 28.8 points during the stretch, including a 40-point effort in Monday's 137-134 overtime win over the Washington Wizards.

      Milwaukee notched a 121-119 road victory over the Thunder on Nov. 10. Antetokounmpo led the way with 35 points and 16 rebounds. Reserve guard Dennis Schroder scored 25 points to pace Oklahoma City.

      --Field Level Media

  • NBA roundup: Harris carries short-handed Sixers
    By Field Level Media / Friday, February 28, 2020

    Tobias Harris scored 34 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists to lift the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers past the visiting New York Knicks, 115-106, on Thursday.

    • Al Horford had 15 points, nine assists and seven boards, and Shake Milton scored 19 points as the Sixers improved to a league-best 28-2 at home. Milton hit all five of his 3-point attempts, while Horford hit all four.

      Josh Richardson and Furkan Korkmaz had 11 each for the Sixers, who played without injured All-Stars Joel Embiid (shoulder) and Ben Simmons (back). The 76ers swept the four-game season series from the Knicks.

      Julius Randle paced the Knicks with 30 points and 10 rebounds, while Maurice Harkless scored 17 points, RJ Barrett added 15 and Elfrid Payton had 18 points and 12 assists. The Knicks have lost six in a row.

      Indiana Pacers 106 - Portland Trail Blazers 100

      Domantas Sabonis overcame early foul trouble to collect 20 points and 11 rebounds as Indiana recorded a victory over Portland in Indianapolis.

      Sabonis, whose father, Arvydas, played for the Trail Blazers, posted his 45th double-double of the season after playing just eight minutes in the first half. Sabonis picked up his third foul early in the second quarter on a charge against forward Caleb Swanigan.

      Indiana's Malcolm Brogdon had 17 points, and Victor Oladipo added 15 in his return from a two-game absence due to a back injury. T.J. Warren also had 15 points for the Pacers, who have won four of their past five contests following a season-long six-game losing streak.

      Oklahoma City Thunder 112 - Sacramento Kings 108

      Danilo Gallinari scored 24 points, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 20 as Oklahoma City beat visiting Sacramento.

      Chris Paul added 17 points and seven assists, and Steven Adams contributed 15 points and seven rebounds. The Thunder won their fifth straight game and 14th in the past 17. Dennis Schroder recorded 13 points and seven assists, and Nerlens Noel had 10 points and seven rebounds for the Thunder.

      Harrison Barnes scored 21 points, and Harry Giles III added 19 as Sacramento had a three-game winning streak halted. Nemanja Bjelica recorded 18 points and nine rebounds, Buddy Hield had 15 points on five 3-pointers while Bogdan Bogdanovic and Alex Len added 11 points apiece.

      Los Angeles Lakers 116 - Golden State Warriors 86

      Rajon Rondo scored eight of his 12 points during a third-quarter run-away, allowing visiting Los Angeles to break open a close game en route to a blowout win over Golden State.

      Anthony Davis went for a game-high-tying 23 points for the Lakers, who won their seventh straight despite giving LeBron James the night off to rest a sore groin. Kyle Kuzma scored 18 points, and Dwight Howard finished with 13 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers.

      Rookie Eric Paschall had 23 points for Golden State, which played without Andrew Wiggins, bothered by back spasms, before losing Draymond Green to a two-technical-foul ejection in the second quarter. Jordan Poole scored 16 points, and Damion Lee chipped in 15 points.

      --Field Level Media

  • Kings G Fox (abdominal) sits out
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    Sacramento Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox missed Thursday night's road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder due to lower abdominal tightness, the team announced.

    • Fox has been ailing all week. He briefly departed Tuesday's game with the Golden State Warriors due to right groin tightness, and he also has been bothered by left shoulder soreness.

      Veteran Cory Joseph started in Fox's place.

      The 22-year-old Fox is averaging 19.9 points, 6.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 39 games this season.

      --Field Level Media

  • NBA fines Timberwolves $25K for resting Russell
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    The Minnesota Timberwolves were fined $25,000 by the NBA on Thursday for violating the league's player resting policy.

    • The violation occurred when the Timberwolves were on the road to face the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, and they rested guard D'Angelo Russell, who under the policy was considered a healthy player.

      Minnesota called it a "planned rest" for a game the Nuggets won 128-116. Russell has dealt with a number of injuries this season, including knee soreness and shoulder, ankle and thigh ailments. On Feb. 8, he missed what would have been his Timberwolves debut due to a bruised right quad.

      In the last two Timberwolves games, Russell played 31 minutes in each, leading the team in scoring with 29 points against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday and 27 against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

      The Timberwolves issued a statement Thursday, and posted it on Twitter.

      "The Timberwolves accept the league's fine for resting D'Angelo Russell on the February 23 game versus Denver," the statement said. "While we respect the league's guidelines and standards, we are a player-centric organization that's focused on learning our players' bodies. As a new player in our program, we chose to rest D'Angelo in order to learn his body better and to optimize his health during a difficult stretch of games and travel."

      Minnesota acquired guard Russell, 23, from the Golden State Warriors in a trade in early February that included forward Andrew Wiggins. He has started all five games he has played for the Timberwolves, averaging 24.4 points, 8.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds.

      While with the Warriors, Russell missed nine games with a sprained thumb from Nov. 17-Dec. 2, and missed six games because of a shoulder issue from Dec. 31-Jan. 10.

      --Field Level Media

  • Now at full strength, Clippers, Nuggets set to duel
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    The Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets should be at full strength for their Friday night showdown in Los Angeles.

    • Injuries have hampered both teams throughout the season but that hasn't prevented them from being among the leaders in the Western Conference standings, where the Nuggets lead the Clippers by a game for second place, with the Los Angeles Lakers comfortably in first place.

      The Clippers have been without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley for stretches, while the Nuggets have played without Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Will Barton and Michael Porter Jr. However, all are expected to play Friday.

      On Tuesday, the Nuggets pounded the Detroit Pistons 115-98 behind a career-high 29 points on 12-of-15 shooting by reserve forward Jerami Grant.

      "I just rode (Grant) that whole second half," Denver coach Michael Malone told The Denver Post. "He was terrific."

      Nikola Jokic and Murray scored 16 points apiece for the Nuggets, who shot 57.9 percent from the floor and won their eighth contest in their last 11 games. Murray also had eight assists. Porter contributed 13 points, hitting 6 of 9 shots, with eight rebounds.

      The recent play of Millsap, who returned three weeks ago after missing 16 games with a knee injury, also pleased Malone. Although Millsap had nine points and four rebounds in 19 minutes against the Pistons, he scored 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in Sunday's 128-116 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

      "Since he's come back ... I think Paul's been terrific," Malone told the Post.

      Millsap managed just two points and six rebounds in 27 minutes in a 113-101 loss to the Thunder on Feb. 21, but he has scored in double figures in four of the six contests since his return.

      The Clippers earned a 102-92 victory over the host Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. Leonard had 24 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Clippers. Marcus Morris, who converted 4-of-8 3-pointers, added 18 points and Reggie Jackson chipped in 12.

      Leonard also helped slow Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker, one of the NBA's top scorers at 26.3 points per game. Booker missed 14 of 19 shots from the floor and seven of eight 3-pointers, finishing with 14 points.

      "That was the plan. Kawhi is Kawhi," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "He's amazing with his reach, his hands, his foot movement, he's very smart and extremely strong. I thought that set the tone for us, for sure."

      George struggled offensively for the second consecutive game since he returned from a strained hamstring. He managed 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting in 28 minutes against the Suns. In Monday's rout of the Memphis Grizzlies, George had seven points in 21 minutes. He missed eight of 11 field goals, including 4 of 5 3-pointers.

      The Nuggets captured a 114-104 win in the lone meeting this season on Jan. 12 at Denver. Jokic had 20 points and 15 rebounds, while Leonard scored 30 points. George was sidelined with a hamstring injury.

      --Field Level Media

  • Jazz look to halt losing skid vs. Wizards
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    The Utah Jazz will look to end a four-game losing streak when they host the Washington Wizards on Thursday night.

    • All four losses have come at home for Utah, which sits solidly in playoff positioning in the Western Conference but has been taking on water of late.

      The Wizards, meanwhile, have playoff aspirations of their own. They're ninth in the Eastern Conference, coming off a win over the Brooklyn Nets two nights after taking the Milwaukee Bucks into overtime.

      The Jazz faced one of the East's top teams on Wednesday night, falling to the Boston Celtics 114-103.

      Utah started the game 3-for-17 from the field, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range, but recovered to trail 53-51 at halftime and by 85-82 entering the fourth quarter. But the Celtics pulled away with a 13-3 run early in the fourth.

      "I thought we did a good job playing through it when we weren't making shots. Our defensive effort and our energy stayed at a good level. I felt differently about tonight's game compared to the games we've played the last couple days," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.

      "It's not a moral victory in that sense at all, but our team is going to keep working and finding it and keep getting better from where we were two nights ago (in a 20-point loss to the Phoenix Suns)."

      Utah's Donovan Mitchell scored a game-high 37 points on 15-for-32 shooting. The third-year guard has scored 30-plus points in three straight games, and he's now scored 35-plus points seven times this season.

      Mike Conley (15 points) and Royce O'Neale (14 points, three steals) were the only other Utah players to score in double figures.

      Joe Ingles (two points on 1-for-3 shooting) and Bojan Bogdanovic (three points on 1-for-8 shooting, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range) continued to struggle for the Jazz. O'Neale replaced Ingles in the starting lineup.

      "We've got some guys we believe in who are going to find it," Snyder said. "That's all of us, as much as anything. That's why it's a team game. The message is really that simple: Everybody just keep playing and competing. Play hard and play together and play defense."

      Washington lost its first three games after the All-Star break and squandered an 18-point lead against the Nets before pulling out the victory on Jerome Robinson's 3-pointer, followed by his rebound and two free throws after a Brooklyn miss in the final seconds. That sealed a 110-106 victory.

      After scoring 53 and 55 points in consecutive games, Bradley Beal settled for 30 points and an assist on the winning basket against Brooklyn.

      "If coach (Scott Brooks) has you on the floor, there's a reason you're out here," Beal said of Robinson. "I'm not going to chuck it up from 45 when I've got two, three people running at me. I've got wide open teammates. Win, lose or draw, I'm always going to trust guys who are wide open."

      Rui Hachimura added 17 points, and Davis Bertans (14 points) was back after missing the Milwaukee game with a sore right knee.

      "It's huge and it gets us back on track for the road," Robinson said of the win, which kept Washington on the doorstep of playoff eligibility. "We have got some tough ones on the road, but if we can keep going the way we are and keep pushing the pace like that, I think we will come out all right."

      Washington, which is opening a four-game Western Conference swing, lost to Utah 127-116 in D.C. on Jan. 12.

      The Wizards defense has improved since then. They had forced 20 or more turnovers in five straight games before settling for 18 against Brooklyn.

      --Field Level Media

  • Raptors host suddenly short-handed Hornets
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    The rebuilding Charlotte Hornets forced the Toronto Raptors to overtime before losing to the reigning NBA champions at home on Jan. 8.

    • The Hornets will be the visiting team Friday night, when they look for their first win in three games against the Raptors.

      Toronto won the overtime meeting 112-110 when Serge Ibaka made two free throws with 5.1 seconds to play.

      The Raptors lost for only the second time in 19 games Tuesday, falling 108-97 to the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.

      Charlotte ended a two-game skid Wednesday night, defeating the visiting New York Knicks 107-101 for their fifth win in 20 games. Terry Rozier scored 26 points.

      The Hornets will be without guard Malik Monk, who was suspended indefinitely Wednesday by the NBA for a violation of the league's anti-drug policy.

      "(The suspension) does put us in a bind," Hornets coach James Borrego said. "But in the end, this could be a very positive story. I look forward to talking to him."

      Monk was averaging 17.0 points his last 13 games, shooting 35.0 percent from 3-point range. He made the first start of his three-year NBA career Tuesday in a road loss to the Indiana Pacers.

      "Not just for a couple of games -- he had a good month's stretch here where he had been playing extremely well," Borrego said. "I think (he was) our leading scorer the last 15 games."

      Rookies Cody Martin (nine points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes Wednesday) and Caleb Martin (five points in 14 minutes) will get more playing time and Dwayne Bacon could be recalled from the G League's Greensboro Swarm. Bacon began the season as a Hornets starter.

      Hornets center Cody Zeller did not play for the second time in four games Wednesday despite being healthy. Charlotte is taking a long look at centers Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez, who will be free agents in July.

      The Raptors had their nine-game home winning streak stopped by the Bucks on Tuesday. The Bucks, who lead the Eastern Conference standings, held the Raptors to 35.2 percent shooting and 34.6 percent (18 of 52) from 3-point distance.

      "Look at the shooting percentages it wasn't too good either way," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "Pretty good defensive game both ways, I was pretty happy. I thought we were amazing for about 22 minutes and then we had the ball and had a little weird turnover in transition there to start their run and end the second quarter.

      "I don't know, we just didn't for some reason make enough of those (3-point) shots. I think we had some pretty good ones there. You probably can't have Serge (Ibaka) go 1 for 10, Kyle (Lowry) go 1 for 7 and Fred (VanVleet) go 3 for 9, but in saying that Serge had like 21 straight great games."

      Raptors guard Norman Powell (broken finger) was cleared to practice Thursday. He has missed the past nine games. He is considered questionable for Friday, but Nurse said there is a chance he will play.

      Raptors center Marc Gasol (hamstring) will not play. He has missed the past 11 games.

      --Field Level Media

  • Suns, Pistons to meet looking to cure recent woes
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    The Phoenix Suns will try to reignite their perimeter game when they host the floundering Detroit Pistons on Friday.

    • Coming off victories against the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, the Suns went cold from long distance in a 102-92 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. They made just 9 of 34 3-point attempts.

      "Shot quality was in the green for us. We just missed a ton of shots," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "The way we shot the ball, you wouldn't guess that we made nine."

      The Suns' offense was smoking against the usually stout Jazz defense, as they shot 56.3 percent from the field and made 12 of 20 3-point shots in a 131-111 victory. Phoenix's backcourt duo, Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio, combined for 46 points and 21 assists.

      They shot a combined 10-for-30 from the field against the Clippers and committed 11 turnovers. They did combine for 20 assists.

      "That's a really good team over there, (so) to lose by 10, especially the way we shot the ball and especially me personally, the way I shot the ball, to still be in the game and have a chance and keep fighting all the way until the end (is encouraging)," Booker told the Arizona Republic. "You see coach calling timeouts down to 10 seconds left, that's the demeanor and approach of our team."

      The Suns played without forward Kelly Oubre Jr., who reportedly has a torn meniscus in his right knee.

      "It's tough when you see one of your guys go down," center Aron Baynes said to the Republic. "Right now, he's got to do the right thing for him because he needs to be able to come back whenever that is in the right shape to contribute and do what he's done for us all season long."

      Detroit is mired in a seven-game losing streak. It hasn't won since Feb. 5, the day before center Andre Drummond was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers to begin a rebuild. Point guard Reggie Jackson and forward Markieff Morris subsequently had their contracts bought out.

      Playing with a much more inexperienced unit outside of point guard Derrick Rose, the Pistons don't have enough talent or cohesion to match up against most opponents.

      Their defense was picked apart by the playoff-bound Denver Nuggets in a 115-98 loss on Tuesday. The Nuggets shot 57.9 percent from the field.

      "I like some of the spurts that we had, but against good teams, you can't have the ‘Oh, my bads.' We had way too many 'My bads,'" coach Dwane Casey said. "We had people wide open, all over the place, and we missed some kick-outs. Against a team like this, they're going to convert on those types of mistakes. In the first half, we had so many defensive breakdowns, guys were late rotating for whatever reason."

      Power forward/center Christian Wood is averaging 22.5 points over the last four games. However, Casey wants Wood to be more cognizant of what defenders are doing.

      "He's got three guys in front of him, you've got a shooter, wide open, and until we grasp that, we're going to struggle," Casey said. "Those are plays that we work on. There are kick-out plays that generate 3-point shooting. You miss it this time, you miss it that time, and now your shooters are not ready to shoot it."

      Detroit's last victory came against the Suns. Drummond piled up 31 points and 19 rebounds in that 116-108 triumph.

      --Field Level Media

  • Clicking Cavs look to hamper Pelicans' playoff push
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    The New Orleans Pelicans' playoff push is off to a good start.

    • The Pelicans won two of three on a road trip to start their post-All-Star break schedule and moved closer to the eighth playoff position in the Western Conference.

      The Cleveland Cavaliers aren't going to the playoffs, but they have been playing well of late, too. They have won four of five as they prepare to visit New Orleans on Friday.

      The Pelicans have won five of their past seven games overall. They beat Portland and Golden State before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers 118-109 in the final game of their road trip on Tuesday.

      Rookie Zion Williamson had 29 points and six rebounds, his ninth consecutive game with at least 20 points. All-Star forward Brandon Ingram had 34 points. It was the first time Ingram and Williamson, who has played just 13 games, both had at least 25 points in the same game.

      "I think it was only a matter of time," Williamson said. "Eleven, 12, 13 games in, the chemistry was eventually going to be found and I think we're finding it."

      The Pelicans are in 10th place in the West, three games behind eighth-place Memphis but just 1 1/2 games out of 13th place.

      "We understand what's at stake," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. "We have 24 games left and the margin for error is almost none. You have five teams trying to get one spot."

      New Orleans, which has won its past eight home games against the Cavaliers, won 125-111 at Cleveland on Jan. 28. That was the Cavs' 13th loss in 16 games -- but things have changed.

      "They're probably on a high right now because they're playing very, very well," New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday said of the Cavaliers. "But we're also playing very, very well."

      The Cavaliers never trailed in a 108-94 home victory against Philadelphia on Wednesday. They played without starting center Andre Drummond, who is day to day because of a strained left calf. Tristan Thompson started in his place and had 14 points and 13 rebounds.

      Cleveland is 3-1 under coach J.B. Bickerstaff since John Beilein resigned during the All-Star break.

      "Defense, defense, defense," said forward Larry Nance Jr., who had 13 points and 15 rebounds. "J.B. has been preaching that -- just energy and unselfishness. We've really been doing that on both ends, especially the defensive end."

      Collin Sexton scored 28 points to lead six Cavaliers in double figures against the Sixers. The victory was the Cavs' second in three nights against a team with a winning record. They overcame a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Miami 125-119 in overtime Monday.

      "There's been a concerted effort, to a man, to go out and get after it a little bit harder," Bickerstaff said. "There's an energy that's building and you don't want to be the one guy that's not participating in it.

      "You see the leadership, you see the young guys, they are pushing one another, they are holding each other accountable, they are having real conversations to fix problems. The environment and culture we are creating is growing and that's going to be the foundation of it. It's a bunch of guys who play hard but play well together also."

      --Field Level Media

  • Slumping Heat seek improvement vs. Mavs
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    The slumping Miami Heat have lost two straight games to two of the NBA's five-worst teams -- the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

    • On Friday, the Heat will play host to the rising Dallas Mavericks, a young team that has won two straight games.

      Dallas' stars are two Europeans -- Kristaps Porzingis, 24, and Luca Doncic, who turns 21 on Friday.

      "We're still learning," Doncic said of the relatively inexperienced Mavs. "It's not always going to be perfect."

      Even so, there's a lot of potential on the Mavs. Doncic, a 6-foot-7, second-year guard from Slovenia, is sixth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 28.7 points. He also leads the team in rebounds (9.6) and assists (8.7).

      Porzingis, a 7-3 center from Latvia, leads the team in blocks (1.9) and ranks second in scoring (18.7) and rebounds (9.2).

      In Wednesday's 109-103 win over the host San Antonio Spurs, Porzingis had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and Doncic added 26 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

      "We're getting to know each other and the little details of the game," said Porzingis, a former New York Knicks star who is in his first season playing with Doncic. "We have better rhythm now."

      The Heat, meanwhile, have no rhythm at the moment, having lost seven of nine games. Much of that has to do with seven road games during that stretch and the Heat's poor 13-18 road record.

      But on Wednesday, the Heat sunk to a new low by losing to Minnesota at home. The Timberwolves entered that game having lost 18 of their previous 19 games overall.

      "We just don't know," Heat veteran guard Goran Dragic said of the loss. "It's frustrating. It feels like we're not the same team we were in the first half of the season."

      Miami's 23-4 home record is still one of the three best marks in the NBA. But this slump has to be a concern for the Heat.

      Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is trying to steady the proverbial ship, saying -- in essence -- that this too shall pass.

      "I just think that this is our period of the season where we have adversity," Spoelstra said.

      Friday's game should be interesting because Doncic and Dragic are countrymen. When the Mavs visited Miami last season, there were more than 2,000 Slovenians attending the game, and a similar showing is expected on Friday.

      Dragic, who on Wednesday passed Grant Long for 10th place on the Heat career scoring list, is one of the veteran leaders on the team, along with Jimmy Butler and emerging star Bam Adebayo.

      Butler leads Miami in scoring (20.5), assists (6.2) and steals (1.8). Adebayo leads the team in rebounds (10.5) and blocks (1.2) while also ranking third in points (16.2) and second in assists (5.1).

      Adebayo is playing despite a sprained right ankle. In fact, his streak of consecutive games played is at 144, which puts him in fourth place in franchise history.

      Dragic is Miami's top reserve, ranking second in points (16.3) and third in assists (5.0).

      The Heat again are expected to be without Tyler Herro and center Meyers Leonard, who have each missed nine straight games due to ankle injuries.

      Dallas is without 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein, who is expected to miss another couple of games due to personal reasons. Mavs guard Jalen Brunson (shoulder) and power forward Dwight Powell (foot) are also out.

      --Field Level Media

  • Nets seek reversal of fortunes, road win vs. Hawks
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    The Brooklyn Nets suffered a tough loss at Washington on Wednesday despite succeeding in not letting Bradley Beal hit a game-winning shot.

    • The Nets continue their four-game road trip Friday, when they visit the Atlanta Hawks. And this time, the Nets don't want to let second-year guard Trae Young take that potential game-winning shot.

      Beal scored 30 points in the Nets' 110-106 loss, and they double-teamed the Wizards' star to keep him from getting a shot off on a late possession. However, the Nets did not finish the defensive sequence when Spencer Dinwiddie was late to defend Jerome Robinson, who sank the game-winning 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left.

      The shot sent the Nets to a second straight close loss after having won eight of 12 games. Brooklyn blew a 19-point lead at home in a 115-113 loss to Orlando on Monday.

      Two nights later, the Nets stormed back from 18 points down and took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter before seeing their lead over eighth-place Orlando shrink to one half-game.

      "We were in a junk defense, box-and-one type of defense, and there was a screen at the top. They overloaded the back side," Brooklyn's Caris LeVert said. "If we'd have talked better we probably would've matched up better."

      LeVert scored 34 points and is averaging 23.8 points in his past nine games, but he also acknowledged the Nets lacked focus in the past two games.

      "That's our job," LeVert said. "We've got to come in locked in from the start, no matter who we're playing, for a full 48 minutes. I feel like for stretches of the game we'll have it, but not for a full 48 minutes."

      Brooklyn enters on an eight-game winning streak against the Hawks. During the Nets' longest winning streak in team history against an opponent, the average margin of victory is 13 points and the only one-possession game in the streak was a 114-112 win in Atlanta on March 9, 2019.

      When the Nets rolled to a 108-86 rout of the Hawks on Jan. 12, Atlanta was in a stretch of 15 losses in 17 games. Since the last meeting, Atlanta is 9-11, with seven of those wins coming at home.

      Young did not play in the last meeting because of a left hamstring injury but scored 39 points on Dec. 4 in a 130-118 loss to Brooklyn. He then scored 47 in a 122-112 defeat on Dec. 21.

      Young scored 37 points Wednesday when the Hawks were handed a 130-120 home loss by Orlando. He played through flu-like symptoms, but along with the rest of his teammates, endured a third quarter in which the Hawks allowed 39 points.

      "The third quarter was brutal," Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said. "The first timeout is called, and we just kind of fell apart the rest of that third quarter. It's really our defensive end. We just couldn't get stops."

      Being unable to get stops is hardly a new development for the Hawks. While Atlanta has watched Young produce 29 games with at least 30 points, it also has allowed at least 130 points 14 times.

      "There's a lot that needs to be changed," Young said. "We've just got to bring it more. We need to fight harder. It's stuff that we can control. Defensive end, we've got to fight harder."

      --Field Level Media

  • Magic playing well as T-Wolves visit
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    The Orlando Magic have reversed course following a disastrous stretch to both strengthen their grasp on the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot and inch closer to the No. 7 seed.

    • The Magic aim to continue their ascent Friday, when they host the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves.

      Orlando answered a run of eight losses in nine games with its fourth win in five outings on Wednesday, courtesy of a 130-120 victory over Atlanta.

      Mo Bamba flourished in the early stages against the Hawks, Aaron Gordon scored 18 of his 25 points in the third quarter and Evan Fournier added 14 of his 28 in the fourth.

      "That's the way it's gotta be," Magic coach Steve Clifford said. "That's what the NBA is. If you want to win, you've gotta have everybody playing well, and our guys know that. We've won four out of five and that's the way it's gotta be."

      Bamba matched a career high with 15 points after Nikola Vucevic picked up two quick fouls. Bamba also had 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.

      Gordon has turned it up in February by averaging 19.9 points and 9.0 rebounds. The spirited stretch has boosted the 24-year-old's season averages to 14.5 and 7.5, respectively.

      "No adjustments ... just playing the same game, bringing a little bit more energy to it," Gordon said, per the Orlando Sentinel. "Just kind of being more physical ... turning my motor on."

      Fournier, who shares the team lead with 19.0 points per game, has upped the ante over his last three. He's averaging 25.7 points while shooting 54.7 percent (29 of 53).

      The recent drive has enabled Orlando to grab a 4 1/2-game lead for the final playoff spot in the conference standings and pull to a half-game behind seventh-place Brooklyn. The No. 7 seed holds greater weight considering the owner of the eighth slot likely will face reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and league-best Milwaukee in the first round.

      The Timberwolves answered a dismal 1-18 run with a sterling comeback in a 129-126 victory at Miami on Wednesday. Minnesota overcame a 12-point deficit with 3:59 remaining in the fourth quarter to complete its second straight season sweep of the Heat.

      "You just can't say enough about the group in the locker room," Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. "It's a special group the way these guys are pushing through a lot of unknowns, a lot of change, a lot of adversity right now so I'm just really thrilled for this group."

      D'Angelo Russell highlighted his 27-point performance by sinking seven 3-pointers against Miami. The 24-year-old is averaging 24.4 points, 8.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds in five games since being acquired from Golden State earlier this month.

      Malik Beasley, acquired from Denver in a blockbuster four-team trade earlier this month, is averaging 21.7 points and 6.0 rebounds in seven games with the Timberwolves.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Suns F Oubre has torn meniscus
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    Phoenix Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. has a torn meniscus in his right knee, Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported Thursday.

    • Oubre is in the process of seeking a second opinion with a specialist, according to the report.

      Oubre did not play in the Suns' 102-92 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.

      He scored 18 points in 38 minutes in Monday's 131-111 road win against the Utah Jazz, and is averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds in 56 games (55 starts) this season. He ranks second on the Suns in 3-pointers made (108) and is third in steals (71).

      Oubre, 24, joined Phoenix in a December 2018 trade with the Washington Wizards. The 2015 first-round pick (15th overall) has averaged 10.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 348 games with the Wizards and Suns.

      --Field Level Media

  • Sixers' Embiid (shoulder) out Thursday vs. Knicks
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 27, 2020

    Joel Embiid won't be in the lineup Thursday when the Philadelphia 76ers host the New York Knicks.

    • The All-Star center left Wednesday's game in Cleveland and didn't return due to a sprained shoulder.

      Embiid was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test on Thursday, but ESPN reported the team had already decided not to play him against the Knicks. Philadelphia is 27-2 at home this season, but will also be playing without All-Star Ben Simmons (back).

      Simmons will miss his third consecutive game with a nerve impingement in his lower back. He could be sidelined for an extended period.

      Embiid poured in a career-high 49 points to go along with 14 rebounds without Simmons in Monday's win over the Atlanta Hawks.

      --Field Level Media