National Basketball Association
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  • Friday, March 27, 2015
    Ilyasova leads Bucks over Pacers
    By The Sports Xchange

    MILWAUKEE -- Ersan Ilyasova was having a career night but the Milwaukee Bucks still had to sweat it out down the stretch Thursday night.

    • Ilyasova scored nine of his career-high 24 points in the final quarter as Milwaukee held off a comeback attempt by Indiana to post a 111-107 victory over the Pacers, winning consecutive games for the first time in a month.

      "He was cooking," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "He was aggressive, he took open shots and he just didn't settle. He also put the ball on the floor and everything he shot pretty much went in."

      Ilyasova was on from the start and single-handedly outscored Indiana in the first quarter. He knocked down three 3-pointers and had 17 points as the Bucks, who shot 74 percent from the floor in the quarter, took a 34-15 lead.

      "The offense was working for us," said Ilyasova, who made 12 of 14 shots including five 3-pointers. "I found myself open a couple times and I just tried to make those shots."

      Thursday marked the ninth straight double-digit scoring game for Ilyasova.

      "He's been playing at an All-Star level for them lately and it showed tonight that he's a focal point of that team," Pacers guard George Hill said. "He's a tough cover. Very aggressive, can shoot the ball. He's a smart defender, a smart guy. He had it clicking on all cylinders tonight."

      Like Ilyasova dominated the early parts of the game for Milwaukee, Hill took control down the stretch and scored 15 of his 24 points in the final quarter as the Pacers tried to claw their way back.

      He knocked down four 3-pointers in the final quarter and made it a 94-92 game when he hit his fourth 3-pointer with 5:41 to play.

      "We got a couple of stops in a row and we moved the ball very well," Hill said. "We drew double teams and our bigs made plays."

      But Bucks point guard Michael Carter-Williams gave Milwaukee some breathing room, converting a three-point play. After an Indiana shot clock violation, Carter-Williams found shooting guard Khris Middleton open in the corner for a 3-pointer with 4:54 left, extending the lead to eight.

      Hill had a chance to tie the score with 1.8 seconds left, but his 3-point attempt rolled off the rim and Bucks guard Jerryd Bayless closed the game by hitting one of two free throws.

      "It felt good," Hill said. "Was probably the best shot all day, just the worst result."

      Indiana came into the game having lost six of their last seven contests but was looking to get back on track after a fourth quarter rally Wednesday against Washington. But the Pacers turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter and went 6 of 19 from the field.

      "I'm proud of our fight and how they got back into it but you can't start the way we did," Vogel said. "I thought we played with energy but we just weren't very good early."

      All five Milwaukee starters reached double figures. Middleton had 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, forward Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 16 points, Carter-Williams 13 and center Zaza Pachulia had 12.

      "It probably wasn't fun to watch as a spectator," Kidd said. "There was no rhythm to the game but that happens sometimes. I thought the guys kept their composure, played through it and found a way to get a big win."

      Shooting guard C.J. Miles scored 26 points and reserve point guard C.J. Watson had 23 off the bench for the Pacers, who shot 42 percent from the field and made 14 of 30 3-point attempts but finished with 23 turnovers which Milwaukee turned into 19 points.

      NOTES: Pacers F David West was held out of the game because of an unspecified allergic reaction. ... Bucks G Jared Dudley and G O.J. Mayo were both available. Dudley missed Milwaukee's previous six games because of back issues, while Mayo returned and played five minutes Tuesday night after missing 12 of the last 14 games because of a sore hamstring. ... Pacers PG Rodney Stuckey missed his second consecutive game because of a strained left calf. ... Indiana allowed opponents to score an average of 108.2 points over the previous six games and began Thursday allowing 97.1 points per game this season. ... Milwaukee has lost three of four meetings with Indiana this season and dropped three straight home games against the Pacers.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Injured Nets F Young won't play Friday
    By The Sports Xchange

    Brooklyn Nets forward Thaddeus Young will not play Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Brooklyn because of a left knee strain, the team announced Thursday.

    • Young, who hyperextended his left knee Wednesday in Charlotte, also is listed as doubtful for Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

      X-rays Wednesday night were negative, and an MRI exam Thursday revealed the knee strain.

      Young has averaged 13.6 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Nets, who acquired him from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett last month.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Raptors sign Nogueira
    By The Sports Xchange

    Lucas Nogueira signed with the Toronto Raptors from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League.

    • Nogueira appeared in four games with Fort Wayne, averaging 8.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 20.0 minutes. He totaled 18 points and 19 rebounds in 27 minutes in his first outing March 14 against Delaware.

      Nogueira debuted Nov. 21 against Milwaukee and grabbed a season-high five rebounds in nine minutes. He has played a total of 23 minutes in six games with Toronto this season, recording six points and 11 rebounds.

      A native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Nogueira was selected 16th overall by Boston in the 2013 NBA Draft. The Raptors acquired his rights June 30, 2014 from Atlanta.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Kings maintain mastery of Suns
    By The Sports Xchange

    PHOENIX -- The Sacramento Kings have only 10 wins in 34 road games this season, but when they come to Arizona, they are road warriors.

    • Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and the Kings dealt the Suns' playoff hopes a severe blow with a 108-99 win over Phoenix on Wednesday night.

      Cousins has eight double-double in his past 10 games and ranks second in the NBA with 43 double-doubles this season, second only to Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol, who has 47.

      The Kings had 27 assists in the game to 14 for the Suns, and five Sacramento players had also least three.

      "I always feel like this is one of our toughest games," Cousins said. "They like to get up and down, and it's tough to keep up throughout the whole games. Right now we are trusting each other; we're making the extra pass. We're not getting good shots, we're getting great shots."

      Forward Rudy Gay and guard Ray McCallum scored 14 points each for Sacramento, and guard Ben McLemore had six of his 12 points on a pair of big 3-pointers down the stretch. The Kings, who had seven players finish in double figures, earned a fourth consecutive win for the first time since they won five in a row from Oct. 31-Nov. 7.

      "I wasn't making my shot early, but that's my job, and you have to keep taking them," said McLemore, who finished 5-for-9 from the floor. "Winning four in a row right now, it's a good confidence booster for us."

      The Kings won three of four games against Phoenix this season -- with three different coaches (Mike Malone, Ty Corbin and George Karl) -- and swept both games at US Airways Center for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Cousins, who beat the Suns on a buzzer-beater in Sacramento on Feb. 8 and scored 25 and 28 points in two previous games against Phoenix, is a big reason.

      "They really don't have anybody to guard (Cousins) out there," Gay said. "He's a big guy, and he's hard to guard. They send the whole team at him, and he's still been so successful."

      Forward Markieff Morris scored 24 points for the Suns, who missed an opportunity to gain on the Oklahoma City Thunder, who hold the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Thunder were blown out by the San Antonio Spurs 130-91 Wednesday, but they remain three games ahead of the Suns with 10 games remaining.

      The Suns had won four in a row and beaten Houston and Dallas on back-to-back nights. But they didn't play nearly as well against the Kings.

      "That's what hurts the most, seeing how good we can be and how good we've been," Marcus Morris said. "But you can't take anything away from Sacramento. We always struggle with them."

      Guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Marcus Morris had 19 points each for the Suns, who missed 19 of 25 3-point attempts and never led after the first quarter. Phoenix shot just 65.4 percent (17-for-26) from the foul line.

      Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said Bledsoe was battling the flu but played when guard Brandon Knight, who was hoping to play for the first time in seven games, was unable to go after testing his sprained ankle before the game.

      "You could tell (Bledsoe) didn't have the same energy he's had the last four or five games." Hornacek said. "He was trying to conserve a little energy for the second half, but offensively (the Kings) were getting whatever they wanted."

      The game had 12 lead changes in the first six minutes and stayed close before the Kings scored the final seven points of the first quarter. Two jumpers by guard Nik Stauskas and two free throws by forward Derrick Williams gave Sacramento a 31-26 lead.

      "It's the same thing we talk about all the time. You can't let a team get going in the first quarter," Hornacek said. "When we're on the road and we score 30 points in the first quarter, now you feel confident that you can score, and that's what happened tonight. We never really stopped them."

      The Kings (26-45) extended the lead to 38-28 on a 3-pointer by guard Andre Miller with 10:15 in the half before the Suns responded with seven straight points to stay within range. Cousins answered with eight points in the quarter and boosted the lead to 46-38.

      Suns guard Archie Goodwin had six of his seven first-half points in the final 1:05 of the second quarter, including a 22-footer just before the buzzer to pull Phoenix within 58-53 at intermission.

      The Suns (38-34) scored just 17 points in the third quarter, missing 16 of 22 shots from the field, and the Kings closed the period on an 11-2 run. A Gay layup with 32.9 seconds left gave Sacramento its biggest lead of the game at 83-70.

      Phoenix got as close as five points twice in the fourth quarter, the last time on a Marcus Morris 3-pointer with 23.9 seconds left.

      NOTES: Suns F Markieff Morris (19 points, 13 rebounds) and F Marcus Morris (11 points, 11 rebounds) had double-doubles in the same game for the first time Sunday in a 98-92 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Both brothers started the past seven games, averaging a combined 33.1 points and 14.9 rebounds as the Suns went 5-2. ... Sacramento coach George Karl on the 33-point, 17-rebound, four-steal, four-block effort by DeMarcus Cousins in a 107-106 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday: "That was maybe one of the best big-guy performances I've ever seen or coached. He is highly skilled and can do any aspect of the game of basketball."... In their last three wins, the Suns -- with F P.J. Tucker as the primary defender -- held shooting guards from New Orleans (Eric Gordon), Houston (James Harden) and Monta Ellis (Dallas) to a combined 13.7 points and 26.3 percent shooting.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Trail Blazers rally late to defeat Jazz
    By The Sports Xchange

    SALT LAKE CITY -- Portland replayed the same script throughout the bulk of a five-game losing streak over the past two weeks. The Trail Blazers would dig a third-quarter hole and fail to climb out before the fourth quarter ended.

    • When Utah took a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter, it felt like familiar territory. This time around, Portland crafted a much more satisfying ending.

      Guard Damian Lillard scored 13 of his 23 points in the final quarter -- including the go-ahead free throws with a minute left -- to lift the Trail Blazers to a 92-89 comeback victory over the Jazz on Wednesday night.

      LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points and forward Dorrell Wright chipped in 15 off the bench to help Portland (45-25) win for the sixth time in its past seven contests against Utah.

      Lillard credited the latest win to the Trail Blazers turning up the heat defensively in the fourth quarter.

      "We got aggressive on defense," Lillard said. "We were more physical. Our hands were more active. We were getting deflections and getting out in transition. ... We picked it up on that end of the floor and everything just seemed like it came into place offensively."

      Forward Derrick Favors scored 26 points and collected 13 rebounds while guard Trey Burke chipped in 22 points to lead the Jazz. Center Rudy Gobert added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Utah (31-40), which lost its third straight game.

      The Trail Blazers outdueled the Jazz in fast-break points, finishing with a 21-6 edge. Several of those baskets came at critical fourth-quarter junctures. It helped Portland outscore Utah 37-24 in the final 12 minutes.

      "We need to be smarter," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "I thought we had some breakdowns, obviously in the fourth quarter defensively, giving up that many points.

      Portland's offense got suffocated by the Jazz defense as the third quarter progressed. Utah forced the Blazers to commit five turnovers over the final 3 1/2 minutes of the quarter and closed it out on a 15-2 run.

      The Blazers took the lead after trailing much of the first half when Lillard hit a 3-pointer to make it 2-39. Portland still led 53-50 when the Jazz took control defensively.

      Utah went ahead when guard Joe Ingles hit a go-ahead jumper and then stole the ball and turned it into a layup. Burke's putback layup punctuated the 15-2 run, giving the Jazz a 65-55 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

      "They played well the whole game," Aldridge said. "We stayed with it. Guys made shots down the stretch. We got our defensive stops down the stretch too. Our game got better overall as the game went on."

      Portland made up ground again and finally retook the lead late in the fourth quarter. Lillard converted a 3-point play to put the Blazers in front by one. Then, after a jumper from Burke, Lillard hit two free throws to make it 89-88 for Portland with 1:00 left.

      Aldridge made a layup and hit a free throw in the final seconds to seal the win. Favors had a 3-pointer that would have forced overtime bank off the glass and rim out at the buzzer.

      "I thought it was a tough game mentally," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Losing five in a row, having them go on their run in the third quarter and being down on the road. It's tough and I like the way we persevered through it."

      Utah took advantage of cold shooting from Portland in the first quarter to grab an early lead. The Trail Blazers shot just 5-of-20 (25 percent) from the field. Portland endured a 6 1/2-minute stretch without scoring a point -- missing 10 straight shots during that stretch.

      The Jazz used a 17-2 run during that stretch to go in front by double digits. Favors fueled the bulk of the run. He scored back-to-back baskets to give Utah its first lead at 8-7 and then scored on back-to-back possessions again late in the quarter to help the Jazz take a 19-9 lead.

      Favors finished the first half with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting and seven rebounds.

      "I just wanted to be aggressive and try to get things going in the paint early," Favors said.

      The Trail Blazers did not end their first-quarter scoring drought until Wright drained a 3-pointer with 24.9 seconds left to cut Utah's lead to 19-12.

      Portland rallied early in the second quarter. The Trail Blazers scored on four consecutive possessions -- culminating in a jumper from guard C.J. McCollum -- to tie the game at 27-27. Utah prevented Portland from finally going back on top. Favors dunked the ball and guard Elijah Millsap drained a 3-pointer less than a minute later to push the Jazz lead to 32-27.

      The Trail Blazers cut the deficit to one three times -- the final time on a dunk from guard Allen Crabbe. Favors made a big play once again to keep Utah in front. He converted a 3-point play with 1:25 left before halftime to boost the Jazz lead back to four at 39-35.

      NOTES: Blazers F LaMarcus Aldridge (sprained left index finger) was back after sitting out one game. ... Jazz F Gordon Hayward missed his second straight game with a left shoulder sprain and G Rodney Hood sat out with gastrointestinal distress. ... Blazers C Chris Kaman missed his third game in a row due to a sprained right shoulder while F Nicolas Batum missed his second straight game with a sore lower back. ... Portland ranks ninth in the NBA in scoring at 102.7 points per game while Utah ranks 26th with 94.8 points per contest. The Jazz, however, are allowing only 95.0 points per game -- the fewest in the league. ... The Blazers connected on 41 3-pointers against the Jazz last season, the highest amount against any Western Conference opponent. ... Jazz C Rudy Gobert has pulled down 15.7 rebounds per game in March, ranking second in the NBA in that category for the month.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Clippers cruise past overmatched Knicks
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW YORK -- While coaching the New York Knicks last season, Mike Woodson was on the short end of many blowout losses that ultimately cost him his job.

    • On Wednesday, as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers, Woodson was in a rare position to discuss a resounding victory. The Clippers rolled to a 111-80 win over the Knicks in Woodson's first game back at Madison Square Garden since getting fired last spring.

      Woodson addressed the media in place of Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers, whom Woodson said was sick. Rivers was on the bench the entire game.

      "My boss (Rivers) told me to go out there, so I did," Woodson said with a smile outside the Los Angeles locker room. "But tonight is not about me. This is about the Clippers and the fine team that Doc has put together.

      "We are playing for something. The (Western Conference) is tight in terms of everyone jockeying for position."

      The Clippers (47-25) had six players score in double figures, led by shooting guard Austin Rivers, who scored 21 points off the bench. Guard J.J. Redick scored 17 points, and Los Angeles got 14 points from forward Blake Griffin and 14 points, 10 points and blocked five shots from center DeAndre Jordan.

      Point guard Chris Paul contributed 11 points and 16 assists, one shy of his season best and five short of his career high. Forward Matt Barnes chipped in with 11 points.

      The Knicks, who dressed only 10 players due to various injuries, were led by rookie forward Cleanthony Early's career high 18 points. Forward Lance Thomas added 14 points.

      New York (14-58) lost by 20 points or more for the 17th time this season. The Knicks dropped their fourth straight and fell for the 12th time in the past 14.

      The 31-point defeat was the second worst for New York this season and the 14th wire-to-wire loss. The Knicks lost by 38 points to the Sacramento Kings on March 3.

      "I have been on that end of the stick, and it's not fun," Woodson said. "But this isn't about me. I've moved on, and this is about Doc's team."

      With Los Angeles holding a 90-54 lead going into the fourth quarter, Rivers was able to rest his starters.

      "It's always a luxury to get guys rest, especially close to the postseason," Paul said. "I thought we played the right way tonight. We shared the ball, and most of all, we defended.

      "Even when we went up 20, 25 or 30, we didn't want to be careless. Sometimes when you get leads like that, you can try stuff and (mess) with the game, and we didn't do that."

      New York never got closer than 28 points in the third quarter and trailed by as many as 40.

      Los Angeles built a 63-33 halftime cushion by shooting 57 percent from the floor and dominating the low post. Jordan led the interior attack with 10 first-half points and seven rebounds, and Redick poured in 15 points before the break, mostly on long-range jumpers.

      "I told them to still show the proper respect to themselves and the game," Knicks coach Derek Fisher said about his halftime speech. "It is obviously tough for these guys to continue to go out there and fight.

      "We are overmatched in a lot of ways, but our guys are not quitting. Some of our playmakers are out right now, and some of it is also fatigue. We have guys who are playing big minutes and taking on big responsibility every night. That isn't by design."

      New York moved within 28-20 early in the second quarter before the Clippers went on a 20-9 blitz to grab a commanding 48-29 lead. Austin Rivers scored eight points in the run.

      NOTES: The Knicks were without G Jose Calderon (strained left Achilles tendon), G Tim Hardaway Jr. (sprained right wrist), G Alexey Shved (rib contusion) and F Travis Wear (sore lower back). ... Entering Wednesday's games, Los Angeles C DeAndre Jordan led the league in field-goal percentage (.709) and rebounds (14.8 per game). He shot 7-for-7 from the floor against the Knicks and grabbed 10 boards. Jordan holds the longest active consecutive games played streak at 312. ... Los Angeles G Chris Paul began the night ranked first in the league in assists per turnover (4.24). He recorded 16 assists and five turnovers Wednesday.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    NBA roundup: Howard returns in Rockets' win
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW ORLEANS -- Guard James Harden scored 25 points and dished out 10 assists and forward Trevor Ariza added 22 points to lift the Houston Rockets to a 95-93 victory over the slumping New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center.

    • The Rockets trailed by as many as 17 points in the second quarter, but they erased the deficit with a 35-12 run over an 11:20 span of the second and third quarters.

      Center Dwight Howard returned to the Rockets' starting lineup after missing the last two months with a sore right knee. Howard played 16 minutes and scored four points and had seven rebounds. Forward Donatas Motiejunas added 21 points for the Rockets, who have won five of their last six games.

      The Pelicans dropped their fourth consecutive game, tying their longest losing streak of the season.

      Hawks 95, Magic 83

      ORLANDO, Fla. -- Forward Paul Millsap had 25 points and 11 rebounds, leading Atlanta to a victory over Orlando.

      The Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak, the worst stretch in their strong season. They already have clinched their first division title since 1995. Guard Jeff Teague had 16 points, including nine points in the final five minutes when the Hawks took control after trailing much of the game.

      Hawks guard Kyle Korver added 13 points, and forward DeMarre Carroll had 11 points and seven rebounds. Center Al Horford chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds. Guard Elfird Payton led Orlando with 19 points.

      Clippers 111, Knicks 80

      NEW YORK -- Guard Austin Rivers scored 21 points to lead six Los Angeles players in double figures, and the Clippers routed the Knicks.

      Guard J.J. Redick scored 17 points, and Los Angeles got 14 points from forward Blake Griffin and 14 points, 10 points and blocked five shots from center DeAndre Jordan. Point guard Chris Paul contributed 11 points and 16 assists, one shy of his season best and five short of his career high.

      The Knicks, who dressed only 10 players due to various injuries, were led by rookie forward Cleanthony Early's career-high 18 points. Forward Lance Thomas added 14 points.

      Bulls 116, Raptors 103

      TORONTO -- For a fourth time this season and fifth time in a row, Chicago defeated Toronto. Guard Jimmy Butler led way with 23 points, and the Bulls used a late 7-0 run led by a 3-pointer from guard Aaron Brooks to pull away for the victory.

      Bulls forward Paul Gasol had 18 points, Brooks finished with 16, and reserve forwards Terry Snell and forward Nikola Mirotic added 17 and 15 points, respectively.

      Toronto got a season-high 22 points from guard Greivis Vasquez, who matched a career best by hitting six 3-pointers (in 11 attempts). Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan added 20 points, guard Lou Williams had 18 points off the bench, and forward Terrence Ross scored 16.

      Pacers 103, Wizards 101

      WASHINGTON -- Guard George Hill scored on a layup with 2.7 seconds left and Indiana ended a six-game losing streak with a win over Washington.

      With Argentine soccer legend Lionel Messi on hand, the Pacers (31-40) kicked their offense into winning mode with a 23-11 closing run. Hill scored 12 points in the quarter, including the final basket after Wizards guard John Wall's 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds left tied the score at 101.

      Wall scored 34 points -- 27 after halftime -- for the Wizards (41-31), who have lost four straight. The All-Star scored 12 of Washington's 14 points during one stretch for a 90-80 lead with 6:46 left with Messi and members of the Argentine national team watching.

      Heat 93, Celtics 86

      BOSTON -- Seriously undermanned Miami, which blew a game in the closing minutes at Milwaukee on Tuesday night, fought off a fourth-quarter charge by Boston and survived.

      Despite the absence of guard Dwyane Wade, center Hassan Whiteside and forward Chris Andersen, and with forwards Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts gone for the year, the Heat remained in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

      Miami (33-38) leads Boston (31-40) and the Indiana Pacers (31-40) by two games as the teams fight for the conference's last two playoff spots. The Celtics are ahead on a tiebreaker. The Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets are each a half-game behind the Celtics and Pacers.

      Cavaliers 111, Grizzlies 89

      MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Cleveland cruised to an easy win over Memphis at FedExForum behind a game-high 24 points from point guard Kyrie Irving and a double-double by forward Kevin Love with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

      The Cavaliers blew the game open in the third quarter, going on a 22-4 run to take a 86-57 lead with 1:52 left in the quarter after a 3-pointer from guard Matthew Dellavedova (nine points, four assists).

      Forward LeBron James had 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Cavaliers. Center Timofey Mozgov contributed 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a block.

      Nets 91, Hornets 88

      CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Center Brook Lopez continued his torrid play with 34 points and 10 rebounds, and Brooklyn beat Charlotte in a huge game for both teams' playoff aspirations.

      Lopez, who had averaged 29.7 points over his previous three games, was 16 of 26 from the field. His floater in the lane with 23.1 seconds left gave the Nets the lead for good at 87-85, and then he turned defensive hero at the end. With the Hornets inbounding with 3.2 seconds left trailing by three, Lopez deflected an inbounds pass to cause a turnover and the Nets were able to run out the clock.

      The Nets (30-40) are now tied with the Hornets (30-40), one-half game out of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The win gave the Nets the tiebreaker advantage over the Hornets by virtue of two wins in three games between the teams this season.

      Lakers 101, Timberwolves 99 (OT)

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Two free throws by guard Jordan Clarkson with 0.3 seconds remaining in overtime lifted Los Angeles to a win over Minnesota at Target Center.

      Clarkson led the Lakers with 20 points and finished 8-for-8 from the foul line. He also made a driving layup with 34.5 seconds left in overtime to give Los Angeles the lead for good.

      Lakers guard Jeremy Lin added 19 points, and forward Ed Davis contributed 14 points and nine rebounds. Forward Ryan Kelly and center Tarik Black each had 11 points. Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins scored a game-high 27 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the floor. Forward Chase Budinger had 22 off the bench, and guard Zach LaVine finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.

      Trail Blazers 92, Jazz 89

      SALT LAKE CITY -- Guard Damian Lillard scored 23 points and forward LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 to lift Portland to a comeback victory over Utah.

      Forward Dorrell Wright chipped in 15 points off the bench to help Portland win for the sixth time in its past seven contests against Utah.

      Forward Derrick Favors scored 26 points and collected 13 rebounds while guard Trey Burke chipped in 22 points to lead the Jazz. Center Rudy Gobert added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Utah which lost its third straight game.

      The Trail Blazers outdueled the Jazz in fast-break points, finishing with a 21-6 edge.

      76ers 99, Nuggets 85

      DENVER -- Rookie forward Robert Covington tied a career high with 25 points, center Nerlens Noel had 14 points and 15 rebounds and Philadelphia beat Denver.

      Covington also tied a career high with six 3-pointers to help the 76ers sweep the season series from Denver. Guard Isaiah Canaan added 15 points off the bench for Philadelphia. Guard Ty Lawson scored 19 points and forward Wilson Chandler had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets.

      Spurs 130, Thunder 91

      SAN ANTONIO -- Guard Tony Parker scored 21 points, and forward Boris Diaw added 19, helping San Antonio roll past Oklahoma City. The Spurs converted 58 percent of their shots, including 13 of 21 3-pointers.

      Parker hit 10 of 14 shots. He had six rebounds and six assists, doing all that work in an efficient 28 minutes. Diaw made nine of 15 from the field. Forwards Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard contributed 16 and 14 points, respectively.

      Guard Russell Westbrook and center Enes Kanter led Oklahoma City with 16 points apiece.

      Kings 108, Suns 99

      PHOENIX -- Center DeMarcus Cousins scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Sacramento dealt Phoenix's playoff hopes a severe blow.

      Sacramento forward Rudy Gay and guard Ray McCallum scored 14 points each, and guard Ben McLemore had six of his 12 points on a pair of big 3-pointers down the stretch. The Kings earned a fourth consecutive win for the first time since early November.

      Forward Markieff Morris scored 24 points to lead the Suns, who remain three games behind the Thunder in the race for the final playoff spot in the West.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Noel, Covington lead 76ers over Nuggets
    By The Sports Xchange

    DENVER -- Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown wants people to start talking about Nerlens Noel for Rookie of the Year.

    • After his performance Wednesday, the 76ers center might get into the conversation.

      Noel had 14 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks, rookie forward Robert Covington tied a career-high with 25 points and the 76ers beat the Denver Nuggets 99-85.

      Noel added four steals and Covington also tied a career-high with six 3-pointers to help the 76ers (18-54) sweep the season series from Denver.

      Guard Isaiah Canaan added 15 points off the bench for Philadelphia.

      Guard Ty Lawson scored 19 points and forward Wilson Chandler had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets.

      Both teams exited the playoff race long ago and now they are battling for lottery position for the draft in June. The 76ers were coming off a tough one-point loss in Sacramento on Tuesday night while Denver (27-45) had two days off following a win in Orlando.

      Noel had 14 points and six blocks against the Kings and backed it up with another strong performance during one of the toughest back-to-backs in the league.

      "People have to start talking about him for Rookie of the Year," Brown said. "He's a complete game changer. He's a complete defensive presence when he's lurking to block shots. He continues to improve."

      Noel missed all of last season following knee surgery after being the top pick in the 2013 draft. He is averaging 15 points, 11.5 rebounds and nearly four blocks in his last four games.

      "I'm just playing basketball," he said. "My goal is to affect the game any way possible. I just keep it going and come in day with that mindset."

      The Nuggets struggled in their first home game following a 2-3 road trip. They started slow and finished worse, scoring just nine points in the decisive third quarter.

      The nine points tied a franchise low for one quarter.

      "We were a little sluggish early and then we tried to crawl back into the game," Denver interim coach Melvin Hunt said.

      Despite the lack of playoff atmosphere, this one was close throughout.

      The third quarter was a two-man show. Covington got started early, hitting 3-pointers to give the 76ers a fast start to the second half. Philadelphia took a 60-53 lead on Covington's fourth 3-pointer early in the third before the Nuggets rallied to tie it on a 3-pointer by forward Danilo Gallinari with 6:51 left in the period.

      "They were just leaving me open," said Covington, who also scored 25 at Detroit on Dec. 6. "My teammates have confidence in me, I have confidence in myself and I just let it fly. When I hit one my confidence boosted."

      Lawson kept Denver close with six early points in the period and then hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 70-69. Lawson hit another 3-pointer as part of a 7-0 run to end the period to give the Nuggets a 76-72 lead heading into the fourth.

      It was Denver's first lead since early in the second quarter.

      The game was tied at 81 when Covington hit a 3-pointer with 4:10 left. After guard Jameer Nelson's bucket made it a one-point game, Canaan and forward Hollis Thompson hit consecutive shots from long range to give the 76ers a 90-83 lead.

      "I thought, yeah, we had things figured out," Lawson said. "We started to find each other. But they came out and hit three after three. It was a little deflating."

      The 76ers extended the lead to 95-83 on three free throws by Canaan and a steal and dunk by Noel.

      "To come back and hold them to nine points, to close out a road game with that young team, that's a good effort," Brown said.

      The 76ers got points from 11 different players in the first half to take a 49-46 lead at the break.

      NOTES: Nuggets G Jameer Nelson played despite having a sore hip. He didn't play in Friday's loss in Miami but scored 15 points in Sunday's win at Orlando. ... Philadelphia F Luc Mbah a Moute was held out with a sore shoulder. Coach Brett Brown said Mbah a Moute's injury isn't serious and he is considered day-to-day. ... Nuggets F Darrell Arthur (right calf soreness) did not play. He had played in four straight games. ... 76ers F Thomas Robinson was acquired by Denver from Portland in a trade-deadline deal last month. The Nuggets cut Robinson, who signed with Philadelphia on Feb. 23.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Parker, Diaw carry Spurs to rout of Thunder
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN ANTONIO -- Within a span of six days recently, the San Antonio Spurs lost to the worst team in the NBA, the New York Knicks, and then pounded one of the best, the Atlanta Hawks.

    • The contrast left their coach, Gregg Popovich, questioning his team's consistency.

      "Do they want to be the team they were in New York, or do they want to be the team they were in Atlanta?" Popovich said before the Spurs faced the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night.

      The Spurs responded with their best point production of the season and largest margin of victory. Guard Tony Parker scored 21 points, and forward Boris Diaw added 19, helping the Spurs defeat Oklahoma City 130-91.

      "I thought Tony did really a fine job at both ends of the court," Popovich said. "I think in general we played the way we have to play to win."

      San Antonio (45-26) converted 58 percent of its shots, including 13 of 21 3-pointers.

      Parker hit 10 of 14 shots. He had six rebounds and six assists, doing all that work in an efficient 28 minutes. Diaw made 9 of 15 from the field.

      Forwards Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard contributed 16 and 14 points, respectively.

      Guard Russell Westbrook and center Enes Kanter led Oklahoma City (41-31) with 16 points apiece. The Thunder were depleted by injuries, including one to forward Kevin Durant, the league's 2014 MVP.

      Westbrook, guarded primarily by Parker, hit 5 of 9 shots in the first quarter but missed with all seven attempts the rest of the game.

      "I had great help from my teammates," Parker said. "I'm not going to stop him by myself."

      Oklahoma City shot 40 percent and was outrebounded 50-36.

      "They just played harder than us," Westbrook said. "It's as simple as that. They played with a sense of urgency and we didn't."

      One night earlier, the Spurs lost at Dallas 101-94 after taking a 14-point lead in the first quarter. The Mavs led by 17 in the fourth quarter. The Spurs committed 13 turnovers in the second and third quarters, a thread connecting many of their defeats this season.

      Popovich said the Spurs get into trouble when they try to accomplish things individually instead of collectively. They don't have the talent to play what some call hero ball.

      "The danger is when people think they can start to do it on their own," Popovich said. "The shots become more contested. The turnovers rise, because the ball is not moving and people aren't moving."

      Parker had no explanation for why the Spurs sometimes alternate between exceptional and awful.

      "I'm still mad from last night," Parker said. "It's so weird. We played a great first quarter and then suddenly it just goes away. Then we come in tonight and play great. This is going to be the challenge. We'd better find some consistency if (we) are going to do anything this year."

      The game Wednesday went so well that Parker could laugh at the expense of Diaw, a long-time friend.

      Asked if Diaw has been playing more aggressively lately, Parker replied, "Boris plays whenever he wants to."

      NOTES: With F Kevin Durant (right foot) and F Serge Ibaka (right knee) out, C Enes Kanter has been a force in scoring and rebounding for the Thunder. Kanter, acquired in a trade with Utah, has been the Thunder's second-leading scorer behind G Russell Westbrook, averaging 17.7 in 15 games before Wednesday. Durant has missed all of those games. Kanter has been the Thunder's top rebounder at 10.9 per game. ... A third Oklahoma City starter, G Andre Roberson, missed a chance to play in his hometown Wednesday. Roberson will be out two-to-three weeks with a sprained left ankle. ... F Nick Collison, a Thunder reserve, missed the game with a sprained left ankle. ... Spurs C Tiago Splittler recently set season highs for scoring in consecutive games with 18 points against Boston and 23 at Atlanta. The 41 points are the most he has ever scored in consecutive games during his five-year NBA career. ... Spurs C Aron Baynes has missed four of the last five games, the first two with a rib injury and the last two with a sprained right ankle.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Howard eases back in as Rockets edge Pelicans
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW ORLEANS -- At 6-foot-11, Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard hardly ever takes baby steps, but by playing 16 1/2 minutes in a 95-93 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night -- his first live NBA action in two months -- he did exactly that.

    • Sidelined for eight weeks with a swollen right knee, Howard scored only four points in his cameo performance at the Smoothie King Center, but he still was able to grab seven rebounds and even was re-inserted into the game in the final 1.7 seconds when the Rockets needed his length to fight for a crucial rebound.

      Houston guard James Harden controlled the game with 25 points and 10 assists, but he sounded relieved to have "the big fella back."

      Asked how long it might take for Howard to get his offensive game going, Harden said, "I think we're not going to force it, and he's going to get a rhythm. He's going to find his way. We're not going to put too much pressure on him. We're just going to keep playing the way we've been playing, and he'll come around. The more minutes he can play, the more he'll come around."

      "My whole focus is trying to do whatever I can to help this team win," said Howard, who rode a stationary bike to keep his knee warm. "I want to play as hard as I can for as long as I can. I just felt good being back out there on the floor. I don't want to get in the way of anything. I know how they've been playing the last 26 games, so my thing was just setting good screens, making sure I get to the right spots. The offensive side will come."

      The Rockets (48-23) trailed by as many as 17 points in the second quarter, but they erased the deficit with a 35-12 run over an 11:20 span of the second and third quarters. Then, they led by 11 points, 89-78, with 6:26 left, before the Pelicans made a desperation rally to nearly force overtime.

      The Pelicans (37-34) lost their fourth consecutive game, tying their longest losing streak of the season, but an even bigger scare was losing forward Anthony Davis temporarily in the fourth quarter when he took a hard shot to the right shoulder he had injured last month while diving low to steal a full-court Houston pass.

      Davis, who had 24 points and 14 rebounds, spent two entire possessions writhing in pain on the court and left for the locker room, only to return with 4:41 left. But Davis scored only one point down the stretch, and he made only 6 of 14 free throws.

      After the game, Davis stayed out on the court until he made 100 free throws.

      "I missed eight free throws," Davis said. "I mean, I don't feel comfortable missing eight free throws, especially when we lost by two. If I make eight free throws, we win by six. I just don't like that. I don't like missing free throws, especially like that. Especially throughout the game, when we needed them, and I missed them."

      The Pelicans had a late chance, scoring seven straight points to cut the Houston lead to 94-91 with 7.8 seconds left. But Davis missed one of two free throws, cutting the deficit to 94-92.

      Harden then hit one of two free throws with 3.3 seconds left, putting Houston up 95-92. The Rockets fouled guard Eric Gordon with 1.7 seconds left. Gordon made the first foul shot and then intentionally missed the second, but the Pelicans could not get a good shot off.

      Guard Tyreke Evans led the Pelicans with a game-high 28 points

      "It was a tough one," said New Orleans coach Monty Williams. "We came out shooting the ball well -- we moved it well -- but I thought after that the ball stopped moving."

      Two of Harden's best assists of the night came on consecutive possessions -- a nifty, no-look pass to forward Joey Dorsey for a layup and a pass from the top of the key to forward Corey Brewer for another layup.

      "We played through James," said Houston coach Kevin McHale.

      NOTES: Rockets coach Kevin McHale said C Dwight Howard will have to feel his way back after missing 22 games with a swollen right knee. "He's just got to go play, and then as his time increases, hopefully his rhythm increases," McHale said. "But right now, the worst thing Dwight could do is go out there and think, 'I'm going to be in midseason form.' His rhythm cannot be where he wants it." ... McHale is no fan of the "one-and-done" college rule for basketball players. "This is a grown man's league," he said. "I would never have made the NBA after my freshman year in college." ... Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he is pleased with the defensive presence of C Omer Asik. "Omer's allowed us to take away 3-point field goal attempts," Williams said. "In years past, we had to double-team a lot, and we gave up a lot of threes. Omer's been able to guard that position."

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Cavaliers maul Grizzlies
    By The Sports Xchange

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Considering the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies each held the No. 2 seed in their respective conference, a great game on Wednesday night at FedExForum might have sparked some postseason speculation.

    • But the Cavaliers (47-26) cruised to a 111-89 victory and pretty much got what they wanted on offense with great ball movement while shutting down the Grizzlies defensively.

      Point guard Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 24 points and forward Kevin Love posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds and added four assists and two blocks.

      The Cavaliers simply played to a higher level.

      "There's just great karma to the game when you're moving the ball," said Cavs forward LeBron James, who had 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists. "Against this team, 30 assists on 43 field goals is probably as great as you can get."

      That translated into Cleveland shooting 51.2 percent from the field (43 of 84). The Cavs also made 14 shots from beyond the 3-point line (14 of 34 for 41.2 percent).

      "That wasn't a small thing we did tonight," Cleveland coach David Blatt said. "It looked easier than it was. We beat a very good team."

      This was the Cavaliers' last game against a Western Conference opponent and they went 14-1 in their last 15 games against the West.

      "It says we can compete with the best," Love said.

      The Grizzlies (50-22) trailed by 13 at halftime and were blown out in the third quarter when Cleveland scored 15 straight points to take a 26-point lead with 4:47 left in the quarter.

      "It was an old-fashioned beatdown," said Memphis guard Tony Allen (seven points, eight rebounds).

      Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said, "Obviously, a tough night for the home team. That team over there is elite. They have a lot of multiple skilled players -- in my mind, three MVP candidates or guys who have been mentioned as MVP candidates."

      Besides the "Big Three," Cleveland got 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a block from center Timofey Mozgov. He was one of six players to have at least three assists.

      Cavs guard JR Smith had 13 points and six assists and forward Tristan Thompson collected 11 rebounds and two points off the bench.

      Center Marc Gasol led Memphis with 18 points. Reserve point guard Beno Udrih finished with 15 points and forward Jeff Green chipped in 11 points and five rebounds. Point guard Mike Conley had 10 points and five assists.

      Memphis power forward Zach Randolph was just 2 of 8 from the floor for five points and had only three rebounds. Gasol, too, grabbed just three rebounds.

      "We didn’t play good, including myself," Randolph said. "It makes you have a sickness in your stomach because you know that you are better than that."

      The Cavs couldn't have been much better.

      "Every facet of the game we were locked in," James said. "Our bigs had to set a tone and they did that."

      Cleveland had a 49-32 rebounding advantage and from the start was the more physical team.

      "We were focused on having a defensive presence and intensity in the first quarter and we had that right from the get-go," Blatt said.

      The Cavaliers have won 24 of their last 25 games when scoring at least 100 points. Overall, they have won 28 of their last 34 games.

      After a Jan. 13 loss at Phoenix, they were 19-20 and couldn't be mentioned without the words "what's wrong?" being in the same sentence.

      "Early in the season, we weren't the same team we are now," James said. "I've always said it was a process."

      NOTES: Memphis reached 50 wins for the first time in history before the end of March. The Grizzlies have qualified for the NBA playoffs eight times in 14 seasons since moving from Vancouver to Memphis. ... In the last 32 games (since Jan. 13), Cleveland's LeBron James is averaging 26.5 points on 49.6 percent shooting from the field, 6.2 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.8 steals in 35.2 minutes. James leads the NBA in points per game in the fourth quarter at 7.3. He has scored at least 10 points in the fourth quarter a team-high 15 times this season. ... Since Jan. 15, the Cavaliers owned the highest winning percentage (27-6, .818), road record (12-6, .667) and record against Western Conference teams (13-1, .929). ... Cavs PG Kyrie Irving is shooting a team-high 41.1 percent from 3-point range, 11th in the NBA. He was 17 of 30 (56.7 percent) in his last six games from long distance.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Lakers top Wolves in OT in battle of West also-rans
    By The Sports Xchange

    MINNEAPOLIS -- The game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves wasn't always pretty, but the ending was exciting.

    • Two free throws by guard Jordan Clarkson with 0.3 seconds remaining in overtime lifted the Lakers to a 101-99 win at Target Center on Wednesday.

      The Wolves (16-55) fell 3 1/2 games behind the Lakers (19-51) in the "race" for the worst record in the Western Conference.

      "Our guys kept grinding away, trying to get a good shot," Lakers acting head coach Paul Pressey said. "Everyone came in, pitched in and did a nice job. We had a lot of good things that happened, so this is a credit to our guys playing hard."

      The teams traded leads five times in the extra session, with Clarkson's driving layup with 34.5 seconds remaining putting the Lakers in top.

      Wolves center Gorgui Dieng made a jumper from the free-throw line with 18 seconds remaining, tying the score but giving Los Angeles the final shot. After a layup attempt by forward Wesley Johnson was blocked by Minnesota forward Andrew Wiggins, Clarkson followed for the offensive board and was fouled by guard Zach LaVine with less than a second remaining.

      Minnesota's final Hail Mary inbounds pass from half court didn't yield a shot.

      "We just continued to play," Clarkson said. "I chased after the rebound and got a foul call. We competed until the end."

      Clarkson led the Lakers with 20 points and finished 8-for-8 from the foul line. He scored eight points in overtime, including the Lakers' final five points. He finished with 30 points Tuesday night in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

      "Tomorrow's a day off, so it will be nice to recover a little bit," Clarkson said.

      Lakers guard Jeremy Lin added 19 points, and forward Ed Davis contributed 14 points and nine rebounds. Forward Ryan Kelly and center Tarik Black each had 11 points.

      "I thought they came through and played with a lot of poise," Lin said of his younger teammates. "I thought there were a lot of big plays from pretty much everybody that was out there, whether it was rebounds, deflections, direct plays or defense."

      Wiggins scored a game-high 27 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the floor. Forward Chase Budinger had 22 off the bench, and LaVine finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.

      "(Budinger) has been really good the last two or three weeks," Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. "He's got his confidence. He's probably not a true (power forward), but he's played well and made some big shots."

      Lin had six points and five assists at the half as Los Angeles took a 49-43 lead into the break, but he scored seven of the first nine points for the Lakers at the start of the third quarter. His hot streak spearheaded a 9-2 run that gave Los Angeles its largest lead of the night, 13 points.

      Minnesota closed the gap in the fourth quarter, then took a one-point lead on a lay-in by Dieng with 5:54 left.

      With the game tied at 85-85, Lakers guard Jabari Brown drilled a 3-pointer from the right elbow. A 14-footer by Clarkson extended the margin to five.

      After two free throws by LaVine made it a one possession game, a Budinger 3-pointer from the corner tied the score at 90 with 6.6 seconds remaining and sent the game to overtime.

      Kelly had an open look at a 3-pointer at the horn but missed short off the rim.

      The Lakers were able to exploit a size mismatch down low, outrebounding the Wolves 48-40 and outscoring Minnesota 44-32 in the paint. The Timberwolves entered the game allowing the most inside points (49.1 per game) in the NBA.

      "We just needed to pack the paint more," Budinger said. "They hurt us with the pick-and-roll game, and if we just packed the paint more ... We started doing that, they started missing shots, and that led to us getting easy layups and transition points."

      Los Angeles finished the game 17-for-18 from the foul line, including a perfect 10-for-10 in regulation. The Lakers entered the game 21st in the NBA in free-throw percentage (74.4 percent).

      NOTES: Lakers coach Byron Scott missed his second consecutive game after attending his mother's funeral Monday. ... The Lakers have missed 250 man-games to injury, the most in the NBA. The Timberwolves are second with 238. ... Timberwolves F Kevin Garnett (sore knee) missed his 10th game, and G Ricky Rubio (sore ankle) sat out his fourth. ... The Lakers make the third stop on their five-game road swing Friday at the Toronto Raptors. The Timberwolves hit the road for a two-game trip starting Friday at the Houston Rockets.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Short-handed Heat hold off Celts' comeback bid
    By The Sports Xchange

    BOSTON -- The seriously undermanned Miami Heat were able to fight off some serious deja vu Wednesday night.

    • A night after blowing a game in Milwaukee by being outscored 18-3 down the stretch, the Heat, missing an entire lineup, saw their 20-point fourth quarter lead shrink to six with 1:59 left. This time, though, they held on, escaping with a 93-86 victory over a Boston Celtics team that didn't show up until the final quarter.

      "We just understood that we needed a bounce back from last night," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said after his team remained in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. "This will count as a couple of games in the overall standings.

      "They made a furious push as the end, and it was good to see us get tested emotionally. We had to manage some of the same things we had to manage the other night. There was a couple of times emotionally where we weren't as stable as we needed to be, but it was considerably better."

      Despite the absence of guard Dwyane Wade, center Hassan Whiteside and forward Chris Andersen, and with forwards Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts gone for the year, the Heat (33-38) were great for three quarters. They had an 82-62 lead through three, an advantage that was 22 earlier.

      "We were fantastic the first three quarters," said Miami guard Goran Dragic, dynamic all night en route to finishing with 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds. "I don't know if it was fatigue or we were thinking it would be like the last one."

      On Tuesday night, the Heat scored nine points in the fourth quarter. On Wednesday, they needed two free throws in the closing seconds to reach 11, scoring three field goals in the last period, none in the final 5:04.

      However, the Celtics, who got the deficit down to five with 13.8 seconds left, helped the Heat build their lead. The home team heard boos from a crowd that came expecting to see another win from the surprise playoff contenders.

      "Credit them for how hard they were attacking, but we provided no resistance in the paint on drives," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who said he hasn't beaten a Wade-less team in his two years as a pro coach. "The end of the first half was as bad as we've played in a while."

      "We just came out flat and they took advantage of that," said Boston rookie guard Marcus Smart, who shot 1-for-8 from the floor.

      After the game, an exhausted Dragic said, "I feel terrible." However, he added the contest "was definitely a playoff game" for his team.

      Forward Udonis Haslem, playing center with Whiteside out, posted 12 points and 12 rebounds, and forward Luol Deng scored 15 points in the win.

      The loss was the fourth in the last five games for the Celtics, who remained in eighth place, tied with the Indiana Pacers but ahead on a tiebreaker.

      The Celtics, who lost for the fourth time in five games, didn't help their cause by going 25-for-37 (67.6 percent) from the foul line. Miami wasn't much better, hitting 16 of 23 foul shots (69.6 percent).

      "For whatever reason, the first three quarters we played really poorly," Stevens said. "In the fourth quarter, (we) played with great emotion and hard as heck and got us back into it, but then we just didn't make very good decisions or play with poise late."

      Forward Jae Crowder came off the bench to lead Boston with 19 points and also grabbed seven rebounds, while backup guard Phil Pressey had 11 points, six assists and five rebounds while directing the comeback.

      The Celtics (31-40) got guard Isaiah Thomas back after an eight-game absence caused by a bruised lower back, but he clearly wasn't in game shape.

      Coming off the bench in the first quarter, he missed two free throws soon after entering, and things didn't get much better. He ended up 2-for-7 from the floor, scored four points and committed three turnovers in just under 20 minutes.

      Thomas didn't play in the fourth quarter.

      "He struggled," said Stevens, who wanted to make sure it was a "rhythm" problem and not a lingering woe.

      The three officials had a tough night overseeing the chippy game. They called five technical fouls on players, whistled 53 fouls and went to the television monitors at least six times. They also seemed to be trapped in a series of makeup calls.

      NOTES: The last time C Hassan Whiteside, who missed Wednesday's game with a hand laceration, faced the Celtics, he was ejected and suspended for a game for shoving Boston F Kelly Olynyk. ... The Celtics went 5-3 with PG Isaiah Thomas out of the lineup, the play of veteran Evan Turner at the point a key to that record. Turner averaged 14.4 points, 7.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game with Thomas out. Coach Brad Stevens didn't foresee any problems with Thomas and Turner playing together, as Turner played several other spots throughout the season. ... Miami plays at Atlanta on Friday, the same night the Celtics play the Knicks in New York.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Pacers outlast Wizards to end 6-game skid
    By The Sports Xchange

    WASHINGTON -- Argentine soccer legend Lionel Messi witnessed a basketball shootout between guards John Wall and George Hill. Wall's high-scoring second half put the Washington Wizards in position to win until Hill's heroics saved the Indiana Pacers.

    • Hill scored on a layup with 2.7 seconds left and the Pacers ended a six-game losing streak with a 103-101 win over the Wizards on Wednesday night.

      The Pacers (31-40) kicked their offense into winning mode with a 23-11 closing run. Hill had 12 points in the quarter, including the final basket after driving through the middle of the Wizards' defense following Wall's 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds left tied the score at 101.

      The victory combined with a Boston loss to the Miami Heat moved the Pacers into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

      "We had to turn something around," said Hill, who added nine assists and seven rebounds. "Either turn something around or our season is going to go down the gutter. I think every guy on this team fought hard to get back in it."

      Wall scored 34 points -- 27 after halftime -- for the Wizards (41-31), who have lost four straight.

      With guard Bradley Beal sidelined, the All-Star scored 12 of Washington's 14 points during one stretch for a 90-80 lead with 6:46 left with Messi and members of the Argentine national team watching.

      Trailing 94-88, Indiana scored the next nine points, including eight by Hill.

      On Indiana's final possession, Hill started his drive deep behind the 3-point arc. Defended by guard Martell Webster, Hill blew past a potential double-team. He banked a high-arching layup, which he later revealed came from the tutelage of former San Antonio Spurs teammate Tony Parker.

      Pacers coach Frank Vogel had a simple plan for that play.

      "Gave the ball to George Hill, puts shooters around him and go to work," he said.

      The Wizards didn't follow orders.

      "We were supposed to trap the ball. We didn't," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said after Indiana outscored Washington 33-25 in the fourth quarter. "We're undisciplined. We blew that lead fast because of our gambling and giving no effort defensively."

      Guard C.J. Miles scored 16 points, Solomon Hill had 13 and David West finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Pacers.

      Wizards center Marcin Gortat had 16 points for the Wizards, who had won five straight home games. Washington's top rim protector was not on the court for Hill's final basket. Asked for his assessment of the play, Gortat said, "no comment."

      Beal suffered a sprained right ankle in the first quarter and did not return. Washington entered the game with four players out of the lineup.

      The Wizards returned home after 1-3 Western Conference road trip that started with a win and ended with an opponent suggesting inner turmoil.

      Washington's previous three losses were by average of 23 points. Monday's 107-76 loss at Golden State turned when the Wizards went 1 of 18 from the field in the third quarter.

      After the game, Warriors center Marreese Speights said, "If we got a couple stops, they would start arguing with each other and quit."

      Wittman dismissed Speights' comments pregame -- "I don't give a crap what Speights thinks. We played them twice. What's he know?"

      Then the coach used that same "q" word after the collapse.

      "We just quit playing defensively," Wittman said.

      Indiana entered Wednesday as the only NBA team without a win since March 14. During the six-game skid, opponents averaged 106.8 points per game.

      Neither team scored much during first half. The Wizards held the largest lead at 37-24 but entered the locker room up 44-42.

      Washington won the first two games this season, though had not faced Indiana since Nov. 8.

      The Pacers defeated the Wizards 4-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.

      Though comfortably fifth in the East's playoff hierarchy, the Wizards realize they won't make it that far this postseason if their fumbles continue.

      "If we keep lapsing and doing these type of things," Wall said, "we will have an early exit in the playoffs."

      NOTES: Pacers F Paul George "is not ready to play yet," coach Frank Vogel said. Recent reports suggested the All-Star forward, who is practicing, could return to action soon and for the first time since suffering a brutal leg injury with Team USA last summer. ... F Kris Humphries (groin), G Garrett Temple (hamstring), G Toure' Murry (sprained left ankle) and C DeJuan Blair (personal reasons) were unavailable for Washington. ... Lionel Messi and the Argentine national team are in Washington to play an international friendly against El Salvador on Saturday. ... The Pacers play at the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. Indiana leads the series 2-1. ... Washington's homestand continues Friday against the Charlotte Hornets. ... Pacers G Rodney Stuckey (sore left calf) missed his second straight game.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Lopez carries Nets past Hornets
    By The Sports Xchange

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brook Lopez is on a roll and the Brooklyn Nets are squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff chase because of it.

    • Lopez had 34 points and 10 rebounds and made key plays on both ends of the court down the stretch as the Nets held off the Charlotte Hornets 91-88 on Wednesday night.

      The seven-year veteran center hit a floater in the lane with 23.1 seconds left to give the Nets the lead for good at 87-85, then turned into the defensive hero with the Hornets inbounding with 3.2 seconds left. He deflected Gerald Henderson's inbounds pass to force a turnover and the Nets ran out the clock.

      "Brook carried us," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. "He's been playing well, and he had it going again tonight. We needed it because not many guys were making shots tonight."

      The win was the Nets' third in their last four games and moved them to 30-40, one-half game behind Boston and Indiana for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The win also gave the Nets the season series 2-1 and the tiebreaker advantage over the Hornets should they need it. The Hornets are also 30-40.

      "This was big," Lopez said. "We've dropped a couple lately, but we're definitely getting there now. We were focused tonight. We all were. We were disappointed with ourselves after Boston, and we came in with great focus tonight and it lasted pretty much the entire game."

      Lopez is averaging 30.8 points in his last four games, with three games of 30 or more.

      He refused to take credit, however, choosing to praise guard Deron Williams (11 points, 14 assists and four free throws in the final 13.2 seconds) and others instead.

      "We've been playing great together, just moving the ball and keeping the correct spacing," Lopez said. "We've been able to get what we want. D-Will and the other guards are so great at being able to read what the defense is giving us, and we've been taking it. We have a lot of confidence in each other right now."

      His deflection of Henderson's inbounds pass with the game on the line came after he had thrown the ball away to give the Hornets possession with 3.2 seconds remaining. He said he was relieved the sequence ended the way it did.

      "I was disappointed with myself throwing it away," Lopez said. "It might have looked like I was point shaving and made a call to my Uncle Huey in Vegas. But we stuck together, we kept our heads up, and no question, it was a relief when I got the deflection."

      The Nets also got 13 points from guard Alan Anderson and 11 points from forward Thaddeus Young, who exited with a knee injury in the third quarter and did not return.

      Center Al Jefferson had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Hornets, and Henderson also scored 23. Guard Kemba Walker scored 11 points, but Walker and backcourt mate Mo Williams combined to go just 6 of 23 from the field.

      The Hornets led by 10 midway through the second quarter and were up 46-42 at halftime.

      "We got discombobulated in the third quarter and basically it cost us the game," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "We played a good game. Obviously, we're tired. I thought the guys fought hard, but we just had about four minutes in the third quarter where we're just worried about referees' calls and whatever, and it took us right out of the game."

      The Hornets have now lost five of their last six.

      "We've got to stay focused for 48 minutes because when we're right and we're doing the things we know we can do, we play well," Jefferson said. "We have proven that. But for whatever reason this year, we have not been as consistent as far as being focused for 48 minutes. That's something we were really good at one point in time. We've got to get back to that."

      NOTES: Hornets assistant Mark Price was on the bench after reports surfaced that he has accepted the job as head coach at UNC Charlotte. A press conference is scheduled for Thursday and Price is expected to leave the Hornets and start his new job immediately. The Hornets have five other assistant coaches. ... The NBA announced Wednesday that the Hornets will meet the Los Angeles Clippers in two preseason games in China in October. The teams will play in Shenzhen on Oct. 11 and Shanghai on Oct. 14. ... The Hornets were without F Cody Zeller (right shoulder soreness). The Nets were without F Mirza Teletovic (pulmonary embolus) and G Sergey Karasev (right knee surgery). ... The Nets are 18-20 on the road and 12-20 at home, making them the only team in the NBA with a better road record than home record. ... The Hornets were returning home after a five-game trip that ended with a loss at Chicago on Monday. They went 1-4 on the trip. ... The Hornets will hit the road again for a game at Washington on Friday. The Nets will return home to face Cleveland on Friday to open a three-game homestand.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Hawks halt three-game slide
    By The Sports Xchange

    ORLANDO, Fla. -- Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague was not about to let a great season turn sour in the closing weeks.

    • Teague rescued the Hawks on Wednesday night, providing nine points and three assists in the final five minutes to lead Atlanta to a 95-83 victory over the Orlando Magic.

      The Hawks (54-17) snapped a three-game losing streak, the worst stretch of an otherwise impressive season.

      This one was tougher than the final score indicated. The Hawks needed a frantic 17-2 finish after trailing almost the entire game.

      "We were in a tough funk. It was time to put an end to it (losing) before it started growing," Teague said. "Coach challenged me to pick it up down the stretch. It was time to turn it up."

      Forward Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 25 points and 11 rebounds, but in the closing minutes Teague played a part in all 17 points. His three assists led to eight points and he scored nine.

      The Hawks trailed 81-78 before Teague lit the fire, all after he left the game earlier with a sore left ankle that needed to be re-taped.

      "He looked pretty good down the stretch," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "He's pretty resilient. He's done that a handful of times this season. He'll be fine."

      The Hawks, with the best record in the Eastern Conference, already have clinched their first division title since 1995 and hoping to remain sharp until the playoffs begin next month.

      Guard Kyle Korver added 13 points but hit only 3 of 9 3-point shots. Forward DeMarre Carroll had 11 points and seven rebounds. Center Al Horford chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds.

      "We needed to get back into the groove again, and I think we did that in the second half," Korver said. "You can't just go into the playoffs and think you can flip a switch. You have to go in with some momentum."

      The Magic (22-51) collapsed badly down the stretch, committing seven turnovers and scoring only 12 points in the fourth quarter.

      Rookie point guard Elfrid Payton had 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Magic. Center Nikola Vucevic contributed 16 points and 12 rebounds, forward Tobias Harris scored 14 points and reserve forward Andrew Nicholson had 11 points.

      The Hawks grabbed a 82-81 lead -- their first since early in the game -- on a layup by Teague with 4:29 remaining. After a Magic turnover, reserve guard Dennis Schroder hit a 3-pointer for a four-point lead. The Magic went more than four minutes without scoring, letting the Hawks score 17 consecutive points.

      "It's both encouraging and discouraging," Magic coach James Borrego said. "The way we played for the most part against the top team in the East, I was encouraged by the effort. But it's frustrating that we couldn't get enough stops, or scoring enough down the stretch. Give Atlanta credit."

      The Magic led 71-68 going into the fourth quarter. Payton scored 10 points in the third quarter to help the Magic keep the lead. Schroder tied the score at 71 with a 3-pointer, but the Magic responded with the next eight points.

      Orlando led 78-71 before everything started falling apart. The Magic scored just five points in the final 8:50 when the Hawks turned up the intensity defensively.

      "You hold a team to 12 points in the fourth quarter, that gives you a great chance in an NBA game," Budenholzer said. "We've been talking about focusing on our defense again, and I think we did that in the second half."

      The Magic led 52-47 at halftime and by as many as 13 points in the second quarter. Guard Victor Oladipo had 13 points and Vucevic and Harris 10 each by intermission.

      NOTES: Hawks F Thabo Sefolosha returned to the rotation Wednesday night after missing 23 consecutive games with a strained right calf muscle. "The process was a little long," he said before the game. "But you have to trust the system." ... The Magic allowed 100 points or more in each of their previous five games. ... Magic coach James Borrego and Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer have remained close friends since they were on the staff of the San Antonio Spurs together. ... The Hawks officially signed F Austin Daye to a second 10-day contract Wednesday. Daye appeared in 26 games earlier this season with the Spurs and also played in the NBA Development League. ... Magic F Tobias Harris (sprained left ankle) returned after a three-game absence.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Bulls start slow, finish strong in win over Raptors
    By The Sports Xchange

    TORONTO -- It's not how you start, but how you finish.

    • With the Toronto Raptors shooting 71 percent from 3-point range in the first quarter and 60 percent for the half, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau felt his group dodged a bullet by trailing by just four at halftime.

      Chicago shot 75 percent from the field and 67 percent from 3-point range in the fourth quarter, paving the way for a 116-103 victory over the Raptors on Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre.

      "I thought we played well offensively in the first half, but I thought we were fortunate to be only down four at the half," said Thibodeau. "Against (Toronto), the way they score, they score it so easily, that if you let your guard down... we dodged a bullet because they got their confidence early.

      "They can score 10 points in a minute very easily. Even when you have a lead, it never feels safe."

      Guard Jimmy Butler led way for the Bulls with 23 points, five rebounds and three assists while forward Pau Gasol added 18 points, four rebounds and three assists.

      "We know, we've got to play defense for 48 minutes, but I thought offensively, I thought the ball moved really well, quick decision, I thought we shot for three well," said Thibodeau. "We had a lot of guys step up.

      "We stayed within striking distance and found a way to win in the end"

      The Bulls (44-29) used a late run led by a 3-pointer from guard Aaron Brooks to pull away and closed out the fourth on a 7-0 surge.

      "We knew it was time to win the game," said Butler of what changed in the fourth. "I think we settled down. When we guard, offense comes easy for this group of guys that we have in this locker room. When we guard and rebound we put ourselves in a great position to win games."

      Chicago's reserve forwards Terry Snell and forward Nikola Mirotic added 17 and 15 points, respectively.

      Despite the loss, Toronto clinched a playoff berth thanks to losses from both the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics.

      Toronto (42-30) got a season-high 22 points from guard Greivis Vasquez, who matched a career best by hitting six 3-pointers (in 11 attempts).

      "We ran out of gas a bit, but that's no excuse, there are no moral victories in this league, it's win or lose, make or miss league," said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. "We didn't get it done in the fourth quarter."

      Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan added 20 points, guard Lou Williams had 18 points off the bench, and forward Terrence Ross scored 16.

      Chicago won for the fourth straight visit to Toronto while capturing its fourth win in five games overall.

      The Bulls shot 60.8 percent from the floor and went 12-for-23 from 3-point range (52.2 percent). The Raptors hit 47 percent of their field-goal attempts, including nine of 21 3-point tries (42.9 percent).

      "Just had too many mental errors," said Raptors forward Terrence Ross, who finished with 16 points in the loss. "It caught up to us and we paid for it. We kind of took a couple plays off and that really hurt us."

      Toronto led by 11 with 5:54 remaining in the third, but Chicago used an 11-2 run to pull to within two. The Raptors recovered to finish the quarter with an 82-77 lead.

      Toronto led 54-50 at halftime. Ross and Vasquez led the way with 14 first-half points apiece. Toronto shot 51.2 percent from the field before the break, while Chicago shot 54 percent.

      Gasol had 12 first-half points for the Bulls, while Mirotic had 10.

      The Raptors held a 29-20 lead after one period. Ross and Vasquez combined for 21 of Toronto's 29 points.

      NOTES: Raptors G Kyle Lowry missed Wednesday's game because of back spasms. G Greivis Vasquez started in his place. ... Raptors rookie F Bruno Caboclo was active Wednesday. ... Bulls C Joakim Noah, who missed Monday's game against the Charlotte Hornets because of general soreness, was in Chicago's starting lineup. ... Bulls G Derrick Rose (knee) expects to be cleared for contact sometime this week or next. ... Chicago G/F Jimmy Butler started in his second straight game after missing 12 games with a sprained elbow.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Wizards' Beal leaves game with ankle injury
    By The Sports Xchange

    Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal suffered a right ankle sprain in the first quarter of Wednesday night's game against the Indiana Pacers in Washington.

    • Beal was injured on a drive to the basket during a fast break when he fell in the lane and slid under the basket. He was able to walk to the locker room but did not return to the game.

      Beal left with five first-quarter points.

      The 21-year-old Beal has missed 18 games this season because of injuries. He is averaging 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 53 games.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    NBA notebook: Pain-free, Bulls' Rose eyes return
    By The Sports Xchange

    Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said he feels pain-free in his surgically repaired knee and remains optimistic for a return before the regular season ends.

    • Rose had a meniscectomy on his right knee Feb. 27. He has been working out without taking contact but is hopeful he can start taking contact in practice this week or next week.

      "That would be the plan, but who knows?" Rose said before Wednesday morning's shootaround as the Bulls prepared for a game against the Raptors in Toronto. "Whenever I'm ready to come back, that's when I'm going to come back."

      The Bulls said after the latest surgery that he would be out four to six weeks.

      Rose is averaging 18.4 points and 5.0 assists in 46 games this season.

      ---The Houston Rockets hope starting point guard Patrick Beverley can avoid season-ending wrist surgery and are seeking medical advice on their options.

      Beverley suffered torn ligaments in the wrist Monday night in a victory over the Indiana Pacers. He saw a doctor in Houston on Wednesday and will get a second opinion before deciding on a course of action, coach Kevin McHale said during a shootaround in New Orleans before a game against the Pelicans.

      A final decision is not expected for seven to 10 days until the swelling goes down in the wrist.

      Beverley is averaging 10.1 points and 3.4 assists per game this season.

      ---The NBA announced that NBA Global Games China 2015 will feature two preseason games between the Charlotte Hornets and the Los Angeles Clippers in October.

      The Clippers and Hornets will play the NBA's first game in Shenzhen when they meet on Oct. 11 at the Shenzhen Universiade Center, followed by a rematch in Shanghai on Oct. 14 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.

      This will be the Clippers' second trip to China, following games in Beijing and Shanghai in 2012. NBA Global Games 2015 will be the Hornets' first trip to China.

      ---The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a second 10-day contract.

      Daye has appeared in two games with the Hawks. He also played in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.

      In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16 points and seven rebounds in 28.5 minutes.

      ---The Detroit Pistons assigned forward Quincy Miller to the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA Development League.

      In two games with Grand Rapids this season, Miller has averaged 11.5 points, nine rebounds, two assists and 19.7 minutes per game.

      Miller, who signed with the Pistons for the remainder of the season on March 13, has yet to appear in a game with Detroit. In six games with the Sacramento Kings, he averaged 2.8 points and 10.2 minutes.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Rockets' Beverley has torn ligaments in wrist
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Houston Rockets hope that starting point guard Patrick Beverley can avoid season-ending wrist surgery and are seeking medical advice on their options.

    • Beverley suffered torn ligaments in the wrist during Monday night's victory over the Indiana Pacers. He saw a doctor in Houston on Wednesday and will get a second opinion before deciding on a course of action, coach Kevin McHale said during a shootaround in New Orleans before a game against the Pelicans.

      A final decision is not expected for seven to 10 days until the swelling goes down in the wrist.

      Beverley is averaging 10.1 points and 3.4 assists per game this season.

      Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni are expected to fill in at the point during Beverley's absence.

      Beverley went down just as the Rockets were about to get back cetner Dwight Howard, who missed 26 games with a right knee injury.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Pistons assign F Miller to D-League
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Detroit Pistons assigned forward Quincy Miller to the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA Development League on Wednesday.

    • In two games with Grand Rapids this season, Miller has averaged 11.5 points, nine rebounds, two assists and 19.7 minutes per game.

      Miller, who signed with the Pistons for the remainder of the season on March 13, has yet to appear in a game with Detroit. In six games with the Sacramento Kings, he averaged 2.8 points and 10.2 minutes.

      The 6-foot-9 Miller also played with the Reno Bighorns of the D-League where he averaged 25.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.6 blocks, 1.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 28.9 minutes in 15 games before signing with Detroit.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Bulls' Rose pain-free, eyes return before playoffs
    By The Sports Xchange

    Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said he feels pain-free in his surgically repaired knee and remains optimistic for a return before the regular season ends.

    • Rose had a meniscectomy on his right knee Feb. 27. He has been working out without taking contact, but now is hopeful he can start taking contact in practice this week or next week.

      "That would be the plan, but who knows?" Rose said before Wednesday morning's shootaround as the Bulls prepare for a game against the Raptors in Toronto. "Whenever I'm ready to come back, that's when I'm going to come back."

      Rose had two previous knee injuries -- a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in April 2012 and a torn medial meniscus in his right knee in November 2013.

      The Bulls said after the latest surgery that he would be out four to six weeks.

      "I don't have it," Rose said, indicating there is no pain or swelling in the knee. "I don't have any. So that's a good sign. The swelling is gone. So it's all about just getting on the court.

      "I'm feeling good. I'm trying to do all the right things, put all the positives in the bag and just try to go with it. It's something that I've been doing for a long time with rehab. It's a grind -- definitely a grind -- but I'm getting used to it.

      "Just been taking my time, being patient, doing everything I was supposed to do. Doing all the right things, and everything else is out of my control."

      Rose is averaging 18.4 points and 5.0 assists in 46 games this season.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Hornets, Clippers to play in China
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NBA announced Wednesday that NBA Global Games China 2015 will feature two preseason games between the Charlotte Hornets and the Los Angeles Clippers in October.

    • The Clippers and Hornets will play the NBA's first game ever in Shenzhen when they meet on Oct. 11 at the Shenzhen Universiade Center, followed by a rematch in Shanghai on Oct. 14 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.

      This will be the Clippers' second trip to China, following games in Beijing and Shanghai in 2012. NBA Global Games 2015 will be the Hornets' first trip to China.

      "The Charlotte Hornets are excited to play in NBA Global Games China and help grow the NBA's brand internationally, while showcasing the strength of our franchise and team to millions of Chinese basketball fans," Hornets chairman and owner Michael Jordan said in a statement.

      The NBA in 2004 became the first American professional sports league to compete in China, with two exhibition games between the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings in Shanghai and Beijing. Following this year's games, the NBA will have played 20 games in Greater China since 2004.

      "Basketball is more popular than ever, and Global Games China 2015 is part of our ongoing commitment to growing the game in the world's most populous nation," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. "These games will not only bring the excitement of NBA action directly to Chinese fans, but will also provide the league another opportunity to experience the rich history and culture of China."

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Hawks sign F Daye to second 10-day contract
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a second 10-day contract Wednesday.

    • Daye has appeared in two games with the Hawks. He also played in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.

      In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    Warriors rout Blazers, wrap up division title
    By The Sports Xchange

    PORTLAND, Ore. -- Gerald Ford was president and Rick Barry, Phil Smith and Jamaal Wilkes were the stars when the Golden State Warriors last won the NBA's Pacific Division championship.

    • It was been a long time coming for the Warriors, who clinched the team's first division title since the 1975-76 season Tuesday night at the Moda Center with a 122-108 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

      "It feels great," first-year Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. "If you haven't done something for 39 years, you'd better celebrate it when you do.

      "It's a great moment for our franchise. It shows how far we've come in the last few years and all the work so many people have put in. It's all come together, so it's a special night for the Warriors."

      Guard Stephen Curry scored 33 points and handed out 10 assists to lead the Warriors (58-13) to their eighth straight win and 13th in 14 games. Forward Andre Iguodala equaled his season high with 21 points, forward Draymond Green had 14 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, and center Andrew Bogut contributed 10 points, 16 rebounds and six assists for the visitors.

      Guard Damian Lillard collected 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and guard C.J. McCollum added a career-high 23 points for the Trail Blazers, who lost their fifth straight game.

      Golden State shot 60.2 percent from the field overall, knocked down 12 of 26 from 3-point range and hit 10 of 11 from the free-throw line. The Warriors came out on top in rebounds (46-35), points in the paint (52-40) and fast-break points (20-6), and they recorded 37 assists on 50 baskets.

      "They put on a clinic on how to share the ball," said Portland coach Terry Stotts, whose team shot 42.4 percent from the floor.

      "We're very comfortable with how we're going to get shots every single night," Curry said. "Then it's just about executing, not turning the ball over, staying aggressive and making the smart plays."

      Portland (44-25) was without four its top six players due to injury -- starting forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, starting guard Wesley Matthews and sixth-man center Chris Kaman. Matthews is lost for the season due to a torn Achilles tendon.

      Lillard finished 9-for-21 from the field, including 6-for-11 from 3-point range, and 5-for-5 from the foul line.

      "I knew I'd have to take more control of what was going on out on the floor," Lillard said. "I tried to be more aggressive."

      The Blazers got out to a 28-20 lead, sinking 11 of 15 shots after an 0-for-5 start. They settled for a 30-26 advantage going into the second quarter.

      Portland led 35-28 early in the second period, but Golden State went on a 7-0 binge to tie the score at 35-35. The Blazers seized control again, running their lead to 53-41 on a 3-pointer by Lillard with 5:15 left in the period. The Warriors closed the gap to 62-57 at the half.

      Lillard had 18 first-half points and McCollum produced 10 before the break for the Blazers, who had only two turnovers and were 10-for-10 from the foul line in the half. Curry had 14 first-half points and Thompson 12 for the Warriors, who shot 56.1 percent, including 6-for-11 from 3-point range, and still trailed by five.

      The Warriors went ahead 69-66 on a 3-point shot by Curry with 8:27 left in the third quarter. A no-look pass from Curry to Green for a dunk, then a Curry 3-pointer made it 80-69. The Warriors padded the advantage to 93-80 heading into the final period.

      Golden State was ahead 96-80 early in the fourth quarter, but the Blazers rallied, guard Allen Crabbe's 3-pointer drawing the home team within 100-91 with 8:01 to play. Portland never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.

      "They picked it up on both ends of the floor in the second half," Lillard said. "We competed hard. Everybody played team ball. We went out there with the right mindset -- to be aggressive and accept the challenge. we tried hard, but (the Warriors) are the best team in the league for a reason."

      NOTES: The Warriors handed out Pacific Division champion T-shirts and took a team photo in the locker room after the game. "It was a good celebration relative to our accomplishment, with the idea that there's more to come," coach Steve Kerr said. ... Golden State improved its road record to 24-11 and matched a franchise record for most road wins in a season. ... The Warriors are now 14-3 in the second of-back-to-back games ... Kerr almost surely will set an NBA record for most regular-season wins by a rookie coach during 82-game regular season. The mark shared by Paul Westphal (Phoenix, 1992-93) and Tom Thibodeau (Chicago, 2010-11) at 62. ... Golden State sat reserves G Shaun Livingston and F David Lee. ... The Blazers own a 24-8 record when F Nicolas Batum, F LaMarcus Aldridge, G Wesley Matthews, C Robin Lopez and G Damian Lillard are in the starting lineup together, 20-17 otherwise.