Pictured: James Harden
Source: Harry How / Getty Image North America

Preview: Mavericks at Rockets

James Harden will try to push his streak of 30-point games to 30 in a row when he leads the Houston Rockets into a home matchup with the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. Harden continued his phenomenal scoring run with 42 points in Saturday’s 117-112 loss to Oklahoma City, leaving him two 30-point games away from tying Wilt Chamberlain for the second-longest such streak in NBA history.

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The 29-year-old Harden is averaging exactly 30 points in two meetings with the Mavericks this season, but both of them were losses and the team knows it sometimes needs more than his scoring punch to get by. “We have to be consistent for four quarters,” Harden told reporters Saturday after his team fell to 19-9 at home. “It’s pretty simple.” Dallas has taken six of its last nine games after a furious rally gave it a 102-101 win over Portland at home Sunday. Luka Doncic scored 28 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 24 and the Mavericks held the Trail Blazers to just nine fourth-quarter points to finish 2-1 on their three-game homestand.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, FS Southwest (Dallas), AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston)

ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (26-29): Doncic played the entire fourth quarter Sunday and scored 13 points while helping Dallas keep Portland from putting up a single point for nearly seven minutes during one stretch. “Luka was great in the fourth,” coach Rick Carlisle told the media of his star rookie. “Not only did he score and make plays but he had a lot of big rebounds down the stretch. I don’t normally play him a whole quarter but when we began to make the push early in the fourth it was just one of these times that he was going to have to finish if you’re going to have a chance.” Carlisle also gave credit to Hardaway Jr., who had a total of 24 points on 10-of-28 shooting through his first two games with Dallas following last week’s blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (32-23): While Harden piles up the milestones, newcomer Kenneth Faried is quietly working on an impressive streak of his own with four straight double-doubles. He shot 8-of-11 from the floor in the loss to the Thunder and is hitting 63 percent of his shots in 10 games since joining Houston last month. Point guard Chris Paul seems to be rounding into shape roughly two weeks after returning from a hamstring strain and fell an assist shy of a triple-double against Oklahoma City.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Doncic was one of six Mavericks in double figures with 21 points in a 107-104 win over Houston in the last meeting.

2. Harden averages 7.8 assists but has a total of only two over his last two games.

3. Mavericks PF Dwight Powell has hit 50 percent of his shots or better in nine straight games.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: LeBron James
Source: Harry How / Getty Image North America

Preview: Lakers at Celtics

The Los Angeles Lakers are at the center of a media circus in front of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, and the rumors seem to be getting to some of the young players on the team. The Lakers might look like a completely different team when they visit the rival Boston Celtics on Thursday.

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Los Angeles is reportedly in hot pursuit of disgruntled New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis to pair with superstar LeBron James and offered up just about every young player on the roster in negotiations, including Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. The rumors left the Lakers looking lifeless at Indiana on Tuesday, when they suffered the worst loss of James’ career 136-94 while Ingram and company were serenaded with “LeBron’s gonna trade you” chants at the free-throw line. The Celtics, who would very much like to get into the Davis trade discussions but have to wait until July 1 to pair him with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, are winners of 10 of their last 11 games and eased past the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-96 on the road Tuesday despite missing Irving, center Aron Baynes and forward Marcus Morris. “That’s what makes us so dangerous, that we have depth in that aspect, where we can bring guys off the bench and we can sit guys, or we can go without guys, and guys are going to step up and have a good game,” Boston guard Marcus Smart told reporters.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles)

ABOUT THE LAKERS (27-27): James sat on the end of the bench with several empty seats between him and the rest of his teammates toward the end of Tuesday’s setback and acknowledged that what the young players are going through isn’t easy. “I know it has to be tough on a lot of our guys, especially our young guys,” James told reporters. “Right now, they’ve just never been a part of it and they’re hearing it every single day — and I know that the worst thing that you can do right now is be on social media. And I know all young guys love social media. So, that definitely can’t help.” The Lakers dropped 13 of 20 games since James went down with a groin injury on Dec. 25 and sit in 10th place in the Western Conference.

ABOUT THE CELTICS (35-19): Boston is not expected to make any big moves in front of Thursday’s deadline and already enjoys enviable depth on a team that took James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals last season. “I think it should stay the same,” Morris told the Boston Herald of the team’s roster. “Guys are playing into what’s going on, (the All-Star Game) is about to pass and that’s when it ramps up. Guys want to play the way they’re supposed to during winning time, like we did last year when the intensity picked up. We should stay the same.” One difference from last season is the health of swingman Gordon Hayward, who is battling some inconsistency but put up 18 points on 9-of-14 shooting, six rebounds and five assists off the bench on Tuesday.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Irving (hip) and Morris (knee soreness) are both day-to-day.

2. James (32,008) became the fifth player in NBA history to reach 32,000 points on Tuesday.

3. The teams split the two meetings last season, with each protecting homecourt.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Source: Ezra Shaw / Getty Image North America

Preview: Spurs at Warriors

The Golden State Warriors struggled to find the energy to compete in two games at home after returning from a long trip but managed to split the two and will try to secure a winning three-game homestand when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. The Warriors will play three of five at home leading up to the All-Star break as they try to build momentum for the stretch run.

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Golden State swept a five-game road trip and was enjoying an 11-game winning streak before falling 113-104 at home to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday and needed an injection of energy in the form of a DeMarcus Cousins dunk on Saturday before shaking off the cobwebs and pulling away for a 115-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. “I thought his dunk brought the arena to life,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. “It brought the team to life. We were searching for energy and emotion up until that point.” The Spurs were enjoying a five-game winning streak before beginning the annual rodeo road trip with a 127-112 loss at the Sacramento Kings on Monday. San Antonio has seven stops left on a road trip that spans the All-Star break and includes trips to Portland and Utah this week.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, KENS (San Antonio), NBCS Bay Area (Golden State)

ABOUT THE SPURS (32-23): San Antonio went 2-4 on the rodeo road trip last season and got off to an inauspicious start this year while allowing its most points in a loss since falling 139-105 at Utah on Dec. 4. The Spurs allowed the upstart Kings to shoot 55.6 percent from the floor and were outscored by 11 points in the second half. The positive was an offensive breakout from star guard DeMar DeRozan, who scored 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting after going 8-of-26 from the floor in the previous two contests.

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (37-15): Golden State’s biggest challenge over the final two months of the regular season will be getting Cousins up to speed after he missed the first 45 games recovering from Achilles surgery. The 28-year-old is averaging 14.4 points on 43.6 percent shooting in seven games and pointed to Saturday’s big dunk as a step in the right direction. “It feels good to be able to finish,” Cousins told reporters. “Obviously, I haven’t been finishing the way that I would like; that’s still a process that I am trying to get through. Just finding my touch and balance around the rim. It was a good finish, I am happy about that.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Warriors SF Kevin Durant is 4-of-23 from 3-point range over the last five games.

2. Spurs PG Derrick White (plantar fasciitis) sat out Monday and could be out until after the All-Star break.

3. San Antonio took the first meeting of the season 104-92 at home on Nov. 18 behind 24 points and 18 rebounds from All-Star PF LaMarcus Aldridge.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Source: Streeter Lecka / Getty Image Nortb America

Preview: Bucks at Raptors

The battle for first place in the Eastern Conference will go head-to-head when the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. The Bucks go into the meeting with a half-game lead in the East and took two of the first three matchups against the Raptors, including a win at Toronto on Dec. 9.

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Milwaukee began its five-game road trip with a loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday but managed to maintain its record as the lone team in the league without back-to-back setbacks by knocking off the Detroit Pistons 115-105 on Tuesday. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, flirted with a triple-double and finished with 21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in the victory. The Raptors avoided a third consecutive setback on Sunday and closed a three-game road trip by edging the Dallas Mavericks 123-120, and they get two at home before hitting the road again for three more. Toronto is enjoying a 10-game winning streak at home that began after that 104-99 setback against the Bucks on Dec. 9.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, TSN 1/4/5 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE BUCKS (35-13): Injuries are getting to Milwaukee’s backcourt, but seldom-used reserve Pat Connaughton is making the most of the opportunity and sprang for 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 22 minutes Tuesday after not getting off the bench in three of the previous four contests. “Unbelievable,” Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe told reporters of Connaughton. “Pat’s been great all season when he does play. He always stays ready. He’s a veteran. He’s a professional, so he puts in the work. As I always say, just glad to see him come in and play well and we win.” Connaughton could be a key player again on Thursday with shooting guards Malcolm Brogdon (chest), Sterling Brown (wrist) and Donte DiVincenzo (heel) all day-to-day.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (37-15): Toronto has its own superstar forward in Kawhi Leonard, who scored at least 20 points in each of the last 22 games. Leonard, who sat out four straight as part of an injury maintenance program, averaged 32.5 points in two games since his return and recorded a double-double with 33 points and 10 rebounds in Sunday’s triumph at Dallas. Center Serge Ibaka recorded a double-double in the win as well – his season-best fourth straight.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Raptors PG Kyle Lowry is 7-of-23 from the floor over the last two games.

2. Bucks C Brook Lopez is averaging 3.4 blocks over the last five contests.

3. Antetokounmpo is averaging 31 points and 18.5 rebounds in two games against Toronto this season.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Darren Collison
Source: Matthew Stockman / Getty Image North America

Preview: Pacers at Wizards

The Indiana Pacers are reeling from the loss of star guard Victor Oladipo as they begin a four-game road trip Wednesday against the Washington Wizards. Indiana is 0-2 since Oladipo was lost to a season-ending knee injury after being steamrolled 132-100 by visiting Golden State on Monday.

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The 32-point loss to the Warriors represents the Pacers’ worst of the season, and the team is viewing its trek as vitally important after losing its best player. “Everything is important right now,” Indiana coach Nate McMillan told reporters. “We’re going down the stretch and we’ve had to make some major adjustments. Every game becomes even more important. Certainly, this road trip is important.” Washington is beginning a three-game homestand after losing back-to-back games, including Tuesday’s 116-113 setback against Cleveland – a contest in which it trailed by 25 points in the fourth quarter. “Regardless of if the team you’re playing has a good record or not a good one, you’ve got to always outplay your opponent with effort,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters, “and we didn’t do that.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FS Indiana, NBCS Washington

ABOUT THE PACERS (32-17): Tyreke Evans (back) will miss his second straight game on Wednesday, and that further diminishes the available firepower for Indiana. Edmond Sumner was pressed into the lineup on Monday for his first career start and scored two points on 1-of-10 shooting in a dreadful showing. “He had his head down a little bit after the game,” veteran point guard Darren Collison told reporters. “I told him, ‘Look, you may not notice, but you played good. Forget about the offense. I don’t care how good you are, nobody in their first game playing against a back-to-back championship team is going to be great. It takes time, it takes rhythm.'”

ABOUT THE WIZARDS (21-29): Tuesday’s setback was Washington’s second against the lowly Cavaliers this season, and Bradley Beal was none too happy with his club’s effort. “We probably thought that Cleveland was terrible, and they came out and punched us in the mouth, just like they did last time,” Beal told reporters. “You can’t overlook anybody. You’ve got to respect every team in the league.” Beal poured in 31 points for his fifth 30-point performance of the month and 12th of the campaign.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Pacers won two home games against the Wizards by an average of 12 points earlier this season.

2. Washington C Thomas Bryant scored just five points against Cleveland to snap a streak of seven straight double-digit performances.

3. Indiana SF Bojan Bogdanovic has recorded 15 or more points in eight of his last 11 contests.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Thaddeus Young
Source: Andy Lyons / Getty Image North America

Preview: Warriors at Pacers

The Indiana Pacers’ first game without star guard Victor Oladipo didn’t go so well, and the path forward isn’t getting any easier. The Pacers will try to move to 1-1 since Oladipo’s season-ending knee injury when they host the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Monday.

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Indiana somehow regrouped after watching Oladipo’s gruesome injury in Wednesday’s 110-106 home win over the Toronto Raptors but could not find a way forward on Saturday at Memphis, when they suffered a 106-103 loss two days after learning he was diagnosed with a ruptured quad tendon. “We’re just trying as a team to find ourselves without Victor Oladipo,” Pacers forward Thaddeus Young told reporters. “That’s one of the biggest things. Our offense was a little stagnant as opposed to having Victor out there. That’s no excuse.” The Warriors picked up their 10th consecutive win with a 115-111 triumph at Boston on Saturday but still believe they can be better. “It hasn’t been perfect, and we know we can still be better,” All-Star guard Steph Curry told reporters. “We’ve talked about putting a run together for a while now, and we’re right in the middle of a really good one. You want to create good vibes, especially with the All-Star break coming up, and continue to build momentum the second half of the season.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBATV, NBCS Bay Area (Golden State), FS Indiana

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (35-14): Golden State is back on its familiar perch atop the Western Conference as its offense rounds into shape. The Warriors have five current or former All-Stars in the starting lineup with center DeMarcus Cousins joining the team and are quickly getting used to playing together. “Probably the best thing we’re doing now is taking care of the ball,” Curry told reporters. “Playmakers are making the right decisions more times than not, getting shots up — that’s obviously when the talent takes over. Our defense has been better. People are settling into rotations with DeMarcus, and we got an edge about us.”

ABOUT THE PACERS (32-16): Indiana went 7-4 with Oladipo out of the lineup with a knee injury in November and December but is in a much different position with the star gone for the rest of the season and needs players like Tyreke Evans and Aaron Holiday to step up. Evans started in Oladipo’s spot on Saturday and managed nine points in 24 minutes while Holiday came off the bench and scored seven points on 3-of-11 shooting. Small forward Bojan Bogdanovic led the team with 21 points against the Grizzlies but went 1-of-6 from 3-point range and fouled out.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Curry went 6-of-12 from 3-point range on Saturday after slumping to 7-to-29 over the previous three contests.

2. Pacers C Myles Turner blocked multiple shots in each of the last six games and leads the NBA at an average of 2.79.

3. Indiana took both meetings last season by a total of 31 points.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo (in green)
Source: Streeter Lecka / Getty Image North America

Preview: Bucks at Thunder

The Milwaukee Bucks pushed their latest winning streak to six straight behind another MVP-like effort from superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday and own the fewest losses in the NBA as they get set to embark on a five-game road trip. Antetokounmpo and the Bucks will kick things off by visiting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

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The Bucks trailed 87-76 entering the fourth quarter on Friday and were down 12 with under 10 minutes to play before Antetokounmpo took over, scoring 14 of his 34 points in the final period and outscoring the Hornets himself in the fourth, 14-12. “It gives us momentum,” Antetokounmpo told reporters of the win. “We sat for three days, we didn’t have a game and this game just is something we’re going to build on. Hopefully, we’ll go to this five-game road trip and try to get as many wins as we can.” The Thunder come into the matchup with some momentum as well after winning their last four games and averaging 122.3 points during that stretch. Oklahoma City improved to 16-7 at home with a 122-116 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday and is wrapping up a three-game homestand with Milwaukee.

TV: 6 p.m. ET, ESPN, FS Wisconsin (Milwaukee), FS Oklahoma

ABOUT THE BUCKS (35-12): One of the keys to Milwaukee’s fourth-quarter surge on Friday was a defensive change that left Antetokounmpo at center and moved seldom-used reserve Pat Connaughton into the lineup, allowing the team to switch at every spot. “It allows me to be up and take pride in my defense, try to play the guys one-on-one,” Antetokounmpo told reporters of the setup. “Usually, we play back in the pick and roll, so we let the guy come downhill and try to shoot a floater or shoot the tough two, but sometimes I feel like it’s nice to take a step or two up and try to defend those guards and take pride in helping the team.” Antetokounmpo added three blocks and three steals to his 34 points and 14 rebounds in the victory.

ABOUT THE THUNDER (30-18): Star point guard Russell Westbrook is shooting 41.8 percent from the floor – the lowest mark since his 2008-09 rookie season – and 24.3 from beyond the arc but is still finding ways to impact the game. Westbrook is trying to average a triple-double for the third consecutive season and piled up 23 points, 17 rebounds and 16 assists on Friday. “(Westbrook) is a once in a generation kind of guy,” forward Abdel Nader told the team’s website. “He’s special on both ends. He plays with the energy level that some guys wish they could play with. He’s a hell of a leader and a hell of a player.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Thunder All-Star SF Paul George went 6-of-10 from 3-point range on Friday and knocked down at least three from beyond the arc in each of the last six contests.

2. Bucks C Thon Maker, who is averaging 4.7 points in 11.7 minutes but recently fell out of the team’s rotation, reportedly requested a trade.

3. The road team took each of the two meetings last season, with Milwaukee earning a 97-95 triumph at Oklahoma City.

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Pictured: Victor Oladipo
Source: Andy Lyons / Getty Image North America

Preview: Raptors at Pacers

The Indiana Pacers have just four losses in the last 35 days, but two of them came against the Toronto Raptors, their opponent Wednesday in Indianapolis. The Raptors secured a three-point win over the Pacers at home Dec. 19 and a 16-point victory in a rematch Jan. 6, but Indiana is 11-2 against all other teams in that span after a 120-95 triumph over Charlotte on Sunday.

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“We just tried to prepare ourselves defensively, making sure it was tougher for them than it was in the last game,” guard Victor Oladipo told reporters, referencing an earlier 26-point loss to the Hornets. “Collectively, we did awesome.” Oladipo scored a team-high 21 points in the win while handing out seven of the Pacers’ 34 assists, one shy of the team’s season high. Toronto finished a 3-0 homestand with a 120-105 win over Sacramento on Tuesday. Star swingman Kawhi Leonard (rest) missed his third game in a row for the Raptors and he is not expected back until Friday at Houston.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, TSN (Toronto), FS Indiana

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (36-13): Toronto is 11-2 without Leonard this season and it overcame his latest absence with a 16-for-40 showing from behind the arc, led by a 4-for-5 effort by CJ Miles, who is averaging 13.7 points in 16.7 minutes over his last three games. Kyle Lowry finished with 19 points and nine assists while Fred VanVleet matched him in the scoring column one game after shooting 1-for-8 from the floor as he manages the wear and tear of the long season. “At this point nobody’s 100 percent healthy,” VanVleet, who recently missed a game with a thigh issue, told reporters. “You’ve gotta be a professional, take care of your body, try to be the best version of yourself that day and go out there and lay it on the line. So, barring anything major, I’ll be out there scrapping and clawing and giving it what I’ve got.”

ABOUT THE PACERS (31-15): Darren Collison scored 19 points and handed out nine assists while Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 16 points in Sunday’s victory as Indiana reached the 120-point mark for the fourth time in its last seven games. “Me, Bojan, Vic, we were all being aggressive on the pick-and-roll,” Collison told the media. “When all three of us are aggressive, it’s tough to beat us.” Bogdanovic is averaging 19.5 points on 51.6 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds against the Raptors this season.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Pacers SG Tyreke Evans is averaging 15.5 points in 18.7 minutes over his last six games.

2. The Raptors are 8-1 in the second game of back-to-backs.

3. Toronto has won five in a row against Indiana.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Photo: DeMarcus Cousins
Source: Ezra Shaw / Getty Image North America

Preview: Warriors at Clippers

The Golden State Warriors seem to have found their high gear over the last few games and are about to hit the overdrive button with the addition of another All-Star. The Warriors will welcome center DeMarcus Cousins to the lineup when he makes his team and season debut on Friday at the host Los Angeles Clippers.

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Cousins, who signed a one-year deal with the defending champions in the offseason after suffering a torn Achilles as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, told ESPN that he is coming back better after spending the rehab process working on all areas of his game and he is ready to help Golden State win. “I’m back, and I’m not looking back,” Cousins said in an ESPN interview. “I’m moving forward. I’m leaving it on the floor every night. And I plan on coming back for that top spot.” The Clippers are sliding in the wrong direction in a tightly packed Western Conference and are failing to take advantage of a four-game homestand that saw them fall to Detroit, New Orleans and the Utah Jazz in the first three contests. “When you go through tough stretches it’s not the end, it’s where you are right now,” Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers told reporters. “We have to keep plugging through.”

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, NBCS Bay Area (Golden State), FS Prime Ticket (Los Angeles)

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (31-14): Cousins’ presence could create even more space on the floor for former MVP Stephen Curry, who is in the midst of a historic shooting stretch. Curry became the first player in NBA history to make at least eight 3-pointers in three straight games when he went 9-of-17 from beyond the arc in a 147-140 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday – Golden State’s sixth straight victory. “When Mark Jackson said (Curry) was ruining the game, I know a lot of people took that personal,” Warriors All-Star forward Kevin Durant told reporters of the ESPN announcer and former player and coach. “But I kind of got it a little bit, because he’s the only person I’ve ever seen that can shoot those shots in rhythm like that and make them. And now everybody else think they can, and you can’t. And that’s why I shake my head, because once in a generation, once in a lifetime type of talent and movement. His movements out there are just so smooth, it makes it look so easy. So, when he’s knocking down those shots it’s just a joy to see.”

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (24-20): Los Angeles allowed the Jazz to shoot 51.2 percent from the floor and score 41 points in the fourth quarter in Wednesday’s 129-109 setback, which marked the team’s fourth consecutive defeat. The Clippers couldn’t keep pace with Danilo Gallinari (nine points on 3-of-14 shooting) and Tobias Harris (17 on 6-of-14) suffering through poor shooting nights, and Rivers suggested the offensive woes stemmed from a lack of team play. “I thought offensively we were an individual team a lot tonight and defensively we had just too many breakdowns,” Rivers told reporters.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Warriors PF Draymond Green totaled 27 assists and two turnovers over the last two games.

2. Clippers SG Avery Bradley scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting Wednesday, reaching double figures for the second time in eight games this month.

3. Golden State suffered a 121-116 loss at Los Angeles on Nov. 12.

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Photo: Darren Collison
Source: Matthew Stockman / Getty Image North America

Preview: 76ers at Pacers

The Indiana Pacers and the Philadelphia 76ers both showed off how good they can be when everything comes together with blowout wins on Tuesday. The two Eastern Conference contenders will see if either can match that effort when the Pacers host the 76ers on Thursday.

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Indiana sits in third place in the East, one game ahead of Philadelphia, and earned its ninth win in 11 games by bludgeoning the Phoenix Suns in a 131-97 home victory on Tuesday. “In an 82-game season, you’re probably not going to play perfect at the defensive end,” Pacers point guard Darren Collison told reporters. “We did have our lapses, but we were able to get (going) today, have a good start defensively and make something happen at the offensive end. When we play good defense like that, we pretty much get what we want on offense.” The 76ers were just as impressive while blowing out the Minnesota Timberwolves 141-107 and were quick to credit their defense as well. “I thought we came out with energy,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown told reporters. “I thought we had a tremendous spirit, I thought we played defense, and we used that base to run.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT, NBCS Philadelphia

ABOUT THE 76ERS (29-16): Philadelphia shot 59.8 percent from the floor against Minnesota and handed out 40 assists on 55 made field goals. “We used our defense as a launching pad and did some good things there,” Brown told reporters. “But we really shared the ball. It was a perfect (situation) for us to be able to get a little bit more back on track. Some fist-bumps and high-fives, and 40 assists in a big number.” The 76ers also set a franchise record with 21 made 3-pointers as Wilson Chandler (4-of-6), Joel Embiid (4-of-6), Jonah Bolden (4-of-5) and Jimmy Butler (3-of-4) all got hot from beyond the arc.

ABOUT THE PACERS (29-14): Indiana’s defensive effort on Tuesday was led by center Myles Turner, who returned from a four-game absence due to a shoulder injury and delivered 18 points and six rebounds while a pair of blocks pushed his NBA-leading total to 105. “He’s the best shot blocker in the league,” Collison told reporters of Turner. “Consciously, as the opposing guard, you’re always worried about where he’s at on the court. Myles has been there for us all season long.” The Pacers’ seven players in double figures on Tuesday did not include All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, who managed eight points on 2-of-11 shooting.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Pacers SG Bojan Bogdanovic is 6-of-10 from 3-point range over the last two games and is shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc on the season.

2. 76ers PG Ben Simmons is averaging 21 points, 14.3 rebounds and 11 assists over the last three games.

3. The road team took the last three in the series, with Philadelphia earning a 100-94 win in its last trip to Indiana on Nov. 7.

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Photo: Kyrie Irving
Source: Adam Glanzman / Getty Image North America

Preview: Raptors at Celtics

The Boston Celtics were swept on a three-game road trip through Miami, Orlando and Brooklyn and return home with questions about the team’s consistency and cohesiveness. Ready to take advantage of the Celtics’ struggles are the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors, who visit Boston on Wednesday.

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Celtics star Kyrie Irving suggested after the loss to Orlando that perhaps the team was struggling under the weight of higher expectations and it looked like he was right for over three quarters on Monday until the team found a spark and turned a 27-point deficit into a 109-102 loss to the Nets. Boston will get a chance to figure things out at home with seven of the next eight games in its own arena, where they already own one win over Toronto this season. The Raptors, who dropped a 123-116 overtime decision at the Celtics on Nov. 16, brought their latest winning streak to five straight by outlasting the Washington Wizards 140-138 in double-overtime on Sunday. Star forward Kawhi Leonard collected 41 points and 11 rebounds in the victory and the team earned two full days of rest after asking each starter to log 41 minutes or more.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, TSN (Toronto), NBCS Boston

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (33-12): Leonard was named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 30.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in three wins, capped by Sunday’s star turn. “Kawhi really led us, took over the game,” point guard Kyle Lowry told reporters. “Some unbelievable rebounding, strongman stuff. He did some strongman stuff.” Lowry picked up his own double-double with 12 points and 11 assists against the Wizards but was 4-of-15 from the floor and is shooting 28.6 percent from 3-point range over the last four games.

ABOUT THE CELTICS (25-18): Irving sat out Monday to rest a sore quadriceps muscle but was in his teammates’ ears after the game, imploring them to find that gear they closed the game with and sustain it. “(If) we play (full) out the whole game we’ll be pretty tough to beat,” Boston forward Jayson Tatum told reporters of Irving’s message. “It’s tough being down 27 and trying to make a comeback in this league. Guys are just too good. It can happen, but it’s very rare. So, we’ve got to start out the gate like that and not dig a hole for ourselves.” Tatum finished with a team-high 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting while Jaylen Brown sprang for 22 points in the loss.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Celtics G Marcus Smart (illness) sat out Monday and is day-to-day.

2. Toronto PG Fred VanVleet missed Sunday’s win with a thigh contusion and is questionable for Wednesday.

3. The home team took each of the last nine in the series.

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Photo: Russell Westbrook
Source: J Pat Carter / Getty Image North America

Preview: Thunder at Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs attempt to recover from a subpar effort when they begin a home-and-home with the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. The Spurs saw a season-high five-game winning streak evaporate as they shot a woeful 36.1 percent from the field during a 96-86 loss to the host Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.

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San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich remains tied with Jerry Sloan (1,221) for third place on the all-time victories list after the listless effort against the Grizzlies that resulted in only the club’s fourth loss in the past 17 games. “It was one of those nights where the ball wouldn’t drop for us,” Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge told reporters after scoring 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting. “We couldn’t get out of it.” Oklahoma City is in a lull with a 4-5 mark over the past nine games after experiencing a 21-6 stretch. Star point guard Russell Westbrook recorded 25 points and 16 assists but also committed seven turnovers in Tuesday’s 119-117 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, FS Oklahoma, TNT

ABOUT THE THUNDER (25-15): Backup center Nerlens Noel is in the NBA concussion protocol after suffering a hard fall in Tuesday’s game against the Timberwolves and being hospitalized overnight. Noel received an elbow in the head from Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins in the third quarter and lost consciousness after hitting the floor and was taken off the court on a stretcher. “It’s just one of those crazy plays,” Oklahoma center Steven Adams told reporters after the game. “Fortunately, they responded quite quickly, the medical staff. I felt he was in the best hands.”

ABOUT THE SPURS (24-18): Shooting guard Bryn Forbes registered 14 points against the Grizzlies and has scored in double digits in 10 of the past 11 games. The third-year-pro has shown the ability to stretch defenses with his long-range shooting and has made at least three 3-pointers in the seven of the past 11 games. “Some people might say he’s overachieved,” veteran point guard Patty Mills told reporters of Forbes. “For me being with him every day, we were waiting for this moment for him to be able to do that. He grabbed it with both hands and ran with it.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Thunder have lost six straight regular-season games in San Antonio.

2. Spurs SF Rudy Gay (wrist) will miss his third straight game.

3. Oklahoma City SF Paul George recorded 27 points against Minnesota and has scored 20 or more in each of his past 15 appearances.

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Photo: James Harden
Source: Getty Image North America

Preview: Bucks at Rockets

The Houston Rockets just took out the top team in the Western Conference and will try to prove once again that it can knock off one of the best in the East when they host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. The Rockets won for the 12th time in the last 14 games when James Harden put together another virtuoso offensive performance in a 125-113 triumph over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

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Harden reached 30 points in his 13th straight game with 32 on Monday but did his best work passing out of double teams while handing out 14 assists. “They for sure trapped me, for sure had two on the ball every possession,” Harden told reporters. “It feels like every single game, I see a double-team or two on the ball mostly every possession. So, I’ve got to figure out ways to impact the game, figure out ways to not only score, but get guys involved.” The Bucks own the fewest losses in the NBA (11) and are winners of 10 of their last 12 after finishing off a six-game homestand with a 114-102 triumph over Utah. Milwaukee will play 13 of its next 18 games on the road leading into the All-Star break and is a middling 9-7 away from home so far this season.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FS Wisconsin (Milwaukee), AT&T SportsNet southwest (Houston)

ABOUT THE BUCKS (28-11): Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo led with 30 points and 10 rebounds on Monday despite being guarded by 7-1 center Rudy Gobert. “Obviously, he’s one of the best defenders in the league,” Antetokounmpo told reporters. “Defensive player of the year last year. He can contest every shot. But I was trying to get to my spots. Trying to shoot over him. He’s tough.” Antetokounmpo helped make up for an off night from point guard Eric Bledsoe, who was held to six points on 3-of-11 shooting while committing six turnovers against Utah.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (23-16): The beneficiary of several of Harden’s assists on Monday was center Clint Capela, who scored a career-high 31 points on 13-of-18 shooting. “From the defense that they gave us, whenever I’m under the rim and you put a little on me, what’s going to happen is that 99 (to) 100 percent of the time, I’m gonna dunk the ball,” Capela told reporters. “So, that’s what happened tonight. I did a good job of finishing aggressive under the rim. That’s the kind of game that I wanted to have. It means a lot.” Capela is averaging a career-high 17.6 points on 63.9 percent shooting while anchoring the defense and grabbing 12.8 rebounds.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Rockets PF P.J. Tucker went 7-of-11 from 3-point range on Monday en route to 21 points after going scoreless in a loss at Portland in the previous game.

2. Bucks C Thon Maker scored a season-high 15 points in 18 minutes off the bench on Monday.

3. Houston took both meetings last season.

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Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks