Celtics at Clippers

The Boston Celtics have lost a season-worst four straight games and they look to break out of their sudden funk when they visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. Boston opened a four-game road excursion with Tuesday’s 108-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, which followed up Sunday’s stunning 103-95 home loss to the Orlando Magic, a squad now tied for the worst record in the NBA.

All-Star guard Kyrie Irving scored 33 points in Tuesday’s loss but didn’t receive a chance at a game-winning shot as teammate Marcus Smart grabbed a rebound with 5.7 seconds left and never gave up the ball before badly missing a 3-point attempt as time expired. “He felt like he had a good look, and we’ve got to live with the results after that,” Irving said afterward. The Clippers have dropped their last two games after winning 12 of the previous 15 to salvage their season. Power forward Blake Griffin had 32 points, matched his season best of 12 rebounds and posted a season-high 12 assists during Monday’s 126-118 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves and is averaging 26.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists over the past four games.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, NBCS Boston, Prime Ticket (Los Angeles)

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ABOUT THE CELTICS (34-14): Post player Al Horford is in the second season of a four-year, $113 million contract with the squad and accepted a complimentary role this season with Irving and injured small forward Gordon Hayward joining the mix. His teamwork and unselfishness were noted by NBA coaches, who voted Horford to a spot on the All-Star team when the reserves were announced Tuesday. “It makes me feel good because I feel like I’ve always taken a lot of pride in playing the right way and putting the team first always,” said Horford, who has only eight 20-point outings this season. “The coaches have seen that and have rewarded me over the years. It’s a big honor for me.”

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (23-23): Shooting guard Lou Williams has kept Los Angeles in the playoff hunt with his stellar play that includes scoring 20 or more points in 15 of the past 16 games. But his solid campaign and career-best 23.3 scoring average didn’t result in an All-Star spot and Williams simply tweeted “Lol” when the television show announcing the reserves concluded. The team’s backcourt depth has been thin lately with Austin Rivers (heel) missing the last 12 games and coach Doc Rivers said his son will likely miss two more weeks.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Clippers have won six of the past eight overall meetings, as well as the last five played at the Staples Center.

2. Smart scored 22 points against the Lakers – one shy of his season best.

3. Los Angeles C DeAndre Jordan (ankle) is listed as doubtful and could miss his sixth straight contest.

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Rockets at Mavericks

James Harden and Chris Paul are both healthy, and the Houston Rockets are rolling again. The Rockets will try to push their latest winning streak to four in a row when they open a two-game road trip at the in-state rival Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.

Houston swept its three-game homestand by knocking of three playoff teams, capped by a 99-90 victory over the Miami Heat on Monday in which it trailed by 14 points in the first quarter before battling back. “After the initial hit we took from them, the 33 points (allowed in the first quarter), I thought our defense really stepped up,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters. “We played hard as heck. I thought it could be that way after we got an emotional victory on Saturday (over the Golden State Warriors) and then to get going, we just didn’t come out of the gate very well. But after that our defense is solid.” The Mavericks are coming off a strong defensive performance as well after opening a three-game homestand with a 98-75 win over the Washington Wizards. “It was a great team effort,” rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. told reporters. “Everybody did their part tonight. We gave up a couple of offensive rebounds, but that’s bound to happen. We kept fighting from quarter one to quarter four, so it was a great effort all around.”

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

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ABOUT THE ROCKETS (33-12): Houston can score as well as any team in the league but is getting stronger on the other end as well and limited Miami to 57 points over the final three quarters on Monday after holding Golden State to 17 fourth-quarter points on Saturday. “We have to, every single night,” Harden told reporters about defending. “Our shots might not fall, or we might not have our rhythm, but defensively we’ve got to compete and match each opponent’s intensity. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance every night.” Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring (31.4) poured in 28 points on Monday — his highest total in three games since returning from a hamstring injury.

ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (16-31): Smith highlighted his 17-point effort on Monday with a 360 dunk on a breakaway in the first quarter and is averaging 21.5 points over the last four contests. The 20-year-old North Carolina State product added six assists on Monday to help small forward Harrison Barnes break out of a shooting slump. Barnes finished with 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting in 31 minutes after going 3-of-13 from the floor in a loss at Portland on Saturday.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Rockets SG Eric Gordon is 0-of-16 from 3-point range over the last two games.

2. Mavericks PG Devin Harris (concussion) sat out Monday and is questionable for Wednesday.

3. Houston took the last five in the series, including a 107-91 win in the first meeting of the season at home on Oct. 21.

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Posted in NBA

Celtics at Lakers

The Boston Celtics carry their longest losing streak of the season into a challenging four-game road trip, beginning with a visit to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. The Celtics dropped all three games of their recent homestand, including the finale to an Orlando Magic squad that had lost 17 of its previous 19.

“I felt like they were shooting layups for the most part during tonight, even the ones they missed late,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the 103-95 setback. “And you know, you’ve got to play well. We haven’t played well consistently on both ends for a while now.” The one positive for Boston was the successful return of star guard Kyrie Irving, who scored 40 points after sitting out the previous affair with a shoulder injury. He will take aim at a Lakers’ team that has won six of its last eight on the heels of a nine-game losing streak. Behind 29 points from Jordan Clarkson and 27 from Julius Randle, Los Angeles pulled away for a 127-107 triumph over the New York Knicks on Sunday for its fifth consecutive home win.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, NBCS Boston

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ABOUT THE CELTICS (34-13): Irving has a reputation for taking a philosophical approach to most matters and he’s doing the same with Boston’s current struggles. “You gotta hit some adversity,” he told reporters. “We have to hit something. Like, we need it as a team. There’s a lot more adversity down the road, and we’ve got to be able to weather the storm no matter what. That’s part of the game, and learning one another and being able to figure out how do you respond from that.” Getting a bit more out of the bench could help, as six reserves combined to produce eight points on 4-of-19 shooting against Orlando.

ABOUT THE LAKERS (17-29): Los Angeles had held three straight opponents at home to under 90 points prior to Sunday and while the Knicks ended that run they managed just 44 points in the second half. “Defense. That was the only message at halftime,” coach Luke Walton told the media. “During our home win streak, we have been really, really good defensively.” Clarkson is averaging 31 points, 8.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds over the last two games.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Lakers PG Lonzo Ball (knee) has missed four straight games and SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Achilles) has sat out the last two.

2. Celtics PG Terry Rozier is 10-for-41 from the field – including 3-for-23 beyond the arc – over his last five games.

3. Boston C Aron Baynes tied a career high with 21 points in a 107-96 win over Los Angeles in November, running the Celtics’ winning streak in the series to four.

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Posted in NBA

Cavaliers at Spurs

The Cleveland Cavaliers are spiraling in the wrong direction with nine losses in 12 games and attempt to shake out of their doldrums when they visit the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. The Cavaliers were blasted 148-124 by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday and the points allowed matched the worst in franchise history in a regulation game.

Cleveland has lost by margins of 34, 28 and 24 over the past six games and the defensive effort against Oklahoma City was lacking with the Thunder scoring at least 33 points in every quarter. “It’s embarrassing. It’s not acceptable,” point guard Isaiah Thomas told reporters. “We can only go up from here, that’s the only positive about that. We’ve got to really look in the mirror, look at ourselves and get some pride.” The Spurs own the best home record in the NBA at 19-3 but dropped a 94-86 decision to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday while committing 20 turnovers as a 14-game home winning streak reached an end. “It happens a little too much with our team,” center Pau Gasol told reporters afterward. “We get a little bit out of whack. We don’t execute, we’re a little sloppy at times and we pay the price.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (27-18): Forward LeBron James needs just seven points to become the seventh player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points but the perennial star is more interested in figuring out his team’s porous play. Speculation regarding the status of coach Tyronn Lue has arisen and that deeply concerns James, who doesn’t see Lue as the problem but stopped short of giving his coach an endorsement. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with our team,” James told reporters. “I have no idea what conversations have been going on. Me personally, I’ve been trying to stay as laser-sharp as I can to keep my guys ready to go out and play. Obviously, it hasn’t resulted in wins, but I got to stay as fresh mentally as much I can with the struggles. I can’t worry about job securities and trades and things of that nature.”

ABOUT THE SPURS (30-18):
 San Antonio also hasn’t played as sharp as its reputation in a season in which star forward Kawhi Leonard has played in just nine games due to a quadriceps injury that is reportedly causing issues between Leonard and the organization. Coach Gregg Popovich decided to shake things up on Sunday by moving veteran point guard Tony Parker (12 points and five assists in 20 minutes on Sunday) to the bench and starting Dejounte Murray, who had eight points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes. “A little different, so I guess we’re figuring where we need certain things (with Parker) coming off the bench to start the game,” Spurs shooting guard Danny Green told reporters. “Trying to get a happy medium of getting some fast pace, slower pace, getting it inside, working outside, but turn the ball over a little less, move it a little bit better.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Spurs won both of last season’s meetings, including a 103-74 home romp.

2. Cleveland C Kevin Love (illness) is expected to play after leaving after three minutes against the Thunder.

3. San Antonio backup SG Manu Ginobili (thigh) is questionable after missing the past three games.

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76ers at Celtics

The Philadelphia 76ers will try to stay hot against the only team they have lost to over the last three weeks when they visit the Boston Celtics on Thursday. The rivals met in London a week ago and the Celtics rallied for a 114-103 win, but both teams returned home and had very different results once they resumed action.

The Sixers won for the fifth time in six games with an intense 117-111 victory over Toronto on Monday while the Celtics’ first action since London resulted in an overtime loss to New Orleans at home Tuesday night, snapping a seven-game winning streak. “For some reason tonight, the whole game we were a little careless. It just carried over there at the end,” Boston forward Al Horford told reporters. “We thought we had it. It just got away from us.” Joel Embiid was held to 15 points in the loss to the Celtics before recording 34 points and 11 rebounds in the win over the Raptors, which saw Philadelphia lose most of a big lead before hanging on in an emotional affair. “We’ve been in this type of position a lot this year,” Embiid told reporters, “so we just had to stay calm and execute.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT, NBCS Boston

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ABOUT THE 76ERS (20-20): JJ Redick has been a big part of Philadelphia’s surge with five 20-point games since Christmas, but the sharpshooter is expected to miss two weeks or more with a leg injury. Veteran Jerryd Bayless picked up a pair of starts in Redick’s place when the latter was hurt last month and second-year pro Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot – who had 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the last visit to Boston – could see an increase in playing time. Point guard T.J. McConnell is averaging 15 points on 58.3 percent from the field and 6.5 assists over the last two games.

ABOUT THE CELTICS (34-11): Boston has made a living on late rallies this season after many slow starts, but it couldn’t pull off the trick after another double-digit deficit Tuesday. “We can’t come back every game,” guard Kyrie Irving told reporters after shooting 8-for-24 and missing on some opportunities late in regulation and in OT. “It’s as simple as that.” The Celtics attempted a season-high 50 3-pointers, with Irving’s 12 attempts leading the way and Horford’s 4-for-5 effort the best of the bunch.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Embiid is averaging 13 points on 30.3 percent shooting in two meetings with the Celtics.

2. After seven consecutive games with at least 13 points, Celtics G Terry Rozier has a total of 17 over his last three contests while shooting 7-for-25.

3. Boston has won seven straight over Philadelphia at home.

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Nuggets at Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers have become one of the hottest teams in the NBA and aim to stretch their season-best winning streak to six games when they host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Los Angeles has posted 11 victories in its past 14 games after being seven games below .500 four-plus weeks ago.

The Clippers recorded a 113-102 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday in a tension-filled matchup that included some Houston players trying to get into the Los Angeles locker room afterward to confront forward Blake Griffin and injured guard Austin Rivers. “If it’s chippy, it’s chippy,” Griffin told reporters. “We fought. We had each others’ backs. I think that showed.” Los Angeles will attempt to put the emotions behind as it faces a Denver squad that is saddled with a 7-16 road record. The Nuggets have dropped four of their past six overall games but are coming off Tuesday’s 105-102 home victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Altitude (Denver), Prime Ticket (Los Angeles)

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ABOUT THE NUGGETS (23-21): Center Nikola Jokic tallied 29 points and collected a season-high 18 rebounds against the Mavericks for his third 20-point outing in the past five games. “Nikola took it upon himself to be aggressive and confident,” Denver coach Michael Malone said afterward. “Coaching 101: Play through your best player.” Jokic is averaging 26 points, 13.5 rebounds and seven assists over the past two games and will look to carry over last season’s form against the Clippers when he shot 65.2 percent from the field while averaging 17.3 points and 10 rebounds in the four meetings.

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (22-21):
 Shooting guard Lou Williams has fueled the Los Angeles rise by scoring 20 or more points in each of the past 13 games, including outings of 50 (a career best) and 40. The 31-year-old is averaging 31.2 points while making 57 3-pointers during the stretch to raise his average to a career-best 23.3, nearly five points higher than last season’s figure. Williams had 31 points and nine assists against the Rockets and Griffin also fared well with 29 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Nuggets have won the past three meetings, including a 123-98 victory in Los Angeles on Jan. 21, 2017.

2. Denver SG Gary Harris scored 25 points against Dallas and is averaging 22.5 over his past four outings.

3. Clippers C DeAndre Jordan (ankle) is expected to miss his third straight game.

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Lakers at Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder have plenty of offensive firepower with Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook, but it’s their work on the defensive end that is carrying the team of late. The Thunder will try to hold their third straight opponent under 92 points and pick up a third consecutive win when they host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Oklahoma City didn’t have the best of luck with the referees on Monday and Westbrook was ejected late, but they managed to hold the Sacramento Kings to 36 second-half points in a 95-88 victory. “We buckled down defensively,” Anthony told reporters. “We made an adjustment. We started switching in the second half, keeping a body on a body. We started to tighten up on the pin downs and the curls and the communication was very high tonight in the second half.” The Lakers are battling through injuries to two of their key young players and had a four-game winning streak come to an end with a 123-114 loss in Memphis on Monday. “We weren’t physically, mentally ready to match what Memphis brought tonight,” Los Angeles coach Luke Walton told reporters after the loss. “And that’s disappointing because that doesn’t have to do with anything but the toughness to be engaged in a fight. … We let them kind of punk us all over the floor.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles), FS Oklahoma

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ABOUT THE LAKERS (15-28): Small forward Brandon Ingram (ankle) and point guard Lonzo Ball (knee) both sat out Monday, but at least Ingram plans to be back on the court Wednesday. Ingram, who is averaging 16.1 points on the season and is shooting 61.4 percent from the floor in his last five games, practiced with the team on Tuesday and is probable for Wednesday while Ball is questionable. “He got treatment,” Walton told reporters of Ball on Tuesday. “He’ll get treatment again later today, but it’s still just too sore for him to get on the basketball court. Technically, he’s questionable. But he didn’t practice today, so I wouldn’t expect him to play (Wednesday).”

ABOUT THE THUNDER (24-20): Westbrook is just off his triple-double pace from last season while averaging 25 points, 9.9 assists and 9.8 rebounds and had a shot at a triple-double on Monday before being ejected. The star guard went for a layup and was hit in the face by one player and knocked in the body by another, but was called for traveling when he came down with the ball, exacerbating the tension that continues between referees and players this season. “I’m done with them,” Anthony told reporters of the officials. “I’m done with the refs. No disrespect, but I’m done with those guys.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Lakers PF Larry Nance Jr., who collected 15 points and 11 rebounds on Monday, is questionable with a hip injury.

2. Thunder C Steven Adams recorded a double-double in each of the last two games after going eight straight games without securing double-digit rebounds.

3. Oklahoma City went into Los Angeles on Jan. 3 and dominated in a 133-96 victory while shooting 60.2 percent from the floor.

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Suns at Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers allowed an average of 120 points while losing all three games of a road excursion. The Trail Blazers aim to toughen up defensively when they open a three-game homestand with Tuesday’s tilt against the Phoenix Suns.

Not only did Portland have trouble stopping the Minnesota Timberwolves during Sunday’s 120-103 setback, the squad tallied just 10 second-quarter points and finished with 18 turnovers. “Our offense really hit the skids,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said afterward. “We didn’t shoot it well, we didn’t pass it well, we turned the ball over. Minnesota took advantage of it, so it was a big hole.” Portland has won its last five games against Phoenix, which was pummeled 120-97 by the Indiana Pacers on Sunday for its fourth loss in the past five games. “I just thought we lacked juice, I don’t know why, at both ends,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano told reporters. “Our cuts weren’t precise offensively, and defensively we were a half-step behind them every time they made a move.”

TV: 10 p.m. ET, NBATV, FS Arizona (Phoenix), NBCS Northwest (Portland)

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ABOUT THE SUNS (16-28): Veteran center Tyson Chandler has posted seven consecutive double-digit outings on the boards and collected 14 against the Pacers to become the 40th player in NBA history to reach 10,000 career rebounds. “When you come into this league as a young player, you don’t know what to expect and you’re just trying to survive,” Chandler told reporters. “Now, I’m right at a part of my career to be able to start to get some of these milestones. Just reminds you of the all the hard work, the journey, the sacrifices that you have to make and everything that you’ve done, to be in position to hit some of these.” The 35-year-old Chandler, who has 10,003 career rebounds, is averaging 6.7 points and 9.9 rebounds during his 17th NBA campaign.

ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (22-21): Standout point guard Damian Lillard is just 5-of-23 from 3-point range during the losing streak but he has reached 100 makes for the season to join Golden State’s Klay Thompson as the only players in NBA history with 100 or more in each of their first six NBA seasons. Lillard has tallied 25 or more points in six consecutive games against the Suns and is averaging 26 points and seven assists in two contests this season. Shooting guard CJ McCollum has six straight 20-point outings against Phoenix and is averaging 26.8 points and 5.3 assists during the stretch.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Trail Blazers are 2-0 against Phoenix this season, including a 124-76 season-opening win on Oct. 18 in which the 48-point margin represents the worst loss in Suns’ history.

2. Phoenix SF TJ Warren (lower back soreness) is expected to play after sitting out Sunday.

3. Portland starting PF Al-Farouq Aminu has more turnovers (33) than assists (32) through 30 games played.

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Pelicans at Celtics

The red-hot Boston Celtics look to stretch their second-longest winning streak of the season to eight games when they host the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. Boston has held five teams under 100 points during the latest streak, which follows a 16-gamer early in the campaign.

The Celtics, who have won five of their last six meetings with New Orleans, are well-rested after having last played Thursday in London when they rallied for a 114-103 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Second-year swingman Jaylen Brown tallied 21 points for his ninth 20-point outing of the campaign while raising his average to 14.2 per game. The Pelicans have won three of their past four games with power forward Anthony Davis scoring a season-high 48 points to go with 17 rebounds in Sunday’s 123-118 overtime victory over the New York Knicks. “We just kept fighting,” Davis told reporters of his team’s resolve in rallying from a 19-point, third-quarter deficit. “We just wanted to get stops and get some easy buckets. We never have a mentality of, ‘oh, we’re losing.’ It’s always, ‘we’re not winning right now.'”

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBATV, FS New Orleans, NBCS Boston

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ABOUT THE PELICANS (22-20): Davis and center DeMarcus Cousins are doing yeoman duty as a tandem and occasionally another teammate steps up with his big performance. Cousins, who was a one-man act in Sacramento before being traded to New Orleans near last season’s trading deadline, downplayed the situation after Davis attempted 30 shots (making 17) in the win over New York. “It’s a team game, it’s not about (Davis) having a big game or me having a big game,” Cousins told reporters. “We go in, play our roles and do what we have to do. There’s been nights where E’Twaun Moore has had a big game, (or) Jrue Holiday. It can be anybody’s night. It’s a team effort.”

ABOUT THE CELTICS (34-10): Rookie forward Jayson Tatum had tests performed due to left knee soreness but says he expects to play against New Orleans. “It feels a lot better,” Tatum told reporters on Monday. “I just tweaked it in the game in London, and (during) the long plane ride it got a little stiff. We had a few days off … so (the Celtics) just told me to rest the other day at practice.” Tatum scored 16 points in 24 minutes against the 76ers and has scored in double digits in 11 of the past 13 games.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Davis averaged 30.5 points and 15.5 rebounds as the teams split last season’s two meetings.

2. Cousins recorded a career-best seven steals against the Knicks while Davis and Holiday had four apiece as New Orleans totaled a season-best 17.

3. Boston C Al Horford (knee, calf) is ailing but expected to play against the Pelicans.

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Rockets at Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers are just beginning to win consistently without former star point guard Chris Paul, just in time to welcome him back. Paul, who is carrying the Houston Rockets in the absence of James Harden, will make his first appearance in Los Angeles since being traded over the summer when the Rockets visit on Monday.

Paul, who expects to be booed by his former home fans, is averaging 28.7 points in three straight wins and is embracing Houston’s offensive philosophy by hoisting a career-high 6.8 3-point attempts on the season and connecting at 38 percent. “Tomorrow is not about me,” Paul, who referred to Los Angeles as “home” told reporters after practice on Sunday. “It’s about us and doing what we came out here to do.” The Clippers are ravaged by injuries and won’t have Paul’s former teammates DeAndre Jordan (ankle) or Austin Rivers (Achilles) available, but Blake Griffin should be on the court trying to lead his team to a fifth consecutive win. Griffin, who missed two games last week recovering from a concussion, was a combined 8-of-22 from the field in two games since his return but totaled 16 rebounds and 15 assists in back-to-back triumphs over the Sacramento Kings.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT

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ABOUT THE ROCKETS (30-11): Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring (32.3 points) and ranks third in assists (9.1), is expected to sit out his seventh straight game on Monday but could return later in the week, possibly in time for a showdown with the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. “It could be Thursday or Saturday, I don’t know,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters of Harden’s potential return. “He’s got to get better. We’ll see. Whenever he’s ready.” The Rockets are replacing part of Harden’s scoring load with veteran shooting guard Gerald Green, who is averaging 19.5 points over the last six games.

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (21-21): Los Angeles’ list of injuries includes the point guard that came over from Houston to replace Paul, Patrick Beverley (knee), but it’s another player acquired in that deal that is carrying the team’s scoring load. Veteran sixth man Lou Williams averaged 14.9 points in 23 games with Houston last season and began 2017-18 as the sixth man for the Clippers before injuries forced him into the starting lineup, and he is thriving while averaging 26.7 points in 11 starts. Williams is putting up an average of 35 points during the four-game winning streak and knocked down at least four 3-pointers in each of those four contests.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Rockets PF Luc Mbah a Moute (shoulder) sat out the last 15 games but practiced on Sunday and could return Monday.

2. Clippers PF Montrezl Harrell, who also came over in the Paul trade, is averaging 18.7 points on 25-of-37 shooting over the last three games.

3. Los Angeles earned a 128-118 win at Houston on Dec. 22 behind 32 points from Williams while Paul sat out with an adductor injury.

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Warriors at Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ latest meltdown comes just as the team is preparing to host the rival Golden State Warriors on national TV on Monday. The Cavaliers will try to put their internal griping aside and get some stops on the defensive end against the Warriors, who are enjoying a string of 12 straight road wins.

The Cavaliers were blasted by a total of 62 points in losses at Minnesota and Toronto before going into Indiana on Friday and building a 22-point lead in the first quarter only to fall 97-95. “We have enough talent here to get over that hump and make good things happen,” forward Kevin Love told reporters. “But right now it’s just tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel but it is there and, this being my fourth year here, we will get out of it and we will get better.” The Warriors, who beat the Cavaliers 99-92 on Christmas Day, are battling through their own rough stretch of schedule and nearly squandered a 27-point halftime lead at Toronto on Saturday before holding on to earn a 127-125 win on the second night of a back-to-back. “Obviously, we wanted to extend that, keep that lead, but they’re a good team, and it’s hard to win on the road in the NBA,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson told ESPN.com. “It doesn’t matter who you play, and they have a great home crowd. A win is a win, especially on a back-to-back.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

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ABOUT THE WARRIORS (35-9): Golden State got point guard Stephen Curry (ankle) back from a two-game absence on Saturday and watched him collect 24 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Curry, who sat out the meeting with the Cavaliers on Christmas with an ankle injury, was the only player that might have been well-rested in Toronto, which marked the Warriors’ third game in four nights and seventh in 11 days. Kevin Durant played in each of the last three games but is not showing any fatigue while shooting 64.3 percent from the floor and 58 percent from 3-point range in that span.

ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (26-16): Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue cryptically talked to reporters about the need to get rid of “agendas” on the team after a 133-99 loss in Toronto on Thursday but was trying to look at the positives after the loss in Indiana. “It was a great effort,” Lue told reporters. “With (Dwyane Wade) out and (Isaiah Thomas) out. Guys may have been a little tired, but I thought we fought and played with the right purpose, defensively especially. We’ve just got to continue to build off that.” Thomas, who is sitting out back-to-backs after coming off a hip injury, is expected to play on Monday and is hoping for a better performance after going 2-of-15 for four points at Toronto.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Cavaliers SG JR Smith is 4-of-22 from the floor, including 1-of-12 from 3-point range, in the last three games.

2. Warriors SF Omri Casspi (back) sat out the last two games and is day-to-day.

3. Golden State took six of the last seven from Cleveland, including a five-game win in the NBA Finals last spring.

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Posted in NBA

Cavaliers at Raptors

The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off one of their worst performances just in time to face one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers will try to solve their defensive woes in time to stop DeMar DeRozan and company when they visit the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

Cleveland dropped six of its last nine games and was embarrassed 127-99 at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, and Isaiah Thomas simplified the team’s issues. “We’ve just got to play harder,” Thomas told ESPN.com. “We’ve got to play harder on both ends, we’ve got to push the pace offensively, we’ve got to pressure up defensively and take teams out of what they want to do. Teams are doing whatever they want to us at that end of the floor. I think if we do that then that will be half the battle. We’ll fix things on offense, but defensively we’ve just got to play harder, be more physical, take away what teams want to do.” The Raptors had a five-game overall winning streak and a 12-game home surge come to an end with a 90-89 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday. “We always focus on the last few possessions, but the stuff was building up, the lack of ball movement, spacing, cutting, playing with force, we didn’t do it,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, Sportsnet One (Toronto)

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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (26-14): Cleveland star LeBron James is playing at his usual MVP form this season but suffered through one of the worst games of his career on Monday, when he scored 10 points — his lowest total since 2007 — and registered a plus-minus of minus-39 — the worst mark of his career. James, who insisted “I don’t give a damn about no damn plus-minus,” was coming off a performance at Orlando on Saturday in which he collected 33 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and six steals. Power forward Kevin Love, who scored 27 points in that win over the Magic, managed just three points on 1-of-7 shooting at Minnesota.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (28-11): Toronto was playing without point guard Kyle Lowry on Tuesday after he suffered a back injury late in Monday’s win over Brooklyn, and the difference in the offense was noticeable. “I mean, the whole game is completely different without Kyle. It’s everything. Everything,” DeRozan told reporters. “You can kind of tell with our ball movement wasn’t all the way there like it normally be when Kyle’s out there. Like I said, he’s a general on the floor. He sees things when they need to be called.” Lowry, who averaged 20.5 points in four regular-season games against the Cavaliers last season, had x-rays come back negative and is considered day-to-day.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Raptors PF Serge Ibaka was suspended one game after an altercation with Miami’s James Johnson on Tuesday.

2. Cavaliers SG Kyle Korver is 13-of-22 from 3-point range over the last four games.

3. Cleveland swept Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring.

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Clippers at Warriors

Stephen Curry is ripping through opponents since coming back from an ankle injury but saved his best for the Los Angeles Clippers while dropping 45 points over three quarters in a 121-105 road win on Saturday. Curry will get another chance to torment the Clippers when they visit the Warriors on Wednesday.

Curry followed that 45-point effort with 32 in a 124-114 win over Denver on Monday and is averaging 35.2 points on 57.4 percent shooting, including 53.2 percent from beyond the arc, in five games since returning from an 11-game absence. “He’s been so brilliant since he’s been back, and even on a night when he’s not at his best, he’s still dominating the game in parts,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told reporters after Monday’s win. “He hit the big shots that created the separation for us.” The Clippers lost star power forward Blake Griffin to a concussion in the loss to the Warriors on Saturday but managed to avoid a three-game slide when C.J. Williams knocked down a 3-pointer with nine seconds left in a 108-107 win over Atlanta on Monday. “I’ve made that shot before,” Williams told reporters. “Just a rhythm dribble to my left, and once we got that offensive rebound, I felt the momentum and the excitement of the moment.”

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

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ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (18-21): DeAndre Jordan is the only starter remaining from the team’s opening day starting unit and continues to put up big numbers with 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting and 18 rebounds in Monday’s win. The veteran center recorded 15 points and 11 boards in only 29 minutes against Golden State on Saturday as the game got out of hand early but is averaging an NBA-best 15.1 rebounds while ranking second in the league in shooting percentage (.661). Veteran shooting guard Lou Williams was brought in to be the sixth man but is starting due to all the injuries and is averaging 31.2 points over the last five games.

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (33-8): Golden State managed to thrash the Clippers on Saturday despite being without star forward Kevin Durant, who could return on Wednesday after sitting out the last three games with a right calf strain. Durant, who helped the team go 9-2 while Curry was out and is averaging 25.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.3 blocks, is considered probable and will be evaluated after Wednesday morning’s shootaround. Giving Curry a big hand in the absence of Durant has been forward Draymond Green, who recorded a triple-double in Thursday’s win at Houston and collected 23 points and 10 assists in Monday’s triumph over the Nuggets.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Warriors PF David West played in his 1,000th career game on Monday.

2. Clippers PG Milos Teodosic (plantar fasciitis) is questionable for Wednesday.

3. Golden State ran its winning streak in the series to 12 straight with Saturday’s triumph.

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Posted in NBA