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Jason Kidd leads Mavericks late in win over the Suns

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The Suns tried their best to outlast the Mavericks on Sunday, swapping out 40 percent of their starting lineup to try to put the right pieces in place in an effort to begin an improbable run to the postseason. Phoenix played well early, but Dallas made the right adjustments defensively, and got huge fourth quarters from Jason Kidd and Jason Terry to pull away late, 91-83.

Kidd, in particular, sealed this one for Dallas. He was perfect in the final period, going 3 of 3 from the field and 2 of 2 from the free throw line in eight critical minutes, delivering perhaps the knockout blow to a Suns team that has been on the ropes for much of the latter part of the season.

We’ll get to Kidd’s heroics in a moment. But the game was far from a foregone conclusion in Dallas’ favor, and in fact, it was one the Suns controlled for most of the evening.

Phoenix shook up its starting lineup on Sunday, replacing the ineffective Robin Lopez and Vince Carter with super-producers from the bench, Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley. Gortat was playing with his nose heavily taped, after fracturing it during Friday’s loss to the Hornets, but it certainly didn’t affect his play. Gortat finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots, which effectively cancelled out Tyson Chandler’s 16 points and 18 rebounds for Dallas. Dudley finished with 20 points, five rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry clearly pushed the right buttons in making these lineup changes. But the team  couldn’t overcome its worst three-point shooting performance since 2004, going just 1 for 16 from downtown after averaging 12.5 makes from distance over its last four games. (Ironically, the one three-pointer that the Suns did make? It came from Vince Carter.) Dallas, meanwhile, connected on 10 of its 26 attempts from beyond the arc, none bigger than the two that Kidd hit late in the fourth with the game in the balance.

With the game tied at 83 and just over a minute and a half remaining, Kidd personally ended it with an 8-0 scoring run to put this one in the win column for Dallas. He hit a three as the shot clock expired after getting it late in the possession from J.J. Barea, then drained another one on his team’s very next possession with 44 seconds left that effectively sealed it. Both were extremely tough shots.

“That first three he hit beat the clock by a tenth of a second,” Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said. “His level of concentration to step into that shot and hit all net, it’s phenomenal. And then the other one, Dirk just got in a bad way, he circled around, gave him an outlet, and there’s no tougher shot in basketball than a three-point shot if you’re right-handed and moving to your left, kind of circling around. Those were two phenomenal shots.”

Kidd had a slightly different perspective.

“I had no choice when J.J. gave me the ball with one second left on the shot clock,” Kidd joked. “So that helped, because I didn’t have to think about it.”

Phoenix led by as many as 12 in the early going, as Steve Nash and Gortat repeatedly shredded the Mavericks on the pick and roll. Rodrigue Beaubois started for Dallas, and he looked absolutely lost defensively, as Nash found Gortat again and again wide open at the rim. The first quarter ended with seven assists for Nash, 12 points for Gortat, and a frustrated Dallas squad that managed to shoot just 20 percent from the field in the period.

As the game went on, though, Dallas’ defense adjusted, and locked down to hold the Suns to just 34 second-half points. They sent two guys at Nash consistently to force the ball out of his hands, and the Suns had trouble taking advantage of their mismatches in isolation situations offensively.

Still, things were tight to start the fourth, with the Suns clinging to a two-point lead. That’s when Terry stepped in, and made up for his 2 of 10 shooting in the first three quarters with 10 straight Mavericks points early in the fourth. Terry got it started for Dallas offensively in the period, and Kidd was there to finish it.

While the Suns talked of their playoff hopes being all but lost, the Mavericks were energized by their second road win in as many nights. Both games featured slow starts, however, which is something Kidd spoke to afterward.

“Well, I don’t want to blame it on age,” Kidd said with a smile, and with a few gray hairs noticeably poking through a couple of days worth of stubble on his face. “We sometimes are spoiled in the sense of having a deep team, and we get off to a slow start. But we feel that if we just keep coming, the tide will turn.”

Russell Westbrook’s sixth straight triple-double leads Thunder past Hawks 102-99

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ATLANTA (AP) — Russell Westbrook extended his streak of triple-doubles to six games, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 102-99 victory over the skidding Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.

Westbrook scored 32 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and doled out 12 assists, giving him the NBA’s longest streak of triple-doubles since Michael Jordan had seven in a row in 1989.

Westbrook’s run has sparked a six-game winning streak by the Thunder. He’s now reached double figures in all three categories in half of the Thunder’s 22 games.

By contrast, Jordan had 15 triple-doubles for the entire 1988-89 season.

Westbrook kept his streak alive with plenty of time to spare. Despite a poor start shooting, he already had 15 points and 11 rebounds when he picked up his 10th assist with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

Scooping up a loose ball after a turnover by the Hawks, Westbrook led a 2-on-1 that ended with a pass to Victor Oladipo for a layup that gave the Thunder a 69-59 lead.

Westbrook, who missed eight of his first nine shots, suddenly found his touch in the third quarter. He made five of his next seven shots, three of them beyond the arc, and finished with 16 points in the period as the Thunder stretched a one-point halftime lead to 83-69 heading to the fourth.

Atlanta rallied down the stretch, but Westbrook closed it out for the Thunder. He finished with 27 second-half points to send the Hawks to their seventh straight loss and 10th defeat in the last 11 games.

It’s the longest losing streak for the Hawks since they dropped eight in a row in February 2014.

Coach Mike Budenholzer decided to shake things up, sending Kyle Korver to the bench and putting Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup. The Hawks also were bolstered by the return of Paul Millsap, who had missed three straight games with a sore hip. He led five players in double figures with 24 points.

It didn’t matter. Westbrook made sure of that.

Atlanta had a shot to send the game to overtime after Korver forced a jump ball.

The Thunder clamped down defensively off the inbounds play, and Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer failed to hit the rim.

MONSTER JAM

Oladipo wasn’t afraid to take on Dwight Howard in the lane.

During the second quarter, the 6-foot-4 Thunder guard drove the baseline and slammed one over Atlanta’s 6-11 center, rocking the rim and drawing gasps from the crowd.

Oladipo savored the moment, pumping his fists, stomping his feet and posing briefly in the lane even as the Hawks took off the other way.

RECRUITING DWIGHT

Billy Donovan made a recruiting pitch to Howard while coaching at Florida.

During his pregame chat with the media, the Oklahoma City coach recounted a visit to Howard and his father at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.

Donovan quickly gave up any hope of getting Howard to attend college.

“All I had to do was watch one AAU game and then I stopped recruiting him immediately,” he quipped.

Howard, of course, went straight from high school to the NBA in the days before the rules required at least one year of college. He was the first overall pick of the Orlando Magic in 2004.

 

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .

Al-Farouq Aminu active for Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 25: Al-Farouq Aminu #8 of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrates with a teammate after hitting a three point shot in the first quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center on April 25, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) — Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu is active for their game against the Chicago Bulls after being sidelined by a left calf injury.

Coach Terry Stotts says Aminu will be restricted to around 20 minutes Monday night “depending on how it goes.”

Aminu started the first eight games of the season before he got hurt Nov. 8 against Phoenix. He is averaging 6.4 points and 6.6 rebounds.

Victor Oladipo with the two-handed throw down over Dwight Howard (VIDEO)

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That. Was. Nasty.

After some good ball movement from the Thunder (which started with pretty much their entire team collapsing on Russell Westbrook), Victor Oladipo drove out of the corner aggressively, Dwight Howard tried to rotate over, but he was a step too late and… damn.

By the way, if your question is “did Westbrook get his sixth straight triple double” the answer is of course he did.

Report: LeBron James, other Cavaliers will not stay at Trump hotel in New York this week

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02:  A view of the Trump International Hotel on May 2, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
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There are a few regular hotels where NBA teams stay in the New York area, one of them is the Trump Hotel in Soho. It fits the general bill — high-end hotel that works to cater to the specialty needs of NBA players and teams, and it’s in a great location in the city.

It’s where the Cleveland Cavaliers were booked to stay when the team visited New York this week, but LeBron James and other Cavaliers have been excused by the team and will stay at another location, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

A group of Cleveland Cavaliers players have been excused from staying at the team’s planned accommodations, the Trump SoHo hotel in lower Manhattan, when the defending champions visit New York City this week to play the New York Knicks, multiple team sources told ESPN.com.

Other members of the team’s traveling party will stay at the 46-story luxury building opened in 2010 and branded through a licensing agreement with President-elect Donald Trump, as the Cavs have a contract with the establishment…

LeBron James is included in the faction of players who will not be staying at the Trump SoHo, according to multiple sources. James publicly endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton about a month before Clinton lost the election.

Richard Jefferson, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert have all expressed unhappiness with the election results publicly. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was a Trump supporter who conducted a fundraiser for the now president-elect.

These players are not the only ones making this move, and several teams have worked to shift away from Trump properties nationwide.

Of course, this is going to lead some people to freak out in the comment section — people who barely watched the NBA for the last decade will proclaim their boycott of the Cavaliers and league — but honestly, what LeBron is doing is what we should all do, support businesses and causes that align with our beliefs. Avoid those that don’t. If you don’t like the way they run their business and donate money, don’t eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. If you have issue’s with Donald Trump, don’t stay at his hotels and don’t golf at his courses. Speak with your dollars, it’s often the most efficient way to get a message across (hence the unending parade of “boycotts” of businesses across the nation).

So long as LeBron cleared this with the team and makes it to shootaround on time, this is no big deal. But, go ahead in the comments and tell us about how you’re disrespected.