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Expect to see facilitator Kobe in his return to Lakers

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LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant is back — he was walking around the Lakers’ locker room pregame in uniform ready to go — and he is going to try to score. It’s what he does.

But don’t be surprised if on his return Sunday night against Toronto you see a lot of the dishing, facilitating Kobe for the Lakers. Mike D’Antoni suggested as much before the game.

“I think he will try to facilitate early, just to get into a rhythm,” D’Antoni said. “Again, I just want him to be able to read the situation and make the play.”

Kobe’s return means there will be some bumps in the road — it’s never perfectly smooth when a new No. 1 option in the offense is inserted back into the lineup.

“There’ll be a little bit of a sorting out process now, we’ll find out what we need to adjust and he needs to adjust to the team and visa versa and go from there…” D’Antoni said. “Obviously we want to keep our pace the same, but he practiced at that pace with the ball movement and all that.”

Teams have been known to have letdowns when their stars return, D’Antoni said he warned his team about that.

“I think the biggest thing we need to guard against is standing around and watching him play,” D’Antoni said. “Sometimes you go to an All-Star Game and you watch somebody that you haven’t played with and you just sit there watching and you really don’t get into it. We can’t afford to have Nick Young take a step back, or Wesley Johnson — they have to take a step forward.”

That said, the only limits on Bryant will be his own.

“He’ll be limited by his conditioning and how he feels about the other parts of his body,” D’Antoni said. “His Achilles is fine, it’s just everything else. I’m guessing in the 20s (minutes).”

The Lakers are a team looking at trying to make a playoff run in the deep Western Conference. The Lakers went into Sunday night 10-9 and just one game out of the eighth slot in the West.

Whether the Lakers can make that cut with Kobe Bryant is up for debate, but they were not going to do it without him.

“Just be Kobe Bryant, I think that’s good enough…” D’Antoni said. “It might not be today, but down the line, finishing games, controlling games down the fourth quarter, putting us in a position to win games, I think he’s the best at it in the league. Before that he will draw so much attention it should make it easier for other players to score.”

It should. But now we will see if it will.

Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has 7th straight triple-double

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook had his seventh consecutive triple-double Friday night in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s game against the Houston Rockets, the longest streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989.

Westbrook got his 10th rebound with 7:46 left in the fourth quarter. He already had 16 points and 10 assists. Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.

The Thunder won the first six games during his streak, however they fell to James Harden and the Rockets 102-99. Harden was one rebound short of his own triple-double.

It was Westbrook’s 12th triple-double of the season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA’s active leader in the category and ranks overall.

Jordan’s streak came during a run of 10 triple-doubles in 11 games.

NBA denies Raptors’ protest of loss to Kings

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 26:  Jonas Valanciunas #17 and DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors high five after defeating the Detroit Pistons in an NBA game at Air Canada Centre on October 26, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA has denied the Toronto Raptors’ protest of their 102-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 20.

The league announced the decision Friday.

Toronto argued that the game officials incorrectly called for an instant replay review of whether the Raptors’ Terrence Ross released a 3-point shot prior to the expiration of actual time remaining.

The Replay Center official reviewed video of the play using a digital timer and determined the actual time remaining in the game expired before Ross released his shot, and the shot therefore did not count.

The league found that calling for an instant replay review in this case was consistent with the playing rules because the game officials determined that there was a clock malfunction.

Cody Zeller throws it down all over Bismack Biyombo (VIDEO)

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Nobody can stop the Zeller brothers!

Well, that’s not exactly true. But in this case, Bismack Biyombo tried and Cody Zeller threw it down with authority over him.

I’m not starting a “Cody Zeller for the dunk contest” campaign, but this was impressive.

Doc Rivers doesn’t think Clippers complain too much to referees

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 29: Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers has some words with referee Sean Wright #4 in the first quarter of Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center on April 29, 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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Pop quiz: Which team complains the most to the referees in the NBA?

You probably answered “the Clippers.” Most fans do. So do most NBA referees — And everyone else. Which is why after a recent loss to Golden State, veteran Marreese Speight (a Warrior last season) pointed to the Clippers complaining about the officiating as part of the problem.

He went on to say that the scouting report is you can get in the Clippers’ heads by knocking them around a little. Which seems pretty obvious when you watch teams play them. Shockingly, Clippers coach Doc Rivers disagrees with that. Via NBCLosAngeles.com.

“The officiating thing, I don’t think, is our issue. I will say that,” said Rivers about the technical fouls. “If that were the problem, then, Golden State would be struggling. They’ve been No. 2 the last two years in techs, too. I think we need to point fingers in another direction than that.”

Doc may not like it, but Speights is right.

The Warriors do complain too much, but they also have a ring so more is forgiven. The problem for the Clippers is that reputation for complaining starts with Rivers — he complains as much or more than any coach in the league. Then it filters down through Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Is it fair that more is forgiven with winning? Moot question. Welcome to America. The Clippers complain a lot and have yet to get past the second round with this core. And at times there standing there complaining to the referees does get in the way of them getting back into defense, and they seem to go in a funk.

Want to prove all that wrong? Win. In the playoffs.