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Booker, Chriss lead Suns past short-handed Heat, 99-90

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PHOENIX (AP) Devin Booker scored 27 points – 18 in the second half – and rookie Marquese Chriss added a career-best 18 as the Phoenix Suns handed the severely short-handed Miami Heat their sixth consecutive loss, 99-90 on Tuesday night.

The Suns snapped a 12-game losing streak against Miami. Phoenix hadn’t beaten the Heat since Nov. 3, 2009.

Goran Dragic scored 22 of his 24 points in the first half for the Heat, who had just eight available players in the opener of a six-game road trip.

Willie Reed had 22 points and 18 rebounds, both career highs, for Miami.

Eric Bledsoe added 17 points for the Suns, who stretched a four-point halftime lead to 19 in the second half.

The Heat led by nine early and were up 42-37 on Dragic’s inside basket with 8:34 left in the first half, but Bledsoe and Chriss sank consecutive 3s in a 9-0 spurt that put Phoenix up 46-42 when Booker made one of two free throws 3:13 before the break.

Dragic cut the lead to 54-52 with a left-handed driving layup with 9.3 seconds left before Bledsoe’s two free throws with 4.2 seconds remaining put the Suns up 56-52 at the break.

The Suns opened the second half with an 11-3 run and were up 79-62 when Booker sank a 28-foot 3-pointer with 1:59 left in the third quarter. Phoenix led 83-66 entering the fourth.

Wayne Ellington‘s 3 cut the Suns’ lead to 85-74 with 8:13 to play, but Booker sank a 3-pointer with 6:36 to go to boost the lead back to 14. Miami cut the lead to eight in the final two minutes but got no closer.

LONG LIST

The list of missing Miami players was long: James Johnson (food poisoning), Tyler Johnson (migraine), Dion Waiters (pectineus tear), Hassan Whiteside (right retinal contusion), Justise Winslow (right shoulder), Josh McRoberts (left foot stress fracture). That doesn’t include Chris Bosh, who has not played all season.

TIP-INS

Heat: Miami last lost to the Suns in Phoenix on Jan. 5, 2007. … Heat players not named Dragic were 13-of-34 shooting in the first half. … Reed’s previous career highs were 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Suns: G Brandon Knight was out with a sprained right wrist. … Phoenix is 8-4 against Eastern Conference foes, 7-2 at home. … Phoenix improved to 3-4 on the second night of back-to-back games.

UP NEXT

Heat: Miami plays at Sacramento on Wednesday night in the second stop of a six-game road trip.

Suns: Phoenix travels to Dallas to face the Mavericks on Thursday night.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.

Report: Kevin Love was frustrated with move to center

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With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.

That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.

Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”

Lue put it this way.

“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”

While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.

Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.

Another wing down? Celtics’ Marcus Smart likely out vs. Sixers

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The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.

Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.

As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.

If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.