AP

DeMar DeRozan powers Raptors to comeback win over Celtics, 114-106

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TORONTO (AP) DeMar DeRozan scored a season-high 41 points, Kyle Lowry had 24 and the Toronto Raptors rallied to end the Boston Celtics’ four-game winning streak with a 114-106 victory on Tuesday night.

DeRozan added 13 rebounds for his second double-double of the season and Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points and a career-high 23 rebounds. The Raptors bounced back after losing to Chicago and Houston over the weekend.

Toronto also kept itself above Boston in the Eastern Conference standings. A win would have pulled the Celtics even with the Raptors for second place behind Cleveland.

Isaiah Thomas had 27 points and Marcus Smart had 16 for the Celtics.

The game had nine lead changes in the first half. Boston pulled in front on Gerald Green‘s layup with 3:54 left in the second quarter and led until Lowry’s 3-pointer with 2:41 remaining in the game. With 5:05 to play, Boston was ahead 102-95, but the Raptors closed on a 19-4 run to clinch the victory, their second of the season over Boston.

Both high-powered offenses struggled in the first quarter, with the Celtics shooting 36.4 percent from the field and the Raptors not much better at 37.5. Toronto led 23-18 after 12 minutes.

Boston improved in the second quarter, shooting 66.7 percent, with Smart adding nine points and Green matching him off the bench. The Celtics closed on a 13-3 run over the last four minutes to take a 55-46 lead into the interval.

Boston led by 16 in the third quarter, but then DeRozan rallied the Raptors with 19 third-quarter points to get within 84-80 heading into the fourth.

TIP-INS

Celtics: G Avery Bradley (right Achilles tendon) missed his second straight contest, while G James Young (right ankle) and C Tyler Zeller (sinus infection) both continued to sit out. … Boston dropped to 6-2 against Atlantic Division opponents this year, with both its defeats coming against Toronto.

Raptors: F Patrick Patterson made his first start of the season. … Toronto stayed a perfect 6-0 against Atlantic Division opponents this season. … For the third time this season, the Raptors wore their blue Toronto Huskies road uniforms and played on an alternate court with the logo of the Huskies, a team from the NBA’s inaugural 1946-47 season which lasted just one year before folding. Toronto is now 3-0 wearing the uniforms.

BENCH BATTLE

Because the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff is prohibited from working the All-Star Game in consecutive seasons, staffs from Toronto and Boston are vying to represent the Eastern Conference for the game next month in New Orleans. The reward goes to whichever team has the best record after Feb. 5. “That’s a real honor to be part of a team that’s in a position to do that,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.

OH, CANADA

The national anthem singer flubbed a couple of lines during the singing of O Canada before the game, and the crowd at the Air Canada Centre joined in to help out and see her through to the end.

UP NEXT

Celtics: Host Washington on Wednesday night looking for a fourth straight home win over the Wizards.

Raptors: Host Brooklyn on Friday night in the second of five straight games against Atlantic Division opponents.

Watch DeMarcus Cousins’ historic 44/24/10 night

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The last time somebody did this — scored more than 40 points, had more than 20 rebounds, and dished out more than 10 assists in a game — “Poseidon Adventure” was in the theaters and Elton John had just released “Rocket Man.” It was Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he was still playing in Milwaukee.

Monday night, DeMarcus Cousins did it.

Cousins scored 44 points, had 24 rebounds, and dished out 10 assists in the Pelicans’ double OT win against Chicago. These were not meaningless points, Cousins picked up seven of them in the second overtime.

Cousins has had a monster first half of the season and earned his first All-Star Game start this year.

Report: Kevin Love called out in emotional Cavaliers team meeting

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Having lost 8-of-11, a Cavaliers team meeting where the players got to vent seemed inevitable. There isn’t one person in that Cavaliers locker room that doesn’t deserve some blame for how things have turned.

However, Kevin Love apparently became the whipping boy.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cleveland Cavaliers held a fiery team meeting in the practice facility locker room prior to Monday’s practice, during which several players challenged the legitimacy of Kevin Love’s illness that led him to leave Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City early and miss Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

Several players were pushing for the Cavaliers’ management and coaching staff to hold Love accountable for leaving the arena before the end of Saturday’s game, and then missing Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

The meeting was loud and intense, only calming down once Love spoke to those gathered in the room and explained himself, league sources said.

The more things change, the more things are always Kevin Love’s fault.

According to the report, the majority of the team seemed to accept Love’s explanation. Love left the Cavaliers ugly, nationally televised blowout at the hands of the Thunder in the first half and did not return due to what was described only as an illness. He did not stay around for the end of the game. I’m not about to speculate on how ill he was or was not, what matters is that his teammates were not buying it. When a team is losing finger-pointing is almost inevitable, and Love has gotten more than his fair share of it in Cleveland. At least he stood up for himself.

Team meetings may allow a pressure release in a locker room, but they almost never result in any kind of meaningful change. We’ll see what if anything changes in Cleveland.

Bucks GM on Jason Kidd firing: “This is a performance-based thing”

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Last season the Bucks went 42-40 in the regular season and were up 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against Toronto before ultimately losing in six.

This season, expectations were high. Before the season there was talk from the team of a 50-win team (Las Vegas oddsmakers set the under/over at 47.5) that would finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, hosting a playoff round. There was hope that the defense would improve, and with that the Bucks would look like a young team figuring it out.

They haven’t looked like that at all — they are 23-22 (with the point differential of a 20-25 team), and their defense is 25th in the NBA. Currently, they have just a one-game cushion for the final playoff slot in the East.

That cost coach Jason Kidd his job, first-year Bucks GM Jon Horst said Monday night at a press conference, as reported by Matt Velazquez at the Journal-Sentinel.

“At the end, this is a performance-based thing,” Horst said. “We believe in this team, we believe in our players and in the talents that they have. We’re looking forward at making playoff appearances in consecutive years for the first time in over a decade and hopefully winning a first-round series for the first time in over a decade. So we felt like at this time, this is the right decision to help this team get there.”

Around the league the move was not a total surprise, but the timing caught people off guard. Horst said it happened “relatively quickly” and explained:

“A general manager in the NHL had a statement once: ‘If something is inevitable, why wait?’ I think we came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for the future of the franchise and this was the time.”

Come this summer this will be the hottest coaching job available because of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the potential of this roster. Names such as Jeff Van Gundy and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams have been mentioned, but the ultimate list will be longer. Honestly, a few coaches with jobs might rather have the Bucks job (although the challenges between the two owners there can make things uncomfortable at times).

“We have another game on Friday and between that time we have a plan that we’ll put in place that we’ll kind of layout for the rest of the season,” Horst said. “We’ll go into the summer and have an extensive coaching search with an opportunity to hopefully find a great coach for this organization of which (interim coach) Joe Prunty has every opportunity to be a part of based on what happens going forward.”

This is going to a rough adjustment for Antetokounmpo and some of the players, who respected and trusted Kidd. There’s a lot of pressure on Horst with this hire.

That doesn’t make it the wrong move — Horst did the right thing here. The Bucks were going to be moving on, they just did it sooner rather than later.

 

Kevin Durant fires back, says Clint Capela’s job is “easy”

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“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them… We are better than them.”

That was young Rockets center Clint Capela after the Rockets beat the Warriors last Saturday night, feeling confident.

Asked about it, Kevin Durant shot Capela down, saying he’s not the guy that should be commenting.

There are no easy jobs in the NBA. It takes a lot of work physically, a good mental feel for the game, and the right opportunity just to get a chance. That said, some NBA jobs are simpler and more straightforward than others. On offense, Capela is not the ball handler and creator making a lot of decisions, things are simple for him — and he executes them. He’s shooting 66.6 percent this season — he does what he does well.

Houston took two of three from Golden State this season, and while that is far from doing it in a playoff series it should be a confidence boost for Houston if/when they go up against Golden State.