AP

Hawks win 7th straight, defeat skidding Nets, 117-97

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NEW YORK (AP) Dennis Schroder had 19 points and 10 assists, Dwight Howard added 14 points and 16 rebounds, and the Atlanta Hawks won their season-high seventh straight game with a 117-97 victory Tuesday night over the skidding Brooklyn Nets.

Paul Millsap added 14 points for Atlanta, which led the entire way and has won eight of its last nine road games. Kris Humphries had 13, Malcolm Delaney scored 12 and Thabo Sefolosha finished with 10.

Brook Lopez scored 20 points for the Nets, who have lost seven straight and 12 of 13. Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 and Sean Kilpatrick 14.

Caris LeVert (11 points) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (10) also scored in double digits for Brooklyn.

Lopez’s 3-pointer brought the Nets to 89-78 with 9:44 left. But the Hawks responded with a 24-8 run and opened their largest lead of the night, 113-86, on Taurean Prince’s two free throws with 2:02 remaining.

The Nets began the third quarter on a 15-7 run and pulled to 68-58 on Kilpatrick’s bucket with 6:28 left.

Atlanta scored the next four points and had an 86-70 lead after three.

The Hawks went up 25-15 on Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s 3-pointer with 5:28 left in the opening quarter. Back-to-back 3s by Bogdanovic sparked an 8-0 run as the Nets pulled within two.

That was as close as they got the rest of the way as Atlanta went on to lead 35-29 after the first quarter.

The Hawks increased their lead to 61-41 on Kent Bazemore‘s two free throws with 1:39 left in the second before settling for a 61-43 halftime lead.

COACHING ROOTS

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was a Hawks assistant for four years, the last three (2013-16) under current Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer. “This is special. Relationships are what make the world go round. I learned a lot from Bud. He always challenged me. He pushed me to be a better coach,” Atkinson said.

TIP-INS

Hawks: Schroder is the only Atlanta player to start all 38 games this season.

Nets: Trevor Booker, the team’s leading rebounder (nine per game), did not play due to a bruised left hip. . Quincy Acy, who signed a 10-day contract, played the final 1:17 and scored four points. “I’ll come out here and prove myself and try to stick around,” he said before the game. Acy took the roster spot of Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft (by Cleveland) who was waived by the Nets on Monday.

OH, WHAT A NIGHT

Dec. 26, 2016, is a significant date for both teams. On that Monday night, the Hawks lost to the Timberwolves 104-90 and the Nets defeated the Hornets 120-118. Atlanta has not lost another game since then and the Nets have not won another one.

TWO YEARS EARLIER .

On the same date in 2014, the Hawks lost to Milwaukee 107-77. Atlanta immediately followed that defeat with a franchise-record 19-game winning streak.

UP NEXT

Hawks: Atlanta hosts Boston on Friday. The teams have not met yet this season. They will play again on Feb. 27 in Boston and April 6 in Atlanta. The Hawks won the season series 3-1 last year.

Nets: Brooklyn hosts New Orleans on Thursday. The teams have not met yet this season. They will play again on Jan. 20 in New Orleans. The Pelicans have won the last five games in the series.

Jamal Crawford says Lonzo Ball should not change his shot

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Lonzo Ball‘s shot has become a running gag around the NBA. During pregame warmups this season it looked like LeBron James and Joel Embiid mocked/tried to imitate it. TNT’s Inside the NBA was asking if it was worse than Charles Barkley’s golf swing, and the crew on that show mocks it all the time.

Ball is shooting 30.3 percent overall this season, and 23 percent from three. He’s shooting just 42.1 percent in the restricted area (it’s not just his jumper that is off). He’s shooting 37.5 percent on pull-up jumpers. He’s shooting 22.5 percent on shots when there is nobody within six feet of him (stats via NBA.com).

Is it time to tear down Ball’s awkward release and rework his jumper? Jamal Crawford, a guy who knows something about getting buckets in the NBA, said no, speaking on CBS Sports’ Flagrant 2 Podcast.

“No, I wouldn’t (change his shot). He’s done it his whole life. Even if he struggled, I’m sure he’s struggled, but when he makes 10 in a row you won’t change it then so I’d just keep it consistent.”

Crawford also said he sees a real star in Ball.

“Star. Absolutely a star. I love watching him play. He plays the right way. He doesn’t play for stats. He’ll give the ball up early when he could easily hold it to get an assist. He’s making the right play if it was a hockey assist he’d get 20 a game cause he’s always passing up early. He seems like a great teammate. If you look at all his interviews…he’s always well spoken he’s always about the team.”

Luke Walton has the Lakers players taking and making 100 threes at each practice, and he continues to encourage Ball to shoot his way out of this slump. Magic Johnson has said the Lakers would not change Ball’s jumper during the season.

But if Ball does not find a rhythm and is under 40 percent for the season on jumpers, come next summer the Lakers have some decisions to make. And tearing down and rebuilding Ball’s shot is a long process that will take more than one summer of hard work.

PBT Podcast: Celtics win over Warriors, all things Boston with A. Sherrod Blakely

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The Boston Celtics are for real.

In case you had any doubts, they ran their streak to 14 wins in a row by coming from 17 down – twice — to beat the Golden State Warriors. The Celtics have the best defense in the NBA, and it threw the Warriors off their game, something few teams have been able to do over the past few years.

Kurt Helin welcomes in A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston to talk about what this win means to the Celtics, why their defense is so good, how Kyrie Irving is fitting in, how young stars such as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are rising up, and what is the deal with Marcus Smart. Also, there is a lot of Brad Stevens love.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Grizzlies’ Mike Conley out at least two weeks with sore heel, Achilles

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Injuries are already starting to shape the playoff chase in the West — Rudy Gobert is out for at least a month in Utah, and the Clippers have lost six in a row as they battle injuries to three starters.

Now add the Memphis Grizzlies to the mix.

Mike Conley, the point guard who, along with Marc Gasol, is crucial to Memphis’ success, will be out at least two weeks to rest a sore left heel and Achilles, the team announced Friday. He could be out longer, Conley has had issues with this Achilles before, the team will want to be cautious, and by far the best treatment is rest.

Conley averages 17.1 points per game, is a great floor general running the offense, and is a quality defender at the point.

Memphis is 7-7 on the season and tied with Oklahoma City for the final playoff slot in the West, but the Grizzlies have dropped six of their last eight. What’s more, they are entering a gauntlet part of the schedule without Conley: Their next game is against Houston, then Portland, and in the next 10 they have the Nuggets, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, and Spurs (twice). The danger is they fall far enough back from the playoff chase they struggle to catch up again.

Expect to see a lot more Tyreke Evans, who has been strong as a sixth man but now will have much more asked of him. Also, more playmaking duties will fall to Gasol, working out of the elbow, and both Chandler Parsons and Mario Chalmers will get the ball in their hands. The question is what do they do with it.

Stephen Curry, was Warriors/Celtics a Finals preview? “Very, very likely, right?”

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The Golden State Warriors remain the prohibitive favorite to win the NBA title.

Thursday night, the Boston Celtics earned some validation that they belong in the conversation. Using a stymieing defense that threw off the vaunted Warriors offense, Boston came from 17 down in the third quarter to beat the Warriors.

With the Cavaliers stumbling out of the gate, does this make the Warriors/Celtics game a Finals preview? Stephen Curry (who was 3-of-14 shooting with four turnovers on the night) said yes, as you can see in the NBC Sports Bay Area video above.

“Very, very likely, right?” Curry said. “They’re playing the best right now in the East. Obviously, they need to beat Cleveland, who’s done it three years in a row. We’ll see, but I heard the weather’s great here in June.”

The weather in Boston is great for a short window in the spring, then the humidity kicks in. But that’s not the point.

I came into this season thinking the Celtics were a year away still, and when Gordon Hayward went down it strengthened that belief. But this team is a contender now — they are far better defensively than expected, and young players Jaylen Brown (22 points against the Warriors) and Jayson Tatum have stepped up more than expected. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have developed a fast chemistry. And Brad Stephens is proving he is in the very upper echelon of NBA coaches.

It’s not even Thanksgiving, talk of the NBA Finals is premature. Curry is right, the Celtics still have to go through LeBron James and his Cavaliers to reach the Finals, which will not be easy.

Still, June basketball in Boston seems like a real possibility again.