AP

Spurs edge Raptors 108-106 for 5th straight victory

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TORONTO (AP) Down a trio of stars on Tuesday night, many NBA teams would struggle to get the job done.

Not the San Antonio Spurs.

Without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol, the Spurs beat the Toronto Raptors 108-106 for their fifth straight victory.

“One thing about being here is it’s more about the system,” said LaMarcus Aldridge. “They’ve been good over the years of plugging guys into the system. . We try to have players here who we can plug in and get the job done.”

Aldridge led the Spurs with 21 points, while Patty Mills added 18 and fellow reserve Davis Bertans chipped in with 12.

The Spurs improved to 36-9, their third-best record through 45 games, behind only the 38-7 records of the 2010-11 and 2015-16 squads. On top of that, they improved to 20-4 on the road, the eighth team in NBA history to win 20 of their first 24 games, according to NBA Stats.

“There’s a couple times we’ve had some guys out and in the past we’ve always had a next-man-up mentality and guys always performed and got it done,” said Danny Green. “I think we’re just now getting that chemistry, guys are getting confident and starting to pick up that slack.”

In a back-and-forth fourth quarter that saw eight lead changes – after just two in the preceding 36 minutes – the Spurs finally took control on a floating jump shot from rookie Dejounte Murray with 1:29 to play.

Terrence Ross shot an airball on a 3-pointer on the Raptors’ next possession, and after four consecutive scoreless possessions between the teams, Aldridge had a chance to establish a four-point lead with 11.3 seconds left on a pair of free throws, but he missed his second shot.

Norman Powell cut the lead to one with a dunk with 6.2 seconds remaining, and after Aldridge split another pair of free throws with 5.1 seconds to go, Powell missed a 3-pointer as time expired.

“Down the stretch, very honestly, it just went away,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “We didn’t do anything special to deserve it other than playing hard just like they did, so we’re thrilled with the win.”

The mood around the Raptors’ locker room was somewhat less jubilant after they lost four in a row for the first time since March 4-10, 2015. With Eastern Conference All-Star starter DeMar DeRozan sidelined with a sprained ankle, Kyle Lowry had 30 points and Ross added 21 off the bench.

After falling behind by as many as 13 points, Toronto didn’t take its first lead of the game until 1:19 to go in the third quarter, and ultimately fell just short in the see-saw fourth.

“I was really proud of the way they played,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It comes back to the will thing. It’s not the 3-point shots or the fancy plays, it’s the fundamentals: box out, free throws, layups tonight in the second half.”

Despite registering his fifth 30-point game of the season, and putting in a game-high 41:45 of court time, ultimately Lowry chose to place the blame on himself for his team’s current woes.

“I’m just going out there, do whatever my job is, and right now it’s to go out there and try and win games, and unfortunately I’m not doing a good job of that right now,” he said. “Got to figure it out, got it figure it out no matter what.”

TIP-INS

Spurs: Leonard (left hand) and F Jonathon Simmons (right wrist) sat out. … Green tied his season high with four blocked shots. He had four against Boston on Nov. 25. … San Antonio scored 100 or more points for the 22nd consecutive game.

Raptors: DeRozan (right ankle) was inactive for the game. Following the sprain he suffered in Sunday’s loss to Phoenix, the Raptors said that he will also miss Wednesday’s game in Memphis before they re-evaluate the injury. … F Jared Sullinger made his first start since April 13, 2016, when he was still with Boston. … After missing the last six games with a sore left knee, Patterson returned to action on Tuesday.

THE HUNGER FOR VICTORY

“You make adjustments, make substitutions, get certain groups on the court, call timeouts, yell and scream and beg and love and be crazy and then you win or you lose and then what happens? You get to go to dinner, which is sometimes the best part of the evening, with a nice glass (of wine).” – Popovich, on the ups and downs of the game of basketball.

MOVING ON UP

With his 1,126th win Tuesday night, Popovich is now one from tying Jerry Sloan for most career wins with one NBA franchise. Casey had described Popovich as the best coach in all of sports earlier in the day, but before the game, Popovich politely disagreed.

“That’s very flattering but obviously untrue,” he said. “I’ve been around a long time and we’ve won some games, and if you’ve forgotten, I got to coach Tim Duncan. That made me look pretty good.”

UP NEXT

Spurs: Visit New Orleans on Friday looking for a sixth straight win over the Pelicans.

Raptors: Visit Memphis on Wednesday, looking to snap a four-game losing streak.

Phil Jackson to miss Kobe Bryant’s jersey retirement Monday

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For one last night, Staples Center will belong to Kobe Bryant on Monday.

Sure, the Warriors are in town to take on the Lakers, but Monday night the Lakers are retiring Kobe Bryant’s numbers — both 8 and 24 — in a halftime ceremony. It’s been the hottest ticket in Los Angeles, with celebrities, luminaries, and regular Lakers fans shelling out a lot of cash to see the Laker legend be honored.

Except, Phil Jackson will not be there, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Jackson has been in touch with Bryant in advance of the ceremony to congratulate him, sources said. But he was unable to travel from his Montana home for the ceremony in Los Angeles.

No reason was given (nor does one need to be made public, that’s between Kobe and Jackson).

Jackson coached Kobe to all five of his NBA titles, and while their relationship had its ups and downs — remember Jackson called out Kobe as almost uncoachable in one of his books — they remain close.

 

Three Things to Know: LeBron James racks up third straight triple-double

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s what you missed on Sunday while practicing your ax throwing in Paris

1) LeBron James has third straight triple-double… and sends equality message. Back in the 2008-09 season, LeBron James strung together three consecutive games of triple-doubles, the season he went on to win his first MVP award. Despite 61 career triple-doubles, he hasn’t had a string like that since.

Until now. LeBron put together three again this week, the most recent coming at the expense of the Washington Wizards on Sunday, a team that had no answer for his playmaking skills. James finished the game with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists. It wasn’t the most efficient LeBron scoring performance of his career (8-of-23 shooting overall, 2-of-7 from three, his legs looked a little tired on the back-to-back) and he was playing too much in isolation (nearly twice as many possessions as in pick-and-roll). However, down the stretch he was a fantastic playmaker, finding teammates — such as finding the cutting Jeff Green and Kyle Korver — and doing what it took to lift his team to the 106-99 win (Cleveland’s has won five straight and 18-of-19).

LeBron was also sending a message while playing in our nation’s capital: He wore one black and one white of the LeBron 15s, with the word “Equality” on the back of both of them. Good on LeBron, I love that he has found a voice and is comfortable using it.

2) Cavaliers sticking to plan even if he seems ready: Isaiah Thomas should join Cavaliers after the first of the year. Patience. It’s a virtue. Cleveland’s end game is to have another elite playmaker and scorer on the floor in late May and (hopefully) June, not for Christmas Day (no matter who is on the schedule).

Meaning that despite the face Isaiah Thomas is working out and says he and his injured hip feel ready to return, it will be 2018 before he officially pulls on a Cavaliers jersey and takes the court.

This is the smart play by the Cavaliers, who have racked up enough wins not to need to push him. That said, LeBron is carrying a heavy load — he’s played more minutes than anyone in the league so far, and this is his 15th NBA season — and the Cavaliers need to get him some help and rest so he is fresh for the postseason.

3) Detroit ties a franchise record with 17 made threes in win over Orlando. The Pistons are not exactly a great three-point shooting team: They average a middle-of-the-pack 29.3 attempts per game (31.6 percent of their attempts), but at least hit them at a healthy 38.3 percent clip. Detroit does a good job at least of getting corner threes up and knocking them down.

Sunday they were knocking everything down, hitting 17-of-34 threes to tie a franchise record for the most made threes in a game. Anthony Tolliver led the way (5-of-7 from deep) with Reggie Bullock pitching in 4-of-5.

The Pistons have snapped out of their seven-game losing streak to win three in a row now, including a quality win over the Pacers on the second night of a back-to-back.

Heat forward James Johnson expected to miss 7 to 10 days

AP
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MIAMI (AP) The Miami Heat will be without starting forward James Johnson for at least two games and probably more after bursitis was found in his right ankle.

Johnson left Miami’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday with ankle pain, and an MRI performed Sunday led to the bursitis diagnosis. Johnson is not traveling with the team for its trip for games at Atlanta on Monday and Boston on Wednesday.

The team says Johnson could miss seven to 10 days, which would also mean his status for home games against Dallas on Dec. 22, New Orleans on Dec. 23 and Orlando on Dec. 26 is in some doubt.

Johnson is averaging 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Heat this season.

LeBron James wears one black, one white LeBron 15 shoes with “Equality” on back (VIDEO)

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LeBron James notched his third-straight triple-double on Sunday, this one coming against the Washington Wizards. But before the game, the story was all about how James was voicing a silent protest — in Washington D.C., no less — by wearing a special version of his shoes.

LeBron took to the floor wearing his LeBron 15s, but this player edition had the word “Equality” on the back of them. James wore one black shoe and one white shoe.

James wore the black versions of this shoe in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ opener to start the season.

Via Twitter:

LeBron finished the game with 20 points, 15 assists, and 12 rebounds. The Cavaliers beat the Wizards, 106-99.