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.”


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.


“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.


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.”


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.

LeBron James’ triple-double lifts Cavaliers past Bucks

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 40 points as part of his third triple-double in four games and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 on Monday night as coach Tyronn Lue began his leave of absence to address health issues.

Lue said Monday in a statement he been dealing with chest pains and loss of sleep, and that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is. Associate head coach Larry Drew will run the team in Lue’s absence.

James scored 17 points in the third quarter and finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 16th triple-double this season and 71st of his career.

The four-time MVP took over in the third beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers. After not getting a foul called on a third attempt, he finished Cleveland’s next possession with a massive dunk. He was fouled attempting another dunk and made both free throws the following time down.

Milwaukee cut a 17-point lead to 117-109, but James drove the length of the floor for a dunk with just over a minute left.

Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love returned after missing six weeks because of a broken left hand and scored 18 points in 25 minutes. He sparked a 10-0 run in the second quarter with two 3-pointers

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points and went 11 for 11 at the foul line for Milwaukee, which is seventh in the Eastern Conference. Khris Middleton had 30 points, making 11 of 16 from the field.

Milwaukee guard Jason Terry was given a Flagrant-1 foul for hitting Ante Zizic in the face with an open hand while the rookie center was putting up a shot in the lane. Zizic made both free throws, helping spark a run that built a double-figure lead.

Lue, 40, led Cleveland to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season.

The Cavaliers (41-29) are third in the Eastern Conference and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to reach the NBA Finals for the fourth straight time.

No timetable has been given for when Lue will return. He missed the second half Saturday, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn’t feeling well. Lue also sat out a game against Chicago at home in December.


Pelicans rookie Frank Jackson has another surgery, will miss entire season now

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans say rookie guard Frank Jackson won’t make his NBA debut this season after having follow-up surgery to remove residual scar tissue from earlier right foot operations.

The Pelicans say Jackson also received an injection in his foot.

The club says a specialist in New York handled Jackson’s latest procedure.

The Pelicans acquired the 6-foot-4 Jackson through a draft-night trade with the Charlotte Hornets, who selected the former Duke player with the first pick of the second round last summer.

Following the draft, the Pelicans signed Jackson to a three-year contract at the NBA minimum with two years guaranteed, but Jackson needed a second foot surgery last summer to address a setback following his initial surgery last May.

Jackson spent one season at Duke, averaging 10.9 points.


Giannis Antetokounmpo turns bad pass into ridiculous alley-oop (VIDEO)

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That is just not fair.

Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe threw an alley-oop pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo that was off the mark — high and behind him — but it just doesn’t matter. The Greek Freak gets up and throws it down.

It’s early, but it’s going to be hard to beat that one for dunk of the night.

League’s Last Two Minute Report backs referees (mostly) in Raptors/Thunder game

Associated Press

Anyone who watched the Thunder’s win over the Raptors Sunday afternoon in Toronto — especially the final few minutes — thought it was not referee Marc Davis and crew’s finest hour. There were missed calls and three-straight ejections of Raptors players, which all seemed rather hair-trigger (especially coach Dwane Casey, who was tossed for something a fan behind him said).

The NBA’s Last Two Minute report doesn’t see it that way — it says the referees nailed it.

According to the report, there was only one missed call in the final two minutes: Carmelo Anthony held Pascal Siakam as a pass came to him with 11.7 seconds left, and that should have been called.

What about the play that set DeMar DeRozan off and ultimately got him ejected, the drive to the basket with 33 seconds left (and the Raptors down two) where DeRozan thought Corey Brewer fouled him? The report said that was a good no call:

DeRozan (TOR) starts his drive and Brewer (OKC) moves laterally in his path and there is contact. The contact is incidental as both players attempt to perform normal basketball moves….

RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.

(I didn’t see it that way, I think the contact was more than incidental, and to me looking at the replay Brewer catches some wrist and impedes the shot in a way that was not legal. Just my two cents.)

The report does not cover the ejections, which are reviewed by league operations but not part of this report.

Three thoughts out of all this:

1) Raptors fans/management/players have every right to feel the calls went against them in this game. As for calls always going against them — as DeRozan complained about after the game — 29 other teams and fan bases are convinced the officials have it out for them, too. I never bought that.

2) The Raptors didn’t lose this game solely because of the officiating. Russell Westbrook was clutch down the stretch, the Thunder were part of it, and the Raptors had other issues, too (Serge Ibaka had a rough game, for example).

3) This loss also does not say a thing about the Raptors in the postseason (even if they went a little too much isolation at the end) — this was their third game in four days, they looked tired and flat at the end. That will not be the case in the playoffs.