Kyle Lowry scores 32, Raptors end skid with 102-86 win over Bucks

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TORONTO (AP) — Kyle Lowry had 32 points, Norman Powell added 19 and the Toronto Raptors snapped their longest losing streak of the season at five games with a 102-86 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.

Still without injured star DeMar DeRozan, Toronto rolled to its seventh straight victory against the Bucks and 13th in the last 14 meetings.

Jabari Parker had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 19 for the Bucks, who lost for the seventh time in eight games.

Having trailed since the 4:49 mark of the first quarter and by as many as 19 at one point, the Bucks clawed to within seven entering the fourth. But powered by 3-pointers from Lowry and Patrick Patterson, the Raptors started the final period on a 13-5 run to take control again.

The Bucks started quickly, jumping out to an 11-5 lead over the opening 3:09. But the Raptors responded with a 31-6 run and ultimately took a 36-19 edge after 12 minutes.

Behind eight points from Thon Maker off the bench, Milwaukee closed within seven with 4:34 to play in the first half. The Raptors then went on a 12-3 run, keyed by 3-pointers from Lowry and Fred VanVleet to go into halftime with a 53-39 lead.

Milwaukee got back into the game following the break, with 11 points from Parker and nine from Matthew Dellavedova on three consecutive 3s reducing the deficit to 77-70 entering the fourth quarter.

TIP-INS

Bucks: Having entered the game leading the NBA in points in the paint with an average of 50.9, Milwaukee was held to 44. . Milwaukee was outrebounded 47-43.

Raptors: DeRozan (right ankle) missed his third straight game. . With his 11 rebounds, the Raptors improved to 17-8 this season when Jonas Valanciunas reaches double digits in boards.

DON’T LOOK NOW

Toronto has been second in the Eastern Conference for most of the season, but the recent five-game losing streak has the Raptors looking over their shoulder as Boston, Atlanta and Washington are all within 2 1/2 games. Toronto coach Dwane Casey is anything but surprised, though.

“Like I said, it’s going to be a dog fight between two and four, five,” he said. “That group is all right there together, a lot of equal teams, so we’ve got to get ready for that mentally and physically.”

NORTH STAR

Lowry was given a standing ovation by the Air Canada Centre crowd midway through the first quarter as a Jumbotron presentation recognized the guard for his third consecutive All-Star nod. Lowry was voted on as an Eastern Conference reserve Thursday and will join DeRozan at next month’s game in New Orleans, just the third time in franchise history that the Raptors will send two players to the game.

FINDING THEIR TOUCH

After shooting just 26 percent (36 of 140) from 3-point range during their five-game losing streak, Toronto started to heat up from beyond the arc, converting on 40 percent of its chances Friday night as six players connected.

 

Salah Mejri kicks at Patty Mills as Mavericks and Spurs leave court for halftime (video)

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Mavericks center Salah Mejri has a history of agitating, including against the Spurs.

Two years ago, Mejri dunked while Dallas got blown out by San Antonio and yapped at the Spurs bench – drawing laughter from Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. Last season, Mejri had Trevor Ariza and other Rockets trying to confront him after reportedly saying something about Ariza’s family.

In the Mavericks’ win over the Spurs on Tuesday, Mejri got into it with Patty Mills.

Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

Mejri and Rudy Gay received double technical fouls, and Mejri went to the bench. Everything could have cooled down at halftime, but Mejri escalated tension

Watch the full sequence above, but the key moment:

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That’ll probably draw a fine.

NBA introducing 2-for-1 All-Star voting days

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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The NBA changed its All-Star format this season from East vs. West to captain-picked teams (though still naming players equally from each conference).

That apparently wasn’t a big enough overhaul.

After including media and player votes last year, the league is making All-Star starter selection even more complex.

NBA release:

NBA All-Star Voting 2018 presented by Verizon will tip off with an early voting period exclusively on the NBA App and NBA.com beginning Thursday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. ET.

Voting via all other channels, including Amazon Alexa for the first time, will launch on Monday, Dec. 25 at 11 a.m.

Additionally, new for this season, five “2-for-1 Days” will allow fans to have their votes count twice on Dec. 31, Jan. 4, Jan. 11, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 when voting through the NBA App and NBA.com, along with Sina Weibo and Tencent in China.  All “2-for-1 Days” will be designated 12 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. ET.

TNT will reveal the All-Star Game starters, including the two captains, on Thursday, Jan. 18 during TNT NBA Tip-Off

The network will announce the reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, on Tuesday, Jan. 23 during TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET. 

The team rosters for NBA All-Star Game 2018 in Los Angeles will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET.

I suppose this is to drum up interest on otherwise quiet voting days. After all, this is really just about the NBA selling itself.

But the All-Star voting process has always left something to be desired. I don’t see how this changes that.

Report: Lakers ‘longshot’ to sign LeBron James

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Preeminent NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski called it “likelyLeBron James would sign with the Lakers or Clippers next summer. The Clippers have since been somewhat debunked as a LeBron destination. There’s circumstantial evidence linking LeBron to Los Angeles.

Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources.

Shelburne and Windhorst are highly credible. I doubt they’d report this without connected sources.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have recently publicly downplayed the importance of Los Angeles to LeBron. That felt like a coordinated attack on the LeBron-Lakers rumors, and this fits as a continuation.

But why wage that campaign? To keep the Cavaliers focused while LeBron still plays for them, even if he might leave after the season? To lower expectations among the Lakers’ massive fan base, so as not alienate those people (potential customers of the many LeBron-connected brands) when LeBron inevitably signs elsewhere? Both could be true, but there’s obviously a difference between each driving LeBron’s camp.

DeMarcus Cousins barrels in for powerful putback dunk over Bucks (video)

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When DeMarcus Cousins builds up a head of steam like this… poor John Henson (and kind of Khris Middleton).

This helped the Pelicans pull away for a 115-108 win over the Bucks last night.