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Karl-Anthony Towns scores 56, sets Timberwolves’ single-game record (video)

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76ers rookie Ben Simmons encouraged Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns to play a video game with him yesterday.

“Play one,” Simmons said. “You’ve got time. Who do you play tomorrow?”

“Hawks,” Towns said.

“You’ve got plenty of time,” Simmons said, breaking into laughter.

Turns out, Simmons was right. Towns didn’t need to take lowly Atlanta seriously.

Towns scored a franchise-record 56 points in Minnesota’s 126-114 win over the Hawks. That surpassed Mo Williams’ 52 points in 2015.

Picking up the slack for an injured Jimmy Butler, Towns shot 13-for-24 on 2-pointers, 6-for-8 on 3-pointers and 12-for-15 on free throws. He’s such a talented scorer, inside and out. The Timberwolves should feature him more often.

The highlights:

Kemba Walker becomes leading scorer in Hornets history

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Kemba Walker has been with the Hornets through thick and thin, relentlessly working to nudge them to greater heights even as his support has oscillated. When his name emerged in trade rumors this season, Walker said he would be “devastated” to leave Charlotte.

Though his future there is uncertain, the beloved star stayed long enough at least to capture a franchise record.

Walker (9,841 points) became the Hornets’ all-time leading scorer, passing Dell Curry (9,839 points).

“I’m not supposed to be here,” Walker said on the Charlotte telecast after wiping his eyes with his towel. “A lot of people from where I’m from don’t make it.

“It’s been a long ride, but this is a huge accomplishment.”

Walker set the mark with 21 points in the Hornets’ 118-105 loss to the Cavaliers tonight. He couldn’t keep up with LeBron James (41 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists), but Walker didn’t have to in order to earn love from fans, teammates and LeBron himself:

Hornets owner Michael Jordan also congratulated Walker:

The Hornets joined the NBA for the 1988-89 season then moved to New Orleans after 14 seasons. Another expansion team, the Bobcats, emerged in Charlotte for the 2004-05 season. That franchise later changed its name to the Hornets and assumed the original Hornets’ historical records. (The original Hornets became the Pelicans.)

Here are the all-time leading scorers for the conjoined Charlotte franchise:

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Only the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis (9,421 points) leads a franchise in scoring with fewer points, but that doesn’t nullify Walker’s accomplishment.

The Hornets have struggled to attract and retain talent. They haven’t existed long enough, in either form, to build a strong history.

But Walker got drafted by Charlotte, embraced it, built himself into a star and found a place that loved him back. This means a lot.

76ers C Joel Embiid hurt in head-to-head collision with Markelle Fultz (video)

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia center Joel Embiid left in the second quarter of the 76ers’ game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday after a nasty collision with teammate Markelle Fultz.

Embiid was ruled out for the rest of the game with a facial contusion. The 76ers said the All-Star center went through concussion protocol but did not have a concussion.

Fultz was driving toward the basket 20 seconds into the period when he appeared to accidentally head-butt Embiid. The 7-footer immediately went to the floor. He remained on the floor for several minutes before finally being assisted by Philadelphia’s trainer. Embiid sat up once before lying back down on the court. Eventually, he was helped off the court.

Fultz was not injured on the play.

Embiid finished with five points and three rebounds in eight minutes.

Report: Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless expected to miss 2-3 weeks

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Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless said his knee injury would sideline him between 10 days and six weeks.

After he underwent surgery today, a clearer timeline has emerged.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This would mean Harkless misses the rest of the regular season – and maybe some of the playoffs. With such a narrow gap between the 3-8 teams in the Western Conference, Harkless’ exact return date could make the difference between third-place Portland advancing or not in the postseason.

Harkless is a versatile defender who has knocked down his 3-pointers this season. That’s an important combination in any playoff matchup. The Trail Blazers also have Evan Turner, but Turner’s shaky outside shooting can be exploited. They’d be far better off if Harkless is healthy.

Potential top-three pick, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, declares for NBA draft

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Marvin Bagley III reclassified to play at Duke this season, accelerating his timeline to the NBA.

He took advantage with a stellar year, and now it’s time to make that high-school graduation change pay off.

Duke release:

Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III has announced that he will enter his name in the 2018 NBA Draft.

“I want to thank everyone that supported us throughout the entire year,” said Bagley. “The coaching staff and teammates have made this such a great year and something so special. I’ve always dreamed of coming to Duke and being part of this tradition under Coach K. I’m just so thankful for the opportunity here at Duke, and to have been part of it.”

Bagley doesn’t outright say he’ll hire an agent and remain in the draft, but it sure sounds as if he’s finished at Duke. Considering his draft stock, we can safely assume that’s the case.

After Slovenian point guard Luca Doncic and Arizona center DeAndre Ayton, Bagley might be the most heralded prospect in this draft. He’ll almost certainly get selected in the top half of the lottery, and he has a good chance of being the No. 3 pick.

Bagley uses his eye-popping athleticism and strong motor to hunt shots near the basket and grab rebounds. He gets up and down the court and above the rim in a hurry. He can also handle the ball, elevating him from a hustle player to someone with star potential.

At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, he looks like a center in the modern NBA. But his rim protection and overall defense are lacking. He might need a more-established center to cover for him, especially early in his career. That would draw more attention to Bagley’s jumper. Though his 40% 3-point shooting on 58 attempts at Duke suggests some outside-shooting potential, his jump shot is unreliable. That’ll be a much bigger issue if his defensive shortcomings force him to play power forward.

So, Bagley’s transition to the NBA won’t necessarily be seamless. But with his tools and drive, it’s well worth figuring out how he fits best.