Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Isaiah Thomas has another big 4th quarter, Celtics beat Raptors

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BOSTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas scored 19 of his 44 points in the final quarter to lift the Boston Celtics over the Toronto Raptors 109-104 on Wednesday night in a showdown for first place in the Atlantic Division.

It was the fifth straight win for Boston, which moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Raptors in the division and holds the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.

Jae Crowder scored 14 points for the Celtics and Al Horford had 11. Thomas had 18 of Boston’s final 23 points.

Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 32 points, former Celtic Jared Sullinger had 13 and Norman Powell added 12. The Raptors have lost seven of nine.

In a final quarter that rivaled playoff intensity, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown was fouled on a breakaway attempt and walked over and had words with Lowry – before a few others player joined in and had to be separated by the officials. Boston’s Terry Rozier and the Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll were each given a technical foul.

With the Celtics trailing by eight, Thomas scored nine straight points to give them their first lead of the game – 95-94 on a driving basket with 4:39 to play.

The lead changed hands six times over the next 3 1/2 minutes – with Thomas’ 3-pointer from the left wing giving Boston a 103-101 edge with 48.1 seconds left.

Toronto led by 11 at the halftime and scored 13 of the first 19 points in the third, pulling to a 75-57 edge on Lowry’s 3-pointer from the right corner.

TIP-INS

Raptors: G DeMar DeRozan was out for the fifth time in six games with a right ankle injury.

Celtics: G Avery Bradley missed his eighth straight game with a right Achilles tendon injury. Coach Brad Stevens said he’s practiced the last two days, but the team wants “to make sure that when we get him back, he’s back on the court and limit the chance that it’ll happen again.” … F Kelly Olynyk was out with a strained left shoulder.

IMPRESSED

Stevens talked about the play of Lowry before the game, admiring both the overall guard play in the league and that of Toronto’s star.

“There are so many guards right now that can make exceptional plays off the dribble,” he said. “Maybe more so and a higher efficiency than I’ve seen before, and Lowry’s one of the best of them.”

NICE ENDING

Thomas hit a 36-foot 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left to cap off his 16-point first quarter.

 

No contest: Heat push win streak to nine, roll Hawks 116-93

Associated Press
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MIAMI (AP) — Ask anyone in the Miami Heat locker room how this is happening, and the answers will all be largely the same.

They can’t explain.

That doesn’t bother them, either.

The NBA’s hottest team stayed that way Wednesday night, as Goran Dragic scored 27 points, Dion Waiters added 20 and the Heat had no trouble with the Atlanta Hawks on the way to a 116-93 win. It was the ninth straight win for the Heat, the longest current run in the league and Miami’s best streak since winning 10 in a row from Nov. 12-Dec. 1, 2013.

“We’re just having fun,” Waiters said.

It matched the largest victory margin of the season for Miami (20-30), which plays its next six games against opponents with losing records. A team that was on the cusp of having the NBA’s worst record just a couple weeks ago is now in the thick of a playoff race, and dominated a Hawks team that beat Miami in the first two matchups between the clubs this season.

“A lot of credit to Miami. They’re playing really, really good basketball,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “You can see why they’ve won nine games in a row now. Both ends of the court, their activity, their aggressiveness, just really impressed with their players, their coaching staff, everything they’re doing.”

Hassan Whiteside scored 18 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Heat. James Johnson scored 16 points before getting ejected in the fourth quarter for Miami (20-30).

Kent Bazemore scored 14 and Dennis Schroder scored 12 for the Hawks (28-21).

“They’re doing a great job,” Schroder said after complimenting Waiters, Dragic, Johnson and Whiteside. “And we didn’t.”

Atlanta’s Taurean Prince was ejected midway through the fourth quarter for pulling Whiteside down from behind and being assessed a flagrant two. James Johnson retaliated in Whiteside’s defense and was ejected after getting a technical.

That was about the only moment in which the game was competitive after halftime. Miami tied San Antonio for the third-best streak in the NBA this season, with only Golden State (12) and Houston (10) having more consecutive wins.

“It hasn’t been about the result for us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We felt like our team was getting better. And throughout all of it, you do have to maintain perspective.”

TIP-INS

Hawks: Atlanta outscored Miami 108-72 in the paint in the first two meetings between the clubs. The Hawks were outscored 54-36 in the paint Wednesday. … Dwight Howard (six points, 11 rebounds) saw his string of five consecutive double-doubles end. … Atlanta had 13 assists, to Miami’s 23.

Heat: Miami led by as many as 26. … Dragic has drawn fouls on four 3-point attempts in his last three games. … Atlanta’s Paul Millsap drew a technical at the end of the first half, so Dragic took and made the subsequent free throw – 15 minutes later. He then made a 3-pointer on the same possession. … Waiters has at least 17 points in each of his last seven games.

HOUSTON, HELLO

With the Hawks going to Houston on Thursday, it should mark Howard’s first time playing there as an opponent since Dec. 4, 2012. Howard spent the last three seasons with the Rockets, averaging 16 points and 11.7 rebounds. He signed a three-year, $70.5 million deal with the Hawks last summer.

WHITESIDE MARKS

Whiteside’s 10th rebound was No. 2,000 of his career. He also had two blocks, leaving him one shy of No. 500 there.

 

Stephen Curry challenges dad Dell, who banks in deep three. While wearing a suit. (VIDEO)

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Like father like son.

Stephen Curry has found his three-point stroke again, shooting 46.2 percent from three since Christmas. That includes dropping 11 threes on the Hornets Wednesday night — and he didn’t even play the fourth quarter.

But before the game Curry threw a ball to his father Dell — the former NBA sharpshooter who now is a color commentator for the Hornets — and Dad, in a full suit, banks in the deep three.

Damn. That’s impressive.

Report: Knicks still want to trade for Kevin Love, Cavaliers still say he’s not available

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If Phil Jackson is going to trade Carmelo Anthony, he wants more than some veteran role players he’d have to move and some young projects — you know, the Clippers’ offer — he wants a splash. Someone to pair with Kristaps Porzingis to push the Knicks back to relevance sooner rather than later.

Someone such as Kevin Love.

The Knicks keep asking and the Cavaliers keep saying no on Love, but the Cavs would be open to another deal, reports Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.

The New York Knicks continue to pursue Kevin Love in advance of the Feb. 23 trade deadline despite the Cleveland Cavaliers’ unwillingness to part with the All-Star forward in a deal for Carmelo Anthony, according to league sources.

Sources said the Cavaliers, meanwhile, do maintain an interest in Anthony — which would pair him with Cleveland star and close friend LeBron James — but only if a deal can be struck without the league’s reigning champions surrendering Love….

Many of the Knicks’ recent discussions with both the Cavaliers and the Clippers, sources say, have featured theoretical three- or four-team trade constructions because of the complexities involved in trading Anthony with two seasons and $54.2 million left on his contract after this season.

There is zero chance the Cavaliers would — or even LeBron would want — trade 27-year-old, playing his best basketball Love for 33-year-old and defensive liability (much worse than Love at this point) Anthony. LeBron wants to win a title, swapping Anthony for Love does not make the Cavs better.

Remember that Anthony has a 15 percent trade kicker in his contract — move him and he gets a raise. Also remember the Clippers are hard-capped this season because they spent the full mid-level on Wesley Johnson while being over the cap. Meaning for Los Angeles and New York to do a deal will mean at least one other team and a lot of moving parts to make it work.

A package of young players and picks from Boston might be the best way to build around Porzingis, but the Celtics interest level is not high enough to offer their best assets — the Brooklyn Nets picks.

Anthony said he has not agreed to waive his no-trade clause for anyone yet. If the time comes, he said his family’s wishes and the state of the team he might go to all would factor in.

The smart money is on Anthony staying a Knick the rest of this season, with a trade in the summer more likely. But Jackson and the Knicks are trying.

LeBron says he’d be good playing with Lance Stephenson, Mario Chalmers

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How badly does LeBron James want another playmaker on the Cavaliers’ roster so they can better match up with the Warriors?

How about bad enough to be okay with playing with this guy:

source:

The Cavaliers are working out a number of potential backup point guards and playmakers, including Jordan Farmar and Kirk Hinrich, plus they have reached out to see if players such as Deron Williams are available via trade. They still would love to get Carmelo Anthony, just not at the cost of Kevin Love.

However, two names stood out on the list circulated Tuesday: Lance Stephenson and Mario Chalmers. Not just because of their talent, or because they are free agents coming off injuries, but because of their histories with LeBron. However, LeBron said Wednesday those histories belong in the past and he doesn’t care, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I got a history with all those guys except Jordan,” James said after shootaround Wednesday, as the Cavs prepared for their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I got a history with Lance too, obviously. I got a history versus Kirk. I played him in a lot of playoff series. And I got a history with Rio [Chalmers]. … At the end of the day, Rio is recovering from his Achilles tear. I hope he’s been doing everything he needs to do just to get back on the floor. He loves to play the game.

“I’m a supporter of what this franchise wants to do, no matter what it’s doing. But my focus right now is to get our guys playing championship-level basketball.”

That’s LeBron and his “I’m not the defacto GM here” statements, but the reality is there is no way Stephenson or Chalmers get a workout without LeBron signing off on it.

Stephenson knows how to create for himself and can be a good defender when focused. Stephenson and the Pacers ran into LeBron and the Cavaliers twice in the playoffs, and in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals came the legendary blowing in the ear incident. Stephenson also tapped LeBron in the face in that series, and LeBron said he was not sure how he restrained himself. Maybe that is all in the past, but it makes for an interesting locker room dynamic.

LeBron played with Chalmers in Miami for four years, and LeBron yelled at Chalmers a lot in those days. However, Chalmers also is fearless in big moments and hit key shots for that team. Chalmers was playing the best ball of his career last season in Memphis when he ruptured his Achilles, the question is can he return to form?

Don’t expect the Cavaliers to make a rash move here, they can wait to see what plays out around the trade deadline.