Kurt Helin

Anthony Davis, Danilo Gallinari

Davis’ big game in return lifts Pelicans over Spurs, 104-90

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis had 20 points and 18 rebounds in his return from a sore shoulder, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the San Antonio Spurs 104-90 on Friday night for their second victory of the season.

Ryan Anderson hit six 3-pointers and scored 30 points for the second straight game. Ish Smith had 17 points and 13 assists for New Orleans (2-11), which snapped a five-game skid.

Kawhi Leonard scored 22 for San Antonio, which lost for only the third time this season and had its six-game winning streak snapped. LaMarcus Aldridge left briefly in the first quarter after twisting his left ankle, but returned and finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Tim Duncan failed to grab a rebound for the first time in his NBA career, STATS confirmed. He scored six points in 19 minutes.

Eric Gordon scored 11 for New Orleans, including a 3-pointer that gave the Pelicans a 100-88 lead with 2:59 remaining.

Davis did not appear inhibited by the shoulder soreness that forced him out in the first quarter of New Orleans’ loss to Denver last Tuesday night. After missing Wednesday night’s loss at Oklahoma City, Davis returned in force, soaring for alley-oop dunks and a dramatic block of Aldridge’s mid-range jumper in the fourth quarter.

As he came down, Davis pounced on the loose ball, turned and hurled it off Aldridge’s legs before crashing into the first row of seats. The play resulted in possession for New Orleans, and Davis waved the crowd into a frenzy that seemed to carry his team to the finish.

San Antonio’s largest lead was 8-0 just more than 3 minutes in. The Pelicans rallied to take the lead for good with 2:50 left in the first quarter.

New Orleans led 48-41 at halftime and by as many as 10 in the third quarter.

Tony Parker, who scored 10 points, pulled the Spurs to 83-82 with a short fadeaway as he fell to the floor with 10:21 left. Smith responded with a pull-up jumper and, minutes later, fed an alley-oop lob to Davis. That made it 89-84, and the Pelicans gradually pulled away from there.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Aldridge’s injury occurred in a collision with the Pelicans’ Alonzo Gee. Aldridge wound up playing approximately 32 minutes, all but about 6 of those coming after his injury. … G Manu Ginobili, who missed his second straight game and third in four because of tightness in his hip, is expected to return for San Antonio’s next game against Memphis, coach Gregg Popovich said. … Parker was assessed a technical foul in the fourth quarter for barking at officials moments after being fouled by Jrue Holiday.

Pelicans: C Omer Asik returned from a two-game absence caused by a stomach illness. He played 12 minutes, grabbing seven rebounds and scoring one point. … Holiday, who sat out Wednesday’s game as a precaution as he recovers from a right shin injury, started and played 24 minutes, finishing with nine points and seven assists.

 

Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas fractures hand in win over Lakers

D'Angelo Russell, Jonas Valanciunas
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Toronto’s backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan gets the bulk o the attention, but the 8-6 Raptors are only going to go as far this season as big man Jonas Valanciunas can take them — they need his presence in the paint to balance out their offense, plus protect the rim at the other end.

Which is why losing him for a while is going to be such a blow.

Valanciunas suffered a fracture in his left hand going for a dunk during Toronto’s win Friday night over the Lakers. Specifically the team said X-Rays showed a fractured fourth metacarpal. The team wants to do more evaluation before giving a timeline for his return, but a broken hand can be a month or more.

It happened on this play.

Valanciunas has averaged 13.5 points and 9.8 rebounds a night, and he does it efficiently (a true shooting percentage of 60.6 percent). Think of it this way, the Raptors offense is 12.6 points per 100 possesions better when he is on the court. The challenge for the Raptors for the next month is they don’t have anyone on the roster who can score inside the way he does. Expect Bismack Biyombo, to get more time, and while he brings shot blocking he isn’t near the same offensive.

The Raptors have battled the injury bug all season, with DeMarre Carroll and Terrence Ross missing time. They are off to a solid 8-6 record, but in a much deeper East they need all the wins they can get. Missing Valanciunas is going to hurt that cause.

Al Jefferson, Hornets drop 76ers to 0-13

Al Jefferson, Mason Plumlee
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The times that Al Jefferson is most confident he’ll have a good game are not when the Hornets center is going against a rookie, and not even when he’s facing a winless team.

Both of those occasions happened Friday in Charlotte’s 113-88 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. But what made Jefferson salivate most was seeing how the Sixers were defending him – with only first-year player Jahlil Okafor.

“What made me start smelling blood is when I noticed they weren’t double-teaming,” he said.

It doesn’t happen that often. When it does, Jefferson tries to take advantage by getting to the places on the floor where he loves to work his post moves the most.

He missed his first two attempts Friday, but sank the next six on his way to 18 first-half points that helped give the Hornets the kind of decisive lead the Sixers (0-13) have not been able to rebound from this season.

Charlotte led by as many as 26 points before the 76ers outscored the Hornets 29-23 in the third quarter to slice the advantage to 81-70 with 1:06 left in that quarter.

But Charlotte rookie Frank Kaminsky had seven of the Hornets’ next nine points spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter to push the lead back to a safe 15.

Jefferson finished with 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting. He added 10 rebounds and five blocks.

Charlotte improved to 7-6, and is now 5-1 at home after winning its last five home contests.

Nerlens Noel led Philadelphia with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in his first game coming off the bench this season.

The 76ers are within four losses of matching last season’s franchise-worst start and are five defeats away from tying the NBA record, set by the 2009 Nets, for longest losing streak to begin a season.

Philadelphia, which opened a six-game road trip, is three away from tying the NBA record of 26 straight losses. The 76ers already share that dubious mark with Cleveland, with Philadelphia’s skid from Jan. 31-March 27, 2014, matching the Cavaliers’ between Nov. 20, 2010-Feb. 9, 2011.

“We preach and we talk about it (morale) all the time,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “They give us their attitude and their effort; I am with them unconditionally. . They bust their tails. They are 20-year-old kids and I love coaching them. I respect them and we believe the good days will add up.”

 

FEELING THE PAIN

One Hornets player who understands the Sixers’ winless plight is point guard Kemba Walker. Walker was part of the 2011-12 Charlotte team that was 7-59 in the lockout-shortened season.

He sees a light at the end of the tunnel for these Sixers.

“It’s tough, but I definitely have to commend the players and the coach and that coaching staff because those guys always come to play, each and every night,” Walker said. “Even when I’m at home and watching League Pass, they’re always in games. They’re always challenging teams, despite their record. They really have some great young talent. And you know, it’s a process. One day those guys are going to be really good.”

 

Curry leads Warriors to 14-0 start as they hold off Bulls

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 27 points and the defending champion Golden State Warriors moved within one victory of matching the best start in NBA history, holding off the Chicago Bulls 106-94 on Friday night to improve to 14-0.

The league’s last undefeated team ran its franchise-record home winning streak to 26 games by beating a Chicago team that is the last to win at Oracle Arena during the regular season, way back in late January.

Golden State equaled the 1957-58 Celtics as the only defending champions to win their initial 14 games. The Warriors are one of five teams in NBA history to begin 14-0, and will travel to Denver looking to keep it going Sunday.

Harrison Barnes added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Warriors in a game featuring 18 lead changes and 17 ties.

Jimmy Butler had 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Bulls in the second game of a four-game road trip.

Kirk Hinrich‘s open 3-pointer from the right wing with 8:52 left pulled Chicago within 81-79. Nikola Mirotic converted three free throws the next time down for an 82-81 Bulls lead.

Hinrich hit a tying 3 with 5:44 to go only to see Curry knock one down moments later to put his team back up 92-89.

A day after rallying from a 23-point deficit to beat the rival Clippers in Los Angeles 124-117 – the biggest comeback in the NBA this season – Golden State overcame another slow start.

The Bulls led by 10 in the first before the Warriors roared back and got the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena rocking on Curry’s over-the-head lob pass to Andre Iguodala for a dunk.

The Bulls’ 113-111 overtime win on Jan. 27 snapped Golden State’s then-franchise record 19-game home winning streak. It was one of only two regular-season home losses last season.

Interim coach Luke Walton planned to remind his players of that loss – not that they necessarily needed it.

“I hope they remember it,” Walton said.

If Golden State gets by Denver to get to 15-0, then it will have a chance to break the record Tuesday night back home against the Lakers.

The Washington Capitols in 1948-49 and Houston Rockets in `93-94 are the other teams to start 15-0.

FIRST-QUARTER DEFENSE

Golden State stressed during the preseason starting fast and shutting down on defense early to set the tone.

Yet the Warriors were allowing 34 points in the first quarter their previous three games, including 41 to the Clippers on Thursday night.

“It’s two things. It’s people wanting to be the first team to give us a loss and they’re coming out and playing like it’s a playoff game. This is the biggest game of the season for them so far,” Walton said. “And, two, we’re not matching their intensity early on. We were thrilled with the effort we had earlier in the season as far as the way we were starting games. That was one of our focal points in training camp this year.”

 

Gregg Popovich was in mid-season interview form Friday

Gregg Popovich
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Gregg Popovich in-game interviews are the stuff of legend. Some nights he just doesn’t want to play along with the rather inane patter that is all you’re going to get in that setting (do you think a coach is going to tell everyone how he plans to adjust his pick-and-roll coverage?).

Friday night was one of those nights.

I think the interviewer handled this fairly well.

If you were not watching the game, LaMarcus Aldridge tweaked his left ankle in the first quarter and left the game, but as Popovich said he did return to the contest.