Kurt Helin

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) grabs his leg after falling to the floor in the first half after being injured in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, in Phoenix. (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic via AP) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGAZINES OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Suns’ Eric Bledsoe goes down with knee sprain, could miss some time

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It looked worse than it has been reported to be.

In the second quarter of Phoenix’s eventual loss to Philadelphia Saturday night, Suns’ guard Eric Bledsoe went down with a non-contact injury. He had to be helped from the court straight to the locker room.

The Suns later reported this as a sprained knee. Although Bledsoe will have an MRI Sunday, it does not appear to be a serious injury, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.

Bledsoe leads the Suns averaging 20.4 points per game, he has an above-average true shooting percentage of 55.7 percent, he dishes out 6.1 assists per game, he hits the three, and his PER of 20.9 is the kind of number you expect of an All-Star.

Devin Booker started the second half in Bledsoe’s spot, and if that has to continue for an extended period of time the Suns — and their playoff dreams — are in trouble.

Lowly 76ers beat Suns 111-104 for 2nd win of season

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 26:  Isaiah Canaan #0 of the Philadelphia 76ers goes to the basket against the Phoenix Suns on December 26, 2015 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
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PHOENIX (AP) — Isaiah Canaan scored 22 points, reserve Nik Stauskas had 17 and the lowly Philadelphia 76ers beat the Phoenix Suns 111-104 on Saturday night for their second victory of the season.

Carl Landry added 16 points as Philadelphia (2-30) snapped a 12-game losing streak with its first win since Dec. 1. The 76ers also stopped a 23-game road slide dating to last season.

Former Suns guard Ish Smith, who was acquired in a trade with New Orleans on Christmas Eve, scored 14 points in a starting role. Nerlens Noel added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The Suns lost leading scorer Eric Bledsoe to a sprained left knee in the first half. The team said he would go for an MRI.

Brandon Knight led Phoenix with 21 points. Devin Booker scored 19 points, and Jon Leuer had 14 points and nine rebounds. The Suns have lost four in a row and six of seven.

Bledsoe got hurt with 7:40 left in the second quarter and had to be helped to the locker room. He entered Saturday averaging 20.9 points and had four when he left the game.

The Sixers built a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Suns got it down to a six-point deficit twice in the last two minutes, but Philadelphia was able to hang on.

Phoenix rallied in the second quarter after Bledsoe’s injury, getting seven straight points from Booker to cut the Sixers’ lead to 40-36. But the Suns got no closer before halftime despite Booker scoring 11 points in the quarter after not playing in the first.

Booker took Bledsoe’s spot in the starting lineup to open the second half.

The Suns took their first lead since a 2-0 advantage when Knight knocked down a 22-foot jumper to make it 60-58 in the third quarter.

But Philadelphia reclaimed the lead behind Stauskas, who hit two key 3-pointers and a long jumper, the last bucket with 40 seconds left in the third. Kendall Marshall made a 3 with 0.9 seconds to go, giving the Sixers an 85-75 lead going into the fourth quarter.

ALLEY `OOPS’

The Sixers got a lucky basket early in the game when Canaan attempted a lob to Noel that he couldn’t catch in mid-air. The ball went off Noel’s hands and the rim and bounced straight up, dropping into the net for two points.

TIP-INS

Sixers: C Jahlil Okafor, the Sixers’ leading scorer this season, sat out with right knee soreness, replaced in the starting lineup by Jerami Grant. … The Sixers ended a streak of five straight losses to the Suns.

SUNS: F Markieff Morris served the first of his two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. … G Sonny Weems, who hadn’t played since seeing six minutes of action on Dec. 16 at Golden State, had three points and three assists in 17 minutes. … The Suns got another scare 30 seconds into the fourth quarter when Booker turned his left ankle after a shot and was helped to the bench. After a quick examination during a timeout he came back into the game.

 

Crabbe helps Trail Blazers hand Cavaliers second straight loss 105-76

PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 26: Allen Crabbe #23 of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrates with teammates after the game against the Cleveland Cavalierson Decmeber 26, 2015 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland coach Terry Stotts came armed with a witty opening statement for his postgame press conference Saturday night following the Trail Blazers’ 105-76 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Anybody see that coming?” Stotts said.

Hard to imagine many raising their hands. Portland came into Saturday with a five-game losing streak, while LeBron James-led Cleveland had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Almost from the opening tip, Portland was in control. Allen Crabbe scored 21 of his career-high 26 points during the first half to lead the Blazers (12-20) to their most lopsided win of the season.

C.J. McCollum had 16 points, while Mason Plumlee had 11 points and 14 rebounds for Portland.

The Blazers ran out to a 34-12 first quarter lead and were never threatened, holding Cleveland to a season-low 76 points. James, playing only 27 minutes, matched his season low with 12 points.

“One of the things you love about the NBA, anything can happen,” Stotts said. “Obviously we played a very good game. Our defense allowed us to get into transition and took a little pressure off our half-court offense.”

Crabbe hit 4 of 6 from 3-point range. He said returning home after the recent 0-5 East Coast trip gave the Blazers a spark.

“I think it was good for us to get back home, see family. It was great to get back and play a good team like that. Everybody was up and excited to play them,” Crabbe said.

Stotts saw a different team than the one he coached during the winless trip.

“Having two days off was good. We had a lot of energy. We were pushing the ball after stops. We seemed to have a little extra bounce,” Stotts said.

The Cavaliers have lost two consecutive games, this one on the heels of an 89-83 defeat to Golden State on Friday night. The 76- and 83-point performances are season lows for Cleveland.

“Offensively, we are in a funk right now,” said James, who also had four rebounds and five assists. “Our energy was lacking at the beginning of the game. It picked up, but at some point it got so out of hand that it didn’t matter.”

Kevin Love had 13 points to lead the Cavaliers.

BURNED OUT?

James said the Cavaliers spent a lot of energy in the Golden State loss, but “you can’t use that as an excuse. This Portland team beat us pretty good and you have to respect them for that.

“Throw it in the trash. There was nothing good we did tonight.”

SHORT OUTSIDE

Both teams played without their All-star guards.

Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving sat out while he team eases him back from a broken kneecap suffered six months ago during the NBA Finals. Irving made his season debut earlier this week and played Friday but isn’t ready to play in back-to-back games yet. Irving is expected to play Monday night at Phoenix.

Portland’s Damian Lillard missed his third consecutive game because of left foot plantar fasciitis. Stotts said Lillard is undergoing physical therapy but “can’t do much on his feet athletically.” Lillard’s timetable to return is unknown.

FIRST STEPS

Portland started fast and didn’t let up throughout the first half as it led 63-34 at halftime.

Crabbe scored 12 points and hit two 3-pointers to stake the Blazers to a 34-12 lead after the first quarter. Cleveland cut the deficit to 16 points early in the second after Matthew Dellavedova hit two 3-pointers during an 8-0 run. But Portland countered with 11 consecutive points to take a 51-24 lead.

Portland went 8 of 15 from 3-point range, and didn’t commit a turnover during the first half.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland’s 12 first-quarter points is a season low for any quarter. Portland’s 63-point first half is a season-high for a Cavaliers opponent, and the Blazers’ 34 first-quarter points ties a season high. … James needs five points to pass Alex English for 17th on the NBA’s career scoring list. … Cleveland went 11 of 31 from 3-point range, with Love hitting a team-high four.

Blazers: Crabbe established his career high by halftime with 21 first-half points. His previous high was 19. … The Blazers’ zero turnover first half was their first since the second half of a March 10, 2012 game against Washington. … Plumlee is averaging 10.7 points and 10.8 rebounds over his past seven games. … Portland’s 34-point third-quarter lead is its largest in any game this season.

 

Kobe Bryant’s reaction to leading All-Star voting: “What the hell?”

Kobe Bryant
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Kobe Bryant isn’t just the leading vote getter for the 2016 NBA All-Star game, he is lapping the field. In the first numbers released by the league, Kobe received 719,235 votes. In second place is Stephen Curry with 510,202, third is LeBron James at 357,937.

It caught Kobe off guard.

I’m not sure it was that big a surprise; it was expected the fans would vote Kobe in for final All-Star game in this, his final season in the NBA.The volume with which they are doing it is a bit of a surprise, however.

If you have a problem with this, if you think Kobe’s play hasn’t warranted him getting the start over Kawhi Leonard or Draymond Green, let me remind you of this:

It’s an exhibition. For the fans. Give the people what they want and move on.

It’s not like the NBA does something ridiculous and puts home court advantage on the line for the winner of a mid-season exhibition game where the fans vote in the starters. That would be ludicrous.

Clippers starters need to work harder than expected, but beat Lakers

LOS ANGELES,CA - DECEMBER 25:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers goes up for the layup against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 25, 2015 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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This game looked exactly like everyone expected it to look, for Lakers fans a lot like like the Oklahoma City game a couple of nights before. The Clippers had won the previous seven meetings and 11-of-12, and this game was going to fit right in that mold.

The Clippers started to pull away in the middle of the first quarter when they went on a little 13-4 run, then just carried that over into the second — the Clippers were up 10 points after one quarter, 16 at the half. Kobe Bryant would make a few threes and thrill the crowd in his final Christmas Day game, but in general, he could not change the dynamic of this contest. The Lakers were getting crushed in the paint, and had zero fast break or second chance points in the first 24 minutes. The third saw more of the same from the Clippers, with a late 14-0 run stretching their lead to 28 after 36 minutes. Chris Paul had 21 points after three, Blake Griffin 13, and these two teams were not in the same class. Ballgame. The Clippers starters went to the bench and an enjoyable Christmas Day of basketball was going to end with 12 minutes of garbage time.

Except the Lakers’ reserves, led by Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell, didn’t know they were supposed to roll over. In a battle of reserves the Clippers’ bench — which has been unimpressive all season — the Lakers’ bench and young stars owned the Clips.

The Lakers went on a 25-4 run, which  forced Doc Rivers to re-insert his starters. Which he did, and eventually the bleeding was stopped and the Clippers got a 94-84 win. But on the first night of a back-to-back and having to travel to Utah to play a feisty Jazz team, the Clippers starters were not happy they had to come back in and save the day.

We’ve broken down in detail here what a mess the Clipper bench is. It is the principal thing holding the Clippers back from seeming like a real threat to Golden State or the Spurs — Los Angeles is great until you remove one starter from the equation. That was on full display to a national audience… well, the ones that hadn’t already turned this dud off.

This was not a game where it felt like we learned anything new. The Clippers starters are a force of nature, their bench a mess. The Lakers are not good, but their young players show moments of what could be in a few years (plus there are a handful of vintage Kobe moments). Chris Paul finished with 23 points and six assists, J.J. Redick had 14 points. On the other side, Russell led the Lakers with 16 points.

Maybe that fourth quarter run will get Byron Scott to start Russell and Randle again, although the real key for the youngsters is to stagger them minutes from Kobe — let them develop chemistry, not defer.