Associated Press

Suns end 7-game skid with 124-115 win over Rockets

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HOUSTON (AP) — Mirza Teletovic scored 26 points off the bench, P.J. Tucker added 24 and the Phoenix Suns dealt another blow to the Houston Rockets’ dwindling playoff chances with a 124-115 victory on Thursday night.

It’s the second straight loss for the Rockets, who entered the day in ninth place in the Western Conference after a loss at Dallas on Wednesday.

The game was back and forth through the first few minutes of the fourth quarter before the Suns took over.

They scored 10 straight points, with eight coming on free throws, to take a 117-110 lead with 1:03 left and send fans streaming for the exits.

Four of those free throws came from Devin Booker and he added two more down the stretch to put it out of reach after a 3-pointer by James Harden.

Tyson Chandler added 21 points for the Suns, who snapped a NBA-high, seven-game skid.

Harden led Houston with 30 points.

It was tied at 103 midway through the fourth quarter when Archie Goodwin drove into the lane and was fouled hard by Clint Capela. He made both free throws and Tucker added a layup seconds later to put Phoenix up 107-103.

Phoenix led by four with about 5 1/2 minutes left when Houston scored the next seven points, highlighted by an alley-oop dunk by Clint Capela and helped by three turnovers by the Suns, to make it 110-107.

Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff tried a variety of different lineups, with everyone on the roster getting minutes except for Terrence Jones. He played Josh Smith for almost 18 minutes after playing him only once in the previous 16 games.

Houston led by one to start the fourth quarter and the teams exchanged leads several times in the opening minutes of the period, but neither team got more than two points ahead.

The Rockets led by three at halftime and scored the first 10 points of the third quarter to take a 70-57 lead with 9 minutes left in the quarter. The Suns were awful in that span, committing four turnovers, with two of them coming on shot clock violations.

Tucker finally got the Suns going after that, scoring all of Phoenix’s points in a 10-5 run that cut the lead to 75-67 midway through the quarter.

The Suns led by four later in the period after a 3-pointer by Booker, but Harden scored the last five points of the quarter to take a 90-89 lead into the fourth.

Houston led by as many as 12 in the first half, but the Suns ended the second quarter with a 10-3 run to cut it to 60-57 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Suns: Goodwin finished with 16 points. … The Suns got 36 second-chance points to just eight by Houston. … Tucker had 12 rebounds and Chandler grabbed 10.

Rockets: Bickerstaff received a technical in the second quarter for arguing with officials. … Trevor Ariza had 22 points. … Dwight Howard had 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

 

LeBron James finishes Rajon Rondo alley-oop to close out half (VIDEO)

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
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One of the reasons LeBron James leads the league in assists — other than the fact he can do anything on the basketball court he wants — is that he was the Lakers’ only quality playmaker to start the season. He had to set guys up.

Until Rajon Rondo returned recently from injury.

Now Rondo is setting up everyone — including LeBron for this monster alley-oop just before the half Tuesday night.

LeBron can still finish with the best of them.

Just don’t ask him about doing the dunk contest.

 

New Orleans spoils Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut in 115-104 Pelicans win

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday had 22 points and 10 assists, Brandon Ingram added 21 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut with a 115-104 victory over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Anthony finished with 10 points while Portland leading scorer and four-time All-Star Damian Lillard missed his first game of the season with back spasms.

Starting at forward and playing across the street from where he led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship over Kansas, Anthony scored the Blazers’ first points of the game on a 3-pointer from 26 feet out. However, he wound up missing 10 of 14 shots in what was the first game of his 17th NBA season.

Ingram looked spry in his return from right knee soreness that sidelined him four games, particularly on an authoritative, driving, one-handed dunk that got the crowd roaring in the opening quarter.

J.J. Redick hit 4 of 9 3-pointers and scored 14 points for New Orleans, which has won two straight and three of four. Kenrich Williams, who got the start at forward, filled the stat sheet with hustle plays, grabbing 14 rebounds to go with three steals and a blocked shot. He also scored eight points.

Holiday highlighted his night with a spinning dribble around Nassir Little for a driving dunk. In the second half, he scored on an unusual play in which he remained under his own basket, re-tying his shoes while his team advanced 4-on-5 into the offensive end. Holiday then came sprinting down court, took a handoff from Nicolo Melli near the 3-point line and exploded toward the rim for a layup.

C.J. McCollum led Portland with 22 points, while Hassan Whiteside added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Anthony wasted no time getting his first shot off. His miss from 20 feet came within the opening 30 seconds and was Portland’s first shot of the game. Anthony also took Portland’s second shot, hitting his first of two made 3s.

But when Anthony tried to rise for a two-handed dunk in the first half, he was met with resistance by a member of the NBA’s rookie class when eighth overall draft pick Jaxson Hayes rejected the attempt.

Hayes closed out the half with his third block, swatting away a driving floater by Anfernee Simons to keep Portland’s lead at 54-53.

New Orleans seized momentum in the third quarter, going up by 13 on a sequence that began when Melli hit a 3 and then got the ball right back in a largely vacated Portland back court after Nickeil Alexander-Walker dove to swipe the ball away from McCollum. Melli went straight in for a dunk that made it 83-70.

Portland responded with three quick 3s — two by Kent Bazemore — during a 9-2 run that trimmed New Orleans’ lead to six before Alexander-Walker, who had hit 11 3s in his previous two games, ended the period by banking in a straightaway 3 to make it 88-79.

Watch Carmelo Anthony’s first bucket as a Trail Blazer

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That Carmelo Anthony started the first game he played for Portland speaks to why they signed him in the first place — this team is so shorthanded along the front line that the guy they just signed got thrown into the fire.

Anthony responded with a solid level of play. His first bucket was a wing three where both defenders went to CJ McCollum and left ‘Melo wide open.

Anthony played 12 minutes in the first half and had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, and three fouls. The team was looking to keep him at around 20 minutes for his first game back.

Portland led New Orleans 54-53 at the half.

How a single computer folder and dogged HR official exposed former Kings executive’s $13.4M embezzlement scheme

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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Just how close did Jeff David come to getting away with embezzling $13.4 million from the Kings while working for them? He already secured a new job with the Heat and was in the process of moving from Sacramento to Miami.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

If you like the NBA or true crime – let alone both – I HIGHLY recommend reading Arnovitz’s full piece. It’s riveting!