tobias harris
AP

Tobias Harris leads Pistons to 102-101 comeback win over Raptors

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TORONTO (AP) Tobias Harris had 24 points off the bench, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 21, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 13.2 seconds left and the Detroit Pistons overcame a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Toronto Raptors 102-101 on Sunday night.

Andre Drummond had 10 points and 18 rebounds for his 36th double-double of the season as the Pistons snapped a four-game skid in Toronto.

DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points for Toronto and Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and nine rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Raptors from losing for the 10th time in their last 14 games.

Trailing 88-73 following Terrence Ross‘ 3-pointer with 9:23 to play, the Pistons went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to six with 7:19 remaining.

Caldwell-Pope made it a two-point game with a pull-up jumper with 47.9 seconds remaining, and then put the Pistons in front 102-101 with his 3-pointer.

Kyle Lowry was fouled by Caldwell-Pope with 8.5 seconds left. But following the inbounds pass, DeRozan was unable to convert a turnaround jumper from 17 feet with 0.9 seconds to play.

In a back-and-forth first quarter featuring five lead changes, no team gained more than a four-point edge. Led by 10 points from DeRozan and a 60 percent shooting percentage from 3-point range, compared to just 14.3 percent for Detroit, the Raptors emerged with a 27-25 advantage after 12 minutes.

The Pistons took a five-point lead early in the second, but the Raptors responded with a 17-2 run – including eight points by Valanciunas – to lead by 12 with 2:39 to play in the period. However, the Pistons grabbed the last six points of the quarter to close the gap to 51-45 at the half.

Toronto extended that lead to a game-high 16 points with 7:19 remaining in the third quarter. While the Pistons closed within eight with 2:10 remaining, Cory Joseph scored the next six points and DeRozan had a turnaround jumper to push the lead to 82-66 entering the fourth quarter.

TIP-INS

Pistons: Since his rookie season in 2012-13, Drummond has 216 double-doubles, most in the NBA over that span. … Leading the NBA in allowing second-chance points at 10.1 points per game before Sunday’s contest, the Pistons held the Raptors to 14 points in that department.

Raptors: F Patrick Patterson (left knee) missed his fourth straight game and 14th of the team’s last 23. The Raptors are 7-7 without him. Jakob Poeltl made his third career start in his place. … Toronto will head into the NBA All-Star break with a plus-.500 record for a franchise-best fourth straight year. … DeRozan extended his career high of consecutive 20-plus-point games to 20. … After playing an NBA-high 22 games between Jan. 1 and Feb. 8, the Raptors had a three-day break before Sunday’s game.

SHOT SHY

With Detroit shooting 33.8 percent from 3-point range, ranking 27th in the league before Sunday’s games, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said part of the problem is his team passing up opportunities when it has them. In particular, he singled out Jon Leuer, Marcus Morris and Harris, who had attempted just five between them in Friday’s loss to San Antonio.

“I think they pass up too many and they all have a tendency if they miss their first two they’re going to pass them up the rest of the night,” he said. “We really can’t have that. They’ve got to shoot the ball when they’re open.”

I DON’T LIKE SUNDAYS

The Raptors fell to 1-5 when playing home games on Sundays with the loss. They have three more Sunday games at Air Canada Centre over the remainder of the regular season.

KEEPING FOCUS

With the NBA’s trade deadline on Feb. 23, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was asked before the game if it plays on his thoughts at all.

“No, no. I’m more trying to keep our guys’ attention off of it,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of issues. I’ll leave that to (president) Masai (Ujiri) and (general manager) Jeff (Weltman), (who) do a great job; they’re all over it as far as what the league is doing, who’s doing what.”

UP NEXT

Pistons: Visit Milwaukee on Monday, where Detroit has lost four of its last six games.

Raptors: Visit Chicago on Tuesday aiming to snap 10-game losing skid against the Bulls.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.

Report: LeBron James not planning to sit for elaborate pitch meetings in free agency

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LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.

But maybe once is enough.

Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.

If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.

This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Nikola Jokic to five-year max after declining team option

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.

But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.

Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.

That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.

Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.

As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.

Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.