LeBron James takes over late as Cavaliers win 11th straight

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers’ winning streak was in unexpected jeopardy Saturday night before LeBron James took over.

James scored 34 points, including seven in the final 1:22, and Cleveland beat the Memphis Grizzlies 116-111 for their 11th straight victory.

The loss was the 11th straight for Memphis, including three since David Fizdale was fired Monday and replaced by interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, but the Grizzlies nearly ended their streak in shocking fashion.

Memphis trailed 91-72 late in the third quarter, but rallied all the way to a tie at 109 on Dillon Brooks‘ 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining.

That’s when James stepped up, to the surprise of no one in the building, particularly Dwyane Wade, his long-time friend and teammate.

“You just shake your head,” Wade said. “It’s impressive, man. When you’re on a team and you have a guy when the game gets close and you can get him the ball and he comes through, maybe not all the time but it seems like every time … we know he’s going to make the right play.”

James’ basket in the lane gave Cleveland the lead. After Tyreke Evans missed a 3-pointer, James drove the lane, scored and converted the three-point play after being fouled by Brooks with 34 seconds left.

Brooks made two free throws, but James dribbled for several seconds on Cleveland’s next possession and hit a jumper from the top of the key for a five-point lead with 5 seconds to go.

“When it’s winning time in the fourth quarter, my teammates want me to step up and do what I do best,” said James, who scored or assisted on Cleveland’s last 17 points.

“That effort tonight would have beaten 90 percent of this league on their home court,” Bickerstaff said. “Unfortunately, they’ve got a guy who is pretty damn good.”

Evans had 31 points and 12 assists for Memphis. Marc Gasol scored 27 and passed 10,000 career points despite being listed as questionable after injuring his left foot in Friday’s loss to San Antonio.

Cleveland has scored at least 100 points in each game during its streak and is closing in on its longest winning streak since it ripped off 12 straight in 2015.

James scored 11 points in the final six minutes of the second quarter, including a pair of three-point plays and a jumper from the corner at the buzzer, helping Cleveland to a 66-52 halftime lead.

James, the reigning NBA Player of the Month, also had 12 assists. He has shot 50 percent or better from the floor in each of his last 10 games.

Kevin Love added 20 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland. He went to the floor after banging knees with JaMychal Green in the third quarter, but remained in the game.

Memphis point guard Mike Conley missed his ninth straight game because of a sore left Achilles.

 

 

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”