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Pacers hope to start new winning streak in showdown with Raptors

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TORONTO (AP)– The Indiana Pacers will be trying to start another winning streak Wednesday night when they visit the Toronto Raptors, who have lost two in a row.

The Pacers had their season-best, seven-game winning streak stopped in dramatic fashion Tuesday night when the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers earned a 92-91 victory on a tip-in at the final buzzer.

The Pacers’ streak was the first time they had won seven consecutive games since Jan. 26-Feb. 6, 2017.

The loss was surprising because the Cavaliers were winning for only the eighth time in 31 games this season. With Toronto coming up on the schedule the next night, there were concerns that it might be a trap game for Indiana.

“We’ve been able to win some games,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said before the game. “And we can’t get bored with winning and assume it’s going to happen regardless of who’s coming in to play.”

The Pacers (20-11) shot just 39.8 percent from the field, 18.2 percent from 3-point range and 61.9 percent on free throws.

The lack of execution on offense was particularly painful for the Pacers when Victor Oladipo missed two free throws with 9.5 seconds remaining that would have given them a three-point lead.

It was the first loss for the Pacers in the 11 times they have held their opponents to 97 or fewer points this season.

“I’ve got to be better,” said Oladipo, who scored 12 points. “I’ve got to be better down the stretch. I’ve got to make free throws, that’s my job as a leader on this team to step up and make big free throws and make big shots and make good decisions down the stretch. This one’s on me, man, I’ll be better in future.”

Meanwhile, the Raptors are coming off losses to the Portland Trailblazers and the Denver Nuggets on Friday and Sunday respectively after starting the four-game trip with impressive wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors.

After the game Sunday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse criticized the lack of foul calls against Kawhi Leonard. Nurse was fined $15,000 for publicly criticizing the officials.

“You can’t tell me that one of the best players in the league takes 100 hits and shoots four free throws, and they handed him two for charity at the end,” Nurse said after the game on Sunday. “So, he was going to have two free throws for the game with all the physical hits and holding and driving and chucking and doubling and slapping and reaching and all the stuff. It’s been going on all year. I do not understand why they are letting everyone play one of the best players in the league so physically. I do not understand it.”

Nurse add little to add on Tuesday. “I just thought it was time to do it,” he said. “I’m gonna back my players.”

Leonard appreciated the backing. “We’re playing it and we might see it a certain way and we always feel like we’re right on the floor,” the forward said. “But when you have your coach watching it and seeing the same things that you’re feeling then it’s great.”

The Raptors, meanwhile, are dealing with injuries.

Kyle Lowry (left thigh contusion) has missed the past two games and Nurse said that the point guard is “maybe more questionable than probable” for Wednesday.

Pascal Siakam (stiff back), Fred VanVleet (sore back) and Danny Green (who was poked in the eye Sunday) could be in the lineup Wednesday. Serge Ibaka (swollen right knee) is listed as questionable.

Jonas Valanciunas (dislocated left thumb) is out.

But Norman Powell (left shoulder subluxation) is expected to play Wednesday for the first time since Nov. 5.

The game Wednesday will be the first of three meetings between the Pacers and Raptors this season, followed by games Jan. 6 again at Scotiabank Arena and Jan. 23 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Toronto has won the season-series against Indiana the past four seasons, including a 3-1 advantage last season.

Devin Booker tries to meet Gorgui Dieng in locker room after both get ejected (VIDEO)

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NBA players like to talk a big game about getting into fights with one another. It rarely actually happens, and when things get a little too heated sometimes we get a little extracurricular activity that helps us weave the tapestry that is the story of the NBA.

As the Minnesota Timberwolves took on the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, Gorgui Dieng and Devin Booker decided to have a little chat with one another. The two got into a jawing match after a play in the third quarter when Dieng elbowed Booker in the face.

Booker took exception to that and decided to start flapping his gums at Dieng. Both were ejected after official review, and as they exited to opposite sides of the floor, Booker appeared to make eye contact with Dieng and accept an offer to meet him in the concourse under the stands that lead to the locker rooms.

The Suns guard then had to be restrained from running at full speed to meet Dieng.

Via Twitter:

Devin Booker vs. Gorgui Dieng is the bitter rivalry you didn’t know you needed.

Report: Anthony Davis fears fractured finger, could be out up to a month

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New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis hurt his hand against the Portland Trail Blazers earlier last week. Initial reports had Davis missing 1-2 weeks with a sprained finger.

Now it appears things could be much worse.

Reports surfaced on Tuesday night that Davis could be facing a potential fracture in his left index finger. If that’s the case, Davis could miss anywhere from 2-4 weeks with a more serious injury.

Via Twitter:

The Pelicans cannot afford to have Davis out for that amount of time. The team has not met expectations this season, and are struggling to stay in playoff contention as we near the All-Star break.

If Davis is going to miss significant time, now is probably the best place in the NBA calendar. The real problem is that the Pelicans won’t be able to stay afloat without him. Even with Davis on the floor, New Orleans has struggled to win recent games against top Western Conference opponents like the Blazers and Golden State Warriors.

It’s probably too much to extrapolate this into what this could mean for Davis staying with the Pelicans, but it’s natural to wonder whether a missed postseason could push Davis to ask for a trade out of Louisiana.

If he’s not on the floor, the Pelicans probably aren’t winning games without Davis. That could spell disaster for their playoff hopes, and in turn, alter the future of the franchise.

Kevin Durant challenged Draymond Green to better control his emotions

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Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green has often let his emotions get the better of him. Green famously missed Game 5 of the NBA finals in 2016 after he repeatedly kicked LeBron James in the crotch.

Meanwhile, things have been heated in the Golden State locker room like never before. It’s bubbled over to the public sphere, with Kevin Durant and Green seemingly at odds at different times during this year.

Things seem to have studied in the meantime, particularly after Stephen Curry returned to the lineup At the beginning of December. But Durant and Green are still trying to find a way to work together to win another championship in the Bay Area.

According to a story from The Athletic, that meant a challenge from Durant to Green to maintain his emotions and to keep himself in check.

Via The Athletic:

Durant told Green he wasn’t accepting the emotional excuse. Green’s fire is what makes him great even if it also makes him volatile. But Durant wasn’t buying that it’s uncontrollable. He’s seen Green control it. He’s seen him keep his composure in the crucible of championship stakes. He’s seen him locked in and focused, forcing his emotions to submit to his will.

So Durant challenged him to be better. Green accepted.

Green has had a down year and it’s not clear Why that is. Is he simply aging? Or is this more due to the internal strife in the Warriors locker room?

No matter what, Golden State will need a semblance of the old Draymond Green to win NBA title this year. This agreeent between the two stars should be helpful both in healing their wounds and moving toward their shared goal.

These guys might not ever fully reconcile, but another championship ring could act as a salve.

Paul George joined Knicks fans in cheering for Raymond Felton (VIDEO)

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There’s not much to cheer about at Madison Square Garden these days. Kristaps Porzingis is still not playing for the New York Knicks, and it’s not clear whether the team will land a big free agent like Kevin Durant this summer or strike out and continue their run of dismal play.

As such, it makes sense that New York fans are trying to keep themselves entertained, and that includes during Knicks games.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder came to town on Monday night, fans in Manhattan found themselves cheering for a former Knicks player on the Thunder bench. With the game out of reach, it only seemed appropriate.

In the fourth quarter, MSG started a chant for Raymond Felton, who played for the Knicks for three seasons over two stays. As cheers rained down from the stands, even Paul George got involved in the action.

Via Twitter:

George scored 31 points as the Thunder rolled New York, 127-109.