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Best of NBA: Celtics hold off Lakers for 10th straight win

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Best of NBA: Celtics hold off Lakers for 10th straight win

BOSTON -- Aron Baynes matched his career high with 21 points, Kyrie Irving scored 19 and the Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers 107-96 on Wednesday night for their 10th straight victory.

Baynes also had eight rebounds and three assists, and Boston improved to 10-2 even as Al Horford sat out after being placed in concussion protocol earlier in the day. The Celtics also lost rookie forward Jayson Tatum late in the second quarter, when he went to the locker room with a sore right ankle.

Boston led by 20 in the second quarter before letting the lead shrink to two in the third. Los Angeles then struggled down the stretch, shooting 5 of 18 from the field with six turnovers in the final period.

Brandon Ingram and Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 18 points apiece. Julius Randle had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Celtics fans gave rookie Lonzo Ball an icy welcome in his first trip to TD Garden. They booed the No. 2 overall pick throughout the night whenever he touched the ball. He finished with nine points, six assists and five rebounds, making just 4 of 15 from the field (see full recap).

Warriors win 5th straight, snap T-Wolves’ streak at 5
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Klay Thompson scored 28 points with six 3-pointers, Stephen Curry had 22 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 125-101 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight win.

Even without injured Kevin Durant, the defending champs began to look like their dominant old selves.

Draymond Green posted another all-round balanced performance with seven points, six rebounds, six assists and two blocks for the Warriors, who played without NBA Finals MVP Durant as he nursed a bruised left thigh.

Andre Iguodala started in place of Durant, and the 2015 Finals MVP scored a season-high 11 points. The Warriors notched a season-best quarter with 44 points in the third to pull away after leading 51-50 at halftime.

Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 16 points and 12 rebounds as the Timberwolves had their five-game winning streak snapped (see full recap).

Pistons roll over Pacers to keep momentum going
DETROIT -- Tobias Harris scored 23 points and the first-place Detroit Pistons won for the sixth time in seven games, beating the Indiana Pacers 114-97 on Wednesday night.

Andre Drummond added 14 points and 21 rebounds for the Pistons, who lead Cleveland by three games in the Central Division. Indiana lost its fourth straight.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 21 points, but Indiana has allowed at least 100 points in 10 of 12 games this season. The Pacers were without injured big man Domantas Sabonis.

Detroit led 59-52 at halftime, and after the Pacers fought back to tie the game at 65, the Pistons went on a 13-0 run to take control. Harris made a 3-pointer to put Detroit ahead by 11, and Drummond capped that streak with a putback that he made despite being hit in the face by Indiana's Thaddeus Young. Drummond was momentarily shaken up but played on.

It was 82-75 after three quarters, then the Pistons scored eight straight points to start the fourth, including 3-pointers by Reggie Bullock and Anthony Tolliver (see full recap).

Joel Embiid credits partying in L.A. for torrid stretch

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Joel Embiid credits partying in L.A. for torrid stretch

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid sometimes looks like he’s having a party on the basketball court. It’s no surprise, then, he credits some actual partying with turning around his season.

Yes, that’s right. After Sixers practice Friday afternoon, Embiid said hitting the town in Los Angeles on the team's recent road trip helped him out of a funk.

“All my close friends live in L.A., so before that, I wasn’t really doing anything, I was frustrated because I wasn’t in basketball shape and I wasn’t having fun on the court,” Embiid said. “So I won’t lie, I decided to go out, have fun a little bit. And that just kind of gave me the energy back, and the next game against the Clippers, I had more than 30 points [32], and then the following game I had more than 40 [46], so I think it’s just about having fun and making sure I can control what I can.”

For what it’s worth, Embiid is averaging 25.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks since the Sixers arrived in Los Angeles. The Sixers are 5-1 in those six games.

As the Sixers keep winning, the expectations keep growing. Is this a legit playoff team? Contenders in the near future? Embiid deals with the pressure that sort of attention can bring the same way he does just about everything else.

“Just be myself," Embiid said. "Have fun on the court. You know, just be myself, and I know it’s going to come, I know the guys are going to find me whenever they have to find me, I know coach is going to call plays for me. I think I kind of figured out if I’m not having fun on the court, I’m not going to play well, so I really need to have fun, and that’s the main thing for me. From there, I’m going to be dominant.”

A big part of having fun on the court for Embiid is trash talk. He insists he doesn’t initiate it, but he’s more than happy to give it back. He’ll be without Ben Simmons Saturday night against Orlando, but he’s eager for some banter with the Magic.

“Me talking trash, it doesn’t usually happen because I want to, it’s because the other guys start talking trash. So if any of the guys want to, I’m up for it. It elevates my game, it makes me play better because I know if you talk trash to me I’m going to talk back, and I’m going to back it up, and that’s going to make me play better. I can’t wait, I really hope they do [trash talk]. It’s going to be exciting.”

Ben Simmons to miss Saturday's game vs. Magic with left elbow injury

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Ben Simmons to miss Saturday's game vs. Magic with left elbow injury

CAMDEN, N.J. -- The Sixers aren't the same team without Ben Simmons. On Saturday, they'll see exactly what type of team they are this season without their 6-foot-10 point guard.

Simmons will miss Saturday night's game against Orlando because of left elbow soreness. Simmons, the early Rookie of the Year favorite, is averaging 18.5 points, 7.7 assists and 9.1 rebounds.

The Sixers said, after reviewing footage from Wednesday night’s 101-81 win over Portland, Simmons appears to have suffered the injury at the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter. He was in treatment during practice Friday and will be reevaluated Sunday.

Backup point guard T.J. McConnell will slide into the starting spot for Simmons, though Sixers coach Brett Brown acknowledged the rookie is impossible to replace.

“It changes a lot of things without Ben Simmons,” Brown said. “T.J. will come in and assume the starting point guard role. Obviously, the points of emphasis change, but that’s why you have a team. The team has responded without Joel (Embiid), now we’ll get to see how the team responds without Ben.”

McConnell, averaging 6.5 points and 5.3 assists in 23.9 minutes, doesn’t plan to alter much about his approach.

“Obviously me and Ben are completely different players," McConnell said. "He’s very special. I just need to play defense, get people the ball and shoot when I’m open, so I’m not going to change how I play.”

Brown has been impressed with McConnell’s development this season, especially as a shooter. He knows McConnell’s passion and effort are always going to be there but is pleased to see McConnell making strides with his shot.

“I think he’s doing fantastically,” Brown said. “I think his perimeter shot and the comfort level he feels taking the occasional three is evident; he’s spent a lot of time and effort over the summer trying to grow that. So now is the time, he’ll come in and start out as point guard and there’s a lot of responsibility and opportunity given to him.”

A few small tweaks seem to have significantly improved McConnell’s shot. Brown noted he’s brought the ball closer to his body and has better pre-shot preparation. McConnell said his focus in the offseason was on getting more lift and shooting in one smooth motion.

The results aren’t staggering; McConnell has made seven of 13 three-point attempts this season. Compared to his hesitancy to fire and 20 percent three-point mark last year, however, and the improvement is clear.

McConnell hopes he can jumpstart the Sixers' offense, which Brown graded a C-minus after the win over the Trail Blazers. Brown, McConnell and Embiid all pointed to ball movement as the key.

“We just need to keep moving the ball,” Embiid said. We are going to miss [Simmons] a lot because the way he plays, he gets everybody else involved and everybody else open. But if we stick to what we’ve been taught, our system, I think we’ll be fine.”

“It’s just ball movement, getting people open shots, just fluid offense,” McConnell said. "You can’t really ask for much more than that. Get the defense moving from side to side, and just playing hard.”

The Sixers are averaging 25.9 assists, second-best in the NBA, which indicates the team generally does a good job of moving the ball. However, Ben Simmons is usually the one anchoring the offense. T.J. McConnell will step into the job Saturday night.