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Best of NBA: Cousins erupts in return to Sacramento; Griffin hits buzzer-beater

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Best of NBA: Cousins erupts in return to Sacramento; Griffin hits buzzer-beater

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- DeMarcus Cousins immediately scored after winning the opening tip and never stopped on the way to 41 points and 23 rebounds, and the emotional big man dominated his old team to rally the New Orleans Pelicans past the Kings 114-106 on Thursday night in his highly anticipated return.

Cousins took the crowd at Golden 1 Center on a trip down memory lane, then left them with some heartache after a spectacular performance. He waved to his supportive former home fans as highlights showed of his time in California's capital.

He hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:21 to play for a 108-106 lead and the Pelicans held on -- and Cousins finally got some help in a second-half comeback after New Orleans trailed by 14 at intermission playing without injured star Anthony Davis.

Jameer Nelson contributed 18 points with four 3-pointers with Davis sidelined with a left knee injury sustained at Portland on Tuesday. The Pelicans were down 70-56 at halftime with Cousins largely a one-man show already with 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

De'Aaron Fox scored 14 points off the bench to lead seven Kings in double figures (see full recap).

Griffin 3 at the buzzer gives Clippers victory
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Blake Griffin made a 3-pointer as time expired and the Los Angeles Clippers remained unbeaten with a 104-103 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Griffin, who scored 16 of his 25 points during the fourth quarter, got the ball on the left side of the floor and hit the 3-pointer just inside the line, the game's sixth lead change during the final two minutes.

DeAndre Jordan had seven points and 18 rebounds for Los Angeles, which at 4-0 is one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the NBA. Danilo Gallinari and Austin Rivers had 16 points apiece for the Clippers.

Damian Lillard scored 14 of his 25 points during the third quarter for Portland (3-2). C.J. McCollum had 23 points, but missed one of two free throws with five seconds remaining that could have given the Blazers a three-point lead.

All five Portland starters scored in double figures. Ed Davis had 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Horford, Irving help Celtics top Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Al Horford had 27 points and nine rebounds, and the Boston Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks 96-89 on Thursday night.

Kyrie Irving added 24 points and seven assists for Boston, which avenged a loss to Milwaukee in Boston earlier this month.

The game was played at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, formerly known as the MECCA, which served as the Bucks' home from 1968 until the team moved into the Bradley Center in 1988.

The Bucks chose to play one game this season at the 11,000-seat arena to mark the franchise's 50th anniversary. The team will move into a new arena next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points for Milwaukee. Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon added 15 apiece (see full recap).

Markelle Fultz named in NCAA corruption scandal

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Markelle Fultz named in NCAA corruption scandal

Markelle Fultz is one of many players named in a Yahoo report exposing high-profile athletes who accepted loans or bribes from former NBA agent Andy Miller, associate Christian Dawkins and Miller's agency, ASM Sports.

Fultz received a loan of $10,000 at some point before attending the University of Washington, according to the report, which utilized documents and bank records found during the discovery process of the federal investigation into Miller.

Other named players include Dennis Smith Jr., Isaiah Whitehead, Tim Quarterman (a teammate of Ben Simmons' at LSU), Bam Adebayo, Kyle Kuzma, Fred VanVleet and P.J. Dozier.

The records also show that Dawkins, 24, sought reimbursement after having dinner with prominent figures such as Fultz, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and unnamed "Villanova coaches." The dinners themselves are one thing, the payment is another.

For more details, here is the Yahoo report, which points out that the findings are so widespread and involve so many universities that punishment will be difficult for the NCAA. 

Russell Westbrook hits dagger at the buzzer

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Russell Westbrook hits dagger at the buzzer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Russell Westbrook made a 3-pointer as time expired, lifting the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 110-107 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.

The Thunder blew a 23-point lead and trailed 105-102 with 4 minutes remaining before closing the game on an 8-2 run.

Westbrook, who notched his 18th triple-double of the season, made three free throws sandwiched around a bucket in the paint by Steven Adams to put Oklahoma City up 107-105.

Justin Jackson's 6-foot jumper off an offensive rebound tied the game. After a timeout, the Thunder got the ball in front of Sacramento's bench and Carmelo Anthony found Westbrook atop the 3-point line for the winner.

Westbrook lifted the Thunder from what would have been a devastating loss after a fast start in their first game since the All-Star break. They set a season high with 44 points in the first quarter and made 12 3-pointers but still had to rally in the final minutes to win.

Anthony matched his season high of seven 3-pointers and Paul George had three from beyond the arc, ending his five-game streak with five or more 3s. It was the second-longest streak in NBA history behind George McCloud's six-game streak in 1996 (see full recap).

Curry scores 44 as Warriors hold off Clippers
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry swished a beautiful buzzer-beater from way back early and hit another timely 3-pointer late on the way to scoring 44, and the Golden State Warriors returned from the All-Star break and had to hold off the Los Angeles Clippers 134-127 on Thursday night.

Kevin Durant had 21 points and eight assists, Klay Thompson added 19 points, and Draymond Green contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Curry shot 14 for 19, including 8 of 11 from deep, in his third 40-point game of the season.

Coach Steve Kerr challenged the defending champions to begin games better on the defensive end, which they did. Then the Clippers nearly came back with a surge down the stretch in what became an entertaining back-and-forth in the closing minutes (see full recap).

Wizards spoil home debut for new-look Cavs
CLEVELAND -- Bradley Beal scored 18 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. added 17 and tried to untie the sneakers of one of Cleveland's new players, and the Washington Wizards withstood a late assault by LeBron James to beat the new-look Cavaliers 110-103 on Thursday night.

The Wizards nearly blew a late 11-point lead as James scored 14 straight points to pull the Cavs within 106-103. But Beal hit a driving layup and James missed a free throw and committed a lane violation while intentionally missing the second one and the Wizards held on.

Washington is 8-2 since star guard John Wall went down with a knee injury. Tomas Satoransky, who has been starting in Wall's spot, added 17 points and eight assists.

James, back from winning MVP honors at the All-Star Game, scored 32 -- 14 in the fourth -- for the Cavs, who dropped to 2-1 since acquiring four new players before the trade deadline. J.R. Smith added 15 for Cleveland.

The Wizards spoiled the home debuts for Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, four new faces the Cavs are hoping can get them back to the NBA Finals (see full recap).