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Best of NBA: Giannis Antetokounmpo dominates as Bucks down Celtics

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Best of NBA: Giannis Antetokounmpo dominates as Bucks down Celtics

BOSTON -- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, and the Milwaukee Bucks opened their season with a 108-100 victory over Boston on Wednesday night to spoil the homecoming of a Celtics team coming off a late and emotional season opener.

One night after a gruesome broken ankle just six minutes into the season cost Boston top free agent Gordon Hayward -- perhaps for the entire season -- the Celtics fell to 0-2 by giving up an 11-1 run that left Milwaukee with a 97-90 lead and under three minutes to play.

Antetokounmpo added 13 rebounds, Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon scored 19 points and Khris Middleton had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Bucks. Matthew Dellavedova scored 15 points, hitting a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left after the Celtics cut the lead to two points.

Kyrie Irving scored 17 points on 7-for-25 shooting in his Boston debut, and Jaylen Brown had 18 for the Celtics.

It was a subdued home opener for the Celtics, who underwent a near-complete overhaul over the summer even after earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season. Although Irving and No. 3 draft pick Jayson Tatum appeared in a Celtics home uniform for the first time, Hayward was left to wish them well in a pregame video from his hospital bed (see full recap).

Revamped Pacers score 140 in win
INDIANAPOLIS -- Victor Oladipo scored 22 points in his Indiana debut, Darren Collison added 21 points and 11 assists in his return to Indianapolis, and the Pacers held off the Brooklyn Nets 140-131 on Wednesday night in their season opener.

Eight players scored in double figures as the Pacers, in their first game since trading All-Star Paul George, produced their highest point total since a 144-point game against Denver on Nov. 9, 2010. Myles Turner had 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Thaddeus Young added 17 points and 11 rebounds.

D'Angelo Russell scored 30 points in his Nets debut but backcourt mate Jeremy Lin limped to the locker room with an injury midway through the fourth quarter. Trevor Booker finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Nets from losing a franchise-record fifth consecutive season opener.

Despite having chances to take control, neither could.

Brooklyn led 30-29 after one quarter, the Pacers took a 65-63 halftime lead and then used a 10-0 third-quarter run to build a 75-65 lead. Brooklyn never led again.

But the Nets charged back in the final minutes, trimming a 10-point deficit to 130-126 before the Pacers finally managed to close it out (see full recap).

Grizzlies cruise past Pelicans in opener
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Mike Conley scored 27 points, rookie Dillon Brooks added 19 and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the New Orleans Pelicans 103-91 in their season opener on Wednesday night.

Marc Gasol had 14 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with 3:05 left. Memphis won its opener for the second straight year, a first in franchise history.

Anthony Davis had 33 points and 18 rebounds and DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 10 boards for New Orleans, but the frontcourt pair got little help. The Pelicans shot 38 percent, including 7 of 25 from 3-point range.

Memphis, which carried a 79-70 lead into the fourth, stretched the margin to 13 in the early stages of the final period.

Davis and Cousins helped the Pelicans build an early lead, but Memphis countered with nine straight points to open the second quarter and the game settled into a close one. The Grizzlies held a 54-52 lead at halftime.

Memphis made it 77-65 in the latter stages of the third and cruised from there (see full recap).

Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

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Cavs stuck in 'Strugglesville' but still manage to survive

CLEVELAND -- There was none of the usual postgame chatter or music in the Cavaliers locker room.

The mood was somber and quiet, not the same place.

"Right now we're in Strugglesville," LeBron James said. "But it felt like a win. We needed it. Definitely."

Isaiah Thomas made two free throws with 11 seconds left and Cleveland came up with a defensive stop in the frantic final seconds after blowing a 23-point lead to beat the Orlando Magic 104-103 on Thursday night and snap a four-game losing streak.

After Thomas made his shots, Orlando's Elfrid Payton missed a contested layup with three seconds left. The three officials ruled there was an inadvertent whistle and held a jump ball at midcourt.

Magic forward Aaron Gordon grabbed the toss and sank a 45-footer as the horn sounded and Cleveland's crowd shrieked in disbelief. But Gordon committed a jump-ball violation with the move and Cleveland only had to inbound the ball to come away with a victory following a crazy and exhausting final sequence that left everyone dazed.

"No, I don't," said Thomas when asked if he knew what happened. "It was a lot of back and forth. I'm just glad we just came out with the win" (see full recap).

Rockets cruise past Timberwolves in Harden’s return
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon scored 30 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 116-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.

James Harden returned to the Rockets' lineup after missing seven games with a left hamstring strain and finished with 10 points on 3-for-15 shooting, and added seven assists, two steals and two blocks in 26 minutes. Houston went 4-3 in his absence.

Chris Paul had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and Clint Capela added 20 points for the Rockets. Houston has won 15 of the past 17 meetings with Minnesota, including a 10-game winning streak at home.

Gordon closed out a big third quarter by hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer off the glass from a step behind the half-court line. After hitting the shot under heavy pressure from Andrew Wiggins, Gordon gave a high-five to Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who was sitting courtside near the shot.

Gordon's 3-pointer helped the Rockets finish the third quarter on a 16-4 run to take an 89-70 lead into the fourth with their largest advantage of the game. Gordon made 11 of 19 shots, including 7 of 13 from 3, and fell just short of his season-high 33 points against Utah on Dec. 18.

With Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza sitting out the first part of a two-game suspension for a postgame locker room incident on Monday night in Los Angeles, Luc Mbah a Moute started in Ariza's place, scoring 14 points in 32 minutes.

Along with Ariza, reserve guard Gerald Green was also serving the first of a two-game suspension for the altercation with the Clippers (see full recap).

Blazers top Pacers for 5th straight home win
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard scored 26 points and eight assists, Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers won their fifth consecutive home game, beating the Indiana Pacers 100-86 on Thursday night.

C.J. McCollum added 16 points and Shabazz Napier 13 for Portland, which seems to have its homecourt mojo back, winning five straight after dropping six consecutive home games in early December. The Blazers also beat Indiana for the ninth consecutive time on their home floor.

Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison scored 23 points each for Indiana.

Portland took control late in the third quarter, when the Blazers held Indiana scoreless for more than five minutes. It was part of Portland's 21-2 run, during which Napier scored eight points to help erase a six-point deficit and give the Blazers an 89-76 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Indiana was without forward Myles Turner, the team's second-leading scorer this season. Turner has missed five consecutive games with a right elbow injury (see full recap).

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

BOX SCORE

BOSTON — What a difference two games make.

The Sixers entered this week 0-8 against the top three Eastern Conference teams: the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors. By Thursday night, they had picked up two straight wins over them.

The Sixers followed up Monday’s victory over the Raptors with an 89-80 win over the Celtics (see observations)

“I think we are in a good position right now,” Ben Simmons said. “Still a lot of improvement, a lot of things we’ve got to pick up on, but I think we are doing really well and getting better.” 

All season long, a downfall of the Sixers has been giving up leads. Ten, 15, 20 points have been erased just like that. 

The Sixers’ largest advantage was 21 points in the last two games, and in both instances their opponents fought back. The Raptors cut the lead to one with three minutes to play; the Celtics got within seven with two minutes on the clock.

Unlike in the past, the Sixers held on for wins.

“We’ve been in that situation too many times,” Joel Embiid said. “We just have to stay calm and keep moving the ball. We made a couple mistakes, but everything was fine and we got the win.” 

The game was missing two key players. The Celtics were shorthanded without their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving (shoulder). The Sixers were down starting shooting guard JJ Redick (leg). Brett Brown considered their absences “almost a wash.” 

Newly-announced All-Star starter Embiid led all players with 26 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, his 19th double-double of the season. 

“They are still a great team,” Brown said of the Celtics. “For us to come in here and build a lead, hold onto the lead, close out the game, and at times not in a pretty way, is a fantastic result for us.” 

With the win, the Sixers snapped a seven-game losing streak at TD Garden dating back to April 4, 2014. They also avoided a regular-season sweep by the Celtics. 

The Sixers moved above .500 (21-20) and into the eight spot in the East. The Celtics and Raptors could be postseason pairings if the Sixers hold their ground in the standings, a scenario they are well aware of in these regular-season games. 

“I don’t know what seed we are going to be, but that’s a potential matchup in the playoffs,” Embiid said. “We always want to come out and try to dominate and let them know that’s it’s not going to be easy.”