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Best of NBA: LeBron James erupts for 57 points as Cavs snap skid

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Best of NBA: LeBron James erupts for 57 points as Cavs snap skid

WASHINGTON -- Just in case there were any questions about Eastern Conference supremacy, LeBron James poured in 57 points -- the second-highest total of his career and an NBA-best this season -- to help the Cleveland Cavaliers end a four-game losing skid by beating the Washington Wizards 130-122 Friday night.

James hadn't scored this much since getting a career-high 61 for the Miami Heat on March 3, 2014, against the Charlotte Hornets.

And the four-time league MVP did it efficiently Friday, making 23 of 34 field-goal tries and all nine free throws, while adding 11 rebounds and seven assists. James did it with style, too. He hurdled over a seated Bradley Beal while dribbling, swatted a shot by John Wall off the backboard, and looked for a camera to wag both index fingers in the midst of a three-point play.

James didn't need much help, but teammates Derrick Rose (20 points) and Jae Crowder (17) each managed to top their season highs before the third quarter was done.

Cleveland finally looked like a team that has been to the NBA Finals three consecutive years, thanks in large part to James (see full recap).

Celtics ride 2nd-half surge to 7th straight win
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kyrie Irving scored 22 of his 25 points in the second half and the Boston Celtics rallied from 18 down to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-94 on Friday night for their seventh straight victory.

Al Horford scored 17 of his 20 points after halftime and Jaylen Brown added 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Celtics. Boston has allowed 94 or fewer points in every game during its winning streak.

Paul George had 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook added 19 points and 11 assists for the Thunder. Carmelo Anthony had 10 points and 14 rebounds but shot just 3 of 17.

In a play that seemingly summarized the first half, Irving drove hard to the hoop in the closing seconds of the second quarter and went for a layup before Andre Roberson emphatically swatted it to the ground as time expired with the Thunder leading 55-37. Irving was 1 of 9 from the field before the break.

Boston chipped away at Oklahoma City's lead throughout the third quarter and cut it to a point. Irving had nine points in the period to help the Celtics shave their deficit to 71-67.

A 3-pointer by Semi Ojeleye with just under six minutes to play tied it at 79, and a 3-pointer by Horford put the Celtics ahead 82-79 (see full recap).

Lopez, Lakers spoil Russell’s LA return
LOS ANGELES -- Brook Lopez hit six 3-pointers and scored a season-high 34 points against his former Brooklyn teammates, and rookie Kyle Kuzma had 21 points and 13 rebounds during his first career start in the Los Angeles Lakers' 124-112 victory over the Nets on Friday night.

D'Angelo Russell had 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in his first game against the Lakers since they traded him to Brooklyn last summer in the four-player deal that brought Lopez and Kuzma to Los Angeles.

Lopez, the leading scorer in Nets history, had 23 points in the second half and added 10 rebounds while the Lakers stayed comfortably ahead of Brooklyn, which has lost four straight. Jordan Clarkson added 19 points and Brandon Ingram had 18.

Allen Crabbe scored 25 points for the Nets in the opener of a five-game road trip, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 21.

Lopez had spent his entire nine-year NBA career with the Nets before the trade, becoming the top scorer in franchise history while leading the Nets in scoring during each of the past five seasons. But the 7-foot North Hollywood native will be a free agent next summer, and Brooklyn shipped him home after he put up 20.5 points per game last season.

While most Staples Center fans paid attention to the still-popular Russell's return, Lopez calmly posted his biggest offensive game yet for his new team He hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter, and punctuated the performance with a series of ferocious dunks in the final minutes (see full recap).

Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow help Heat snap skid

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Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow help Heat snap skid

MIAMI — Tyler Johnson scored 23 points to lead six players in double figures, and the Miami Heat stopped a three-game slide when they beat the reeling Memphis Grizzlies 115-89 on Saturday night.

The Grizzlies lost their ninth game in a row, the longest active streak in the NBA, and their second in as many nights.

Justise Winslow scored a season-high 17 points for the Heat. Reserve Wayne Ellington went 5 for 10 from 3-point range and scored 15.

Miami's Dwyane Wade was limited to 18 minutes by foul trouble and scored six points. But the Heat, scrambling for a playoff berth, still managed to win for only the second time in the past 10 games.

Andrew Harrison scored 17 points for the Grizzlies, who played without leading scorer Tyreke Evans. He'll undergo a precautionary MRI Sunday on his injured right ribs.

The Heat took the lead for good at 28-26. Their margin reached 92-70 by the end of the third quarter.

Miami outscored Memphis 50-30 in the paint, 13-2 on fast breaks and 26-8 off turnovers (see full recap).

Irving's 31 powers Celtics past Knicks
NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving had 31 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, leading the Boston Celtics over the New York Knicks 121-112 on Saturday for their second victory in two nights since the All-Star break.

Irving scored 15 points in a dazzling third quarter and then helped the Celtics finish it off with his passing in the fourth, highlighted by a behind-the-back dish to Jaylen Brown for a dunk that made it 115-106.

Brown had 24 points for the Celtics, who went into the break with three straight losses but came back with a victory in Detroit on Friday.

Trey Burke scored 26 points off the bench for the second straight game for the Knicks, but they couldn't win this one after beating Orlando on Thursday to end an eight-game skid.

Irving was just 1 for 6 behind the arc in the first half but showed no lack of confidence in the third. He scored 14 straight Boston points, hitting four 3-pointers and pushing the ball right at the Knicks.

His last 3-pointer in that spurt gave the Celtics a 10-point lead, but the Knicks chipped away while he rested and it was a two-point game by the time he returned with 8:14 remaining.

Irving soon made another 3, and passed to Al Horford for a 3 that pushed the lead back to double digits.

Horford finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Warriors avenge pair of blowout losses to OKC
OAKLAND, Calif. — Kevin Durant scored 28 points for Golden State while avenging an embarrassing home loss to his former Oklahoma City team earlier this month and another on the road in November, leading the Warriors past the Thunder 112-80 on Saturday night.

Stephen Curry added 21 points with five 3-pointers, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals as Golden State put on the kind of defensive performance coach Steve Kerr has been seeking from the defending champs.

Russell Westbrook had 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City, which failed to reach 100 points for the first time in the last five games. The Thunder had scored at least 100 in 14 of their last 16.

Durant's pretty layup off a perfect pass by Curry with 3:06 left in the third put the Warriors up 75-66. That was part of a 37-11 Golden State run that included 30 points over the final 8:48 of the third -- when Zaza Pachulia subbed in to relieve JaVale McGee.

The Warriors held Paul George to five points. George's 3-pointer at the 7:52 mark of the third with Durant's hand in his face was his first basket after going 0 for 9 to begin the game. He finished 1 for 14 after going off for 38 points in the last meeting when Oklahoma City left Oracle Arena with a 125-105 rout on Feb. 6.

Golden State also lost at OKC by 17 on Nov. 22 (see full recap).

There's no 'I' in Sixers team win

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There's no 'I' in Sixers team win

BOX SCORE

The Sixers’ 116-105 victory over the Magic (see observations) was just that: a complete “Sixers” victory.

This wasn’t about one player taking over or the starting five carrying the weight. From players one through 10 who stepped on the court, everyone contributed. 

“It doesn’t matter who scores all the points as long as we win,” Ben Simmons said. “We all know that to get to the next level, that’s what it’s going to take.”

Enhancing the bench is a priority for the Sixers as they look to the playoffs. They are going to need depth in a postseason series, having different weapons as they face the same opponent night in and night out. 

Brett Brown was committed to counting on the second unit. The Sixers held a 22-point lead halfway through the fourth, an opportunity for starters to get a significant period of rest ahead of Sunday’s back-to-back on the road against the Wizards. 

So as the Magic chipped away at the differential and got within nine, the reserves stayed on the court. Even when Mario Hezonja attempted a trey that would have cut the lead to six with 1:21 remaining, Brown had decided the starters would remain on the sidelines.

“I wasn’t going to do it," Brown said of subbing in the starters. "I was going to go with those guys. Some of it’s just gut feel, maybe some of it’s stubbornness. But we have to grow our bench. We have to give those guys confidence that they can close out games and they did. My intention was to going to be to let them see it through.”

In total, the reserves combined for 32 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists. The bench stepped up in different ways. Marco Belinelli provided a boost on the scoreboard with 15 points. T.J. McConnell absorbed extra playing time and clocked a team-high 31 minutes. (None of the starters played more than 29 minutes.) 

Brown determined before the game he would give Richaun Holmes the nod to back up Embiid instead of Amir Johnson. He wanted Holmes, who has played in only three of his last 10 games, to get the opportunity for time on the court (see video). Holmes grabbed eight rebounds with four points in 21 minutes. 

“It shows (the bench) can hold it down,” Simmons said. “We have guys who are capable of doing that, it doesn’t have to be the starting five.”

The bench's production in this win over the Magic is only a small glimpse into what the Sixers believe they will need to succeed in the postseason. 

"Our objective is, in general, playoffs, but I want homecourt advantage," Joel Embiid said. "To know that going into the playoffs you have a bench that can come in and keep the lead or keep building the lead, it's great. In the playoffs you need that, you need a bench to come in and keep it up for the starters, and finish it."