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Best of NBA: Mavericks spoil Kawhi Leonard's season debut

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Best of NBA: Mavericks spoil Kawhi Leonard's season debut

DALLAS -- J.J. Barea scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and the Dallas Mavericks spoiled the season debut of San Antonio star Kawhi Leonard, beating the Spurs 95-89 on Tuesday night.

Leonard missed the first 27 games because of right quadriceps tendinopathy, a condition that causes pain and weakness in the knee. He wasn't around in the fourth quarter when Barea finished a rally that he started by scoring eight points in the final 1:49 of the third.

Harrison Barnes scored 17 points while Yogi Ferrell and Wesley Mathews had 16 apiece as the Mavericks ended a five-game losing streak at home to the Spurs, who had a four-game winning streak stopped for the third time this season.

Barea led the Mavericks with six assists, teaming up with alley-oop dunk partner Dwight Powell a couple of times as Powell finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Rudy Gay scored 21 for the Spurs, who shot 29 percent while getting outscored 28-20 in the fourth quarter.

Leonard, who had 13 points, went to the locker room late in the third quarter, with no immediate word on whether he had hit the unspecified minutes restriction coach Gregg Popovich said would be in place. He played 16 minutes, roughly the first 5 minutes in each of the first three quarters (see full recap).
    
LeBron racks up 17 assists against lowly Hawks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James had 25 points and tied a career-high with 17 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Atlanta Hawks 123-114 on Tuesday night.

James was 11 of 13 from the field, had seven rebounds and was given a standing ovation when he was removed from the game with 2:34 remaining .

Cleveland won for the 15th time in 16 games. The Cavaliers hit a season-high 20 3-pointers, including nine in the first quarter. Cleveland had a season-high 35 assists.

Kyle Korver had 19 points, including six 3-pointers. Kevin Love, returning after missing a game with a hip injury, scored 17 points, all in the first half. Love had 11 points in the first quarter after sitting out Saturday's game against Philadelphia. He had 12 rebounds.

Atlanta fell to 6-21, the worst record in the league. Taurean Prince scored 24 points while Kent Bazemore had 20 (see full recap).

Porzingis, Beasley lead Knicks to OT victory
NEW YORK -- Kristaps Porzingis had 37 points and 11 rebounds, Michael Beasley made the biggest plays in overtime, and the New York Knicks beat the Los Angeles Lakers 113-109 on Tuesday night.

Beasley had 13 points, including the tiebreaking follow shot, and an assist in the extra period as the Knicks went back over .500 at 14-13. Thirteen of their victories have come at Madison Square Garden.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 24 points for the Lakers, who had won two in a row on their trip. Rookie Kyle Kuzma added 19 points off the bench.

Lonzo Ball had 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists, with a dazzling third-quarter stretch that had father LaVar celebrating wildly from his courtside seat next to Lithuania-bound sons LiAngelo and LaMelo. But Lonzo was quiet after that period beyond two free throws early in OT.

The Knicks essentially won it with Beasley's flurry of a tip-in, a pass inside to Doug McDermott for a basket, and a driving layup that turned at 103-all game into a 109-103 lead with 1:24 remaining in the overtime (see full recap).

Joel Embiid has trouble with mask, not Heat in Sixers' Game 3 win

Joel Embiid has trouble with mask, not Heat in Sixers' Game 3 win

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — "We're not here to make friends. We're here to win the series." 

With those two sentences, Joel Embiid made it known what he is all about in the playoffs.

The big man fought to return from an orbital fracture to help the Sixers win, and that’s exactly what he did in his first game since March 28. Embiid led the team with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal over 30 minutes in his NBA postseason debut … while wearing a mask with goggles (see story)

“I was excited,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 128-108 victory Thursday in Game 3 (see observations). “Worked really hard for it. Promised the city that and made it happen. I was kind of sad that I couldn’t play in that first at home because we have a special connection. But I’m glad, came back today and we got a win.” 

Embiid sent a message — he is back, and not backing down. Sitting at the podium with a calm confidence, he talked about everything from his desire to return to in-game chippiness to defending his teammates. 

“I hate sitting out,” Embiid said. “I felt like it was time to come back, especially after watching how physical the game was, Game 2. I love this moment, I love being physical, I love attacking, I love contact.” 

Returning meant wearing a protective mask on his face. Though irksome in some ways, Embiid noted his game is too strong to be held back. 

“It was difficult,” Embiid said of the mask. “But to me it wasn’t really about getting used to it because at the end of the day, no matter how much it bothers me, I’ve still got to be a basketball player. If the shots aren’t falling and it gets foggy or I can’t see, there’s a lot of different stuff I can do, especially defensively because I feel like I’m the best defensive player in the league.”

There was plenty of contact in Game 3, and his mask wasn’t safe from it either. At one point, Embiid’s goggles landed on the court. Justise Winslow stepped on them, downplaying it after the game. 

“He kept throwing it on the ground, so I don’t know if he didn’t like it or what,” Winslow said. “But I was talking to JoJo, we were smack talking, trash talking, going back and forth. No love lost.”

Embiid didn’t quite see the situation as “throwing it on the ground.” He added an extra punch to the end of his recount. 

“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands,” Embiid said. “But little do they know is that I have about 50 of them. So it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of the series. 

“I’m going to be a nightmare for them, too.” 

When the game was in hand, Embiid was eager to see the Sixers finish with as large a margin of victory as possible. He thought back to Game 2 when Goran Dragic scored a layup with 1.2 seconds to play, and how Jordan Clarkson had thrown a ball at Dario Saric for scoring similarly during the regular season in Cleveland. So on Thursday, Embiid wanted them to run up the scoreboard. 

“I wish I was there in that Game 2 because I was kind of pissed about it,” Embiid said. “It’s basketball. It’s always good to blow a team out. I think we were up 18 or 20. If you could get that lead up to 22, I think it’s good. I love blowing teams out. I like the fact that we did that.” 

There's less than 48 hours until the Heat will look to bounce back in Game 4 and even up the series. Embiid knows the Sixers are in for a battle. 

And he likes that. 

“Game 4, they’re going to try to do what they did at Game 2, come out and be really, really extra aggressive and try to punch us in the mouth,” Embiid said. “We’ve got to be ready for that and I’ll for sure be ready.” 

Joel Embiid's return sparks Sixers' physical Game 3 win in Miami

Joel Embiid's return sparks Sixers' physical Game 3 win in Miami

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Joel Embiid is 1-0 in the playoffs.

The Sixers beat the Heat, 128-108, Thursday with their mask-wearing center back in the starting lineup to take a 2-1 lead on the series. 

• Embiid made his long-awaited return, playing in his postseason debut and first game since March 28. Donning a face mask with goggles (see story), Embiid rejoined the starting lineup. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes. 

He looked eager as well as affected at times by the long layoff from the left orbital fracture and concussion. He was aggressive at getting to the line (and drawing fouls on Hassan Whiteside), but shot 10 for 15 once there. Embiid knocked down threes (3 of 4), at the same time committing a 24-second violation trying to back down to the basket. Considering how long it’s been since he played, Embiid’s conditioning looked better than expected. 

• This game was not decided until the final quarter. The Sixers led, 96-94, after three. Brett Brown started Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova and Embiid to open the fourth. That group outscored the Heat 9-1 to push the lead to 10 and change the tone of the remainder of the game. 

• First it was Kelly Olynyk. Then it was Dwyane Wade. In Game 3, Justise Winslow was the offensive spark plug off the Miami bench. Winslow scored 19 points in the first half, seven more than the Heat’s next leading scorer. He also was an agitator throughout the game, continuing to try to get under the Sixers’ skin as he had done in the previous games. Check out what happened with the goggles from Embiid’s mask.

• Justin Anderson looked like he had been waiting for this defensive assignment all season. Brown tasked him with defending Wade in the first half, and that matchup turned chippy. Anderson and Wade both were called for physical taunting technical fouls after Anderson pushed off on Wade and Wade grabbed his arm and flung him around. Anderson had played less than two minutes in the series prior to Game 3. 

• The game was physical with whistles and double techs throughout the night. Just how physical was it?

• Late in the third quarter, the Sixers rolled out the lineup of T.J. McConnell, Marco Belinelli, Anderson, Ilyasova and Embiid. None of these players are hesitant to mix things up. At one point a play culminated with Embiid and Anderson jumping up to block an Olynyk shot with the Heat forward landing on the ground. 

• Brown had planned to play Markelle Fultz more than the five minutes he clocked in Game 2. That didn’t happen. Fultz was on the court for 4:21 in the first half without a shot attempt (one rebound, one assist, two fouls). McConnell got the backup point guard minutes in the second half. 

• Game 4 will be played at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon on NBCSP in Miami.