Best of NBA: Surging Cavaliers drop Hawks for 10th straight win

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Best of NBA: Surging Cavaliers drop Hawks for 10th straight win

ATLANTA -- LeBron James had yet another double-double, took command of a challenging defensive assignment and stuck around to see the end of the Cleveland Cavaliers' 10th straight victory, 121-114 over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.

James had 24 points and 12 assists, and Kevin Love had 25 points and 16 rebounds to help Cleveland hold off Atlanta to extend the NBA's longest active winning streak. It was James' 14th double-double in 22 games.

James had frequent exchanges with the officials but avoided serious confrontations following his first ejection in 1,082 career games Tuesday night in a home victory over Miami.

Dennis Schroder, who led Atlanta with 27 points, blew past Cavaliers guard Jose Calderon to score on three straight layups to give Atlanta a 67-58 lead late in the first half. James took over primary defensive duties on Schroder to close the half and continued covering the super-quick guard in the second half.

The Cavaliers, who lost 117-115 at home to the Hawks on Nov. 4, ended a streak of three straight losses in the series (see full recap).

Barton nets 37, game-winner for Nuggets
DENVER -- Will Barton capped a career-high 37 points with a driving layup with 3.2 seconds left and the Denver Nuggets overcame the loss of Nikola Jokic to beat the Chicago Bulls 111-110 on Thursday night.

Gary Harris added 21 points, and Kenneth Faried had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Denver.

Jokic went down in with 44 seconds left in the second quarter when he drove to the basket and stepped on Jerian Grant's foot. Jokic hit two free throws before heading to the locker room with an obvious limp. He didn't return in the second half.

Lauri Markanen and Robin Lopez had 20 points each for Chicago, and Kris Dunn added 19. The Bulls have lost seven straight to finish 2-13 in November and drop to 3-17 overall.

The Bulls, who led for most of the game, took advantage of Jokic's absence and led 108-105 in the final minute. Barton was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws to tie it, then made 1 of 2 to give Denver a one-point lead with 20 seconds left.

Dunn gave Chicago the lead with a layup with 9.6 seconds left, but Barton drove the length of the court and hit a reverse layup.

Chicago led 68-62 at halftime but Denver rallied to briefly take the lead in the third quarter. Grant hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third to put the Bulls ahead 92-91 (see full recap).

Middleton, Bucks snap Blazers’ win streak
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Khris Middleton had 26 points while Eric Bledsoe had 25 and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Trail Blazers 103-91 on Thursday night to snap a three-game Portland winning streak.

Giannis Antetokounmpo added 20 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots for the Bucks, who have won their last four games against the Blazers.

The Bucks led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter and the Blazers struggled to keep up. Portland was also vexed by turnovers, with 19 compared to Milwaukee's nine.

Jusuf Nurkic led Portland with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Damian Lillard added 18 points.

Lillard's layup closed Portland within 94-81 with 5:52 left and it appeared the Blazers may rally, but Middleton answered with an 11-foot jumper. Portland's frustration was clear when Nurkic and coach Terry Stotts both earned technicals for a foul call on Nurkic on a block.

Portland was coming off a 4-1 trip, including a 103-91 victory over the Knicks on Monday. The Blazers also saw the return of forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who missed 13 games with a right ankle injury (see full recap).

Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

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Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal scored 19 points, Marcin Gortat had 18 and the Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night in a possible playoff preview.

Washington (40-30) earned its second straight win to move into a tie with Indiana for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. The Wizards also claimed the first tiebreaker by taking two of three in the season series.

Gortat was 6 for 8 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. He scored a total of 17 points in his previous four games.

Washington went 10 for 20 from 3-point range and shot 54.8 percent from the field overall. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had 16 points for the Wizards, and Markieff Morris added 15 (see full recap).

Giannis' double-double helps Bucks hold on to beat Hawks
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 12 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 23 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held on for a 122-117 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

The Bucks finished off the Eastern Conference's worst team with a game-ending 11-5 run, pushing the pace after the Hawks lost ball-handler Dennis Schroder. The guard fouled out with 2:46 left, and was called for a technical foul after exchanging words with an official on the way to the sideline.

Middleton hit the free throw that started the run. The Hawks looked rushed on their next two possessions with a turnover and a blocked shot, allowing the Bucks to brush past them.

Trailing by 13 at one point, Atlanta put up a spirited fight before losing its 50th game of the year. Taurean Prince scored 38 points, while Schroder finished with 18 (see full recap).

LeBron gets 33 points in triple-double as Cavs beat Bulls
CHICAGO — LeBron James scored 33 points as part of a triple-double, Jordan Clarkson had a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:27 left and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls 114-109 on Saturday night.

James had 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his 15th triple-double of the season, and Jeff Green added 21 points. Clarkson finished with 19 points to help the Cavaliers salvage a six-game split on their season-high six-game trip.

Denzel Valentine led Chicago with a career-high 34 points, hitting 8 of 11 from long range. The Bulls wiped out a 17-point halftime deficit even though they held out banged-up core players Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, only to come up short in the closing minutes.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue spent the second half in the locker room with an illness, another hit for an already short-handed team (see full recap).

Justin Anderson has his number called — and delivers

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Justin Anderson has his number called — and delivers

One responsibility of professional athletes is being ready when your number is called.

Seems like a simple concept. However, not everyone can handle the duties of coming into a game cold and making an impact.

The Sixers' Justin Anderson prides himself on being able to thrive in just that type of situation. That's why when Brett Brown told him to be on alert prior to Friday's 120-116 win over the Nets, he was good to go.

"He came up to me before the game, maybe like 20 minutes before the game, and said he was going to go to me tonight," Anderson said. "I told him I was going to be ready. He went to me and we all played well."

Oh, Anderson was definitely ready. The third-year swingman entered at the 6:55 mark of the first quarter and made a trio of three-pointers to keep the sluggish Sixers afloat early on.

“I had hit the first one, and they were talking a little trash. They didn’t respect it, so they continued to go under [screens],” Anderson said. “I was always taught if they go under, raise up and shoot it. That’s what you practice for. I just wanted to make sure I took good shots, played hard, brung energy and I think we did a good of doing that.”

Wait, so guys on the 21-48 Nets squad had the nerve to talk a little smack? While a bit laughable, it didn’t help in knocking Anderson off his game.

“It just showed me that they weren’t disciplined in their scouting report and I tried to take advantage of it,” he said. “It’s not like I’m shooting 20s [percent] from the three. It was what it was and I just wanted to take advantage of my opportunity.”

Anderson finished with 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the field and 3 of 5 from three-point range along with two rebounds in 14 minutes. Even with that offensive production, it was his defensive prowess in the final minute that made the biggest impact on the night.

“We had the confidence to both give Richaun (Holmes) some minutes and Justin when it mattered and had a big stop,” Brown said. “I think it was against (Spencer) Dinwiddie. You know, moved his feet, guarded the yard as we call it.

That’s major trust in a player who missed 23 games earlier in the season with shin splints and eight more recently with an ankle sprain. But with the playoffs right around the corner, Brown knows he may need to go to Anderson again in an even more crucial moment.

“Good for him. He’s a wonderful teammate, he’s good people and he’s had sort of an erratic year with injury,” Brown said. “I thought tonight he confirmed what we all think in relation to him being able to help us.”