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Best of NBA: Trail Blazers storm back from 17-point 4th quarter deficit

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Best of NBA: Trail Blazers storm back from 17-point 4th quarter deficit

WASHINGTON — C.J. McCollum scored 26 points, including seven straight during a 10-0 game-closing run, and the Portland Trail Blazers overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the short-handed Washington Wizards 108-105 on Saturday night.

Damian Lillard scored 29 points for Portland, which won for a second consecutive night on the East Coast in dramatic fashion after a 127-125 victory at Brooklyn on Friday.

Jusuf Nurkick had 17 points and Noah Vonleh grabbed 10 rebounds for the Blazers.

Bradley Beal scored 26 points and Otto Porter added 24 points and 10 rebounds for Washington in the first game of what the team expects to be a two-week stretch without All-Star point guard John Wall (see full recap).

Harden scores 37 for Rockets in win over Knicks
HOUSTON — James Harden had 37 points and 10 assists as the Houston Rockets rallied from an early deficit to beat the New York Knicks 117-102 on Saturday night.

The Rockets erased New York's early 22-point lead by making 18 3-pointers and getting 44 points from their bench, led by 17 from Ryan Anderson.

The Knicks rode hot shooting to build a 29-7 lead midway through the first quarter. The shots eventually stopped falling, turnovers mounted, and the Rockets shot their way back into the game, mostly from long range.

The Knicks led 39-29 at the end of the first quarter, and Houston finally tied the game at 51 on a free throw by Chris Paul in the second quarter. The Knicks led 61-58 at halftime (see full recap).

Irving, Horford lead Celtics to win at Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS — Kyrie Irving scored 25 points and Al Horford added 21 to lead the Boston Celtics to a 108-98 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

Boston (18-3) outscored Indiana 37-16 in the third quarter to turn a nine-point deficit into an 82-70 lead entering the final quarter. Horford had 12 points during a period that saw Indiana record two three-minute scoring droughts.

Marcus Smart had 15 points and six rebounds for the Celtics. Terry Rozier scored 17 points off the bench.

The Pacers (11-9) were led by Myles Turner, who had 19 points but spent much of the night in foul trouble. Lance Stephenson had 16 points and eight rebounds, and Damontas Sabonis had 17 points and eight boards.

Victor Oladipo, leading Indiana with 22.9 points per game, did not play for the first time this season. He sat with a bruised right knee sustained in Friday's 107-104 win over Toronto (see full recap).

Gasol, Aldridge lead Spurs past cold-shooting Hornets​
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge each had 17 points and seven rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs held the Charlotte Hornets to 37 percent shooting in a 106-86 victory on Saturday night.

Rudy Gay added 15 points for the Spurs, who snapped Charlotte's three-game home win streak.

The Hornets entered the game 7-2 at the Spectrum Center, but shot just 22 percent from the field in the first half, fell behind by 11 at halftime and could never make a serious run at the Spurs.

Kemba Walker, who left the game briefly in the third quarter with a left shoulder injury, returned to finish with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He didn't get much help as Charlotte's four other starters - Nic Batum, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams - were a combined 6 of 29 from the field (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

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Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

HOUSTON -- Clint Capela had a career-high 28 points and James Harden scored 12 straight points for Houston in the fourth quarter as the Rockets rallied for a 130-123 victory to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Monday night.

The game was tied with about three minutes remaining after Harden made two free throws. Those were the first of seven straight points by Harden that put Houston's up 124-119 with 1:30 left.

Jrue Holiday made a basket after that, but Harden hit a 3-pointer seconds later to push the lead to 127-121. Harden stole the ball from E'Twaun Moore after a timeout by New Orleans. He was fouled and made both free throws to make it 129-121 with 34 seconds left.

After scoring 48 points in Houston's last game, Harden finished with 26 on Monday, but he tied a career-high with 17 assists, finding the 6-foot-10 Capela under the basket again and again.

Holiday had a season-high 37 points for the Pelicans. Moore had a career-high 36 points and made a career-most six 3-pointers on a night New Orleans set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers (see full recap).

Mirotic, Portis help Bulls blow out Celtics
CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points, Bobby Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA's worst record, the Bulls built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms. The 6-foot-10 forward hit 9 of 14 shots and grabbed eight rebounds in his third appearance.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Before Monday night, Mirotic and Portis had only made headlines together this season for the wrong reasons. Mirotic missed the first 23 games with facial fractures he suffered in a fight at practice with Portis.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics' most lopsided loss of the season (see full recap).

Howard, struggling Hornets roll past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Dwight Howard scored 23 points to help the Charlotte Hornets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-103 on Monday night.

Kemba Walker had 19 points for the Hornets, who had lost seven of eight. Marvin Williams scored 18, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 17 points.

It was Charlotte's second road win of the season in 12 tries.

Russell Westbrook had 30 points and seven assists and Paul George scored 20 points for the Thunder after missing the previous two games with a right calf contusion.

Charlotte shot 53 percent from the field against one of the league's best defensive teams. The Bobcats made 13 of 25 3-point attempts (see full recap).

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers have hit a four-game skid and there is not a clearly defined way out of it thanks to a laundry list of injuries.

“I think it’s painfully obvious,” Brett Brown said of what needs to be done. “Let’s get our better players back in a uniform.”

The Sixers have to play their best with their pieces available down two starters (Joel Embiid, Robert Covington) and a key bench player (T.J. McConnell).

There are adjustments that can be made to prevent a losing streak from spiraling the Sixers down in the standings.

“We need to be just smarter,” Dario Saric said. “I know we are a young team. I know are playing without Joel, without our very important players … we need to find a way. We need to be more calm down, don’t be nervous, especially on defense.” 

Saric pointed to the Sixers’ late-game defense in their 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). They were tied with eight minutes to play before the Pelicans hit threes on their next four straight possessions. Jrue Holiday drained four treys himself during a five-minute stretch to push the lead to 11. The Sixers were outscored 44-29 in the fourth quarter.

“In that situation, to me, we are playing like a high school team,” Saric said. “That cannot happen. We need to be smarter at that point. I hope we will grow up and we will be mentally ready for that last five, six, seven minutes.”

The Sixers also were in the position to come back Saturday in Cleveland. They trailed the Cavaliers, 99-98, with 1:39 to play and did not score after that point.

It was during that final stretch when Covington landed out of bounds and suffered a lower back contusion. A day later, Embiid was a late scratch because of lower back tightness (see story). McConnell has missed five of the last six games with a left shoulder injury.

“We’ve got to be consistent with making the right plays every time,” Ben Simmons said. “It’s hard to make mistakes without those guys there. When you make mistakes and you don’t have Jo or Cov and guys like that to make up for that, it’s tough. But we’ve got to just come together as a team and get through it.” 

The Sixers don't have it easy their next two games. They face the Timberwolves (16-11) Tuesday in Minnesota when Embiid said he expects to play but has not been cleared. Covington is doubtful, while McConnell's status is to be determined. The Sixers return home Friday from a three-game road trip to host the Thunder (12-13).