Episcopal Academy's own Wayne Ellington for the win

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Episcopal Academy's own Wayne Ellington for the win

TORONTO -- Wayne Ellington made a go-ahead driving layup with less than a second remaining, and the Miami Heat stopped Toronto's 12-game home winning streak with a 90-89 victory over the Raptors on Tuesday night.

It was the only basket of the second half for Ellington, who finished with 15 points.

Goran Dragic had 24 points and 12 rebounds as Miami extended its season-best winning streak to five. Bam Adebayo had 16 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and Hassan Whiteside collected 13 points and 15 boards for the Heat, who had dropped their previous five visits to Toronto.

The Raptors were without point guard Kyle Lowry after the three-time All-Star bruised his tailbone during Monday's overtime win at Brooklyn.

DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points as the Raptors lost for the first time in six games and failed to break the franchise record for consecutive home victories. Serge Ibaka finished with 11 after he was ejected in the second half.

It was Toronto's first home loss since Nov. 5 against Washington, a game in which Lowry was ejected early in the second quarter. The Raptors are 14-2 at home.

Ibaka and Miami's James Johnson were ejected after trading punches at 7:50 of the third quarter. The skirmish began when the two started shoving one another while waiting for the ball to be inbounded under the Miami basket. Officials reviewed the incident before giving both players technical fouls and ejections (see full recap).

McCollum, Blazers open road trip with victory
OKLAHOMA CITY -- CJ McCollum had 27 points and seven assists, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 117-106 on Tuesday night in the opener of a four-game trip.

Shabazz Napier added 21 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 20 points and eight rebounds for Portland, which moved past Oklahoma City into second in the Northwest Division standings with its seventh win in its last nine games against the Thunder.

Portland has won four of five overall despite playing most of that stretch without star guard Damien Lillard, who sat out for the seventh time in the last nine games with a left calf strain.

Russell Westbrook had 22 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for Oklahoma City, which has dropped off after playing well for most of December. The Thunder have dropped four of six, with three of those losses coming at home.

Oklahoma City shot 44 percent from the field while Portland made 53.1 percent of its shots. Paul George scored 22 points for the Thunder, and Carmelo Anthony had 19.

The Thunder closed to 83-76 with 1:39 remaining in the third quarter on a basket by Anthony, but Portland answered with a 13-1 run and led 96-77 after a 3-pointer by Al-Farouq Aminu with 10:25 left (see full recap).

Mavericks top Magic to snap 3-game skid
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki and rookie Dennis Smith Jr. each scored 20 points, and Dallas Mavericks stopped a three-game slide by beating the Orlando Magic 114-99 on Tuesday night.

Wesley Matthews had 16 points for Dallas, which got its first win since Dec. 31 against Oklahoma City. Harrison Barnes and Yogi Ferrell scored 15 points apiece, and J.J. Barea had 12 assists and eight points.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle earned his 708th career win, moving past John MacLeod for 17th in NBA history. Next up for Carlisle is Gene Shue, who has 784 wins.

Aaron Gordon scored 19 points for Orlando, which has lost five in a row. D.J. Augustin had 18 points, and Marreese Speights finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The Magic led 48-43 at halftime, but Nowitzki and Smith helped the Mavericks rally with 15 points apiece in the second half.

Leading 66-64 with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter, Ferrell made a pull-up jumper and Barnes followed with another jump shot. The Mavs carried an 82-75 lead into the fourth.

The Magic pulled within four in the final period before the Mavericks closed out the game with a 14-3 run in the final four minutes (see full recap).

Who needs Kawhi? Aldridge drops 45 in Spurs' OT win

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Who needs Kawhi? Aldridge drops 45 in Spurs' OT win

SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell's 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs' 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah's 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Pacers use late run to edge Clippers
INDIANAPOLIS -- Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles' fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games (see full recap).

Jokic, Murray lift Nuggets over Wizards
WASHINGTON -- Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray each scored 25 points to keep the Denver Nuggets' playoff hopes alive by beating the Washington Wizards 108-100 on Friday night.

The one-two punch of Jokic and Murray plus outside shooting from Will Barton allowed the Nuggets to withstand a third-quarter charge from the Wizards and maintain their sights on one of the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Denver went into the night two games back of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz and shot 50 percent from 3-point territory to stay very much in the race with nine games remaining.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 24 points as it failed to gain ground in a competitive East where five teams are separated in the standings by four games (see full recap).

Brett Brown's top competition for Coach of the Year

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Brett Brown's top competition for Coach of the Year

The Coach of the Year award in every sport typically comes down to: 

1. Which team overachieved the most?

2. Which team increased its win total the most?

3. Which team that fits both descriptions has a media-friendly coach?

Brett Brown is a deserving candidate this season. Not saying he'll win, or even that he stands out as the most deserving, but he's more than just "in the conversation."

Before getting to the other candidates and their likelihood of winning, let's acknowledge why Brown deserves serious consideration. 

We all knew the Sixers would be better this season. A second year of Joel Embiid and the first of Embiid and Ben Simmons. Finally, a good veteran shooter in JJ Redick.

But did you expect the Sixers to up their win total by 20 games? Currently, that's what they're on pace to do.

Did you expect them to pick up wins over the Rockets, Spurs, Celtics, Raptors, Cavs and Spurs again? Yeah, the Sixers have laid some eggs this season, but they have just as many high-quality wins.

Factor in the continued development of players like Dario Saric and T.J. McConnell and it should be clear that Brown has gotten a whole lot out of this team.

Now, on to the other candidates. The way I see it, there are six in addition to Brown: 

• Dwane Casey (Raptors)
• Nate McMillan (Pacers)
• Brad Stevens (Celtics)
• Mike D'Antoni (Rockets)
• Quin Snyder (Jazz)
• Doc Rivers (Clippers)

Just being realistic here, I think Casey wins it. The Raptors will be the 1-seed in the East and may even end up with the NBA's second-best record given the Warriors' injury report.

It goes beyond that, though. Toronto revamped its system to place less stress on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The result has been the emergence of the NBA's best bench. DeRozan is also now shooting threes, a big benefit to the Raps' spacing.

Lastly, Casey is a media darling. He's done the podcast circuit this season, and his long tenure as a personable NBA assistant will help him with voters.

Nate McMillan
McMillan's Pacers have overachieved, but that has so much more to do with Victor Oladipo than anything else. That's not meant to discredit McMillan, but the gap between expectations and reality for Oladipo is the reason the Pacers have surprised. Unless the Pacers finish several games ahead of the Sixers, I can't see McMillan finishing ahead of Brown.

Brad Stevens
The Celtics have faded of late, mostly because of mounting injuries to their backcourt. Stevens deserves a ton of credit for keeping this team 25-plus games over .500 with so many young pieces, but he won't finish ahead of Casey.

Doc Rivers
Rivers' case is dependent on whether or not the Clippers make the playoffs. The Clips, based on talent alone, have no business being 38-33 in a loaded West. They just play extremely hard and have been maybe the hungriest NBA team this season — so many contributions from guys on two-way contracts.

But LA is now 2½ games out of the 8-seed, so we can almost close the book on Rivers for COY.

Mike D'Antoni
The Rockets have been the best team this season and D'Antoni is a huge reason why. The Chris Paul addition is a bigger reason why, but the Rockets are where they are because of how Paul has been integrated into D'Antoni's system, and because Houston is finally focused on defense. D'Antoni should finish in the top three of the Coach of the Year voting, but it's hard to win when you add a veteran superstar in the offseason.

Predicted order of finish: Casey, Brown, Snyder, D'Antoni, Stevens, McMillan, Rivers