NBA Notes: League ditches East-West format for All-Star Game

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NBA Notes: League ditches East-West format for All-Star Game

NEW YORK -- The NBA is scrapping the East vs. West format for its All-Star Game and will have captains pick teams this season.

The league said Tuesday the two starters with the highest fan vote totals from each conference will choose teams from the pool of players who were voted as starters and reserves.

The change will begin with this season's game in Los Angeles on Feb. 18.

Players and league officials have been eager to inject new interest in the often defense-absent game, and they decided to act after another dull affair last February in New Orleans.

"I'm thrilled with what the players and the league have done to improve the All-Star Game, which has been a priority for all of us," National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets said in a statement. "We're looking forward to putting on an entertaining show in LA" (see full story).

Lakers: Ball misses practice with sprained ankle
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has missed practice after mildly spraining his left ankle in a preseason game.

Ball sat out of Tuesday's workout along with Brandon Ingram, who bumped his head during the same preseason game Monday against Denver.

Coach Luke Walton said Ball will be re-evaluated Wednesday before the Lakers determine whether the No. 2 overall pick will play against the Nuggets in Ontario, California, that night.

Ingram is meeting with a doctor Tuesday to determine the extent of his injury.

Ball and Ingram played 21 minutes apiece Monday in a 113-107 loss to Denver.

Larry Nance Jr. also didn't practice due to a sprained index finger, but the forward did conditioning work.

Center Brook Lopez participated in full-court drills during his steady return from back spasms.

Bucks: New arena is also avenue to sell Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- Construction vehicles and dusty streets surround the Milwaukee Bucks' new downtown arena that is less than a year away from completion.

The state-of-the-art facility will be the Bucks' home starting in 2018. But in many respects the massive project is more than just about basketball.

Team and arena executives want to get major entertainment acts to stop in Milwaukee. They want the arena to be a driver for ambitious downtown redevelopment.

And to do that, they have to go out to market and sell Milwaukee.

"We want to create an international destination with talent. We want to compete with every major city, we want to be on every tour stop," team president Peter Feigin said. "We have this one window of time to tell our story and our narrative around the world" (see full story).

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.”