A sweet 16 for the red-hot Rockets

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A sweet 16 for the red-hot Rockets

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Chris Paul scored 25 points and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-112 on Tuesday night for their 16th straight win.

James Harden had 23 points and 11 assists, and Trevor Ariza added 15 points for the Rockets, who are on the second-longest win streak in franchise history.

Russell Westbrook scored 32 points and Carmelo Anthony added 23 for Oklahoma City, which is in a logjam of teams trying to fight their way into third place in the West.

Oklahoma City had beaten several of the league's top teams this season. The Thunder have two wins over Golden State, a victory over Toronto and a win over Cleveland this season. The Rockets avoided that fate by going 17 of 33 on 3-pointers and 29 of 34 on free throws.

The Rockets led 54-45 at halftime as Harden posted 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Anthony had 19 points for the Thunder and Westbrook had 14, but All-Star Paul George went 1 for 7 from the field before the break.

The Thunder closed the gap to three in the opening minutes of the third quarter, but the Rockets dominated the rest of the way and led 87-74 at the end of the period. Houston made 7 of 10 3-pointers in the quarter.

Houston extended its lead to 19 midway through the fourth quarter (see full recap).

Beal, Wizards catch fire from deep in OT victory
WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting and the Washington Wizards had their best 3-point shooting night of the season in a 117-113 victory over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.

Beal went 6 of 7 from beyond the arc, leading a Washington team that finished 14 for 24 there while snapping its first three-game losing streak of the season.

Tomas Satoransky added 19 points and Markieff Morris had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Morris' baseline 3-pointer off Beal's feed made it 113-109 with 1:06 left in overtime.

The fifth-place Wizards improved to 11-6 in their extended stretch without All-Star point guard John Wall as he recovers from knee surgery. They moved within a half-game of Indiana and maintained a one-game lead on Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference.

Dwyane Wade scored 22 points but missed on a potential game-tying jumper with 4.1 seconds left in overtime for Miami.

Tyler Johnson added 21 points for the Heat, who lost for the second time in six games to fall back into eighth place, a half-game behind Milwaukee (see full recap).

Raptors run over Hawks for 5th straight win
TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 15 and the Toronto Raptors beat the Atlanta Hawks 106-90 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight win.

C.J. Miles added 14 points, and Delon Wright and Serge Ibaka each had 10 as the Eastern Conference leaders won for the 12th time in 13 games and completed their first season sweep of the Hawks since 2001-02.

The Raptors are 27-5 at home, the best record in the NBA. Toronto, which trailed by one to begin the fourth quarter, improved to 4-16 when behind through three.

Toronto outscored Atlanta 30-13 in the fourth. The Hawks shot 6 for 18 in the quarter and committed eight turnvoers.

Kent Bazemore and John Collins each scored 15 points and Dewayne Dedmon had 12 points and 10 rebounds, but the Hawks lost for the sixth time in eight games.

The Hawks are 5-26 on the road (see full recap).

Brett Brown believes Ben Simmons is 'stone cold' Rookie of the Year

Brett Brown believes Ben Simmons is 'stone cold' Rookie of the Year

Brett Brown made his case for Ben Simmons to win top rookie honors, and Simmons agrees.

“He is the stone cold Rookie of the Year,” Brown said.

The Sixers head coach’s strong words came after Simmons recorded his 10th triple-double of the season Saturday in the Sixers' win over the Timberwolves (see observations).

With 15 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists in just under 30 minutes, Simmons posted a stat line that is becoming routine for the 6-foot-10 point guard.

“I think the play I’ve had over the season has been pretty consistent,” Simmons said. “I’m doing some things that haven’t been done in a while.”

Simmons is right. He already passed Magic Johnson for second-most triple-doubles by a rookie in NBA history and trails only Oscar Robertson in that category. The 21-year-old currently is averaging 7.9 assists, putting him on track to join Robertson as the only rookies to average at least 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists per game.

In comparison to rookies around the league this season, Simmons ranks first in rebounds, assists and steals and second in scoring. 

For as well as Simmons is playing, there will be a tough competition for the award.

Like Simmons, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is leading his team in the hunt for the playoffs. Mitchell is averaging 20.3 points (first among rookies), 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He has scored 30-plus point in seven games, including a 40-point performance.

Forward Jayson Tatum also has been mentioned in Rookie of the Year consideration. Tatum is posting 13.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists on the Eastern Conference second-ranked Celtics.

"I’m not worried about putting up points every game,” Simmons said. “As long as we win, that’s all I’m worried about. I think everything else will come along with it. But that’s just not the way I play. I don’t need to score 30, 40 points every game. Now I can create 40 points by passing the ball, that’s easy to me."

The conversation about this award is far from over.

Pistons keep Sixers from clinching playoff spot

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Pistons keep Sixers from clinching playoff spot

DETROIT — Anthony Tolliver scored 25 points, and the Detroit Pistons made 13 3-pointers in the first half on their way to a 117-95 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

The Pistons have won three of four, with the only loss in that span in overtime at Houston, but Detroit still trails Milwaukee by 5 1/2 games for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls have lost five straight.

The Pistons went 13 of 27 from 3-point range in the first half and led 66-47 after two quarters. Tolliver scored 16 points in the half.

Tolliver made six 3-pointers for Detroit and Reggie Bullock made four. The Pistons were 16 of 36 from beyond the arc through three quarters, but they missed all six of their attempts in the fourth. The franchise record for a game is 17 (see full recap).

Rockets set franchise wins record with victory over Pelicans 
HOUSTON — James Harden scored 27 points in three quarters and the Houston Rockets routed the New Orleans Pelicans 114-91 on Saturday night for their eighth straight victory.

The NBA-leading Rockets improved to 59-14 to overtake the 1993-94 championship team for the most wins in franchise history.

Houston never trailed and already had a huge lead to start the fourth before scoring seven straight points early in the period to make it 92-63 with 10 minutes remaining. Clint Capela had four points and a steal to lead Houston in that stretch. Capela finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and tied a career high with six blocks.

The Pelicans, who were playing their fifth game in seven days, finally ran out of gas, and looked worn out from the start. Entering Saturday's game they had played on three consecutive nights from Tuesday-Thursday because of a rescheduled game and won all of them to extend their winning streak to four in a row (see full recap).

Gordon dishes out career high in assists in Magic win over Suns
ORLANDO, Fla. — There hasn't been a lot for the Orlando Magic to cheer about this season, so a victory over the Phoenix Suns and a couple of near triple-doubles by Aaron Gordon and D.J. Augustin were nearly cause for celebration.

Gordon had 29 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high eight assists in what could have been the first triple-double of his career in Orlando's 105-99 victory Saturday night. Augustin was even closer, getting 15 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds to help the Magic end a three-game losing streak.

Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 11 rebounds.

"That was a pretty good all-around game," Gordon said. "If I draw attention from the defense, I pass and once the defensive attention leaves, I can score again so it's a balance that I'm still working on as a young player." (See full recap.)