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Best of NBA: Another big 4th quarter from Isaiah Thomas gives Celtics win

Best of NBA: Another big 4th quarter from Isaiah Thomas gives Celtics win

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 19 of his 44 points in the final quarter to lift the Boston Celtics over the Toronto Raptors 109-104 on Wednesday night in a showdown for first place in the Atlantic Division.

It was the fifth straight win for Boston, which moved 1 games ahead of the Raptors in the division and holds the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed.

Jae Crowder scored 14 points for the Celtics and Al Horford had 11. Thomas had 18 of Boston's final 23 points.

Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 32 points, former Celtic Jared Sullinger had 13 and Norman Powell added 12. The Raptors have lost seven of nine.

In a final quarter that rivaled playoff intensity, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown was fouled on a breakaway attempt and walked over and had words with Lowry -- before a few others player joined in and had to be separated by the officials. Boston's Terry Rozier and the Raptors' DeMarre Carroll were each given a technical (see full recap).

James, Irving lead Cavs past Timberwolves
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points, Kyrie Irving had 14 and a career-high 14 assists and the Cleveland Cavaliers, coming off a losing record in January, defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 125-97 on Wednesday night.

Cleveland, which went 7-8 last month, began February looking like the defending NBA champions. The Cavaliers held a three-point halftime lead and took control midway through the third quarter. James' three-point play gave the Cavaliers a 90-70 lead.

Cleveland All-Star forward Kevin Love missed his second straight game because of back spasms, but the Cavaliers had five players in double figures in scoring.

James was 11 of 14 from the field, and Irving scored 14 points. Kyle Korver added 20 points, while Channing Frye, starting in place of Love, had 18 points. Tristan Thompson had 18 points and 14 rebounds.

Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 26 points and Andrew Wiggins added 23 (see full recap).

Porzingis, subs help Knicks rally past Nets
NEW YORK -- Kristaps Porzingis had 19 points and 12 rebounds, and joined a group of mostly substitutes who led a big fourth-quarter turnaround that carried the New York Knicks to a 95-90 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Carmelo Anthony had 15 points for the Knicks, but he was on the bench for the entire fourth quarter after shooting 6 for 22 from the field. Instead, the Knicks rallied behind Willy Hernangomez, who had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Sasha Vujacic, who made team history by converting a pair of four-point plays in the game.

The only other starter on the floor for the comeback was Brandon Jennings -- and he was only starting because point guard Derrick Rose remained out with a sprained ankle.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 16 for the Nets, who lost their seventh straight and fell to 0-9 against Atlantic Division opponents this season (see full recap).

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

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Photo courtesy of Sixers' Twitter account

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

Four families gathered in a roped-off waiting area adorned with Sixers decor inside of a Philadelphia Target store. They were told they were getting a surprise Thursday evening, but they didn't know who or what until a car pulled up outside ... and Ben Simmons walked through the door.

Simmons gave each family a $1,000 shopping spree right then and there. The room erupted in cheer.

"Beautiful," a mother exclaimed at the news. One child put his head in his hands in disbelief when he saw Simmons. Another said, "This is the best day ever."

"It's one of those things I always wanted to do growing up," Simmons, who came up with the idea for the shopping trip on his own, said. "It's the perfect time, season of giving. It just means a lot for me to be able to do this for some families."

The towering 6-foot-10 point guard walked through the store on Monument Road with each family and helped them choose their gifts along the way. 

They headed straight to the toy section, where the children piled in Legos, dolls and anything else that grabbed their attention. Then it was on to electronics. One child filled his cart with video games and a gaming system. Another family selected a television and soundbar. 

Shopping carts accumulated quickly as the kids ran in and out of aisles with bright smiles on their faces.

"Seeing them pick out what they want, not having to worry about it, I think that was the biggest thing," Simmons said. "It was a great time. I had a lot of fun, can't wait to do it next year."

The recipients were selected through Unity in the Community, a nonprofit organization based in South Philadelphia. Each had been through tough times in the past year and this trip helped to put the happy in their holidays.

"They can enjoy it now," Simmons said. "It's great for them to have no worries, especially on Christmas."

Best of NBA: LeBron James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Lakers

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USA Today Images

Best of NBA: LeBron James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Lakers

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 59th career triple-double in front of Lonzo Ball and his brothers, Kevin Love scored 28 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the 16th time in 17 games, 121-112 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

James finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to move a tie with Larry Bird for sixth place on the career triple-doubles list. He also put the Lakers away with a dunk and short runner in the final two minutes.

Love scored 13 in the third quarter, when the Cavs opened an 11-point lead on the way to their 10th straight home win. Jose Calderon added a season-high 17 points for Cleveland.

Brandon Ingram scored 26 for the Lakers and Ball had 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

It was the first on-court meeting between James and Ball, the Lakers' highly touted rookie whose outspoken father LaVar has brought both attention and animosity toward his son.

LaVar Ball, who did not attend the game, launched his "Big Baller Brand" to promote his three talented sons. James gave them an in-person lesson in the business of basketball (see full recap).

Lee, Knicks top Nets after Porzingis exits
NEW YORK -- Courtney Lee scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half, Michael Beasley added 15, and the New York Knicks held on to beat the Brooklyn Nets 111-104 on Thursday night after losing star forward Kristaps Porzingis to a sore left knee early in the second half.

Porzingis motioned to the bench with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter after contesting a shot made by Brooklyn's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Knicks' leading scorer had scored 13 points in nearly 18 minutes in the first half.

Enes Kanter had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who earned just their second road victory of the season. Their only other one was Oct. 29 at Cleveland.

Spencer Dinwiddie had 26 points for the Nets, who have dropped the first two games to their city rivals. Hollis-Jefferson added 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting and Caris LeVert added 15 (see full recap).

Drummond helps Pistons snap 7-game skid
ATLANTA -- Andre Drummond had 12 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high nine assists, Tobias Harris added 19 points and the Detroit Pistons snapped a seven-game slide with a 105-91 victory over the NBA-worst Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.

Avery Bradley finished with 18 points and Langston Galloway scored 17 as Detroit won for the first time since beating Phoenix on Nov. 29.

Ersan Ilyasova had 23 points, John Collins scored 15 and Dennis Schroder had 10 assists for Atlanta, which dropped to 6-22 and has lost three in a row.

The Pistons never trailed after Galloway's 3-pointer early in the second quarter. They led by 13 at halftime when Galloway hit a 20-footer in the closing seconds and went up by 22 on Reggie Bullock's floater midway through the third.

Detroit recovered from a 103-84 home loss Tuesday to Denver, a performance coach Stan Van Gundy called one of the worst "I've ever had to coach" in over 850 career games (see full recap).