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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).

Best of NBA: Curry, Thompson, Durant lead Warriors comeback over Pelicans

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Best of NBA: Curry, Thompson, Durant lead Warriors comeback over Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS — Klay Thomspon scored 31 points, Stephen Curry added 28 and the Golden State Warriors easily erased a 15-point first-half deficit en route to a 128-120 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

Kevin Durantadded 22 points for the Warriors, who won for the first time this young season after dropping their opener to Houston. New Orleans is still looking for its first victory after two games, shooting well early in both games before fading in the second half.

Anthony Davis had 35 points and 17 rebounds for the Pelicans, while fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins also had 35 points.

The teams combined for 34 3-pointers, with the Warriors hitting 18. Thompson was 7 of 12 from deep.

After trailing by double digits much of the fourth quarter, the Pelicans pulled as close as five points down on Cousins' 3 with about three minutes to go. But Thompson responded immediately with a 3, and Golden State remained comfortably in control from there (see full recap). 

Ball flirts with triple-double, Lakers hold on to beat Suns​
PHOENIX — Lonzo Ball barely missed a triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in his second NBA game and the Los Angeles Lakers held on to beat the Phoenix Suns 132-130 on Friday night.

The Suns had a chance to tie it with 1.2 seconds to play, but T.J. Warren missed the first of two free throws. That meant he had to miss the second intentionally and hope for a rebound, but the Suns couldn't get a decent shot off before the buzzer.

Ball, the No. 2 overall pick this year who is a week shy of his 20th birthday, took over down the stretch, scoring eight points in a 2 1/2-minute span. His final basket during that run, a floating layup, put Los Angeles ahead 130-122 with 1:35 to play.

But the Suns came roaring back behind Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, whose 3-pointer with 6.4 seconds left cut it to 131-130. Brandon Ingram made one of two free throws to give Phoenix one last chance and Warren was fouled by Ingram on an inbounds play.

The free throw was off the back of the rim, though, and the Lakers survived (see full recap). 

Nets beat Magic in first game without Lin despite Vucevic’s career-high 41 points
NEW YORK — Jeremy Lin was in the hospital Friday, rather than joining his teammates for their home opener.

The Brooklyn Nets are going to miss him, but they showed they still have plenty of firepower without him.

D’Angelo Russell, Trevor Booker and DeMarre Carroll all scored 17 points, and the Nets beat the Orlando Magic 126-121.

Brooklyn had six players in double figures, three more with nine points and got 64 points from its reserves to bounce back after yielding 140 points Wednesday night in a season-opening loss to Indiana.

Lin ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee late in that game and had season-ending surgery Friday morning (see full recap). 

James and Korver heat up from 3, Cavs beat Bucks
MILWAUKEE — Lebron James had 24 points and eight assists, and Kyle Korver hit three straight 3s in a decisive third-quarter run to help the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-97 on Friday night.

Kevin Love added 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs. Their 15-5 spurt over the final 4:25 of the third quarter, sparked by Korver's long-range shooting, opened a 13-point lead. Cleveland led by double digits most of the rest of the way to spoil the Bucks' home opener.

The defending Eastern Conference champions started the season with a second straight victory over an East contender after beating the Boston Celtics in their home opener.

Korver finished with 17 points and was 5 of 6 from 3-point territory.

Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points on 15-of-22 shooting, along with eight rebounds and eight assists. Malcolm Brogdon had 16 points (see full recap). 

Sixers' home-opening loss to Celtics reveals inexperience in 'winning time'

Sixers' home-opening loss to Celtics reveals inexperience in 'winning time'

BOX SCORE

The box score shows an imbalanced fourth quarter, the play-by-play breakdown demonstrates the Celtics ending strong and that was it.

On Friday night, the Sixers' home opener was spoiled with a 102-92 loss to Boston at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

In the fourth quarter, the Sixers were outscored 33-20 by the Celtics. Boston broke an 84-84 tie with seven minutes remaining to end the game on an 18-8 run.

The stat line tells the story. The Sixers gave up seven points to Kyrie Irving in less than four minutes to close out the game.

That’s how the Celtics took over the Sixers' home opener. The Sixers felt the game slip away earlier than that. 

“We struggled in the third to continue what we had going,” Jerryd Bayless said. “We didn’t hold everything together like we should have.”

The Sixers led the Celtics, 50-46, at halftime. JJ Redick had matched Irving’s 12 points and the Sixers had only given up four points off turnovers, a needed improvement from their first game. 

They jumped ahead by nine, 65-56, with 4:35 to play in the third. That’s when they noticed the change. The Sixers went scoreless for a two-minute stretch. The Celtics failed to hit a field goal during that stretch (0 for 4), but they scored six points off free throws. The Sixers didn’t take advantage of the Celtics' shooting skid; instead, they hit one, too (0 for 3 from the field, three turnovers). 

“That was our chance to build that lead,” Redick said. “We were getting stops and we couldn’t get anything going offensively. It seemed like we were stuck at 65 for what seemed like forever. It was a seven-point game and we were getting stops and we never could push it past that, and it ended up being a three-point game to start the fourth. That was for sure when the momentum started shifting.”

The Sixers shot 39.1 percent from the field in the fourth while the Celtics were an efficient 64.7 percent. The Sixers fell flat from long range (1 for 6) and took just two free throws. The Celtics, meanwhile, scored 12 points from three (4 for 8) and went 7 for 7 at the line. In addition to Irving's offensive burst, Al Horford and Shane Larkin combined for 17 points in the quarter. 

“My mind goes to stops and not fouling,” Brett Brown said. “I think we fouled too much.” 

This loss emphasizes the importance of holding onto a lead when it’s in the Sixers' grasp instead of having to play catch up. Not when their roster is newly constructed and they are looking to young players down the stretch. Not when they are facing a player like Irving who can take over at will, especially when he sees a window of opportunity. 

“Come on, that’s winning time,” Irving said of the fourth.