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Nuggets make it rain in Milwaukee

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Nuggets make it rain in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- Nikola Jokic had a triple-double wrapped up in the first half, and the Denver Nuggets put together one of the best 3-point shooting nights in league history in a 134-123 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.

Denver matched a franchise record with 24 3-pointers, one shy of the NBA record, on 40 attempts.

Jokic finished with 30 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high 17 assists, reaching a triple-double with 1:54 remaining in the second quarter.

Giannis Antetokounmpo also recorded a triple-double, finishing with 36 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists for his ninth career triple-double, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most in Bucks history.

Gary Harris added 28 points and Jamal Murray had 26 points for the Nuggets, who led by double digits for most of the fourth quarter.

Denver scored 74 points in the first half for its second-highest scoring half of the season. The Nuggets had 82 points in the second half of a 146-114 win over New Orleans on Nov. 17.

It also marked the most points allowed by the Bucks in a half this season (see full recap).

Gibson, Butler spark Timberwolves’ comeback
MINNEAPOLIS -- Taj Gibson scored a season-high 28 points and Jimmy Butler added 24, providing the Minnesota Timberwolves with the production and energy for a 119-111 comeback victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Jeff Teague pitched in 20 points and Jamal Crawford added 15 for the Timberwolves, who rallied from a deficit as large as 15 points in the second quarter and 12 points late in the third to raise their home record to 24-7 on an emotional evening that started with a tribute to former coach and executive Flip Saunders.

Julius Randle had 23 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers before fouling out, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brandon Ingram each scored 17 points.

Ivica Zubac, who went 8 for 8 from the floor for a season-high 19 points, threw down a dunk for a 99-98 lead for the Lakers, but that was essentially their last momentum-creating play of the game.

Butler and Gibson, the former Chicago Bulls teammates, muscled their way to the basket with a fierce determination down the stretch. Butler drove along the baseline and flicked a short pass to Gibson in the lane, where he dropped in a layup and converted a three-point play for a 110-104 lead with 3:59 left.

Then Butler came up with crowd-pleasing blocks of Randle and Isaiah Thomas on consecutive possessions in the closing minutes, putting his stamp on yet another winning performance with his new team (see full recap).

Scuffle, ejections overshadow Davis' monster game

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Scuffle, ejections overshadow Davis' monster game

NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis had 42 points and 15 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Los Angeles Lakers 139-117 on Wednesday night.

Davis went 15 for 18 from the field with three assists, three steals and two blocks. Jrue Holiday had 24 points and 11 assists, and reserve Darius Miller scored 19 points.

It was the highest scoring game of the season for New Orleans, which has won three in a row heading into the All-Star break.

Kyle Kuzma scored 23 points and Brandon Ingram had 21, but Los Angeles surrendered its most points in a regulation game this season. Julius Randle scored 20 points for the Lakers, and Josh Hart had 15.

Los Angeles guard Isaiah Thomas and coach Luke Walton were ejected in the first half. Thomas was involved in a minor altercation with Rajon Rondo late in the first quarter, also resulting in the ejection of the New Orleans guard. Walton was ejected in the second after protesting a technical foul on Kuzma.

Brook Lopez made two 3-pointers during an 11-0 run that got the Lakers within two early in the third. But Nikola Mirotic scored 11 of his 16 points in the quarter, helping the Pelicans to a 103-91 lead heading into the final period.

Davis made three baskets and Mirotic hit a 3-pointer that gave New Orleans a 120-100 lead with seven minutes remaining.

E'Twaun Moore had 14 points for New Orleans, which shot 53.1 percent (53 for 99) from the field. Miller made four of the Pelicans' 14 3s (see full recap).

Jordan has huge night as Clippers stay hot
BOSTON -- DeAndre Jordan had 30 points and 13 rebounds and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Boston Celtics 129-119 on Wednesday night for their fourth victory in five games.

Tobias Harris added 21 points, Danilo Gallinari had 20, and Lou Williams 19.

Kyrie Irving led Boston with 33 points and eight assists. Al Horford had 20 points, and Marcus Morris added 13 points and 11 rebounds. The Celtics lost for the fourth time in five games, a stretch that has seen them fall behind Toronto for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Boston had opened a 99-95 lead early in the final quarter on Terry Rozier's 3 from the left wing before the Clippers went on 10-0 run over a 1:57 stretch.

Williams sparked the spree by scoring the initial six points, with the first 3 coming on a shot from beyond the arc in front of the Celtics' bench. He added a conventional 3-point play after his driving basket.

Los Angeles saw its lead sliced to three twice before Jordan had an alley-oop dunk and Harris followed with a 3-point play with just under three minutes to play.

Williams' 3-point play made it 126-116 in the final two minutes.

In the third quarter, the lead changed hands 10 times in the final 3:11, with the Clippers taking the final one, 93-91, on Harris' 3 from the left wing (see full recap).

Raptors cruise to 7th straight victory
CHICAGO -- Kyle Lowry had 20 points and 10 assists, Serge Ibaka also scored 20 points and the Toronto Raptors cruised into the All-Star break with their seventh straight victory, 122-98 over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

Lowry made four 3-pointers, and he and Ibaka each grabbed seven rebounds.

Jonas Valanciunas added 14 points and nine rebounds to help the Raptors complete a four-game sweep against Chicago even though they only got seven points from four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan. But Toronto shot just over 52 percent against a weak defense, sending the Bulls to their ninth loss in 11 games.

Bobby Portis scored 18 points for Chicago, and Lauri Markkanen had 14s. The Bulls were simply overmatched by the Eastern Conference leaders, even though they had point guard Kris Dunn back in the lineup. He had eight points and three assists in 20 minutes after missing 11 games because of a concussion.

The Raptors took a 61-49 lead to the locker room after outscoring the Bulls by 18 in the second quarter.

DeRozan ended a quiet first half with a neat 12-footer, faking David Nwaba and Justin Holiday while leaning in for the basket as time expired.

The Raptors continued to pull away in the third. Lowry converted a four-point play and answered a three-point play by Markkanen by nailing another 3 to make it 75-57 three minutes into the quarter (see full recap).

Streaking Raptors narrowly avoid disaster

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Streaking Raptors narrowly avoid disaster

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points, Kyle Lowry had 22 and the Toronto Raptors beat the Miami Heat 115-112 on Tuesday night for their sixth straight win.

Toronto (40-16) improved its NBA-best home record to 24-4 and ensured it will be the top team in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break. The Raptors lead Boston (40-18) by 1 1/2 games. Both teams play their final game before the break on Wednesday night.

Serge Ibaka had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who also won six straight between Nov. 25 and Dec. 10 and again between Dec. 13 and 23.

C.J. Miles added 11 points, but the Raptors failed to extend its franchise-record five-game streak of winning by 15 or more points.

Goran Dragic scored 28 points and James Johnson had 16 for the Heat, who lost for the sixth time in seven games. Dwyane Wade had 10 points and 11 rebounds and Hassan Whiteside collected 10 points and 10 boards (see full recap).

New-look Cavs ride LeBron’s 37 points to victory
OKLAHOMA CITY -- LeBron James scored 37 points, and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers got a much different result this time against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 120-112 victory on Tuesday night.

It was Cleveland's second straight win since adding George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. in trades, and their fourth straight victory overall.

J.R. Smith added 18 points for the Cavaliers, who lost to the Thunder 148-124 on Jan. 20 with a very different roster.

Paul George scored 25 points and Carmelo Anthony 24 for the Thunder. Steven Adams added 22 points and 17 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook scored 21 points. Westbrook and Anthony had missed the past two games with sprained ankles.

James scored 14 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, including two 3-pointers, to give Cleveland a 78-68 lead. He was 6 for 6 from the field during that stretch. The Thunder responded with an 8-0 run to get back into the game. Cleveland took a 91-87 edge into the fourth quarter.

The Cavaliers took control in the fourth, and a layup by James after driving on George pushed the Cavaliers ahead 115-106 with 49 seconds to play.

The Thunder trimmed their deficit to five in the final minute and could have come closer, but Alex Abrines missed a 3-pointer, and Nance got free for a dunk to seal the win for Cleveland (see full recap).

Middleton, Bucks notch sluggish win over Hawks
MILWAUKEE -- Khris Middleton had 21 points to lead a balanced attack for the Milwaukee Bucks, and All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo hit two key buckets in the final three-plus minutes to spark a 97-92 win on Tuesday night over the Atlanta Hawks.

Tyler Zeller added 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting in his first game in Milwaukee since joining the team on the road before the trade deadline last week. The Bucks improved to 9-2 since Joe Prunty took over as interim coach following the firing of Jason Kidd, getting back in the race for a top-four playoff seed in the East.

Dennis Schroder scored 18 points for the Hawks, and Ersan Ilyasova had nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. Ilyasova spearheaded a late rally in which Atlanta erased a 12-point deficit and tied it at 84 on Kent Bazemore's 3-pointer with 3:30 left.

Antetokounmpo, who finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds, answered with a mid-range jumper and layup to open an 8-0 run. Schroder and Bazemore then whiffed on open layups following a steal with less than a minute left that could have helped the Hawks mount one last comeback (see full recap).