Charlotte Hornets

NBA Notes: Nerlens Noel to have thumb surgery, miss several weeks

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NBA Notes: Nerlens Noel to have thumb surgery, miss several weeks

BOSTON -- Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says forward Nerlens Noel will have surgery for a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Carlisle made the announcement Wednesday before the Mavericks game with the Boston Celtics.

Noel will undergo the procedure in Cleveland later this week. Carlisle said he is then expected to be out for several weeks, but couldn't offer a specific timetable for his return.

Noel hasn't played since Nov. 22. He's appeared in 18 games with six starts this season, averaging 4.0 points and 4.1 rebounds.

Cavaliers: Thomas plays 4-on-4 as he nears return
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cavaliers All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas played 4-on-4 on Wednesday, a significant step in his recovery from a hip injury.

Thomas, who has yet to make his debut with Cleveland, scrimmaged along with injured forward Tristan Thompson, rookies Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic, and members of the coaching staff.

With coach Tyronn Lue and members of the team's front office watching intently from behind the basket, Thomas moved freely and didn't appear to have any restrictions during the half-court workout that took place following the team's morning shootaround.

Lue reported that Thomas "looked good" and absorbed some contact. It was the second straight day Thomas scrimmaged.

However, Lue did not provide any update on when Thomas might play in a game. Lue planned to check with the team's medical staff to find out the next step in Thomas' recovery program, which the 28-year-old has described as his "slow grind" (see full story).

Suns: Booker (groin) expected to miss 2-3 weeks
PHOENIX -- Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker is expected to be sidelined two to three weeks because of a groin injury.

The Suns said Wednesday that Booker strained his left adductor late in a 126-113 loss in Toronto on Tuesday night and would have an MRI. Booker froze in place near midcourt, and trainers came out to examine him before two teammates awkwardly carried him off the floor.

Booker had 19 points against the Raptors after scoring a season-high 46 points Monday night in a victory in Philadelphia.

The 21-year-old Booker is 10th in the NBA in scoring with a 24.3 average. In 25 games, he's also averaging 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He had a career-high 70 last season at Boston.

Coming off a six-game trip, the Suns return to play Thursday night against Washington.

Hornets: Coach Clifford out indefinitely with ‘health issue’
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- Hornets coach Steve Clifford will be away from the team for an undetermined period of time to deal with a "health issue."

The team made the announcement Wednesday in a release.

The 56-year-old Clifford missed Monday night's game against Orlando because he was not feeling well. Associate head coach Stephen Silas filled in for Clifford against the Magic.

Clifford has battled heart problems in the past, but a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press the issue was not a heart-related. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team has not released details of Clifford's health issue.

The team said there is no timetable for Clifford's return and that officials would have no further comment.

Silas will continue to coach the team with Clifford out. The Hornets host Golden State Wednesday night.

"I just want to send him my best wishes," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Obviously I have been through some issues, and I don't know what his health issues are, but it's no fun. I'm wishing him well and I hope he gets back on the sideline soon. But more importantly I hope that he's healthy" (see full story).

Nets: Team keeping focus on Thunder in Mexico
MEXICO CITY -- No earthquakes or volcanos are on the back of the mind of the Brooklyn Nets players and coaches ahead of their regular-season game Thursday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Mexico City. At least publicly.

The game will be the 25th in NBA history South of the Border, the most for any country besides the United States and Canada. It also is the first since a 7.1 earthquake on Sept. 19 killed over 300 people, most of them in the nation's capital.

"We talked about it and we talked about precautions with the NBA security on what we should do it happens", Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "We are affected by it because it was big news in the U.S. and we saw the pain and suffering and sympathize with the victims. It was very moving to see those images, I can't imagine going through something like that".

The quake was the deadliest in Mexico since the one on 1985 on the same date killed thousands and it came less than two weeks after another powerful quake caused 90 deaths in the country's south.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick expressed relief to leave the country after a regular-season game against the Oakland Raiders played in at Azteca stadium.

"I think we're fortunate there was no volcano eruptions or earthquakes, or anything else while we were down there. You have two NFL franchises in an area that I don't know how stable the geological plates that were below us, but nothing happened, so that was good", Belichick said (see full story).

Best of NBA: Cavaliers hold off Hornets for 3rd straight win

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Best of NBA: Cavaliers hold off Hornets for 3rd straight win

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- LeBron James scored 31 points, Kevin Love had 22 points and 10 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers continued their dominance against the Charlotte Hornets with a 115-107 victory Wednesday night.

The Cavaliers have won seven straight against the Hornets and 11 of 12. James is 40-6 in the regular season against Charlotte.

Kyle Korver's 3-pointer with 1:06 left in the third quarter put the Cavaliers ahead for good at 86-84. They extended the lead to 10 points three times in the fourth quarter, first when James drove into the lane and hit a stepback baseline jumper to make it 105-95.

Jeff Green added 13 points for Cleveland, Korver had 11 and J.R. Smith 10. The Cavaliers have won three straight and four of five.

The loss was Charlotte's fifth in a row since a five-point win at Milwaukee on Nov. 1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist shot 10 of 14 from the field and led Charlotte with a season-high 22 points, three shy of his career best. Point guard Kemba Walker had 20.

Hornets guard Nicolas Batum played his first game of the season after a tearing a ligament in his left elbow last month. He started and scored 16 points in 32 minutes, including seven straight in the second half as the Hornets took a 58-52 lead (see full recap).

Raptors ride hot 3-point shooting to victory
NEW ORLEANS -- DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points and the Toronto Raptors kept hitting 3s to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 125-116 on Wednesday night.

The Raptors shot 16 for 34 on 3-pointers, with C.J. Miles going 5 for 9.

Kyle Lowry had 22 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 21 and Miles 17 for Toronto. Serge Ibaka added 12 points and Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet each had 10.

DeMarcus Cousins scored 25 points for the Pelicans and Anthony Davis had 19.

New Orleans had a 64-42 scoring advantage in the paint, but couldn't match Toronto's outside shooting. The Raptors shot 59 percent overall and won for the fourth time in five games.

The Pelicans lost for the second time in their last seven games.

Toronto turned a one-point halftime edge into a 98-86 lead after three quarters, boosted by DeRozan's 11 points.

Lowry scored on an offensive rebound and Miles made a 3-pointer as Toronto built the lead to 110-93 early in the fourth quarter (see full recap).

Pacers build big lead early, hold on late for win
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Darren Collison scored a season-high 30 points, Victor Oladipo had 21 and the Indiana Pacers built an early lead before holding off a late rally to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 116-113 on Wednesday night.

Collison added eight assists, made all 12 of his foul shots and connected on 8 of 13 from the field, including 2 of 4 from outside the arc.

Memphis lost its third straight. It had a chance to tie it after a review of an out-of-bounds call gave the Grizzlies the ball with 9 seconds left. Marc Gasol's 3-pointer with 3 seconds remaining was off the mark.

Gasol led Memphis with 35 points and 13 rebounds. Tyreke Evans added 18 points and nine assists, while Chandler Parsons scored 13 points.

Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 16 points for Indiana, including a 3-pointer that momentarily stalled a fourth-quarter surge by Memphis.

The Grizzlies trailed by 17 early in the fourth but scored 10 straight points to cut the deficit to 105-98 before Bogdanovic's 3.

Memphis played without starting point guard Mike Conley, who has a sore left Achilles tendon. Despite shooting well at times, Memphis' offense seemed in disarray and committed fifteen turnovers (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Green, Beal ejected in Warriors' comeback win over Wizards

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Best of NBA: Green, Beal ejected in Warriors' comeback win over Wizards

OAKLAND, Calif. — Kevin Durant had 31 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to help rally the Golden State Warriors from 18 points down and beat the Washington Wizards 120-117 on Friday night, a game marred by a fight between Golden State's Draymond Green and Washington's Bradley Beal shortly before halftime that led to both being ejected.

Stephen Curry added 20 points and eight assists, hitting two 3s and two free throws in the final minute of the third quarter to get Golden State within 97-87 heading into the final 12 minutes. Then Klay Thompson and Durant made 3s early in the fourth for a four-point game. Thompson scored 18 points.

Durant's jumper with 1:20 to go put Golden State up by five, but the defending champions still needed his two free throws with 9.4 seconds left. John Wall missed an off-balance 3 then Washington couldn't capitalize on one final chance.

David West made two straight baskets for the Warriors midway through the fourth but Otto Porter Jr. hit consecutive 3-pointers for the Wizards, answering a 3 by Durant with a baseline dagger on the way to 29 points for the Wizards.

With 19.5 seconds left in the second quarter, Beal held the front of Green's jersey with his left hand while grabbing Green around the jaw with his right. That enraged Green, who threw his right arm in frustration and wrapped arms with Beal as if hugging, then other players joined the scrum (see full recap).

Towns has 33 and 19 as Timberwolves hold off Thunder
MINNEAPOLIS — When Jimmy Butler was sidelined for two games with an upper respiratory infection, the Minnesota Timberwolves lacked energy and struggled on defense. The end result was a pair of losses by an average of 22 points.

In Butler's return Friday night against Oklahoma City, it was evident just how different a team Minnesota is with him on the court.

Butler scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and helped the Timberwolves hold on for a 119-116 win over the Thunder. His veteran leadership was felt on both ends of the floor for Minnesota, which improved to 3-2.

"He makes a big difference," Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Just having his presence - he's a great leader, does the right things on the floor."

Karl-Anthony Towns had 33 points and 19 rebounds to lead Minnesota. Towns also had arguably his best defensive game of the young season, posting a season-high four blocks (see full recap).

Harden's triple-double lifts Rockets past Hornets 
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni seemed genuinely disappointed his team only attempted 55 3-pointers against the Charlotte Hornets.

"I don't know why we didn't shoot 60," D'Antoni quipped. "We passed up about four."

James Harden had his first triple-double of the season with 27 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, and the Rockets finished 22 of 57 from beyond the 3-point arc in a 109-93 win Friday night.

Houston nearly broke its own NBA regular season records of 24 3-pointers and 61 3-pointers attempted set last December.

Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson led the 3-point barrage. Gordon was 6 of 16 from beyond the arc and had 26 points, while Anderson was 6 of 15 and finished with 21 points (see full recap). 

Efficient Fournier scores 25 as Magic beat Spurs
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) The season is a little more than a week old, but the Orlando Magic continue to shock the NBA.

The Magic buried the San Antonio Spurs 114-87 behind 25 points from Evan Fournier to run their record to an Eastern Conference-best 4-1.

Orlando led by as many as 36 points in a near-perfect performance at both ends of the floor. One week ago, the Magic led the Cleveland Cavaliers by as many as 37 in a 114-93 victory.

Jonathon Simmons  scored 17 points, Aaron Gordon had 16 and Nikola Vucevic scored 15 for the Magic, who closed this one out early. They led by 27 at halftime and pushed the lead to 36 when Fournier conveted a four-point play with just over three minutes left in the third period (see full recap).