Nikola Vucevic

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

USA Today Images

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-Magic 5 things: A chance to end the 5-game skid

Sixers-Magic 5 things: A chance to end the 5-game skid

The Sixers (18-34) close out their latest back-to-back set when they travel to face the Orlando Magic (20-34) at the Amway Center (7 p.m./CSN, and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. More misery
Remember when the Sixers went 10-5 in January for their best month in years and had a legitimate outside chance at the playoffs? Seems like a long time ago.

Since the calendar flipped to February, all of that momentum has disappeared. The Sixers suffered a 111-103 loss on Wednesday, their fifth straight defeat to open the month.

With Joel Embiid still sidelined by a knee contusion, defense again proved to be the Sixers' downfall. They allowed the Spurs to shoot 52.7 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from three-point range.

The Sixers should have an easier time defending a banged-up Magic team that ranks 29th in scoring, 24th in field goal percentage and 28th in three-point percentage.

2. Showcase special
The Sixers' offense was not an issue against the Spurs, mainly because of a strong effort from Jahlil Okafor.

In another start for Embiid, Okafor came out of the blocks strong and never looked back. The center scored 20 points on 5 of 10 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots.

The second-year center turned in the quality effort as trade rumors continue to swirl around him.

“I'm a Sixer right now and we have a big game tomorrow night (in Orlando)," Okafor said (see story). "I am right now. I'm going to keep doing what I do. I work as hard as I can for this team and this organization and we'll see what happens.”

Okafor won't be the only player thriving in the face of trade speculation when the Sixers and Magic take the court.

Orlando forward Serge Ibaka's name has recently surfaced in trade chatter. In a Jan. 30 report, it was stated that the Magic are "picking up" their efforts to trade Ibaka, a free agent after this season.

In the time since the report, Ibaka has been on a tear. He's scored at least 20 points in three of the Magic's four games, including a 28-point, 8-rebound showing against Houston on Tuesday.

3. Vucevic vengeance
One player you can pretty much book for a big game on Thursday night is Nik Vucevic, mostly because, well, he's playing the Sixers.

For those of you who forgot, Vucevic was selected with the 16th overall pick by the Sixers in the 2011 draft. The USC product turned in a promising rookie season before falling out of then-head coach Doug Collins' good graces for Lavoy Allen (50th overall pick that same draft) during the playoffs. Vucevic was then shipped to Orlando that summer as part of the infamous Andrew Bynum deal.

Since that time, Vucevic has made it his goal to dominate the Sixers every chance he gets. He has averaged 19.7 points and 13.1 rebounds (his highest mark against any opponent) against the Sixers during his career.

This season has been no different as Vooch racked up 24 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in the season's first matchup on Nov. 1. He followed that up with 12 points, 11 boards and five assists off the bench in the second meeting on Dec. 2 — both Magic wins.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Richaun Holmes (upper-respiratory infection), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Aaron Gordon (foot), Jodie Meeks (thumb) and C.J. Wilcox (Achilles) are out for the Magic.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost four straight games to the Magic.

• The Magic have lost 16 of their last 21 games overall.

• In five career games against the Magic, Okafor has averaged 19.6 points and 5.6 rebounds.

Sixers-Magic 5 things: Down a center for 1st back-to-back set

Sixers-Magic 5 things: Down a center for 1st back-to-back set

The Sixers (0-2) are still searching for their first win of the season after getting blown out by the Hawks over the weekend.

They will get another shot at victory No. 1 when they host the fellow winless Orlando Magic (0-3) on Tuesday night (7 p.m./CSN).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. One big in, one big out
The Sixers' first back-to-back set of the season poses challenges for a team dealing with so many injuries and minutes restrictions. That's especially the case for the squad's big men.

With two games in as many nights on tap, the Sixers have opted to split up their centers (see story). Joel Embiid will play on Tuesday vs. the Magic and Jahlil Okafor will rest. The two will swap roles on Wednesday for the Sixers' first road game of the season in Charlotte.

“In regards to back-to-backs, we always felt that was going to be a challenge,” Brett Brown said. “This particular one, given Jahlil’s sort of infant stages into becoming healthier, we’re going to not use up his minutes tomorrow night and then spend our money more in Charlotte.”

Before they get on the floor with the Hornets, the Sixers better hope Embiid's presence is enough against the new-look Magic. Embiid, who is averaging 17.0 points and 4.5 rebounds through two games, will have his hands full inside with the combination of Nik Vucevic, Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo.

2. Saric searching for shot
Dario Saric’s shooting has been bad to start his NBA career. Really bad.

The Croatian has made just four of his 21 attempts through two games (19.0 percent). That includes Saric shooting 1 for 7 (14.3 percent) from three-point range.

Saric admitted his troubles haven’t been because of game speed or physicality. It’s actually the location of his touches on the court throwing off his game.

“It’s hard because here the pick-and-roll game is a little bit down the three-point line,” Saric explained after Monday’s practice (see story). “In Europe, when you play pick-and-roll games and you make a screen, you are already on the three-point line. … I played 10 years like that. I’m already on three-point, I will shoot the ball. But here when you make a screen, you turn around, you are on long two. That I can say is the bad shot in the NBA game.”

Perhaps Saric, who was drafted 12th overall by Orlando in 2014 before being dealt to the Sixers, can find his touch from long range against a Magic team that allowed 11 three-pointers in a 105-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.

3. On point
Speaking of players involved in that 2014 draft-night trade between the Sixers and Magic, Elfrid Payton was on the other end. The point guard was shipped to Orlando as part of the deal after being selected 10th overall by the Sixers that year.

Payton has had an up-and-down career to this point. He showed some flashes under Scott Skiles. However, Payton always seemed like the former head coach’s fiery personality rubbed him the wrong way and possibly hindered his consistency.

That hasn’t been the case in the small sample size so far with new head man Frank Vogel. Payton is averaging 13.7 points, 5.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds a game in three contests in 2016-17.

Payton will have to deal with the veteran Sergio Rodriguez, who is off to a strong start for the Sixers. Despite not playing in the NBA for the past six seasons, Rodriguez has jumped right back in with averages of 13.0 points, 7.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds in 30.5 minutes a night.

4. Injuries
Okafor (knee/rest) will sit out against the Magic. Ben Simmons (foot), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are also out.

Former Sixer Jodie Meeks (foot) is out for the Magic.

5. This and that
• The Sixers lost three of the four matchups against the Magic last season.

• Payton has averaged 10.6 points, 7.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds against the Sixers during his career.

• The Sixers are averaging a league-low 84.5 points through two games.

• Magic center Vucevic is putting up 20.0 points on 55 percent shooting and 13.2 rebounds in 12 games against his former team.