Best of NBA: Shorthanded Nets beat Thunder in Mexico City

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Best of NBA: Shorthanded Nets beat Thunder in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY -- Caris Levert scored 19 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 17 and short-handed Brooklyn overcame another strong performance by Russell Westbrook to beat the Oklahoma Thunder 100-95 on Thursday night in the first of the Nets' two games in Mexico City.

Westbrook had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Allen Crabbe had 15 points for Brooklyn, playing without guards Jeremy Lin and D'Angelo Russell because of injuries and without power forward Trevor Booker after he was traded to Philadelphia before the game.

The Nets improved to 10-14 with their second straight victory and third in four games. They will play the Miami Heat on Saturday at Arena Ciudad de Mexico. The Thunder (11-13) had won three in a row.

Steven Adams added 12 points for the Thunder, and Carmelo Anthony had 11 on 5-for-20 shooting. Oklahoma City also missed key players Paul George (right calf contusion) and Jerami Grant (left hip contusion) (see full recap).

Rockets pull away from Jazz for 8th straight win
SALT LAKE CITY -- James Harden scored 29 points and Ryan Anderson added 23 to lead the Houston Rockets to a 112-101 victory over the Utah Jazz on Thursday night.

Chris Paul added 18 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for the Rockets. Houston (19-4) won its eighth straight game and for the 14th time in 15. The Rockets improved to 8-0 with Paul in the lineup.

Donovan Mitchell had 26 points, Alec Burks added 17 and Thabo Sefolosha chipped in 14 to lead the Jazz. Utah (13-13) dropped its second straight game.

Utah played from behind throughout much of the first half after struggling with turnovers and erratic shooting. The Jazz turned it over eight times before halftime, leading to several key baskets for the Rockets.

Houston surged in front after Rudy Gobert committed back-to-back turnovers less than 2 minutes into the first quarter. Utah rallied twice to take the lead, but both runs were answered with bigger ones from the Rockets (see full recap).

Beal scores 34 points as Wizards top Suns
PHOENIX -- Bradley Beal scored 34 points to help the Washington Wizards beat the Phoenix Suns 109-99 on Thursday night.

Two nights after scoring 51 points in a victory at Portland, Beal had 22 points in the first half.

Former Sun Markieff Morris added 21 points, and the Wizards made 51 percent of their shots. Washington has won three of four.

T.J. Warren had 23 points for Phoenix. The Suns played their first game with star guard Devin Booker sidelined with a groin injury. Booker is expected to miss two to three weeks with the left adductor strain. He was hurt Tuesday night in Toronto.

Phoenix cut Washington's lead to two at 98-96 on Alex Len's dunk with 5:46 to play. The Suns missed two chances to draw even, and Washington outscored them 11-3 the rest of the way (see full recap).

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: Bradley Beal's career-high 51 points ignite Wizards' win

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Best of NBA: Bradley Beal's career-high 51 points ignite Wizards' win

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Bradley Beal scored a career-high 51 points, and the Washington Wizards bounced back from a demoralizing loss the night before to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 106-92 on Tuesday night.

Beal made 21 field goals, also a career high, and the Wizards led by as many as 23 points. He hit five 3-pointers.

Damian Lillard finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for the Blazers, who have lost three straight at home after returning from a 4-1 trip.

Portland was hurt midway through the final quarter when center Jusuf Nurkic limped off the court and to the locker room after appearing to injure his right ankle. He had 15 points and nine rebounds before leaving.

The Wizards were coming off a 116-69 loss Monday night at Utah, the second-largest losing margin in franchise history (see full recap).

Westbrook's triple-double sparks Thunder comeback
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 34 points in his seventh triple-double of the season, and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied from 17 points down in the second half to defeat the Utah Jazz 100-94 on Tuesday night.

Westbrook finished with 14 assists and 13 rebounds. Paul George scored 21 points, Steven Adams had 20 points and nine rebounds and Carmelo Anthony added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Thunder, who won their third straight.

Rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points and Joe Ingles added 16 for the Jazz, who had won six straight and scored at least 106 points in each game.

The Jazz led 47-39 at halftime, and they opened things up even more early in the third quarter. A driving layup by Alec Burks put the Jazz up 72-55 as the Thunder continued to misfire on open shots.

Westbrook closed out the third quarter strong and helped the Thunder cut Utah's lead to 80-68 by the end of the period. He scored 11 points in the quarter.

Oklahoma City cut the deficit to six points early in the fourth quarter before Westbrook re-entered the game after a brief rest. The Thunder finally took the lead on a layup by Westbrook with about four minutes remaining. A tip-in by Adams with 43.2 seconds left put the Thunder up five (see full recap).

Lowry, DeRozan lead Raptors past Suns
TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry had 20 points and 10 assists, DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Phoenix Suns 126-113 on Tuesday night, improving their NBA-best home record to 9-1.

Suns guard Devin Booker had to be carried off the floor by two teammates after suffering an apparent leg injury with 2:40 remaining and Phoenix trailing by 11. Booker froze in pain while playing defense and did not move as trainers came out to examine him.

Booker, who shook off a 2-for-11 start to score a season-high 46 points Monday in a win at Philadelphia, shot 0 for 7 in the first half Tuesday. He finished 4 for 15 with 19 points, including 10 of 12 from the foul line.

Serge Ibaka scored 19 points and OG Anunoby matched his career high with 16 as Toronto won its fourth straight.

The Raptors, who have scored 100 or more points in 10 consecutive games, almost reached triple digits in three quarters Tuesday. Toronto led 97-79 heading to the fourth and weren't seriously challenged in the final frame.

Greg Monroe had 11 points and 10 rebounds as the weary Suns wrapped up a six-game, 10-day road trip with their seventh of 15 back-to-backs this season. Phoenix is 3-4 in the second game of back-to-backs.

Alex Len scored 13 points and Troy Daniels and Josh Jackson each had 13 for Phoenix, which went 2-4 on its trip (see full recap).