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Best of NBA: Harden's career-high 56 points lead Rockets past Jazz

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Best of NBA: Harden's career-high 56 points lead Rockets past Jazz

HOUSTON — James Harden scored a career-high 56 points and added 13 assists in just 35 minutes to lead the Houston Rockets to a 137-110 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night.

Harden finished 19 of 25 from the field after missing his last three attempts. The MVP runner-up was a perfect 7 for 7 from beyond the arc until he missed a step-back 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter as the shot clock was about to expire.

Even when the Jazz could deny Harden his shot, he dished it off for someone else to score. Eric Gordon scored 20 points, Trevor Ariza had 14 and Nene scored 13 off the bench.

Harden received a standing ovation from the Toyota Center crowd, which rained down "MVP! MVP!" chants at multiple points during the game. He had 22 points in both the first and third quarters, 30 at halftime and sat for the final 7:32 of the blowout.

Porzingis pours in 40, Knicks come from 19 down to beat Pacers
NEW YORK — Kristaps Porzingis scored a career-high 40 points, carrying the New York Knicks back from a 19-point deficit to a 108-101 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.

Porzingis added eight rebounds and six blocked shots in his seventh 30-point performance in nine games this season.

Rookie Frank Ntilikina made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1:34 remaining as the Knicks won for the fifth time in six games after an 0-3 start. He had 10 points and seven assists off the bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 16 points.

Thaddeus Young scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo had 17 for the Pacers, who led 84-65 with under 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter (see full recap).

Beal scores 38 as Wizards beat Raptors without Wall
TORONTO — Bradley Beal scored 38 points, Otto Porter Jr. had 19 and the Washington Wizards overcame the absence of All-Star point guard John Wall to beat Toronto 107-96 on Sunday night, winning for the second time in 11 meetings with the Raptors.

Marcin Gortat had 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. each scored 10 points for the Wizards, who had lost four of their previous five.

Wall sat out because of a sprained left shoulder sustained in Friday's 130-122 loss to Cleveland. He is expected to return for Tuesday's home game against Dallas.

Toronto lost its starting point guard when Kyle Lowry was ejected with 8:08 remaining in the second quarter after picking up two technical fouls in quick succession for arguing. Lowry finished with two points in 12 minutes (see full recap.) 

Schroeder, Hawks end 8-game skid, beat Cavaliers 
CLEVELAND —Coming off LeBron James' 57-point performance, it appeared the Cavaliers had finally gained some momentum.

A team that hadn't won since its season opener proved otherwise.

Dennis Schroeder scored 28 points and the injury-riddled Atlanta Hawks ended an eight-game losing streak, beating skidding Cleveland 117-115 on Sunday.

The Hawks hadn't won since beating Dallas on Oct. 18 and were missing five players, but the Cavaliers went down to yet another puzzling loss.

James, who had 26 points and 13 rebounds, was soaking his feet in a tub of ice water and had ice wraps on both knees and his right elbow following the game. He didn't have an explanation for why there was no carry-over from Friday's 130-122 win over Washington (see full recap).

Elton Brand and Brett Brown answer questions about Markelle Fultz's shoulder, but many still remain

Elton Brand and Brett Brown answer questions about Markelle Fultz's shoulder, but many still remain

CAMDEN, N.J — Markelle Fultz will see a shoulder specialist for a consultation on Monday in New York, as recommended by his agent Raymond Brothers, Sixers general manager Elton Brand confirmed Tuesday. He won’t participate in team practices or games until that consultation.

That much we know. 

The rest of Fultz’s situation is murkier.

Brand and head coach Brett Brown responded to the many questions about Fultz, but many still remain. Neither knew why Fultz went from saying “everything feels good” on Nov. 6 to seeking outside consultation.

“I’m not sure,” Brand said. “Whatever it is, we’ll support him. We just want the best for him, and we’ll figure out a way to get that out of him.”

It’s possible the normal “bumps and bruises” Brown and Fultz said the 2017 No. 1 pick was dealing with two weeks ago may not have been as innocuous as they sounded then. 

Brand said there had been specific conversations about Fultz’s shoulder, as well as other ailments that he classified as minor — not the kind of things that would keep someone “medically off the court.”

“Yeah, I’m sure there [were conversations]," Brand said. "Other things, too. Other things that players who are playing more than 20 minutes a game complain about or get treatment for.”

However, Brand said this isn't the first time Fultz will see an outside specialist.

“In the last year, yes, he’s seen specialists per Raymond’s recommendation," he said. "I don’t know how much we can talk about, but yes, he’s seen specialists.”

Brown was surprised by the news. He thought the scapular imbalance which sidelined Fultz for 68 games as a rookie was 100 percent healed. 

“It was my understanding that it was pointing in the right direction, that it was good,” Brown said. “I was playing him, he’s lifting weights, it’s all good. So, this situation has come up, and we’ll deal with it.

“This news about his shoulder, it did catch me off guard. But if it’s that real that he needs to go seek further consultation, then we support him. In my eyes, it’s not complicated. That’s what it is, and we’ll support him.” 

The motivation for Brothers seeking a consultation for Fultz remains unclear. Both Brand and Brown said they didn’t want to speculate that there might be a correlation with T.J. McConnell taking Fultz's backup point guard minutes in the Sixers’ win over the Suns on Monday night (see story).

Brand did say he spoke “a little about on-court stuff” with Brothers but that he wanted to focus on Fultz’s medical situation. 

The one obvious answer is who replaces Fultz while he’s out. There’s no question it’s McConnell. Brand wouldn’t entertain the possibility of external options until the Sixers know more.

“We’ll see after the agent-recommended consultation,” Brand said. "We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how he feels and what’s going on. I’m sure T.J. is going to play a lot more minutes. I’m really glad we have a player like T.J. in the fold to be able to step up like I’m sure he will.”

To add another twist to an already bizarre story, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported that Fultz “participated in light shooting with teammates” on Tuesday, though the team did not hold a formal practice. 

The last Fultz-related question Brown answered was about whether he sometimes wishes he could just walk into work and have a normal day.

“Our definition of normal in this building and with our program is probably different than most,” he said. “I’m personally fine with it. You just roll. You have to absorb things and move. ... I think that we’re pretty steady and consistent around here. I hope we are. 

"I’m the head coach, so I hope that is generated, as much as anybody, by me. And we’ll deal with this thing with Markelle accordingly.” 

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Sixers' Markelle Fultz to miss time, see shoulder specialist

Sixers' Markelle Fultz to miss time, see shoulder specialist

Updated: 2:07 p.m.

The Markelle Fultz shoulder saga just took a strange and troubling turn.

At his agent's recommendation, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick is scheduled to see a shoulder specialist Monday in New York and will not participate in practices or games until the evaluation is completed, Sixers general manager Elton Brand confirmed Tuesday.

The news was first reported by The Athletic's David Aldridge.

This is not good.

Drama surrounding Fultz's right shoulder gained serious steam Nov. 12 when the 20-year-old guard had a bizarre hitch in a free throw attempt during the Sixers' 124-114 win over the Heat. Fultz, who put up a concerning jumper a week prior against the Nets, said the ball slipped out of his hand on the inadvertent pump-fake foul shot.

Fultz's routine at the charity stripe then changed last week as he started juggling the ball between his hands, all the way up into his release, starting Friday vs. the Jazz.

Now, at the direction of his agent Raymond Brothers, Fultz will have to miss time as he seeks clarity on his shooting shoulder.

On Nov. 6, Fultz said “everything feels good.”

"For sure," Fultz said. "Nobody’s ever 100 percent healthy in this game. You play five games in seven days, you get bumps and bruises. That’s life in the NBA, that’s what you sign up for when you get here. But I’m working every day to get better.”

The Sixers play Wednesday (vs. Pelicans), Friday (vs. Cavaliers) and Sunday (at Nets), then have two days off before a home game next Wednesday against the Knicks.

Fultz played just 14 games his rookie season, which was marred by injuries and the mysterious shoulder issue. Before the 2017-18 campaign, he suffered a left ankle injury and dealt with soreness in his right knee. Then came the scapular muscle imbalance in his right shoulder during October 2017, forcing him to miss 68 games.

After some early positives with his shooting stroke this season, Fultz has attempted just one three-pointer (which was nearly a full-court heave) over his last 11 games and free throws have become a hurdle of sorts.

Another hurdle Fultz and the Sixers are trying to clear.

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