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Best of NBA: Surging Cavaliers drop Hawks for 10th straight win

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Best of NBA: Surging Cavaliers drop Hawks for 10th straight win

ATLANTA -- LeBron James had yet another double-double, took command of a challenging defensive assignment and stuck around to see the end of the Cleveland Cavaliers' 10th straight victory, 121-114 over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.

James had 24 points and 12 assists, and Kevin Love had 25 points and 16 rebounds to help Cleveland hold off Atlanta to extend the NBA's longest active winning streak. It was James' 14th double-double in 22 games.

James had frequent exchanges with the officials but avoided serious confrontations following his first ejection in 1,082 career games Tuesday night in a home victory over Miami.

Dennis Schroder, who led Atlanta with 27 points, blew past Cavaliers guard Jose Calderon to score on three straight layups to give Atlanta a 67-58 lead late in the first half. James took over primary defensive duties on Schroder to close the half and continued covering the super-quick guard in the second half.

The Cavaliers, who lost 117-115 at home to the Hawks on Nov. 4, ended a streak of three straight losses in the series (see full recap).

Barton nets 37, game-winner for Nuggets
DENVER -- Will Barton capped a career-high 37 points with a driving layup with 3.2 seconds left and the Denver Nuggets overcame the loss of Nikola Jokic to beat the Chicago Bulls 111-110 on Thursday night.

Gary Harris added 21 points, and Kenneth Faried had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Denver.

Jokic went down in with 44 seconds left in the second quarter when he drove to the basket and stepped on Jerian Grant's foot. Jokic hit two free throws before heading to the locker room with an obvious limp. He didn't return in the second half.

Lauri Markanen and Robin Lopez had 20 points each for Chicago, and Kris Dunn added 19. The Bulls have lost seven straight to finish 2-13 in November and drop to 3-17 overall.

The Bulls, who led for most of the game, took advantage of Jokic's absence and led 108-105 in the final minute. Barton was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws to tie it, then made 1 of 2 to give Denver a one-point lead with 20 seconds left.

Dunn gave Chicago the lead with a layup with 9.6 seconds left, but Barton drove the length of the court and hit a reverse layup.

Chicago led 68-62 at halftime but Denver rallied to briefly take the lead in the third quarter. Grant hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third to put the Bulls ahead 92-91 (see full recap).

Middleton, Bucks snap Blazers’ win streak
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Khris Middleton had 26 points while Eric Bledsoe had 25 and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Trail Blazers 103-91 on Thursday night to snap a three-game Portland winning streak.

Giannis Antetokounmpo added 20 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots for the Bucks, who have won their last four games against the Blazers.

The Bucks led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter and the Blazers struggled to keep up. Portland was also vexed by turnovers, with 19 compared to Milwaukee's nine.

Jusuf Nurkic led Portland with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Damian Lillard added 18 points.

Lillard's layup closed Portland within 94-81 with 5:52 left and it appeared the Blazers may rally, but Middleton answered with an 11-foot jumper. Portland's frustration was clear when Nurkic and coach Terry Stotts both earned technicals for a foul call on Nurkic on a block.

Portland was coming off a 4-1 trip, including a 103-91 victory over the Knicks on Monday. The Blazers also saw the return of forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who missed 13 games with a right ankle injury (see full recap).

Should Ben Simmons shoot right-handed? He doesn't seem to think so

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Should Ben Simmons shoot right-handed? He doesn't seem to think so

For those sharing the conspiracy theory that Ben Simmons should be shooting with his right hand, prepare to be disappointed.

The Rookie of the Year appeared to shoot down the notion on Twitter, commenting on a story suggesting the Sixers’ point guard is shooting with the wrong hand.

This story stemmed from a piece by The New York Times basketball writer Marc Stein, but questions of the 22-year-old’s handedness were first posted by Kevin O’Connor — formerly of SB Nation, now with The Ringer. O’Connor has been charting Simmons’ shots since LSU. In a feature for SB Nation back in 2016, O’Connor noted that Simmons used his right hand on 81.5 percent of his shots. That’s pretty much reverse for any lefty currently in the NBA.

Since O’Connor first presented this theory, it’s picked up some steam.

Below is a video of Simmons taking free throws right-handed during warm-ups last season.

You have to admit, it looks pretty smooth. It’s a tough angle, but his elbow looks more tucked in than when he shoots with his left. His wrist action and follow through look smoother as well. 

Let’s also not forget when Simmons was given the chance to throw the first pitch at a Phillies game earlier this season.

That’s a pretty nice right-handed strike.

His free throw shooting was an issue last season. As dominant as Simmons was at times, he shot just 56 percent from the line. In a game against the Wizards on Nov. 11, the Sixers held a big lead. Sensing the game was slipping away, Washington head coach Scott Brooks went to the hack-a-Ben strategy. Simmons took 29 free throws, hitting just 15. It allowed the Wizards to make the game a little too close for comfort.

With all that said, there have been instances where Simmons has showed promise with his left-handed shot. In the playoffs, Simmons shot 70 percent from the line.

He’s also flashed the ability to shoot in practice …

… and in games …

Would Simmons be better if he shot with his right hand? If Simmons’ reaction to that notion is any indication, we may never know.

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Sixers remain quiet as contenders make their case for Eastern Conference supremacy

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Sixers remain quiet as contenders make their case for Eastern Conference supremacy

These are truly the dog days of summer when it comes to the NBA.

Players are likely either putting in work with daily workouts or enjoying some vacation time before things get cranked back up in the fall.

However, those aren’t the only activities that are presented with that extra free time. There is also more opportunity for guys to do some boasting about what is to come. After all, they’re probably feeling good about the progress made during the offseason and the recent 2018-19 schedule release has put a jolt in their system.

Unless you’re a Sixer. They’ve remained relatively silent as members of one team after another have stated their case for the Eastern Conference crown now that LeBron James took his talents to Hollywood.

Boston swingman Jaylen Brown openly laid claim to the East during an appearance last week on Portland guard C.J. McCollum’s Pull Up podcast.

“Oh, we're getting to the Finals. No question about it,” Brown said.

And Brown made it clear that he didn’t feel that way about his Celtics just because James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, he said the C’s were going win next season regardless of whether James stayed in the Eastern Conference or not.

“I hate how everybody is like, ‘Oh, LeBron's gone in the East,’” Brown said. “I know he did have a strong hold on the East for the last seven years, but he barely got us out of there this year. And our mindset was like, ‘Man, he’s not beating us again.’”

That’s pretty bold, but the Celtics have a right to feel good about themselves. They were on the cusp of reaching the NBA Finals a year ago and are getting All-Star reinforcements back in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

New Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez was a bit more diplomatic with his expectations for next season. Still, he presented the case for his squad to become the new big dogs in the East.

“We definitely think the East is wide open,” Lopez said to Hoopshype a week ago. “It’s going to be such a fun, exciting time in the East and it’s going to be super competitive. There are a lot of teams that can do [big] things, from Toronto to Boston to Philly — you just go down the list and it’s clear that the East is as exciting as it’s been in a long time. I think we’re very confident that we can, no question, win the East.”

Even Washington Wizards guard John Wall explained why his group could be the one to rise to the top of the conference.

“I feel like we’re all equal,” Wall told Yahoo! Sports. “None of them won a championship. This is no knock on no other team. Don’t get me wrong. Boston is a hell of a team. Philly has great young talent with those guys (Joel) Embiid, (Ben) Simmons. And Toronto, losing DeMar (DeRozan), they still get Kawhi (Leonard). Y’all might have been to the Eastern Conference finals, where we haven’t been to, but none of y’all were going to the Finals. It was one guy going to the Finals. Ain’t nobody separated from nothing. I know one guy that separated himself from the Eastern Conference every year and that was LeBron James and the Cavs. Other than that … if you lose in the second round or the conference finals, you still didn’t get to your ultimate goal.”

Throughout all of the chest-puffing discussions, the Sixers haven’t made a peep. Not even the 7-foot-2 All-Star known for trash-talking anyone in sight. Embiid barely gave a response to No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton when the rookie recently decided to draw himself dunking on the Sixers’ center.

It’s a stark departure from Embiid’s normal back-and-forth nature, but it’s safe to assume that the big man and his team will wait until they step on the court to let their game do the talking.

With a healthy offseason under his belt for the first time as a professional, you can bet that Embiid — and in turn the Sixers — will have plenty to say at that time.

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