The judges give Raptors a perfect 10

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The judges give Raptors a perfect 10

INDIANAPOLIS -- DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points, Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and 17 rebounds, and the Toronto Raptors rallied late to get past the Indiana Pacers 106-99 on Thursday night for their 10th straight victory.

The Raptors need one more win to tie the franchise's longest winning streak. They haven't lost since Feb. 23 and broke a tie with the 2016-17 squad for longest road winning streak, which is now at eight.

But it sure wasn't easy on a night Darron Collison scored 22 points and Al Jefferson had a season-high 20 for Indiana.

The Pacers took the lead late in the first quarter and didn't trail again until midway through the fourth.

Toronto finally seized control when C.J. Miles made three 3-pointers during a 12-3 spurt that turned an 85-81 deficit into a 93-88 lead with 5:21 to play. The Raptors never trailed again and led by as much as eight twice in the final eight minutes.

Indiana got within 102-99 in the final minute, but the Raptors closed it out when DeRozan stole an inbounds pass and scored on a breakaway dunk with 10.5 seconds left (see full recap).

Spurs edge Pelicans, move into 8th seed
SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points, Dejounte Murray had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame another late rally to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 98-93 on Thursday night.

New Orleans was playing hours after learning Pelicans owner Tom Benson had died. Benson was hospitalized with the flu on Feb. 16 and never recovered. The 90-year-old native of San Antonio owned both the Pelicans and the Saints.

"For us, the motivation is that we still want to try to do everything we possibly can to try to accomplish the goal that he set out for us. That's to try to put ourselves in a position to win a championship," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.

Anthony Davis finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, but fouled out after playing 36 minutes. New Orleans remained in fifth in the West.

San Antonio moved into eighth in the West, holding the final playoff berth after sitting in 10th earlier this week.

The Spurs had dropped out of playoff position in part after blowing a 17-point lead to the Los Angeles Lakers and a 15-points advantage against New Orleans.

New Orleans again erased a 15-point deficit to pull within 91-90, but Davis fouled out soon after.

Jrue Holiday added 24 points for New Orleans (see full recap).

Harden, Gorden help Rockets hold off Clippers
HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 24 points, Eric Gordon added 23 and the Houston Rockets outlasted the Los Angeles Clippers for a 101-96 victory on Thursday night.

The Clippers scored six straight points, with four from Austin Rivers, to cut the lead to a basket with less than a minute left. But on the next possession, Harden stepped back and knocked down a long 2-pointer with Rivers in his face to make it 100-96.

Rivers missed a 3-pointer after that before Harden made one of two free throws with 6.2 seconds left to secure the victory.

It's Houston's third straight win and snaps a three-game winning streak for the Clippers.

Tobias Harris led the Clippers with 29 points and Rivers had 20 (see full recap).

Mike Scott's heel injury could be a big problem for Sixers vs. Raptors

Mike Scott's heel injury could be a big problem for Sixers vs. Raptors

CAMDEN, N.J. — Considering the depth of the Toronto Raptors, the Sixers possibly missing a key part of their bench is not ideal.

Mike Scott, who is essentially the team’s sixth man, is listed as day to day with a heel contusion and plantar fasciitis. Scott left Game 5 Tuesday against the Nets late in the second quarter and did not return. We’ll know more about his status for Game 1 when the official injury report comes out at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

When asked if he was game planning for Scott to play, Brett Brown bluntly said, “no.” Brown mentioned it would be a “blessing” if Scott were to be available.

While his veteran savvy, toughness and shot-making — especially in Game 4 — will clearly be missed, Scott’s versatility will be crucial in this series. With Boban Marjanovic, it’s hard to know what you’ll get. He was excellent in the Brooklyn series, but could be a poor matchup against Serge Ibaka, who the Raptors have been using as their backup five.

Scott offers the ability to play backup five if Marjanovic struggles. Ibaka is lethal in pick-and-pop situation with his midrange jumper. While Ibaka may be tough for Scott to deal with in the post, he’s a much better option for pick-and-roll defense.

Scouting Kawhi

Kawhi Leonard is really freaking good. That’s not breaking news, but it’s a point being drilled into the Sixers as the team is being pelted with questions about the All-Star forward.

Leonard is arguably the best two-way player in the league and has killed the Sixers this season, averaging 30.3 points a game and tormenting Ben Simmons defensively.

Brown, who was with the Spurs as an assistant when Leonard was coming up, acknowledged some of the issues Simmons and the Sixers have had against Leonard. Brown didn’t want to put too much stock into the regular season matchups, but has ideas on how to help his young point guard deal with the former Defensive Player of the Year.

“Obviously, I’m not going to tell you,” Brown said. “Maybe the knowledge I have coaching him [will help]. The history we’ve had having a little bit of success [against him], some unsuccessful that we have to do better at. We hope that we’re studied. I believe we are. He still remains an All-Star and one of the great players in the NBA for a reason.”

After having arguably the best regular season of his career, Leonard has carried it over into the postseason. He averaged 27.8 points a game in the Raptors’ first-round matchup against the Magic while shooting 56 percent from the field and a ridiculous 54 percent on 5.2 three per game.

“Kawhi is a bonafide superstar in this league,” JJ Redick said. “There’s only a handful of guys like that spread over 30 teams much less 16 teams in the playoffs.”

Does he look all the way back from the quad issues he dealt with in San Antonio?

“I think he looks better,” Redick said. “Yeah, he’s pretty damn good.”

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Sixers very well represented among NBA's most popular jerseys

Sixers very well represented among NBA's most popular jerseys

LeBron James may be king but the Sixers have an impressive triumvirate of their own when it comes to jersey sales for the year.

The NBA and its players association announced the top 15 most popular jerseys on Thursday for the 2018-19 regular season and the Sixers are well represented.

James' Los Angeles Lakers jersey comes in the top spot followed by Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kyrie Irving. Sixers big man Joel Embiid rounds out the top five. The five spot is the highest Embiid has ranked in any season in terms of jerseys sold.

And while no other NBA team has more than two players in the top 15 of sales, the Sixers have three guys in the top 10.

Ben Simmons comes in at ninth on the list behind James Harden (6), Russell Westbrook (7) and Kevin Durant (8). Simmons is followed by his newer teammate in Jimmy Butler at the 10 spot.

In terms of total team sales, the Sixers rank fourth behind only the Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics. 

Dwyane Wade, Paul George, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard and Jayson Tatum round out the top 15, respectively.

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