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Streaking Raptors narrowly avoid disaster

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Streaking Raptors narrowly avoid disaster

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points, Kyle Lowry had 22 and the Toronto Raptors beat the Miami Heat 115-112 on Tuesday night for their sixth straight win.

Toronto (40-16) improved its NBA-best home record to 24-4 and ensured it will be the top team in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break. The Raptors lead Boston (40-18) by 1 1/2 games. Both teams play their final game before the break on Wednesday night.

Serge Ibaka had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who also won six straight between Nov. 25 and Dec. 10 and again between Dec. 13 and 23.

C.J. Miles added 11 points, but the Raptors failed to extend its franchise-record five-game streak of winning by 15 or more points.

Goran Dragic scored 28 points and James Johnson had 16 for the Heat, who lost for the sixth time in seven games. Dwyane Wade had 10 points and 11 rebounds and Hassan Whiteside collected 10 points and 10 boards (see full recap).

New-look Cavs ride LeBron’s 37 points to victory
OKLAHOMA CITY -- LeBron James scored 37 points, and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers got a much different result this time against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 120-112 victory on Tuesday night.

It was Cleveland's second straight win since adding George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. in trades, and their fourth straight victory overall.

J.R. Smith added 18 points for the Cavaliers, who lost to the Thunder 148-124 on Jan. 20 with a very different roster.

Paul George scored 25 points and Carmelo Anthony 24 for the Thunder. Steven Adams added 22 points and 17 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook scored 21 points. Westbrook and Anthony had missed the past two games with sprained ankles.

James scored 14 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, including two 3-pointers, to give Cleveland a 78-68 lead. He was 6 for 6 from the field during that stretch. The Thunder responded with an 8-0 run to get back into the game. Cleveland took a 91-87 edge into the fourth quarter.

The Cavaliers took control in the fourth, and a layup by James after driving on George pushed the Cavaliers ahead 115-106 with 49 seconds to play.

The Thunder trimmed their deficit to five in the final minute and could have come closer, but Alex Abrines missed a 3-pointer, and Nance got free for a dunk to seal the win for Cleveland (see full recap).

Middleton, Bucks notch sluggish win over Hawks
MILWAUKEE -- Khris Middleton had 21 points to lead a balanced attack for the Milwaukee Bucks, and All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo hit two key buckets in the final three-plus minutes to spark a 97-92 win on Tuesday night over the Atlanta Hawks.

Tyler Zeller added 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting in his first game in Milwaukee since joining the team on the road before the trade deadline last week. The Bucks improved to 9-2 since Joe Prunty took over as interim coach following the firing of Jason Kidd, getting back in the race for a top-four playoff seed in the East.

Dennis Schroder scored 18 points for the Hawks, and Ersan Ilyasova had nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. Ilyasova spearheaded a late rally in which Atlanta erased a 12-point deficit and tied it at 84 on Kent Bazemore's 3-pointer with 3:30 left.

Antetokounmpo, who finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds, answered with a mid-range jumper and layup to open an 8-0 run. Schroder and Bazemore then whiffed on open layups following a steal with less than a minute left that could have helped the Hawks mount one last comeback (see full recap).

Source: Nemanja Bjelica will not sign with Sixers, returning to Europe

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Source: Nemanja Bjelica will not sign with Sixers, returning to Europe

There's a reason why the Sixers hadn't announced the acquisition of Nemanja Bjelica.

No dotted line was ever inked.

The free-agent power forward, who had reportedly agreed to a one-year deal earlier this month, informed the Sixers on Tuesday he will not sign and instead return to Europe, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

The 30-year-old Bjelica, who reportedly agreed on the mid-level exception, was seen as a cheaper and younger replacement for Ersan Ilyasova, who signed with the Bucks.

A 6-foot-10, 240-pounder from Serbia, Bjelica played three seasons with the Timberwolves. Last year in Minnesota, he set career highs in minutes (20.5), points per game (6.8), rebounds per game (4.1), three-point percentage (41.5) and three-pointers made (76).

Along with Ilyasova, the Sixers also lost key bench contributor Marco Belinelli in free agency. They acquired Wilson Chandler in a trade with the Nuggets and may possibly go forward with internal options to fill out pieces to their second unit.

The team on Monday officially re-signed big man Amir Johnson. It also has some size and shooting ability along the wing in Justin Anderson (6-6), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (6-6) and Furkan Korkmaz (6-7).

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Sixers reportedly rebuffed in attempt to hire Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Sixers reportedly rebuffed in attempt to hire Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Well, you can’t say the Sixers aren’t aiming high.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Sixers “have been rebuffed in their attempt to hire away Houston's Daryl Morey to take over as their new general manager.” Stein added that the team had great interest in Morey, but he couldn’t be lured away from the Rockets.

Morey, who has served as the Rockets’ general manager since 2007, was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year after Houston secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a franchise-best 65-17 record during the 2017-18 regular season.

Morey obviously fits the Sixers from a surface standpoint with his analytics background, commitment to building a pace-and-space roster and desire to chase stars. However, what makes the Sixers’ desire in him really interesting is that Morey is the mentor of former Sixers front office executive Sam Hinkie.

Bryan Colangelo, the man who replaced Hinkie in the Sixers’ front office, resigned in June after a scandal involving multiple secret Twitter accounts rocked the franchise. Head coach Brett Brown took over as interim general manager following Colangelo's resignation.

The Sixers have been patient throughout their search as managing owner Josh Harris recently said there is no timetable to select a candidate.

“We’re just getting focused on it now, given everything with free agency and the draft, and also the other GMs are in the same place. We’re looking for the right person,” Harris told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Amy Fadool last week (see story). “One of the things that Bryan Colangelo did really well was we built a great staff, whether it be (vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff) Ned Cohen or (vice president of analytics and strategy) Alex Rucker or (vice president of player personnel) Marc Eversley or (Delaware Blue Coats general manger) Elton Brand, we have a lot of great people. It’s very consensus-oriented, there’s a lot of people in the dialogue, and we want to make sure we find the right fit for that. 

“It’s not going to be easy. My guess is it’s going to take awhile. And we’re obviously focused on doing it as quickly as possible, but at the same time I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations — it could take a little while. So we’re just starting that.”

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