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Thunder lose to Knicks in Anthony's homecoming

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Thunder lose to Knicks in Anthony's homecoming

NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony got the cheers but the New York Knicks got the win, shutting out their former All-Star in the second half and beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-96 on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.

Michael Beasley tied his season high with 30 points in place of injured Kristaps Porzingis, and Doug McDermott, one of the players acquired for Anthony, added 11 of his 13 after halftime to help the Knicks break open the game.

Anthony scored 12 points in the first half but was 0 for 5 after, perhaps low on energy after the Thunder's three-overtime victory at Philadelphia a night earlier.

He made a 3-pointer for the Thunder's first basket of the game after a warm welcome back to the arena where he spent 6 1/2 years, finishing 5 of 18 from the field.

Russell Westbrook had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Thunder, who were trying to sweep a three-game trip that began with Paul George's winning return to Indiana on Wednesday (see full recap).

LeBron James has 60th triple-double, Cavs beat Jazz
CLEVELAND — LeBron James had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his 60th career triple-double and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the short-handed Utah Jazz 109-100 on Saturday night

James had his fifth triple-double of the season and third in his last four games. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter, was 9 of 15 from the field and 10 of 10 at the foul line.

Cleveland has won 17 of 18 overall and 11 straight at Quicken Loans Arena.

Center Rudy Gobert (sprained ligament and bone bruise in left knee) and forward Derrick Favors (left eye laceration) were out for Utah. Both were injured during Friday night in a win in Boston (see full recap).

Former Sixer Canaan hits game-winning free throws in Suns' win over T-Wolves
MINNEAPOLIS — Isaiah Canaan hit three free throws with 6 seconds to play in his first game with Phoenix and the Suns rallied to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-106 on Saturday night.

Added to the roster this week after the injury-ravaged Suns received a hardship extension, Canaan finished with 15 points and drew a foul on Jeff Teague on a 3-pointer with Minnesota leading by one. Originally ruled a shot-clock violation, reply officials overturned the call and Canaan calmly sank all three shots amid a loud crowd of neon green-clad fans.

Alex Len blocked Jimmy Butler's layup attempt out of bounds on the ensuring possession. Butler had one more look from the corner, but the attempt rimmed out and the Suns snapped their five-game losing streak.

Dragan Bender and Troy Daniels each scored 17 points for the Suns, whose bench outscored the starters 69-39. T.J. Warren added 15 points for Phoenix, which trailed by as many as 15 (see full recap).

Harden, Paul lead Rockets to 13th straight victory​
HOUSTON — James Harden scored 31 points, Chris Paul had 25 and the Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 115-111 on Saturday night for their 13th straight victory.

The winning streak is the Rockets' longest streak since a franchise-best 22 straight in 2007-08.

Harden hit a step-back 3-pointer over Malcolm Brogdon and was fouled, giving Houston an 11-point lead with less than six minutes remaining. In the last two minutes, Paul hit back-to-back mid-range jumpers on consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals for Milwaukee. Khris Middleton had 23 points, and Brogdon added 20. Milwaukee has lost three straight (see full recap).

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

After a relatively quiet offseason, the Sixers’ roster has suddenly turned into musical chairs over the past few days.

In are Mike Muscala and Jonah Bolden. Out are Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Richaun Holmes.

Not exactly earth-shattering moves, but moves nonetheless.

Of course, all of those changes were directed at the Sixers’ bench. That’s because the team already has one of the best starting rotations in the entire NBA. The Sixers’ five-man combination of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid was plus-20.4 points per 100 possessions in 600:01 minutes of action together last season.

The reserves were a different story. The Sixers’ bench was among the league’s worst scoring-wise in 2017-18 before buyout veterans Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova pumped life into the group. With that duo on the squad, the Sixers posted a 20-3 record to close out the regular season and made quick work of the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Those results changed against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Sixers’ bench was exposed defensively and smothered on offense in the five-game series.

“I’ve said on record, and I’ll say it again, I believe that anything that kind of matters, you’re probably going to bump into the Celtics,” Brett Brown said during the Sixers’ exit interviews. “So they’re always going to be sort of on our mind in relation to how do you compete with them?”

Competing with the Celtics and beating them are two very different things.

Did the Sixers’ tinkering with their bench put them any closer to knocking off their longtime rival? That’s a tough one to answer right now.

Despite shipping away Anderson, Luwawu-Cabarrot and Holmes, you can argue that the Sixers’ second unit will still be more athletic next season. A fully healthy Markelle Fultz will likely start out as the sixth man, and we know he’s got some incredible bounce to his game. Zhaire Smith already gave a glimpse of what type of athlete he is during summer league. And while 31 years old, Wilson Chandler can still rise up to throw it down.

Defensively is where that athleticism should really shine for the latter two. The rookie Smith has continually said defense is his best skill as he was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive team during his lone season at Texas Tech. Chandler possesses the ability to defend both forward spots and takes pride on that end of the floor.

Meanwhile, Muscala and Bolden aren't anywhere near leapers of Holmes' caliber. However, they are still bigger bodies that have the ability to move their feet to keep up with their man. That’s in addition to known hustlers T.J. McConnell and Amir Johnson putting forth their maximum effort guarding opponents.

But is that enough when a healthy Celtics team gets its projected roster back and rolls out a reserve lineup of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes?

If the Sixers are unable to contain Boston’s talented starters and deep reserve blend, they might really run into problems trying to keep pace with offense of their own now that they lack a serious three-point threat outside of Redick. Belinelli and Ilyasova, who both departed moments into free agency, gave the team a one-two punch off the bench that could drain shots from anywhere. Now the only serviceable shooter in a backup role is the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Muscala (a career 37.8 percent shooter from long range). Kyle Korver, anyone?

The bench reset was necessary if the Sixers planned on getting to the next level. Is it enough to put them on the same level as the Celtics or will they remain green with envy?

We’ll see.

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Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Suns; Jonah Bolden inks 4-year contract, source confirms

Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Suns; Jonah Bolden inks 4-year contract, source confirms

The Sixers are not quite done making moves this offseason.

The team on Friday sent big man Richaun Holmes to the Suns for cash considerations. The Sixers also signed 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden to a four-year deal, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the trade and Bolden's signing.

With these moves, the Sixers’ roster remains at 15 players, but that could change if the team finds a way to rid themselves of Jerryd Bayless’ contract — say, in a trade with Cleveland (see story).

The writing has been on the wall for Holmes. Now entering his fourth year, the 2015 second-round pick struggled to find a role in Brett Brown’s rotation last season with a healthy Joel Embiid and veteran Amir Johnson in the fold. While he offered energy, athleticism and weakside rim protection off the bench, Holmes lacked discipline defensively, something Brown hasn’t tolerated during his tenure.

Bolden will essentially take Holmes’ spot on the roster as a developmental big. With quicker feet defensively, Bolden has more versatility to guard fours. While his summer league performance was underwhelming offensively, Bolden did impress defensively, especially against No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton. It’s important to note that the third and fourth years of Bolden’s deal are not guaranteed, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Drafted by the Sixers out of Bowling Green State, Holmes flashed at times but was only able to get into 48 games this season, averaging 15.5 minutes a contest. He averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 156 career games with the Sixers.

A native Australian, Bolden attended UCLA for one year before heading overseas to play for FMP Beograd of the Adriatic League. As a draft and stash this past season, Bolden played for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and tested his skills in the EuroLeague. He averaged 7.2 points and six rebounds in 20.8 minutes a game. He’s shown flashes of a jump shot but shot just 31 percent from three this season abroad and 24 percent in summer league action.

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