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NBA Capsules

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Kemba Walker had 20 points and seven assists, Ben Gordon scored 18 points and the Charlotte Bobcats beat the Detroit Pistons 108-101 in overtime Sunday night for just their second win in 21 games.

Ramon Sessions added 15 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 11 and Bismack Biyombo had 10 points and 17 rebounds for the Bobcats.

Tayshaun Prince scored 21 points to lead Detroit, which snapped a four-game winning streak. Greg Monroe had 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists and Rodney Stuckey also scored 18 points.

Walker's driving layup with 7.8 seconds left in regulation tied the score at 96-all, sending the game to overtime. Then, he and Tyrus Thomas had four points each for Charlotte in the extra period.

Prince's jump hook with 2:02 left had given the Pistons a 96-94 lead.

NUGGETS 112, LAKERS 105

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Ty Lawson had 21 points and 10 assists, Danilo Gallinari scored 20 points and hit a big 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds left, and Denver won for the fifth time in seven games.

JaVale McGee scored 17 points for the Nuggets, who showed no signs of weariness after a home win over Utah one night earlier. Despite two last-minute 3-pointers by Kobe Bryant, Denver maintained a lead throughout the fourth quarter of its second win in 12 days over the Lakers.

Bryant scored 29 points and Dwight Howard had 14 points and a career high-tying 26 rebounds for the Lakers, who have lost three straight and four of five.

HEAT 99, WIZARDS 71

MIAMI (AP) - LeBron James scored 24 points, Miami had an edge in rebounding and closed with a 21-0 run over the final 7:07 to beat Washington.

The Heat, beaten on the boards by a total of 38 rebounds over the previous three games, this time enjoyed a 50-39 advantage. Udonis Haslem led them with 12 rebounds.

James extended his streaks of scoring at least 20 points to 32 consecutive games this season, and 53 in a row including last year's playoff run.

The Wizards, last in the NBA in points and shooting, hit 36 percent. They lost their fifth game in a row and fell to 0-13 on the road against Eastern Conference teams.

GRIZZLIES 92, SUNS 81

PHOENIX (AP) - Zach Randolph scored 21 points and Rudy Gay added 20 to lead Memphis.

Tony Allen scored 11 and Marc Gasol had 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who have won three of their last five games.

P.J. Tucker scored a career-high 17 points and Marcin Gortat added 12 points and rebounds for the Suns. Guards Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair combined for just 12 points and seven assists.

Phoenix has lost eight of nine and 15 of 20 dating to November 28.

Despite shooting in the mid-30 percent range for the bulk of the game, Phoenix trailed 71-65 when Markieff Morris converted a three-point play 31 seconds into the fourth quarter.

But Gasol scored four points, including a fallaway 17-footer, and Gay added a 21-foot jumper to key a 10-3 run that put the Grizzlies ahead 81-68.

THUNDER 104, RAPTORS 92

TORONTO (AP) - Russell Westbrook scored 23 points, Kevin Durant had 22 and Oklahoma City won for the 17th time in its last 20 games.

Serge Ibaka had 19 points and eight rebounds and Kevin Martin scored 16 as the Thunder enjoyed a winning start to a stretch that sees them play 11 of 13 on the road. Oklahoma City came in having played an NBA-low 12 road games this season and improved to 9-4 as visitors.

Nick Collison had 10 points and eight rebounds to help the Thunder win for the fifth time in eight games since their season-high 12-game winning streak.

Alan Anderson scored 17 of his career-high 27 points in the second quarter and Amir Johnson had 19 for the Raptors, who lost their second straight after winning eight of nine.

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Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games by neutral arbitrator

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USA TODAY Sports

Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games by neutral arbitrator

Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension has been reduced to 14 games by a neutral arbitrator meaning he is eligible to return as early as Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the arbitrator’s decision.

Wilson was suspended 20 games for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason. The suspension was announced on Oct. 3 and upheld by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Wilson’s first appeal.

Though the second appeal was technically successful in getting the suspension reduced, the lengthy process ended up costing him an extra two games as the Caps are already 16 games into the season. The good news for him is that he will recoup $378,048.78 of the over $1.2 million he was originally due to forfeit as a result of the suspension.

This marks the second suspension that Shyam Das, the neutral arbitrator, has reduced this season. Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson was suspended 27 games for domestic assault, but had his suspension reduced to 18 games after taking his appeal to the neutral arbitrator.

Tuesday’s ruling may mark the end of Wilson’s suspension and of the appeals process, but it hardly marks the end of the entire saga and controversy surrounding Wilson and his style of play. A 14-game suspension is still significant and should not be seen as vindication that Wilson did nothing wrong in the eyes of the league.

If there is another suspension, it will be longer and neither Wilson nor the Caps can afford for that to happen. Wilson still must change the way he plays or everyone is going to end up going through this entire process again and nobody wants that.

The Caps will have a morning skate at 12:30 p.m. ET which should provide more clarity on whether Todd Reirden intends to play Wilson immediately and where he could slot into the lineup.

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What do the Capitals do with Jakub Vrana?

What do the Capitals do with Jakub Vrana?

You don’t have to watch Jakub Vrana very long to realize just how talented he is. Unfortunately for him, you also don’t have to watch very long to realize how turnover prone he can be as well.

Carelessness with puck management has been one of the glaring issues for the Caps in the early season and Vrana, as he has been for much of his young career, is certainly guilty of that.

Vrana’s combination of talent and penchant for on-ice mistakes presents a problem for head coach Todd Reirden as he has to find the right place plug him into the lineup. That challenge has thus far proven difficult.

Vrana entered the Nov. 3 game against the Dallas Stars on the top line.  After a minus-three game and a turnover in overtime that led to Dallas’ game-winning goal, he found himself on the fourth line the very next game with barely eight minutes of ice time.

“We'll continue to try to remove those glaring turnovers or defense mistakes from his game,” Reirden said recently. “I think it's something that has improved compared to prior years which is why he spent the majority of the time up with those top-six guys, but it's sometimes good for a reset with some of the bottom-six guys and then start slotting him back in.”

At 22-years-old, mistakes on the ice are to be expected. But Vrana may take that to the extreme.

Not only does Vrana commit a lot of careless turnovers, he is also guilty of taking far too many penalties. Vrana ranks third on the team with 14 penalty minutes.

Mistakes by a forward are not nearly as glaring to a coach as those by a defensemen considering the mistakes tend to happen in the offensive zone and are less likely to result in a goal for the other team. When those offensive zone mistakes lead to offensive zone penalties, however, that’s a different story.

But Vrana is simply too skilled to bury in the lineup or take out altogether. With four even-strength goals, Vrana is tied for the third-most on the team behind only T.J. Oshie (7) and Alex Ovechkin (6). Of all the forwards Reirden has cycled into the top line in Tom Wilson’s absence to play with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vrana was the player who seemed to fit the best. He does not provide the same sort of defensive balance to the top line as Wilson does, but no one has been able to step in and adequately fill Wilson’s spot thus far. Vrana added an extra element of speed and offensive skill to an already dangerous line and seemed to show chemistry with Kuznetsov especially.

“There's some really good things that he's showing,” Reirden said. “The speed he plays with, the release of his shot, the chances he's getting, you've got to try to find ways to get him out there more.”

But Wilson will soon return to fill his top line role and Reirden will soon get his full lineup for the first time this season. Yet, almost a quarter into the season Vrana still makes it hard to find the right spot for him.

Putting Vrana on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Oshie – if Reirden reunites Ovechkin and Kuznetsov – seems like the best fit. Backstrom and Oshie can make up for Vrana’s defensive issues and Vrana can provide speed on an otherwise slower line.

But at some point, Vrana has to cut back on the turnovers and the penalties.

“You've got to continue to show him,” Reirden said. “Continue to show him, continue to `remind him, continue to teach and help him grow and get better. That's a young player trying to become a top-six full time.”

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