NBA Wrap: Grizzlies cruise past Blazers

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NBA Wrap: Grizzlies cruise past Blazers

PORTLAND, OR. -- Zach Randolph scored 23 points and had 10 rebounds and Mike Conley added 19 points and seven assists to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a 98-81 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Marc Gasol had 15 points and eight rebounds and Courtney Lee scored 12 points for the Grizzlies (23-20), who have won three straight and seven of eight.

Lamarcus Aldridge had 27 points and 16 rebounds as the Blazers (33-13) slipped three games behind Northwest Division-leading Oklahoma City and had their home winning streak snapped at five.

Randolph registered his 27th double-double of the season as well as his franchise-leading 190th for the Grizzlies, who shot 51.8 percent and led from start to finish.

Portland fell to 18-5 at home (see full recap).

Anthony leads Knicks to win over Celtics
NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony had 24 points and nine rebounds in just 28 minutes, and the New York Knicks avenged an embarrassing home loss with a rout of their own, beating the Boston Celtics 114-88 on Wednesday night for their third straight victory.

Jeremy Tyler added a career-high 17 points and fellow reserve J.R. Smith also scored 17 for the Knicks, who lost by 41 last time the Celtics came to Madison Square Garden but led this one by 35. New York evened its record at 3-3 on its eight-game homestand, with games remaining against Cleveland on Thursday and Miami on Saturday.

New York is headed in the right direction again since ending a five-game losing streak Friday behind Anthony's 62 points, and is only a half-game out of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot (see full recap).

Harden-less Rockets rally past Spurs
HOUSTON -- Dwight Howard scored 23 points, Terrence Jones had 21 and the Houston Rockets held on for a 97-90 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.

The Rockets trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half before scoring 33 in the third quarter to go on top. San Antonio closed to 90-88 in the final minutes, but Howard and Jeremy Lin helped Houston hold on for the win.

Boris Diaw scored a season-high 22 points for the Spurs, and also had 11 rebounds. Tony Parker added 17 points and Tim Duncan had 12 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.

The Rockets were without leading scorer James Harden (bruised left thumb), who is averaging almost 24 points a game this season (see full recap).

Davis dominates in Pelicans' win
CLEVELAND -- Anthony Davis scored 30 points with eight blocks and seven rebounds and Eric Gordon scored 20, leading the New Orleans Pelicans to a 100-89 win over the puzzling Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Davis, one of three No. 1 overall picks in the game, was dominant at both ends of the floor as the Pelicans won their third straight. He injured fingers on his left hand in the final minutes, but got taped up during a timeout and stayed in.

New Orleans scored 16 straight points to close the first half and opened a 22-point lead in the third, causing some fans to boo the listless Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving scored 23 and Dion Waiters 21 for the Cavs, who had a 1-4 homestand after a 3-2 trip out West.

Cavs rookie Anthony Bennett, the first pick in last year's draft, scored a season-high 15 (see full recap).

Sixers intend to use Ben Simmons, Dario Saric in same lineup

Sixers intend to use Ben Simmons, Dario Saric in same lineup

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Training camp is an opportunity for Brett Brown to assess all the pieces he has available to construct the best roster possible. There are no clear-cut formulas to create the most successful lineups, not when the team has so many players that can be utilized at multiple positions. 

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Brown said Wednesday after Day 2 of training camp. “You’re going to see a bunch of different looks, blue and white. That’s part of my job. That’s part of what I’ve got to get done when we play on opening night.” 

Among these combinations is pairing Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. Given their versatility, the rookies can play multiple positions to share the court. Brown has eyed their size and skills at the two- and three-spots.

“The pluses are you have 6-10, do-alls that really can jump into a very versatile defensive world with perhaps a lot of switching,” Brown said. “I think they’re elite defensive rebounders that can rebound and lead a break and take off. ...

“The disadvantages are, you’re playing two guys out of position that’ve never played a second of NBA basketball and have never played together. It comes down to familiarity, it comes down to some type of comfort level that they’re going to have to navigate and figure out each other a little bit more.”

Saric and Simmons, like the rest of the Sixers, are learning one another’s games in training camp. Saric described Simmons’ skill set as “amazing” considering his stature and speed, noting, “I never played with somebody who’s that [many] kilograms.” 

“I think we will find a way to play together,” Saric said. “I think we can do it. Coach said most of the time we will play together. Maybe I can push the ball, he can push the ball too. ... He’s an unbelievably good passer and I think we’ll find a way how to play and I’m very happy because of that.”

Simmons entered the league touted as a point-forward. Exceeding the combo position, Simmons has played pure point at times, both on the offensive and defensive ends. He has been tapping into the Sixers' guards and veteran leader Elton Brand to help enhance his communication running the floor.

“[The] challenge is probably guarding the point guard position. They’re a lot quicker,” Simmons said. “But I also have a lot more length and strength. I think just being able to get to the rim. Also, if I have a smaller guy I can post it up.”

Saric also has ball handling skills in his arsenal. He grew up playing point guard from ages 8 to 14 before hitting a growth spurt. Saric looked up to Magic Johnson at the position. 

“To make other players happy and to make other players better, I think that’s the role of point guard,” Saric said. 

Brown will use the next four weeks as a trial period to maneuver different combinations and looks, including a towering duo of rookies.  

“Now is the time to do that," Brown said, "with the end game being whenever that type of thing happens, you have something quite special if they’re paired — when they’re paired, because I’m going to play them together — when they start really feeling each other’s game out in the environment that I've put them in a lot better."

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”