Best of NBA: James Harden posts another triple-double in Rockets' win

Best of NBA: James Harden posts another triple-double in Rockets' win

TORONTO -- James Harden had 40 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his 10th triple-double of the season, and the Houston Rockets beat the Toronto Raptors, 129-122, on Sunday night for their eighth straight victory.

Harden also had 10 turnovers. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Harden is the first player with a 40-point triple-double and 10 or more turnovers since turnovers became official in the 1977-78 season.

Montrezl Harrell added 28 points on 12-of-13 shooting in 25 minutes, and fellow reserve Eric Gordon had 19 points to help Houston win consecutive road games over the Raptors for the first time.

DeMar DeRozan had 36 points for the Raptors, setting a career high with his 18th 30-plus-point game of the season. DeMarre Carroll tied a career high with 26 points and set a career high with six 3-pointers on 10 attempts.

Down 99-95 entering the fourth quarter, the Rockets went on a 15-0 run to take an 11-point lead. DeRozan's run of 12 consecutive points for the Raptors cut into that advantage, but Toronto could get no closer than five points (see full recap).

LeBron's big 4th quarter helps Cavs hold off Suns
PHOENIX -- LeBron James scored 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and Cleveland fought off Phoenix down the stretch for a 120-116 victory.

Kyrie Irving added 27 points and Kevin Love 25 for the Cavaliers. They led by as many as 22 in the first half and 20 early in the third quarter. The Suns tied it late in the third and got within one in the fourth but never took the lead.

Eric Bledsoe scored 31 points and Devin Booker had 28 for the Suns.

James sank consecutive 3-pointers, his only 3s of the game, to give Cleveland a 115-109 lead with 2:46 to play and scored on a driving layup with 44 seconds left to make it 120-114 (see full recap).

Reddick, Paul lead Clippers to 4th straight win
LOS ANGELES -- J.J. Redick scored 25 points and Los Angeles beat Miami for its fourth straight victory, this one a 98-86 final.

Chris Paul had 19 points, 18 assists and one turnover, and DeAndre Jordan added 18 rebounds to help keep the Clippers unbeaten in the new year after they closed 2016 on a six-game skid.

Goran Dragic scored 24 points, and Hassan Whiteside had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Miami. The Heat shot 37 percent and had three technical fouls.

The Clippers broke it open with a 43-21 run that spanned the second and third quarters. Redick scored 14 points and Paul added 12 as they stretched the lead from one point to 23 points. Redick hit three 3-pointers and Paul added another (see full recap).

Best of NBA: John Wall, Wizards hold on to beat Cavaliers

Best of NBA: John Wall, Wizards hold on to beat Cavaliers

CLEVELAND -- John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington's victory cut Cleveland's lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston (see full recap).

Clippers beat Jazz to clinch playoff berth
LOS ANGELES -- Jamal Crawford scored 28 points off the bench, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Utah Jazz 108-95 on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight year.

The Clippers trail the Jazz by a half-game in their race for the No. 4 playoff seed in the West.

Blake Griffin added 15 points and DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds for the Clippers.

Rudy Gobert had 26 points and 14 rebounds for Utah, and reserve Joe Johnson added 17 points. The Jazz have dropped four of five.

Utah rallied in the third, putting together a 20-6 spurt to trim Los Angeles' lead to 72-70 heading into the final period. Gobert had nine points and Johnson scored seven during the run that included 10 straight points for the Jazz over one stretch.

Chris Paul and Crawford both got technicals while the Clippers struggled to score and defend (see full recap).

Leonard, Aldridge help Spurs topple Knicks
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the New York Knicks 106-98 on Saturday night.

San Antonio has won four straight heading into home games against Cleveland on Monday and Golden State on Wednesday. The Spurs (56-16) are two games behind the Warriors (58-14) for the league's best record.

San Antonio ensured there would not be a repeat of its disappointing 94-90 loss in New York on Feb. 12, but not without some tense moments.

Derrick Rose and Willy Hernangomez each scored 24 points and Hernangomez added 13 rebounds. Mindaugas Kuzminskas had 19 points starting in place of Carmelo Anthony, who missed his second straight game with a sore left knee (see full recap).

How the Sixers watch the NCAA Tournament, from scouting to reliving

How the Sixers watch the NCAA Tournament, from scouting to reliving

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA Tournament is a different viewing experience for everyone. To some it is a chance to root for an alma mater, to others is a glimpse into future NBA talent, and for the small handful that makes it to the pros, a reminder of moments they cherished. 

From players to the head coach, March Madness has an individual meaning to the Sixers.

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The draft has been just as much a part of Brett Brown's time with the Sixers as the regular season. The Sixers have been perennial top pick contenders and could be heavily involved in the 2017 draft lottery. They have their own first-round pick and rights to swap with the Kings. They also could get the Lakers' pick if it is outside of the top three. 

How does Brown watch college basketball this time of year? 

"Like I'm going to coach one of them," he said. "You pay attention."

Rather than trying to read into the intangibles, such as being a good teammate or competitiveness, Brown hones in on one skill that he can assess quickly. 

"I'm always paying attention to shooters," Brown said. "It really does, on so many levels, make the world go 'round. It especially does with the group that we're constructing … I'm very opinionated when it comes to shooting. I feel like if I see somebody shoot three or four times and just watch their form, their footwork, their preparation, you form a pretty quick opinion. It takes you about a second to look at their stats and it helps you validate what you think or contradict what you think. But shooters really are what's most on my mind."

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It was only three seasons ago that Jahlil Okafor was cutting down the nets as an NCAA championship winner. Okafor considers the Duke basketball circle as family and spends his summers on campus. Watching the tournament from a distance stirs up old feelings that really aren't so old. 

"It kind of makes me sad because I want to be out there with my guys," Okafor said. "It makes me a little sad, especially when they lose (second-seeded Duke lost to South Carolina in the second round). It's always fun to watch. I'm so closely removed from it and I'm friends with all those guys on the team."

Okafor said coach Mike Krzyzewski has changed up the system, which was heavily focused on getting him the ball at the basket since he left after his freshman year. The excitement of March Madness, though, still feels very familiar. 

"Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday, sometimes it feels like it was 20 years ago," Okafor said. "It feels like I was just in the tournament."

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Nik Stauskas will always be attached to Michigan basketball. This season was significant because the teammates he played with before entering the draft in 2014 were still part of the program. 

"It's going to change next year because it will be the first year that I will have not played with anyone on that team," Stauskas said. "But as of right now, I still feel such a huge connection. Most of the coaches are still the same, most of the main players were guys I played with my sophomore year."

Michigan upset Louisville in the second round before losing to Oregon by one point in the Sweet 16. Stauskas was watching along from the Sixers' road trip. 

"To see them make the run, I'm extremely proud," he said. "I don't get emotionally attached to basketball games unless it's Michigan playing. It's fun to be that involved and that engaged into a name."