Tonight in the NBA: Nets visit the Knicks

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Tonight in the NBA: Nets visit the Knicks

The Sixers hope to build off their thrilling, come-from-behind win against the Raptors when they welcome the Spurs to the Wells Fargo Center tonight.

Doug Collins' crew has not won back-to-back games since Nov. 30, but they have a chance to do so against one of the NBA's elite (see story).

Now, here's a preview of tonight's action around the NBA:

Nets at Knicks, 3:30 p.m.
In a season full of memorable moments for Carmelo Anthony, he can create another Monday.

Anthony will be in the spotlight in the New York Knicks' annual Martin Luther King Day home game, with the rival Brooklyn Nets trying to move closer in the Atlantic Division race.

The Knicks star has scored at least 20 points in 25 straight games, the longest such streak of his career. Anthony has developed into an MVP candidate while lifting New York to possible championship contender status.

"I've been on some good teams, had good players on some of the teams that I've played with," Anthony said. "But as far as being a complete team from top to bottom, this is the best team I've been a part of."

Clippers at Warriors, 4 p.m.
It was easy to look at the Pacific Division prior to the season and picture an intense rivalry developing involving the Los Angeles Clippers.

It was a bit harder to imagine the other team being the Golden State Warriors.

The Clippers look to salvage a split of their season series with the Warriors and extend their latest winning streak to five Monday as they try for a rare victory in Oakland.

Most expected the Lakers-Clippers rivalry to flourish as Vinny Del Negro's team continued its rise as a contender, but instead the Lakers are floundering in 11th place in the West while the Clippers (32-9) are in a tight battle for the conference's top spot.

The team closest to the Clippers in the division is Golden State (24-15), which has handed the Clippers two of their losses. The Warriors won 114-110 at Staples Center on Nov. 3 and rolled to a 115-94 rout on Jan. 2 before falling 115-89 in L.A. three days later.
Lakers at Bulls, 9:30 p.m.
Frustrations appear to be taking their toll on the Los Angeles Lakers, who can't seem to right the ship.

The Chicago Bulls, in contrast, have mostly held their own, but coach Tom Thibodeau was anything but pleased with their latest effort.

The slumping Lakers try to avoid their longest road losing streak in eight seasons Monday night against a Bulls team that could be without leading scorer Luol Deng again.

Los Angeles (17-23) has lost eight of 10 overall after kicking off a three-game trek Sunday with a 108-103 defeat to Toronto. The Lakers, who fell behind by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter, are on the verge of their first six-game losing streak in opponents' arenas since a nine-game skid in 2004-05.

"I didn't feel like we were ready to play," point guard Steve Nash said. "We cut too many corners at too many different times in the game and had too big a hole to climb out of.

"We're just not finding any consistent level out of our group."

Wizards at Trail Blazers, 10 p.m.
Even without John Wall earlier this season, the Washington Wizards found a way to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers and end their franchise-worst start.

Now that Wall's back, the league-worst Wizards are looking to extend the Blazers' season-high losing streak to six when these teams meet on Monday night in Portland.

Losers of 12 straight to open the season, Washington (8-30) finally got into the win column with an 84-82 victory over Portland on Nov. 28.

The Blazers (20-20) will now get their first look at Wall this season after the point guard missed the first 33 games due to a stress injury to his left kneecap. The Wizards have won three times since the former No. 1 overall pick made his season debut five games ago.

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Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brett Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media.

Once the deal was made official, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo released a statement. 

“We want to wish Nerlens the best of luck in Dallas and thank him for his contributions over the last few years," Colangelo said. "Justin Anderson is a talented, strong and defensive-minded wing who will fit nicely in Brett’s system. I’m certain Justin’s toughness and edge will add a tremendous amount to our team."

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter (see story).

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”