|Saturday, March 25, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
Aldridge, Spurs look to avenge earlier loss to Knicks
Friday, March 24 at 4:43 PM (EDT)
SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs will host the second in a series of games against teams they've lost to this season when the New York Knicks hit the Alamo City for a contest on Saturday at the AT&T Center.
The game is the second of a four-game homestand for San Antonio. In the first, the Spurs (55-16) finally found a way to beat Memphis after losing to the Grizzlies twice this season in Memphis, securing a 97-90 win with clutch play in the final minutes.
"Memphis is physical and they are really aggressive defensively," Spurs reserve guard Patty Mills said. "The game was a good preparation for us for the playoffs because that's how everyone plays."
With the victory, the Spurs crept back to within two games of idle Golden State for the best record in the NBA and the Western Conference.
The play of LaMarcus Aldridge was a key to the win on Thursday as he poured in 23 points and was a reliable scoring option for San Antonio to help offset the attention Memphis placed on slowing Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs' leading scorer.
Aldridge has been more aggressive with the ball in his five games back since he missed two contests with a minor heart arrhythmia. He has led the team in scoring in the Spurs' past two outings -- both of them wins.
"I'm just playing basketball and trying to be more dominant out there and taking my shots," Aldridge said. "I'm playing in the flow. I'm not being as passive as I was earlier in the year, and it's working out for me. I'm finding my rhythm out there, and my teammates are finding me."
The Knicks beat San Antonio 94-90 on Feb. 12 at Madison Square Garden. New York shot 64.3 percent from 3-point range (a Spurs' opponent season-best) in the win while holding San Antonio to 20.7 shooting from beyond the arc.
New York comes to south Texas off a 110-95 loss at Portland in which the Knicks never led.
Kristaps Porzingis scored 18 points for the Knicks, who played without Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, both of whom were in action the night before in a loss at Utah. New York was playing its third game in four nights.
Porzingis missed his first five shots from the field and ended up 8-for-21 overall, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
"The attention was more on me tonight," Porzingis said. "I had a lot of good looks and some open 3s, and I was disappointed to miss them all. I missed a lot of good shots, and (making them) would have changed the whole game for us."
The Knicks (27-45) closed to within 10 points late in the fourth quarter before Portland used a 10-0 run to put the verdict on ice.
New York coach Jeff Hornacek was encouraged by the second-half effort.
"It was about just playing hard, getting after it," Hornacek said. "You're going to make mistakes as a young player, but if you play hard, sometimes those are hidden. The guys did a better job in the second half of getting the ball in to (teammates) when they had the advantage."
Raptors end brief road trip by visiting Mavericks
Friday, March 24 at 6:53 PM (EDT)
DALLAS -- With his team's playoff odds shrinking, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is quickly transitioning into experimentation mode with a young and fluid roster to get a head start on next season.
He put together a starting lineup Thursday night that included deadline acquisition Nerlens Noel at center and Seth Curry, who earned his way into the starting lineup as a shooting guard, at point guard. The lineup paid immediate dividends in a 97-95 victory over a Los Angeles Clippers team that had plenty to play for as it tries to catch the No. 4-seed Utah Jazz.
Curry led all scorers with 23 points and Noel had eight points and 12 rebounds matched against Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
Afterward, Carlisle said he plans to give Curry, the younger brother of Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry, an extended look at point guard, where undrafted rookie Yogi Ferrell had unseated veteran Deron Williams. It's likely Noel could also remain in the starting lineup Saturday night when the Mavericks (31-40) face the Toronto Raptors' big front line in the third game of a four-game homestand.
"We're going to give this a look. I don't know how many games it's going to be. It may be the rest of the year, it may not. It may be a couple -- we'll see," Carlisle told reporters. "There's a certain aptitude and understanding of the game that goes with being a point guard. He's demonstrated those abilities on a lot of occasions, but until we put the ball in his hands and really take a look at it, we're not going to know for sure. Now is the time to do it."
Meanwhile, Ferrell, who has quickly become a fan favorite, found himself moved to the bench on the night he was awarded the NBA's Rookie of the Month award for February. Carlisle said he sees Ferrell as a great "utility" player and joked about Ferrell's demotion coming at the same time he received his award: "No good deed goes unpunished in this league."
The Raptors (43-29) will be looking to punish the Mavs the way they did in a 100-78 victory just a couple weeks ago in Toronto. The win kicked off a stretch of five wins in six games, including four consecutive victories entering Saturday's game.
A win over Dallas to end a quick two-game road trip would set up the Raptors for a four-game homestand against all Eastern Conference competition, and just one playoff team, Indiana.
Dallas will be searching for a way to slow Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan, who is coming off consecutive 40-point games, and blitzed the Mavs for 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting in the first matchup earlier this month.
The Raptors came from 15 points down to beat the Heat on Thursday, something that seemed to please coach Dwane Casey.
"It talks about toughness, heart," Casey told reporters after the game. "Our give-a-crap level is pretty high, and it's one of those things where when you count us out, we find a way. My thing is just find five men who are going to play hard."
Blazers, Timberwolves play three times in 12 days starting Saturday
Saturday, March 25 at 3:22 AM (EDT)
PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves will get to know each other well in the next two weeks.
The teams square off Saturday night at Moda Center, then meet again on April 3 in Minneapolis and on April 6 in Portland.
"It's going to be challenging," Portland coach Terry Stotts told reporters. "It's as much a playoff experience as anything. By the third time we play them, there aren't going to be any secrets. I don't know if we've ever played a team three times in 12 days (during the regular season)."
The Trail Blazers (33-38), who have won nine of their last 12 games, are chasing Denver (34-38) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Timberwolves (28-43) are five games behind Portland and have lost five in a row after a 130-119 overtime setback to the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night at Staples Center.
"We look at it as a mini-playoff series, like last year with the Clippers or the Warriors," Portland guard Allen Crabbe said. "We'll game plan, try to execute, then go back and watch (video) and figure out what we can do better for the next game with them.
"Our biggest focus is winning all three of those games. We understand the position we're in. We didn't plan to be in this position this late in the season, but it's the position we're in. We know it's going to be a dogfight."
The Blazers are going through their best stretch of the season at the right time.
"Everything is clicking for us at both ends," Crabbe said. "Our biggest (shortcoming) this year has been about consistency. We're trying to get that now. If we play at the level we're capable of, we give ourselves a good chance. The way we look at it is, we have to win every single game we have left."
Portland jumped to a 67-46 halftime lead over New York on Thursday night, then allowed the Knicks to whittle the margin to 10 points late in the game before winning 110-95.
"We know when we get a big lead, we have to keep that," Portland center Jusuf Nurkic said. "We know we're a playoff team, but we know we have to do better at that."
The Blazers have eight of their final 11 games at home, but their record at the Moda Center this season is a mediocre 18-15.
"It helps," Lillard said. "We have the best crowd in the NBA. We have a real home-court advantage.
"But you also have to understand, just because you're on your home court, it's not going to come easy. Teams are going to come in and compete."
Portland usually beats Minnesota at home, having won 18 of the last 20 matchups at Moda Center dating to 2006.
The Timberwolves base their hopes largely on the talents of second-year center Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 25 points and 13 rebounds in Friday's loss at Staples Center. Only one player age 21 or younger has averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds while shooting .500 from the field -- Orlando's Shaquille O'Neal in 1993-94. Towns, 21, is on pace to join Shaq, carrying averages of 24.6 points and 12.2 rebounds while shooting .534.
"I think I've become a smarter player from my rookie year," Towns told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I'm smarter with the ball in my hands. I take my time more. I'm really happy I was able to grow from last year. Now I have to get better and better next year, and the year after that."
Clippers ease past Jazz, clinch playoff slot
Saturday, March 25 at 6:18 PM (EDT)
LOS ANGELES -- For the sixth season in a row, the Los Angeles Clippers are heading to the playoffs.
Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 28 points and the Clippers rolled past the Utah Jazz 108-95 on Saturday at Staples Center.
Blake Griffin contributed 15 points and six rebounds for the Clippers (44-30), who clinched a playoff berth with the win and pulled within a half-game of the Jazz for the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
Chris Paul scored 14 points, J.J. Redick added 12 and Austin Rivers and Marreese Speights had 11 apiece for Los Angeles. DeAndre Jordan grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds to go with seven points.
Rudy Gobert had 26 points and 14 rebounds to pace the Jazz (44-29). Joe Johnson collected 17 points and Gordon Hayward scored 13 before the leaving the contest midway through the fourth quarter with an unknown injury.
Los Angeles has defeated Utah in 18 of its past 20 meetings, including the last five games at Staples.
The Clippers opened the fourth quarter with 12-3 run for an 84-73 edge after Crawford scored on a drive with 7:16 remaining. The Jazz never got any closer than nine the rest of the way.
The Jazz rallied in the third quarter after trailing by as much as 15 points. Utah used a 20-4 surge to tie the score at 70 after a bucket by Johnson with 35 seconds left in the period. A basket by Paul Pierce gave the Clippers a 72-70 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Clippers raced to a 28-14 advantage after one quarter before the Jazz cut it to 49-41 at the break. Crawford scored 11 points in the first half.
NOTES: Jazz C Rudy Gobert has a blocked shot in 41 consecutive games, which is the longest streak in the NBA. Gobert has recorded a block in 69 of the Jazz's 73 contests. ... Clippers F Paul Pierce, who scored four points against the Jazz, is 14 points shy of passing John Havlicek (26,395) for 15th place on the league's all-time scoring list. ... Utah F Derrick Favors (left knee bone contusion) missed his ninth straight game. ... The Jazz host the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday. ... The Clippers play the Sacramento Kings on Sunday at Staples Center.
Wizards close gap in conference with win over Cavs
Saturday, March 25 at 10:40 PM (EDT)
CLEVELAND -- John Wall erupted for 37 points and the Washington Wizards tightened the race atop the Eastern Conference considerably with a 127-115 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.
The Wizards, third in the East, now trail Boston by two games and the Cavs by 2 1/2 for first place. Also, the Cavs' lead over Boston is now just a half-game.
Wall scored 18 points in the first quarter on 8-of-8 shooting. Cleveland never recovered.
Bradley Beal added 27 points for the Wizards, who are now 19-7 when all five starters score in double figures.
LeBron James shook off the eye injury suffered Friday night to score 24 points, grab 11 rebounds, and dish out eight assists. James needed seven assists to pass Maurice Cheeks (7,392) for 12th place in NBA history, which he reached with his first assist in the fourth quarter. He also now has a career-high 37 double-doubles.
James briefly wore protective eye glasses to cover the scratched cornea he suffered on his right eye Friday night, but tossed them toward the bench at the 3:37 mark of the first quarter.
Kyrie Irving added 23 points and has now scored at least 20 in 21 consecutive games. Kevin Love contributed 17 points and seven rebounds.
The Wizards led by as many as 17 in the first half, but saw their lead cut to 96-91 after three quarters.
NOTES: Cavs G Iman Shumpert missed the game with right knee soreness, which the team said developed following its afternoon walkthrough. Shumpert had come off the bench the previous two games with the re-emergence of J.R. Smith as their starting shooting guard. ... Wizards G/F Bojan Bogdanovic sat out with lower back stiffness. He scored 17 points in 26 minutes against Brooklyn on Friday. ... The Wizards started a five-game road trip that takes them next to Los Angeles and finishes at Golden State. ... The 40 points the Cavs allowed in the first quarter were the most they've allowed in any opening period this season.
|Friday, March 24, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
76ers end dry spell in Chicago with win
Saturday, March 25 at 12:10 AM (EDT)
CHICAGO -- The Philadelphia 76ers didn't have their top two big men, only had 10 players and still managed to end a 12-game losing streak against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night at the United Center.
Led by Dario Saric, who had a career-high 32 points and 10 rebounds, the Sixers ended a two-game losing streak with a 117-107 win, after losing to the Bulls the previous nine times they played in Chicago.
"Today we were so good offensively," said Saric, who logged his 10th double-double of the season. "We got some energy in transition. In (defensive) transition, we were good there, and the better team won today. We controlled the game for like 45 minutes maybe, and we deserved this win."
Philadelphia didn't have center Jahlil Okafor, who's from Chicago. Okafor sat out with left knee soreness, while rookie center Joel Embid underwent minor knee surgery Friday that ended his season. Despite lacking that size in the lineup, the Sixers (27-45) outscored the Bulls (34-39) by a 70-30 margin in the paint.
Jimmy Butler had 36 points and 11 assists to lead the Bulls (34-39), who trail the Miami Heat by 1 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Bobby Portis had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago, which is 3-9 in its last 12 games.
Afterward, it was another bitter pill to swallow in the Bulls locker room, knowing a chance to move past the Heat, based on a tie-breaker, slipped through their fingers.
"We do enough talking around here as it is," said Butler, who was asked if the veterans need to have a talk with some of the young players. "I think everybody knows where we stand right now, on the outside looking in. Everybody knows where we want to be. Ain't too much to say. Nine more (games left). We got to have them, as we said before the game, as we will say (Saturday), and the day after that, and probably the day after that. We got to have them."
Trailing 93-71 to start the fourth quarter, the Bulls rallied to briefly make things interesting. They put together a 21-7 run in the first 4:46 to close within 100-92 on a jumper by Portis, but couldn't pull any closer.
Shawn Long had 18 points and Sergio Rodriguez added 12 points and seven assists for the Sixers, with both coming off the bench. Gerald Henderson, inactive the previous two games, chipped in 14 points and T.J. McConnell had 10.
Nikola Mirotic had 15 points and Anthony Morrow added 10 for Chicago.
The Bulls got off to a good start and used a 9-0 run in the first quarter to build a 28-24 lead. Mirotic (10 points) and Butler (11 points) led the way, looking like they did in leading the Bulls to a 117-95 win against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
The good feeling didn't last long.
Philadelphia outscored Chicago 35-18 in the second quarter, including 31-14 over the final 10:01. Rodriguez, Long and Saric spearheaded the outburst, with the trio combining for 29 points -- including nine points, six assists and three rebounds by Rodriguez.
The Sixers outscored the Bulls 40-16 in the paint in the first half, outrebounded them 22-11 and shot 57.8 percent from the field (26-of-45).
"It was our energy," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes, it's hard to start the game. They started very strong. They are playing to get into the playoffs, and for us it was a little too much at the beginning. But we solved the problem and the next three quarters we were great."
Philadelphia led 59-46 at the half and continued the onslaught in the third, when the Sixers opened the quarter with an 8-1 to build a 67-47 lead in less than two minutes. The margin got as high as 26 points before Chicago made its comeback bid.
"In the second quarter, they just completely took control of the game," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "Looking at the points in the paint, 70-30, that tells you everything you need to know about tonight's game. For us to come out with that lack of effort at this point in the season is maddening. We finally showed up to the fight in the fourth quarter, but it was too late."
NOTES: Bulls C Robin Lopez returned to the starting lineup after serving a one-game suspension for a fight against Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka on Tuesday. ... Chicago F Cristiano Felicio (lower back contusion) is showing progress, but missed his second straight game. ... Philadelphia only dressed 10 players against the Bulls after C Jahlil Okafor (sore right knee) joined four injured teammates on the sidelines. Okafor, who had a knee-to-knee collision with Oklahoma City Thunder G Victor Oladipo on Wednesday, received treatments during the game. The Sixers are already missing G Jerryd Bayless (left wrist surgery), C Joel Embiid (left knee), F Ben Simmons (fracture right foot) and F/C Tiago Splitter (right calf strain). "We have 10 guys," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "We've had lots of practice at this." ... Embiid underwent surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee and is out for the rest of the season.
Antetokounmpo fuels Bucks past Hawks
Saturday, March 25 at 12:14 AM (EDT)
MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo has become one of the hottest young stars in the NBA because of his ability to do just about everything on the basketball court.
And Friday night, he did.
Antetokounmpo slammed home a thundering windmill dunk early, finished with 34 points and capped his night with a game-saving interception of an errant outlet pass from the sideline that ultimately locked down the Milwaukee Bucks' 100-97 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at the Bradley Center.
"Giannis is selfless," said Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon, who had 14 points and seven assists. "That's why this team has been able to come together and make the run we're making. We follow his lead every night. It speaks to his character and his leadership."
Antetokounmpo paced Milwaukee's offense with another monster game. He hit 13 of 22 shots from the field and added 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocked shots in 35 minutes.
That output, along with a double-double off the bench from Greg Monroe with 14 points and Tony Snell with 13, helped make up for a rare off night by Khris Middleton, who went 1 of 13 from the field, missed all four of his 3-point attempts and finished with just six points.
"This team is deep," Brogdon said. "That's one of our biggest strengths. ... Khris isn't going to be able to give us 20 every single night. He's going to have off nights. He's going to be back next game, back to his regular self."
Three players scored at least 20 points for the Hawks, who saw their losing streak stretch to six games.
Dennis Schroder led the way, hitting 11 of 25 shots for 28 points with seven rebounds and seven assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 25 and Dwight Howard notched his 47th double-double of the year with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
But the Hawks (37-35) shot just 41 percent from the floor and gave up 23 points on 17 turnovers.
"We just have to make a few more winning plays," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Still, they had a chance to win it at the end.
After trailing by five with five minutes to go, Atlanta took a 92-90 lead on Hardaway's driving layup with 2:41 left. But the Hawks gpt only one more field goal after that.
"Bonehead plays at the end of the game," Hardaway said. "We've just got to come down. We'll be fine. As long as we're out competing for the full 48 (minutes), one or two plays here or there, we'll be able to pull some of these wins out."
Antetokounmpo got Milwaukee off to a strong start with 17 points in the first quarter.
The Hawks shot 33 percent from the field in the first quarter but went 10 of 18 in the second quarter and the Bucks missed seven of their eight 3-point attempts to make it 45-43 at halftime.
A back-and-forth third quarter saw the Hawks go two heading into the fourth quarter, but the Bucks answered with a 16-5 run that gave them an 88-84 lead with 5:53 to play.
After Atlanta rallied to go back in front, Brogdon tied the score with a floater and Antetokounmpo put the Bucks ahead with a finger roll.
Hardaway tied the score again on two free throws with 1:16 left and then stuffed Middleton at the other end, setting the stage for Antetokounmpo's big moment.
Hardaway tipped the ball to Howard, who attempted to throw it up the court. But it was deflected toward the Bucks' bench and Antetokounmpo charged, leaping to knock it back into play.
The ball landed in the hands of Brogdon, who found Monroe down low for a layup that put Milwaukee up 96-94 with 40 seconds left.
"Go-go gadget," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "A lot of guys couldn't do what he did, but he used his length very well and gave us another offensive opportunity."
Schroder tied the score once more with Atlanta's last field goal, but another Monroe layup put the Bucks in front for good and Middleton closed it out with two free throws.
NOTES: The victory moved Milwaukee into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, though the Hawks, by virtue of a 3-1 record in the season series, hold the tie-breaker. But the Bucks did gain ground on Indiana and Detroit, the East's seventh and eighth-place squads. ... F Paul Millsap and SG Kent Bazemore were unavailable for the Hawks. Millsap has missed the last five games and Bazemore the last three, both with knee injuries. ... Bucks F John Henson was unavailable due to a wrist injury but Michael Beasley, out with a hyperextended left knee, could return next week, Bucks coach Jason Kidd said.
Harden's 38 points help Rockets beat Pelicans
Saturday, March 25 at 12:22 AM (EDT)
HOUSTON -- Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni almost sensed the potential for something unseemly before the tipoff, wondering aloud what might come after he gave his team two days off following their home victory on Monday night.
Trailing by virtue of their own issues with ball security, the Houston Rockets rallied for a 117-107 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night at Toyota Center behind another scintillating showcase from All-Star guard James Harden.
Harden paired 38 points with a career-high-tying 17 assists and played integral roles in a pair of 3-pointers that broke the Pelicans in the fourth quarter. Harden drilled a 3 with 69 seconds left to extend the lead to eight points before assisting on a corner trey by Patrick Beverley that gave Houston its lone double-digit lead.
The Rockets (50-22) committed a whopping 16 first-half turnovers, a byproduct of their brief layoff. With their game settled and their angst wrangled, they were guilty of just three turnovers in the second half and tallied 68 points post break.
"I thought in the first half we had two days off and it showed," D'Antoni said. "I thought that we tried things that were uncharacteristic. We were trying to drive and post up and shot the 2s, and we were sped up just because I think their energy and they were trying to play. But we buckled down in the second half."
The Pelicans (30-42) engaged in a spirited back-and-forth in an attempt to extend their three-game winning streak, succumbing only after the Rockets sank 7 of 12 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Beverley hit three 3s in the final period while Eric Gordon sank two to help the Rockets shake free.
"In the first half we were sloppy with the basketball," Harden said. "We tightened that up and we got stops when we needed to. We scored when we needed to and we put the game away."
Beverley scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth while Gordon added 14 points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench. Six Rockets scored in double figures and Houston needed that production to counter the Pelicans' tandem of Anthony Davis (33 points, 16 rebounds) and DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 5 of 9 on treys).
"I thought we played well but once again you're playing against a great team with a great player, arguably the MVP of the league," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said of Harden. "He made plays down the stretch and we weren't able to make them, and that's what it came down to."
Fueled by the Rockets' avalanche of turnovers, the Pelicans erased an early eight-point deficit with a 17-2 run. Cousins was the catalyst with two 3-pointers and a three-point play, and when he sank a trey through a foul and added the subsequent free throw, the Pelicans led 25-18. Suddenly, Harden got going.
Harden closed the first period with eight consecutive points after opening it with four quick assists. He returned from the bench midway through the second quarter and added a pair of free throws and a step-back jumper to cut the deficit to 46-45 and later lifted Houston to the lead in the third before Davis went wild.
With Houston leading 62-59, Davis scored 17 consecutive points for the Pelicans, dragging them to a 76-74 lead before Harden answered with a 3 that put the Rockets back in front. Davis posted 19 points and four rebounds in the period. When Cousins added 15 points in the fourth, it was just enough to keep it close.
"We're not up because we hung with the team," Cousins said. "We feel we have the ability to beat any team, and it's just how we go out and play.
"I don't think we're up for hanging around. We think a little more highly of ourselves than that."
NOTES: With their 14 3-pointers, the Rockets increased their season total to 1,050 and closed to within 28 of surpassing the NBA record of 1,077 set by the Golden State Warriors last season. ... Rockets G James Harden recorded his fourth consecutive 30-point, 10-assist game, the longest such streak in the NBA since Bulls G Michael Jordan did so in five consecutive games from April 4-12, 1989. Harden has three four-game streaks this season. ... Pelicans G Tim Frazier made his third consecutive start and finished with three assists against one turnover. Over his last seven games, Frazier owns a 34-to-4 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Green, Curry provide assistance in Warriors' sixth straight win
Saturday, March 25 at 2:24 AM (EDT)
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors are the NBA's best in several categories this season.
On Friday night, they put their unmatched passing game on display.
Stephen Curry and Draymond Green combined for 50 points and 20 of Golden State's 37 assists as the Warriors extended the NBA's longest active winning streak to six games with a 114-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
"That's when we're at our best -- when the ball's hopping and everybody's a threat to score," noted Curry, the game's leading scorer with 27 points. "Thirty-seven assists -- that's crazy when we missed 21 (3-pointers)."
Curry completed a double-double with a game-high 12 assists and Green complemented 23 points with eight assists for the Warriors (58-14), who moved 2 1/2 games ahead of San Antonio (55-16) for the best record in the league and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Rookie Buddy Hield had 22 points for the Kings, who lost their eighth consecutive game in Oakland.
"We showed signs that we could play with those guys," Hield insisted after the Kings led by as many as five points early on and hung within single digits into the third quarter. "We pushed them to the max. Once we get all the young guys playing together with our vets, I think we can do something special."
The Warriors led just 62-55 in the third minute of the third quarter before Green contributed eight points, including two 3-pointers, to a 15-5 burst that opened a 17-point advantage. Curry had two hoops and Klay Thompson a 3-pointer in the run.
Green added a third 3-pointer late in the quarter, helping Golden State extend the margin to 92-72 by the end of the quarter.
The Warriors had 10 assists in the third quarter alone. The league leaders in assists per game finished with more than 30 for the 44th time this season, breaking the franchise record.
"It's contagious," Green said. "It's definitely a lot of fun when guys are really moving the ball like that. Even when you're not shooting the ball, just moving it along. It makes us successful."
Green's 23 points came on 8-of-17 shooting from the floor. His first of three 3-pointers pushed him ahead of Monta Ellis (351) and into 10th place on the Warriors' career list.
Curry also moved up the franchise charts with his five 3-pointers. He now has 277 for the year, the third most by a Warriors player in a season.
Thompson had 276 3-pointers last season.
The Warriors made just 10 of 31 3-pointers in the game.
"We didn't have the 3-point game going tonight, but I liked the fact that everybody was sharing," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "We just have a lot of guys who can make plays and they are sharing the ball and doing a nice job."
Hield's 22 points came on 7-of-14 shooting that included four 3-pointers. He also found time for eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Ty Lawson had two 3-pointers in a 20-point night. Willie Cauley-Stein (12 points), Ben McLemore (11) and Skal Labissiere (10) also scored in double figures for the Kings, who have lost four in a row and 12 of their last 14.
Labissiere narrowly missed a triple-double, complementing his 10 points with a game-high-tying 10 rebounds and team-high eight assists.
"We've got to play through him," said Kings coach Dave Joerger, believing his team had underutilized the rookie big man. "We chuck up a lot of shots, and he went three, four, five minutes without touching the ball. He's a very willing passer."
Sacramento (27-45) was playing the opener of a three-day, two-game trip that continues Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
NOTES: Despite the fact SF Kevin Durant (sprained knee) participated in non-contact drills at practice on Thursday and was energetically enjoying Friday's win from the sideline, the Warriors announced before the game that their leading scorer remains on schedule to be examined next Wednesday before any escalation in his on-court activity is considered. ... With a back-to-back coming up Sunday and Monday, the Kings elected to rest veterans PG Darren Collison and SG Tyreke Evans. ... Asked before the game about his appearance at his alma mater's NCAA Tournament game Thursday night in San Jose, Warriors coach Steve Kerr, a former University of Arizona standout, admitted, "Not what I was hoping for. I had to pay my debt to (Xavier alum) PF David West this morning." ... Kerr had another famous coach as his guest Friday night: Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Lakers defeat Timberwolves in OT to end skid
Saturday, March 25 at 3:00 AM (EDT)
LOS ANGELES -- Shaquille O'Neal was the center of attention before the Los Angeles Lakers ended a six-game slide on Friday night. Afterward, Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns was the focus after a spat late in the game with Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau.
Jordan Clarkson scored a career-high 35 points, helping the Lakers earn a 130-119 overtime victory over the Timberwolves at Staples Center.
Clarkson converted a career-best eight 3-pointers, missing just two attempts, and made 13 of 20 shots from the floor. Julius Randle had 23 points and 12 rebounds, D'Angelo Russell added 15 points and six assists and Larry Nance Jr. chipped in 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists as seven Lakers reached double figures.
With O'Neal sitting courtside after having his statue unveiled at Staples before the game, the Lakers streamed some of the feel-good vibes generated by the Hall of Famer into a rare win.
"I think there was better energy in the building because of Shaq and what happened today," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "We didn't get to channel that until the second half and mainly when that second unit came on the floor and started defending. Once we started doing that, the building became electric."
Andrew Wiggins scored 36 points to lead the Timberwolves (28-43), who lost their fifth in a row, before fouling out with 1:16 left in the extra session. Towns had 25 points and 13 rebounds before sitting out the final 1:23 of overtime after he and Thibodeau had a heated exchange during a timeout. Thibodeau immediately benched Towns.
"I just didn't like his defense," Thibodeau said.
Towns said Thibodeau never gave him a reason for the benching, but it was clear the Timberwolves' leading scorer wasn't pleased. However, he took the high road.
"Like I said, you move on and we've got a game tomorrow in Portland. You just move on," said Towns, who converted 11 of 19 shots from the field and had four assists.
Ricky Rubio had 19 points and 15 assists, and Gorgui Deng had 14 points.
The Timberwolves lost despite shooting 52.3 percent from the field to 48.4 percent for the Lakers. Minnesota also managed 14 turnovers (resulting in 16 points) to 20 miscues (21 points) for Los Angeles.
However, with Clarkson leading the way, the Lakers connected on 14 of 23 3-pointers (60.9 percent) compared with 7 of 21 (33.3 percent) for the Timberwolves.
"We turned up the intensity (in the second half) because we gave up a lot of points in the first half," said Clarkson, who logged 47:14. "It's good we got the win."
Clarkson's 3-pointer with 3:31 remaining in overtime lifted Los Angeles to a 114-109 lead. A free throw by David Nwaba and a layup by Clarkson with 2:48 left pushed the margin to eight.
The Lakers increased their lead to 121-112 after a Randle jam. The Timberwolves never got any closer than six the rest of the way.
The Lakers trailed 108-100 after two foul shots by Rubio with 2:25 left in regulation. A four-point play by Clarkson pulled the Lakers, who trailed by as many as 15, within 108-107 with 1:42 remaining before Randle's bucket boosted Los Angeles to a 109-108 edge 42 seconds later.
Wiggins hit one of two free throws with 45 seconds remaining to tie the score, but neither team scored again in regulation. Deng air-balled a corner shot just before the horn, forcing overtime.
In the extra period, Minnesota was outscored 21-10. However, Thibodeau said he believed his club lost before then.
"We got the 13-point lead and then we got loose," Thibodeau said. "We had an offensive (goaltending), we had some hero shots, we had some poor decisions on the type of passes we were making.
"So when you get up 13 like that and you're on the road, you have to play tough with the lead. You can't get loose and you have to have discipline. If you don't have discipline, that's what happens."
NOTES: Several Lakers greats attended the statue unveiling ceremony for Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal, an analyst for the NBA on TNT, played eight seasons with the Lakers, guiding them to three straight titles in 2000 through 2002. Among the sports personalities in attendance: Kobe Bryant; Lakers president Jeanie Buss; Jerry West; Phil Jackson; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Elgin Baylor; James Worthy; Alonzo Mourning; Robert Horry; Derek Fisher; and Lakers coach Luke Walton, who played a season with O'Neal as rookie during the 2003-04 campaign. ... The Timberwolves visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. The Lakers host the Trail Blazers on Sunday.
James leads Cavaliers past Hornets
Friday, March 24 at 11:02 PM (EDT)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- LeBron James challenged the Cleveland Cavaliers to play with more toughness after their loss on Wednesday night at Denver.
His teammates responded emphatically Friday night and the result was a 112-105 victory over the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center.
James narrowly missed a triple-double with 32 points, 11 asssists and nine rebounds, and the others in the Big Three also had big nights as Kyrie Irving scored 26 points and Kevin Love finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
But the thing that pleased James the most was the intensity and the defensive effort. The Cavs held the Hornets to 42.2 percent shooting from the field.
"I liked our disposition tonight," James said. "We came in with a physical mindset and basically that helped us win the game because it was physical from the start right down to the finish."
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said it was a big improvement over the 126-113 loss at Denver on Wednesday.
"The effort was definitely there," Lue said. "The guys took the challenge. We helped, got back out. That team shot 42 percent from the field. So the effort was great. That's how we've got to play. That's who we are."
The Cavs (47-24) wound up clinching the Central Division with the victory, coupled with Indiana's loss. The Cavs retained a one-game lead over Boston for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
They led by as many as 12 in the first half, then never trailed in the second half. The Hornets got as close as 100-99, but the Cavs responded with a 7-0 run as J.R. Smith hit a 3-pointer, Love made a 20-footer and James hit a layup on a feed from Love. That made it 107-99 and the Hornets never got closer than five again.
James said he liked the combination that was on the court in crunch time, with the Big Three joined by Smith and Kyle Korver.
"I think coach did a great job of pushing the right buttons tonight," James said. "Every lineup that he had out there did a good job of trying to play the way we want to play. The lineup at the end is going to be a very good lineup if we can continue to get stops and be physical defensively and rebound the ball. If we can do that, we'll be pretty good."
James was 9 of 14 from the field and 14 of 16 from the free-throw line on a night when the Cavs finished at 55.4 percent from the field and 21 of 24 from the line.
The Hornets (32-40) had a three-game winning streak snapped and lost vital ground as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive. They remain 11th in the Eastern Conference and are now three full games behind No. 8 Miami.
"We didn't really shoot the ball that well, but offensively we did some good things," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "Defensively, we just made too many mistakes. That's it. Period.
"Rotations, mistakes and things that you have to be able to do to beat a team like that. The effort was there, obviously. We had plays we had to make there at the end and we didn't make them. They did. At the end of the day, to win these games, we've got to be better defensively. We've got to be smarter."
Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 28 points and five 3-pointers. Marco Belinelli came off the bench for 22 points. Nicolas Batum scored 19, Cody Zeller had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Marvin Williams had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
"They're an explosive team and they make you pay for any mistakes you make," Zeller said. "Like coach said, there was too many mistakes."
NOTES: The win gave the Cavs a four-game season sweep of the Hornets. They have now won six straight in the series during the last two seasons. ... The Hornets were without F Johnny O'Bryant (ankle) and G Ramon Sessions (knee), but C Miles Plumlee (calf) was active after missing the previous 16 games. ... The Hornets announced their 13th sellout of the season at the Spectrum Center. ... The Cavs were closing out a four-game road trip that started with two games in Los Angeles. ... The Cavs hit nine 3-pointers, giving them 929 for the season. They have already set a franchise record for most 3-pointers in a season and are fourth on the NBA's all-time list, four 3-pointers out of third. ... The Hornets are 12-37 this season when giving up 100 or more points. ... The Cavs will return home to face Washington on Saturday. The Hornets were opening a three-game homestand that continues Sunday against Phoenix.
Wall, Beal propel Wizards in season sweep of Nets
Friday, March 24 at 11:07 PM (EDT)
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards are back in the postseason after a one-year absence.
They also appear back in the groove that helped them overcome a dismal start and become a true contender in the Eastern Conference.
John Wall scored 22 points and Bradley Beal had 19 as the Washington Wizards defeated the Brooklyn Nets 129-108 Friday night and clinched a playoff berth.
Brandon Jennings had 18 points and nine assists off the bench for the Wizards (44-28), who shot 50.5 percent from the field, made 21 of 22 free throws and led by as many as 28 points. Washington, which swept the four-game season series from Brooklyn, has won two in a row after losing four of five.
The latest victory, combined with losses by the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls, put Washington back into the postseason for the third time in four seasons. Last season they finished 41-41, but came up just short in pursuit of another playoff appearance. Losing eight of 10 at the start of this campaign brought hints of another missed opportunity, but the Wizards rebounded.
"It's great," Wall said. "The way we dealt with last year wasn't good for us. We wanted to go to the playoffs. We fell short of that. The way we started the season wasn't the way we wanted. ... We all stayed together as a team. That's the most important thing."
The Wizards moved one game ahead of the idle Toronto Raptors for third place in the Eastern Conference.
The loss snapped Brooklyn's first two-game winning streak of the season. Justin Hamilton scored 20 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 19 and Jeremy Lin had 14 for the Nets (15-57).
Brooklyn led 21-20, but never again after Washington's 31-8 run in the first half put the Wizards comfortably ahead.
"We could not get over the hump," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "Credit to (the Wizards). They are playing well.
Bojan Bogdanovic, acquired by the Wizards from the Nets in February before the NBA's trading deadline, scored 17 points. Ian Mahinmi had 11 of his 16 points in the first half as the Wizards led 63-42.
Owners of the league's worst record, the Nets had not won back-to-back games all season before this week. After knocking off the Detroit Pistons 98-96, Brooklyn throttled the Phoenix Suns 126-98 on Thursday as six reserves scored in double figures. Friday's slow start doomed hopes of a three-peat.
"I think we might have been a step slow," Lin said.
The Nets scored 39 points and shot 16 of 22 from the field in the third quarter, but the margin never dipped below 15 points in the second half.
Defensive woes hampered Washington during its recent dip, but Brooklyn only shot 38.1 percent from the field in the first half before finishing at 52.4.
"I feel like we did a better job (after halftime), but then they kind of got a little away from us," Hollis-Jefferson said.
Washington's starters sat out the fourth quarter.
Wall's status was unclear prior to the game as the All-Star skipped morning shootaround because of a migraine. He had nine assists in 24 minutes. Wall also said he still had a headache postgame.
"It's not as bad as it was this morning," Wall said. "Trying to do as much treatment as I can and prepare myself for (Saturday)."
Jennings revved up the offense in the second and fourth quarters. His two free throws gave the Wizards their largest lead at 59-31 and he scored 11 in the final period. Providing the roster with another push-the-pace option besides Wall is what Washington hoped for when he signed as a free agent by Washington on March 1.
"Not a lot of teams can have nine (assists) from your starter and backup," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.
Washington opens a daunting five-game road trip Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers before heading west.
The road trip, Washington's second five-game stretch in March, includes matchups against several Western Conference contenders and ends April 2 at Golden State.
"We knew March was going to be pretty demanding, challenging," Brooks said after Washington improved to 9-5 this month. "We were hoping we were playing well at that time. We're not playing bad."
NOTES: The Wizards only committed 10 turnovers. ... Brooklyn's 39 points in the third quarter were the most allowed by Washington in any period this season. ... Washington is 0-2 against Cleveland this season, including a memorable 140-135 overtime home loss on Feb. 6. Cavaliers star LeBron James forced the extra session by banking a wild 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining in regulation. ... The Nets play at the Atlanta Hawks Sunday afternoon.
Nuggets continue to dominate Pacers
Friday, March 24 at 11:10 PM (EDT)
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Denver Nuggets are making a late-season playoff run, and they have 22-year-old Serbian center Nikola Jokic to thank for it.
Jokic had 30 points and 17 rebounds, and Wilson Chandler added 24 points on Friday night, leading Denver to a 125-117 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
"(Aggressively) is how we play, to be honest," said Jokic, who made 12 of 18 field goal attempts and also handed out five assists. "When they don't score on us, we just rebound and go. We have so many good offensive players that we just need to go out and play.
"If we control the rebounds, we have a pretty good chance to win the game. I am all about rebounding, setting screens, scoring ... whatever it takes."
The Nuggets (35-37), who made 40 of 43 free throws, had to withstand a furious Indiana fourth-quarter comeback. Denver's 40-8 advantage in made free throws is the 13th largest differential in NBA history.
A Jeff Teague 3-pointer with 3:17 remaining pulled the Pacers within 111-103, prompting a Denver timeout. Teague scored again with 2:04 left to cut the deficit to six.
After two Denver free throws, Paul George sank a 3-pointer to pull Indiana within 113-108. But Jokic answered with a 3-pointer with 1:28 to play.
"I think that kid is the best passer right now at the five in the league," Indiana coach Nate McMillan said. "His basketball IQ seems to be just off the chart. We've compared him to Bill Walton back in the day. They are doing a good job playing off that."
George led the Pacers with 27 points, Teague added 21 and Myles Turner had 20. Monta Ellis came off the bench to score 17 points.
"You have to start the game with that aggressive play that we played with in the fourth quarter," McMillan said.
Denver has won nine of its past 13 contests and swept the two-game series from Indiana (36-36), which has lost two in a row and 10 of its 12 most recent games with the Nuggets.
"It's almost like you want to see what he does next," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of rising star Jokic. "The guy is just a treat to watch, fun to play with and the scary thing is that he is only going to get better.
"For him to be playing at such a high level is a credit to him and his work ethic and the fact his teammates always are moving, allowing him to make those type plays."
Danilo Gallinari added 21 points and 11 rebounds for Denver, which outrebounded Indiana 46-39.
The Nuggets, who defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 126-113 on Wednesday night in Denver, continued to attack the struggling Pacers in the third quarter, increasing its 11-point halftime lead to 94-75 through three quarters.
Chandler had a 10-point third quarter and the Nuggets were 14 of 15 from the free throw line in extending their advantage to 19 points. Indiana was only 8 of 22 (36.4 percent) from the field in the third quarter.
The Nuggets shot 58.1 percent from the field (25 of 43) during the first half, getting 21 points and 12 rebounds from Jokic, who was 9 of 11 from the field and 3 of 3 from the free throw line in the opening 24 minutes while building a 64-53 lead.
Chandler had 12 first-half points for Denver and Gary Harris scored eight.
George led Indiana with 11 points and Ellis scored nine for the Pacers, who shot 48.1 percent from the field (25 of 52) in the first two quarters.
NOTES: Indiana was without F/G Glenn Robinson III (sore left calf), which gave extra playing time to G Rodney Stuckey. ... Denver G Gary Harris is a Fishers, Ind., native and a former Indiana Mr. Basketball from Hamilton Southeastern High School. ... The Nuggets scored a season-high 140 points in a Jan. 12 victory over the Pacers in a game played in London. ... While Denver's first half was impressive with 64 points, that effort was 15 points shy of the 79 they scored on Feb. 13 against Golden State. ... This was the first of a three-game homestand for Indiana, which hosts Philadelphia on Sunday and Minnesota on Tuesday. ... Denver came in leading the NBA in rebounding at 46.3 per game.
Payton's triple-double leads Magic past Pistons
Friday, March 24 at 11:13 PM (EDT)
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Detroit Pistons have given up on the Eastern Conference playoff race. At least, it looked that way Friday night.
The Pistons played lethargically for the second consecutive game, continuing their downward slide in an embarrassing, 115-87 loss to the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.
The Pistons, who were in the No. 7 playoff spot with a .500 record just two weeks ago, lost for the sixth time in the last seven games, leaving coach Stan Van Gundy just shaking his head.
"I don't know. I have no idea," he said when asked to explain what happened Friday night. "You have to ask them (players)."
The Pistons (34-39) have nine games remaining and trail the No. 8 seed Miami Heat by a game-and-a-half, with the Chicago Bulls between them. The Pistons looked Friday like they had no interest in catching anyone.
"This is upsetting, and disappointing," said Pistons forward Tobias Harris, who scored 11 points and was the only starter to reach double-figures. "We have to figure this out. We don't have the energy out there right now. Everyone knows what's at stake. Collectively, we have to look at ourselves."
The Pistons return to action Monday night in New York.
The Magic (27-46), who have struggled throughout the season, had little trouble dominating the hapless Pistons Friday night.
Point guard Elfrid Payton had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists -- his fourth triple-double of the month.
All Magic starters reached double figures before the third period ended. None played in the fourth. Terrence Ross hit 5 of 6 3-pointers and scored 18 points. Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon each scored 16 points. Evan Fournier had 15 points. Reserve Jodie Meeks added 15 points.
Reserve Jon Leuer led the Pistons with 16 points. Reggie Jackson, who lost his starting role earlier this week, had 11 points as a reserve. Boban Marjanovic, who only played in the fourth quarter, had 15 points.
"To have performances like we've had the last two games, it's gut-check time," said Leuer. "We're in a fight for our (playoff) lives. We know what we need to do, but it's not happening on the court. We have to compete harder."
The Pistons never seriously challenged in the second half. They shot just 35.4 percent from the field (34 of 96) and made only 2 of 22 shots from 3-point range. The Magic established control late in the second quarter and never let Detroit back into the game.
The Magic scored 50 points from inside the lane. They also shot 51.6 percent from the field (47 of 91) and made 12 of 26 3-pointers.
"Our best ball movement game of the year," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "We really had a competitive spirit throughout the game. I thought it was great. This was our best game of the year, our most complete game."
The Magic jumped to a 79-52 lead midway in third quarter, prompting Van Gundy to call a timeout and pull his entire starting lineup. Ross hit a pair of 3-pointers and Payton secured his triple-double during that early second-half stretch.
"I think this game says a lot about us," Payton said. "I think we kind of threw the first punch tonight, and they weren't able to recover."
The Magic hit eight of their last nine shots in the consecutive points -- including a four-point play -- midway in the second period.
Fournier had 13 points and Vucevic 12 at intermission. Payton had eight assists and six rebounds. The Magic outshot the Pistons 51 percent to 30.8 percent in the first half. Orlando scored 32 points from inside the lane.
Van Gundy showed his displeasure early by calling a timeout just 31 seconds after the second quarter began. It didn't help, though, as the Magic did as they pleased.
NOTES: Pistons G Ish Smith remained in the starting lineup Friday for the second consecutive game as coach Stan Van Gundy searched for a way to stop the late-season slide. It didn't work. On Wednesday, Smith replaced Reggie Jackson, who had started 50 games after returning from a knee injury. "It's not a permanent thing," Van Gundy said before the game. "We're just trying to find a way to get more energy at the beginning of games." ... Van Gundy, who coached the Magic for five seasons, received considerable applause during pregame introductions. He said before the game, he thought the Pistons had to win seven or eight of their final 10 games to reach the playoffs. ... Magic F Jeff Green missed his second consecutive game with lower back spasms. F Mario Hezonja moved into Green's spot in the playing rotation. ... The two teams play again in Orlando on the final day (April 12) of the regular season.
Suns' Booker scores 70, but Celtics prevail
Friday, March 24 at 11:56 PM (EDT)
BOSTON -- The outcome was clearly not in doubt, so it was OK for the TD Garden crowd to be cheering for someone on the other team.
Devin Booker did not disappoint.
The Boston Celtics won the game 130-120 over the Phoenix Suns on Friday, but no one seemed to notice.
The 20-year-old super kid from Kentucky scored 28 of his 70 points in the fourth quarter, 18 in the final 3:46 as his team called timeouts and committed fouls to stop the clock.
"It's a zone. It's kind of hard to explain," Booker said. "I've been in those zones before, but never to this extent. It's hard to explain."
It was the most points ever scored against the Celtics, the most points ever scored in either of the Boston side-by-side buildings and tied for the 10th-most points in NBA history. He joined Wilt Chamberlain (six times), Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor, and David Robinson as the only 70-point scorers in league history -- and he shattered Tom Chambers' 27-year-old (to the day) club record of 60.
Booker, whose previous career high was 39, went 21 of 40 from the floor, 4 of 11 from 3-point range, canned 24 of his 26 free throws and also had eight rebounds and six assists.
"When you're in the gym alone and you're taking shots, you're making them consecutively," he said. "That's what it started feeling like. I felt comfortable. I was at my home gym training. It started getting easier and easier. Shots just kept falling -- tough shots, too."
He said he once scored 56 points in a high school game, "but not anything close since then."
Isaiah Thomas scored 34 points, handed out seven assists and wasn't thrilled about what Suns coach Earl Watson did at the end of the game.
"It was weird what they were doing," he said. "I've never seen anything like that. It is what it is. I don't think anybody has ever seen that; continuing to call timeouts, continuing to foul when we were up 15, but I mean it was obvious what they were trying to do."
Said Watson: "Calling timeouts at the end kept the game close. It's basketball. I'm not coming to any arena to be liked. If people don't like us while we build ... so what, do something about it."
Thomas, a former Sun, said he didn't "want to get into" any possible disrespect for the game, but added, "We're worried about the playoffs, they're worried about the lottery."
As far as getting cheered away from home, Booker said, "That meant a lot, especially here in Boston. I know how rowdy they can be on opponents sometimes. I respect that. That's how it should be.
"It's a night I'm going to remember the rest of my life."
"Obviously, he got it going," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who was coaching his players hard on defense down the stretch. "And he's a really good player. I thought no matter who we tried on him, what we tried on him, he was in one of those zones in a rhythm."
The undermanned Suns lost their seventh in a row and their ninth in 10 games since beating the Celtics in dramatic fashion in Phoenix March 5.
Al Horford added 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, Jae Crowder had 13 points and 10 boards and Kelly Olynyk scored 13 points for Boston.
Alan Williams had nine points and 14 rebounds for the Suns.
The win, the Celtics' third straight in the first three games of a six-game homestand, was their 13th in their last 14 home games and the fifth win in their last six games overall.
It also kept the Celtics one game behind (two in the loss column) of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference lead and 2 1/2 games ahead of the third-place Washington Wizards.
The Celtics (47-26) held the Suns (22-51) without a field goal for the first 7:15, building a 22-3 lead before settling for a 13-point advantage after the first quarter. They never trailed.
NOTES: Celtics G Avery Bradley was hospitalized with a stomach bug to receive fluids and missed the game. ... The Suns were without F T.J. Warren (wrist). G Eric Bledsoe, G Brandon Knight and C Tyson Chandler were all "resting." ... It was the second straight night the Suns fashioned the youngest starting lineup in NBA history, a group younger that seven of the eight NCAA starting lineups from Thursday night. ... F Marquese Chriss and G Tyler Ulis became the first Phoenix rookie pair with double-doubles in the same game since 1991 in the loss at Brooklyn on Thursday night. ... G Isaiah Thomas extended his club record with a 3-pointer in his 47th straight game. ... The Celtics are 21-0 when leading after three quarters at home. ... The Suns visit Charlotte and the Celtics host Miami on Sunday. ... Suns coach Earl Watson said he had wagers between himself and four Kentucky players for the Kentucky-UCLA Sweet 16 game.