National Basketball Association
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                ***** NBA Previews from The Sports Network *****
                              Sunday, December 21
                              (All times Eastern)
 ( - The Toronto Raptors carry a five-game winning streak
 into a Sunday matinee at Air Canada Centre against their Atlantic Division
 rivals, the New York Knicks.
 The Raptors haven't lost since Dec. 9 and have won four straight as the host.
 Their most recent victory came Friday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
 Toronto prevailed, 110-100, over the Pistons thanks to a strong third quarter
 Jonas Valanciunas led the Raptors with 17 points to go along with seven
 Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams each netted 15 points, and James Johnson added 12
 points and eight rebounds off the bench for Toronto, which did not lead at all
 in the first half.
 "I give our bench a lot of credit," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "They came
 in and did their job."
 Terrence Ross' jumper to open the second half gave the Raptors their first
 lead of the game. Ross hit a floater a minute later and Amir Johnson's layup
 wrapped up a 12-0 Toronto run that started in the first half.
 A 6-0 Raptors burst later in the third gave them their first double-digit lead
 of the game with 5 1/2 minutes to play in the quarter. That lead would remain
 in double digits for nearly the rest of the game. Valanciunas scored 11 of his
 17 in the period to stake the visitors to a 81-70 lead through three.
 The Raptors extended their lead to as much as 22 on a Williams triple at the
 6:28 mark, but the Pistons attempted to make the game interesting. With 3 1/2
 minutes remaining, Detroit started a 12-1 run to cut its deficit to single
 Toronto held on for the victory.
 The Knicks have lost four straight and 14 of their last 15. New York is 2-12
 on the road, which is the worst mark in the NBA.
 On Saturday, the Knicks fell at home to the Phoenix Suns, 99-90.
 Carmelo Anthony returned to the Knicks' lineup after missing Thursday's loss
 in Chicago and netted 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting. He also pulled down 11
 boards, but it was not enough.
 Jose Calderon added 21 points but netted just two in a fourth quarter that saw
 the Knicks get outscored by 10. Tim Hardaway, Jr. chipped in 16 and Jason
 Smith contributed 11 off the bench.
 An Alex Len tip-in early in the fourth capped an 11-0 Suns run that gave
 Phoenix a 75-68 lead. The Knicks answered with six straight points to pull
 within one but never went back ahead.
 "It's going to take winning a game down the stretch to get that confidence
 back," Anthony said.
 The Raptors defeated the Knicks at Madison Square Garden one week ago. The two
 teams have split their last six meetings north of the border.
 ( - The Cleveland Cavaliers have won two of their last
 three, but will face a stiff challenge Sunday when the Memphis Grizzlies pay a
 visit to Quicken Loans Arena.
 The Cavs are 2-1 on this five-game homestand which ends Tuesday night against
 the Minnesota Timberwolves. Cleveland rebounded from an "embarrassing" loss to
 the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday with a four-point victory Friday over the
 Brooklyn Nets.
 Mike Miller scored a season-high 21 points in a rare start and the Cavaliers
 bounced back from their worst loss of the season with a 95-91 win over the
 Miller hit 7-of-8 from behind the arc in his first start of the season and
 LeBron James scored 22 points with nine assists for Cleveland, which was
 coming off a 29-point home loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.
 "He's a professional guy, you can always count on him," James said of Miller.
 "His ability to shoot the ball gives us so much more of a dynamic out there."
 Miller, who hadn't played since Dec. 4, had just 19 points in 13 games all
 season before Friday.
 Kyrie Irving chipped in 16 while Kevin Love had his worst shooting performance
 in a Cavs uniform, going 1-for-10 for six points. Love, however, finished with
 a game-high 14 rebounds.
 The Grizzlies had a six-game winning streak snapped on Friday night with a
 103-97 home loss against the Chicago Bulls. Memphis has won two straight on
 the road.
 Mike Conley deposited 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting and Beno Udrih posted 15
 points in the setback. Memphis was coming off a triple-overtime road win over
 the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
 "Tonight we didn't have enough effort for the most part because of very tired
 legs," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger. "We couldn't get inside their defense...
 We have to tip our hats to them. They are a good team."
 Grizzlies center Marc Gasol contributed 13 points with 10 rebounds, while his
 brother, Pau, was held to six points to go along with 11 rebounds for Chicago.
 Memphis managed to cut its eight-point halftime deficit to 73-66 after three
 quarters. The Grizzlies got it to a two-point game, but E'Twaun Moore, a
 seldom-used Chicago reserve, hit two free throws with 53 seconds left.
 Chicago hung on for the win after Conley missed a 3-pointer. The Bulls held
 the Grizzlies to 2-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc.
 Grizzlies guard Tony Allen missed the game with a right corneal abrasion
 The Grizzlies have won five of the last six meetings with the Cavaliers, but
 Cleveland has won eight of the last nine matchups with Memphis as the host.
 BOSTON CELTICS (10-14) AT MIAMI HEAT (12-15), 6 P.M.
 ( - The Boston Celtics will take a three-game winning streak
 to South Beach on Sunday when they visit American Airlines Arena to face the
 Miami Heat.
 The Celtics won all three games during this run by double figures, but the
 competition wasn't coming from the upper echelon of NBA teams. Boston toppled
 the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves during this
 On Friday, one day after trading four-time All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo,
 the Celtics toppled the T-wolves, 114-98.
 Rondo was traded to Dallas along with Dwight Powell on Thursday night in
 exchange for guard Jameer Nelson, forwards Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright, two
 draft picks and cash considerations.
 The C's didn't miss him on Friday.
 Kelly Olynyk scored 21 points off the bench to lead six Celtics in double
 figures. Jeff Green supplied 18 points and seven rebounds, while Jared
 Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and Avery Bradley each scored 14 points in the
 Celtics' victory.
 "It's tough to see him go," Green said of Rondo. "He was one of the reasons I
 came back. We fell into a brotherhood."
 Sullinger pulled down 10 rebounds and Evan Turner contributed 10 points
 starting in place of Rondo.
 The Celtics will visit the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.
 The Heat have struggled and dropped two in a row.
 On Friday, Miami lost its fifth consecutive home game in a 105-103 loss to the
 Washington Wizards, the leaders of the Southeast Division.
 Dwyane Wade knocked down a straightaway 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with
 16.7 seconds left to claw Miami within 101-100.
 Bradley Beal sunk a pair of free throws at the other end and then came up with
 the game-clinching steal. The Wizards double-teamed Wade right as he crossed
 the halfcourt line and Beal came up with the swipe before hitting two more
 free throws to seal the outcome with 3.8 ticks left.
 The Heat lost their fifth straight at home for the first time since March of
 2008 and have dropped eight of their last nine in South Beach overall.
 "It's tough to lose," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It really came down to
 them making plays."
 Wade finished with 28 points and eight assists for Miami, which fell to 4-9 at
 home on the year. The Heat had lost just 13 games over the last two years at
 American Airlines Arena coming into the season.
 Miami was without Chris Bosh for a fourth straight game due to a calf injury.
 Luol Deng added 19 points, followed by 14 from Mario Chalmers and 11 out of
 Udonis Haslem.
 The Heat still have the 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies and
 Magic on this season-long homestand.
 The Heat are 4-3 in their last seven against the Celtics and 3-1 in their last
 four as the host in this series.
 ( - Two teams with three-game losing streaks - the Brooklyn
 Nets and Detroit Pistons - will duke it out Sunday night at the Barclays
 The Nets' skid started with a home loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday, then
 continued with a road setback to the Toronto Raptors Wednesday. On Friday,
 Brooklyn fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, 95-91.
 Joe Johnson led five Nets players in double figures with 26 points.
 Johnson's 3-pointer with 41.8 seconds left made it 94-91 and Cleveland's Kyrie
 Irving got stripped on his way to the basket at the other end, leaving the
 door open.
 The Nets pushed the ball up the floor rather than calling for a timeout, a
 move that ultimately backfired. Jarrett Jack passed to the top of the key to
 an open Johnson, who didn't catch the ball cleanly and had to swing to Kevin
 Garnett. The deflected pass found Garnett on the left wing, but his triple
 missed short.
 "I thought they'd take the 3 away and maybe we'd drive and go get a quick two
 then I'd call timeout," said Nets coach Lionel Hollins. "We were trying to get
 a play for Joe, and they kind of took that away. Joe found KG, and he had to
 take the shot."
 Mason Plumlee and Jack scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, for Brooklyn.
 Sergey Karasev added 12 and Garnett finished with 10 points.
 Guard Deron Williams left the game in the second quarter with a strained
 right calf. He finished with one point and five assists.
 The Pistons lost in Los Angeles to the Clippers, then dropped two straight at
 The Palace of Auburn Hills. Detroit fell to the Dallas Mavericks and Raptors
 to extend the slide to three.
 Against the Raptors on Friday, the Pistons lost, 110-100.
 The Pistons were led by Brandon Jennings' 22 points and eight assists.
 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope chipped in 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point
 Greg Monroe added 17 off the bench, while Caron Butler scored 11 in his
 reserve role. Josh Smith had 10 points and Andre Drummond, who started a minor
 scuffle with a hard foul of James Johnson, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked
 three shots.
 It was a game in the first half, but Toronto pushed it open with fine play
 over the final 24 minutes. The Raptors scored 60 points in the paint and left
 Detroit with an angry head coach.
 "We had absolutely no defensive will or resolve whatsoever," said Stan Van
 Gundy. "Sixty points in the paint. You're not doing anything defensively when
 you give that up."
 Brooklyn beat the Pistons in Detroit on Nov. 1 and have taken two in a row in
 this series. The Nets have won three of four and seven of nine against the
 Pistons as the host.
 ( - The Sacramento Kings will try to halt a five-game losing
 streak Sunday when they welcome the Los Angeles Lakers to Sleep Train Arena.
 This homestand has been a disaster for the Kings. They are 0-4 with losses to
 the Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder and Milwaukee
 During this stretch, Sacramento fired head coach Mike Malone and replaced him
 with Tyrone Corbin. The former Utah Jazz coach is 0-2 since taking the helm
 and the most recent setback was crushing.
 Not even the return of DeMarcus Cousins could help the Kings find the win
 column Thursday night against the Bucks.
 Cousins, who returned from a 10-game absence due to viral meningitis, had a
 chance to win it in the closing seconds, but his jumper was off the mark as
 the buzzer sounded. He finished with game highs of 27 points and 11 rebounds
 in just under 33 minutes in the Kings' fifth straight loss.
 Sacramento went 2-8 in Cousins' absence.
 "(Cousins) did a great job out there in trying to will us to a win," Corbin
 Ben McLemore added 22 points, followed by 20 from Rudy Gay. Darren Collison
 chipped in 15 in the setback.
 The Lakers have lost two straight following a three-game winning streak.
 On Friday, LA fell at home to the Thunder, 104-103.
 OKC was without Kevin Durant, who sprained his ankle in a Thursday loss to the
 Golden State Warriors. It didn't matter as Russell Westbrook carried the
 Thunder with 31 points.
 Ed Davis paced the Lakers with 18 points to go along with nine rebounds, while
 Ronnie Price and Carlos Boozer chipped in with 14 points apiece.
 Kobe Bryant finished with a season low-tying nine points on 3-for-15 shooting.
 He did add a team-high eight assists with eight rebounds.
 "Obviously we fouled them way too many times," Lakers coach Byron Scott said.
 "They got to the free throw line 29 times. Our margin of error is not big
 enough to do that to give up 29 free throws and give up 11 offensive
 The Lakers were down one and, out of a timeout, Bryant received the inbound
 pass, dribbled to the elbow and pump-faked to get OKC's Andre Roberson in the
 air, but Roberson stood tall and Bryant came up short on the potential-winning
 The Lakers defeated the Kings by three in Los Angeles on Dec. 9. The Lakers
 have won six of the last seven against Sacramento, but the Kings have taken
 four of six as the host in this series.
 ( - The Orlando Magic will try to end a losing streak Sunday
 night as they continue a homestand at Amway Center against the Philadelphia
 The Magic have lost three in a row and started this stay with a 101-94 loss to
 the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
 The Jazz jumped on the Magic early, taking a 12-point lead after the first
 quarter. Utah took a 49-43 margin into the break.
 Trey Burke banked in a jumper to cap a 10-5 sprint and help Utah re-establish
 control, staking it to a 62-52 spread. It was up by as many as 17 before
 settling for an 81-66 margin going into the fourth.
 Orlando never got within less than six in the final 12 minutes.
 "We just have to play harder," said Orlando guard Evan Fournier. "We can't be
 down 12 against Utah in the first quarter. That's on us."
 Tobias Harris netted 24 points and Fournier provided 21 for the Magic, who
 have dropped five of their last six games. Nikola Vucevic had 16 points and
 nine rebounds and Elfrid Payton scored 11 off the bench.
 The Magic still have to face the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers on
 this homestand.
 The Sixers have lost five straight, including all three on a recent residency
 at home. They begin a seven-game road trip Sunday then visit the Miami Heat,
 Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Los
 Angeles Clippers.
 On Friday, the Sixers fell to the Charlotte Hornets, 109-91.
 The loss dropped the Sixers to 0-14 at home this season. They are five losses
 from matching the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks (0-19) for the worst home start in
 NBA history, but they won't be getting closer to the mark any time soon. Their
 next home game is Jan. 5 against Cleveland.
 Robert Covington and Tony Wroten scored 19 points apiece to lead Philadelphia
 and Michael Carter-Williams had 14 points and 10 assists.
 The Sixers trailed by 20 at the half.
 "The first half set the stage" for the loss, said Sixers coach Brett Brown. "I
 thought the second half was better. We searched and found a group that got us
 The Sixers traded guard Alexey Shved to Houston on Friday as part of the
 three-team deal that sent Corey Brewer from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the
 In return, the Sixers got injured forward Ronny Turiaf from Minnesota and a
 2015 second-round draft pick from Houston.
 The Sixers also acquired the rights to Spanish League player Sergei Lishchuk,
 who was drafted 10 years ago but has never played in the NBA.
 The Magic dispatched the Sixers by two in Philly on Nov. 5 when Harris made a
 buzzer-beater. Orlando has taken three straight in the series and six in a row
 as the host.
 ( - The Washington Wizards have won six in a row and they'll
 try to extend that streak Sunday evening when they welcome the Phoenix Suns to
 the Verizon Center.
 The Wizards haven't lost since Dec. 7 at Boston. Overall, they've won 10 of
 their last 11 and haven't lost at home since Nov. 25 against the Atlanta
 Hawks, a span of eight games.
 On Friday, Washington extended its streak with a 105-103 road win over the
 Miami Heat, its primary rival in the Southeast Division.
 John Wall had 20 points and 10 assists to lead the Wizards.
 Dwyane Wade knocked down a straightaway 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with
 16.7 seconds left to claw Miami within 101-100.
 Bradley Beal sunk a pair of free throws at the other end and then came up with
 the game-clinching steal. The Wizards double-teamed Wade right as he crossed
 the halfcourt line and Beal came up with the swipe before hitting two more
 free throws to seal the outcome with 3.8 ticks left.
 "Just shows our resilience not to quit," said Wall. "In the fourth quarter, we
 got stops and worked out way back in the game."
 Nene posted 20 points and six rebounds, while Beal added 16 points and seven
 boards for the Wizards. Paul Pierce finished with 14 as the only other
 Washington player in double figures.
 The Suns have now won two in a row since a six-game losing streak. They opened
 a current three-game road trip with victories over the Charlotte Hornets and
 New York Knicks.
 On Saturday, Phoenix knocked off the Knicks, 99-90, at Madison Square Garden.
 Isaiah Thomas scored nine of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to help the
 Suns pull away from the Knicks.
 "When my name is called I take advantage of my opportunity," Thomas said. "I
 just try to make plays."
 Eric Bledsoe posted a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds while
 Markieff Morris chipped in with 19 points for the Suns. Goran Dragic added 10
 An Alex Len tip-in early in the fourth capped an 11-0 Suns run that gave
 Phoenix a 75-68 lead. The Knicks answered with six straight points to pull
 within one but never went back ahead.
 The Suns have won 11 of the last 14 against the Wizards. Washington is 1-7 in
 its last eight as the host in this series.
 ( - The Minnesota Timberwolves will try to halt a four-game
 losing streak Sunday night when the Indiana Pacers pay a visit to the Target
 The T-wolves haven't won since Dec. 10 at home against the Portland Trail
 Blazers. Overall, Minnesota is just 1-9 in the month of December and made a
 trade on Friday.
 The Timberwolves sent wing player Corey Brewer to the Houston Rockets and
 Ronny Turiaf went to Philadelphia as part of the deal. Minnesota received Troy
 Daniels from the Rockets in the trade.
 On Friday, Minny fell in Boston to the Celtics, 114-98. The Celtics also made
 a trade, albeit a much bigger one. Boston shipped Rajon Rondo to the Dallas
 Mavericks, but didn't miss him on Friday.
 Shabazz Muhammad led all scorers with 26 points in the loss. Chase Budinger
 added 19 off the bench, while Thaddeus Young rounded out the double-figure
 scorers for Minnesota with 13.
 The T-wolves shot 50 percent from long range, but only 45 percent from the
 "We left a lot of points right on the rim," said Wolves coach Flip Saunders.
 The Pacers have lost the first two stops on this road trip, which ends Sunday.
 Indiana fell to the Los Angeles Clippers by two on Wednesday, then fell to the
 Denver Nuggets, 76-73, on Saturday.
 The 76 points allowed was the second-best defensive output of the season for
 the Pacers, but their 73 points scored were a season-low by eight points.
 David West led the Pacers with 19 points to go with 10 rebounds and C.J. Miles
 netted 16 points off the bench in the loss. Solomon Hill chipped in 11 for
 Indiana, which has dropped 10 of its last 11 games.
 Donald Sloan pulled down a Miles miss in the closing seconds and nailed a trey
 to make it a one-point game with 1.2 seconds left. Arron Afflalo proceeded to
 knock down a pair of free throws with under a second on the clock to push the
 advantage to three. Miles was again off the mark from beyond the arc as the
 buzzer sounded and the Nuggets won their sixth straight over the Pacers at
 "We just didn't play well enough to win. We have to play better," Pacers coach
 Frank Vogel said. "(It) was a tough shooting night, but we gotta keep
 The Pacers shot 30.7 percent from the floor and 30.4 percent from long range.
 The Pacers have won four of the last six meetings, but the Timberwolves have
 won four of the last five as the host in this series.
 ( - The Oklahoma City Thunder have won eight of their last
 nine and will try to keep that momentum going Sunday night when they host the
 New Orleans Pelicans at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
 The Thunder were without the services of reigning MVP Kevin Durant their last
 time out. Durant sprained his ankle in the first half, a 30-point first-half,
 in a loss against the Golden State Warriors Thursday. He sat out a 104-103
 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
 Russell Westbrook scored 31 points with 10 assists and five rebounds to lead
 the Thunder versus the Lakers at Staples Center.
 Reggie Jackson deposited 25 points, Serge Ibaka netted 16 points with seven
 rebounds and five blocks and Andre Roberson added 10 points for the Thunder.
 "This was a good win for us," explained Westbrook. "We came out with a good
 mindset and got the win. We took what the defense gave us and knocked down the
 Oklahoma City held Kobe Bryant to a season-low-tying nine points.
 Durant is still listed as day-to-day.
 The Thunder host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, then head to San
 Antonio for a Christmas night showdown with the defending champs.
 The Pelicans saw a two-game winning streak snapped Saturday night thanks to a
 home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. New Orleans fell, 114-88, to a
 Portland team that went three overtimes against the San Antonio Spurs on
 New Orleans had won three of four coming in, but the usually productive
 triumvirate of Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday combined to shoot
 8-of-37 (21.6 percent) for a total of 19 points.
 Austin Rivers netted a team-high 21 points and Ryan Anderson added 16.
 "We have to have a strong mentality to flush this one before tomorrow, because
 the NBA is pretty cruel in that way," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said.
 The margin reached 19 at one point in the opening frame and grew to 44-23
 early in the second. The third pushed the difference to 80-51, and both teams
 emptied their bench from there.
 The Pelicans beat the Thunder on Dec. 2 in New Orleans. That made it two in a
 row for New Orleans. Prior to that win in April, the Thunder had won 10 in a
 row in this series.
 OKC has won eight in a row at home versus the Pelicans.
 12/21 09:32:11 ET