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                ***** NBA Previews from The Sports Network *****
                              Sunday, December 28
                              (All times Eastern)
 
 
 DETROIT PISTONS (6-23) AT CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (18-11), 4:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Cleveland Cavaliers are back home and will entertain
 the Detroit Pistons Sunday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena.
 
 The Cavaliers have won three in a row at home and are 11-5 at the Q this
 season. They have won four of their last five overall and recorded a 98-89
 victory Friday over the Orlando Magic, as LeBron James scored 29 points and
 Kevin Love added 22.
 
 Dion Waiters scored 17 points off the bench for the Cavs, who made 24 of their
 26 free throws and shot 41.3 from the field.
 
 "From the point that the first quarter ended to the end of the game, I thought
 we defended well," said Blatt.
 
 Cleveland rebounded from a Christmas Day loss at Miami and has won 11 of the
 last 13 games against teams from the East. The Cavs are 14-5 in conference
 action this season and have a 9-1 mark in the last 10 at home.
 
 Cavs guard Kyrie Irving (knee bruise) is questionable Sunday and did not play
 against the Magic. He is averaging 20.2 points and 5.3 assists.
 
 The Pistons will play three in a row on the road against Cleveland, Orlando
 and New York, and have a 3-10 record away from The Palace.
 
 Detroit ended a four-game losing streak with Friday's 119-109 victory over
 Indiana. Andre Drummond scored 20 points, Greg Monroe added 19 and 15 rebounds
 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 15 points for the Pistons, who shot
 54.7 percent from the field and scored 22 points off 18 Indiana turnovers.
 
 "Literally everybody played well tonight," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said.
 "It was really a team effort all the way around."
 
 Drummond is averaging 16.4 points and 14.8 rebounds in his last five games,
 while Caldwell-Pope is posting an average of 17.7 ppg in his past three.
 
 The Pistons and Cavaliers will play the first of four straight meetings this
 season. Cleveland went 3-1 against Detroit last season.
 
 Irving averaged 17.3 points in three games against the Pistons last season.
 
 
 HOUSTON ROCKETS (21-7) AT SAN ANTONIO SPURS (18-13), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - Josh Smith's first impression with the Houston Rockets
 was a good one and he'll get a taste of the rivalry against the San Antonio
 Spurs Sunday in the Alamo City.
 
 The Southwest Division-leading Rockets announced Friday they signed Smith, who
 was released by the Detroit Pistons on Monday less than two years into a four-
 year, $54 million contract. Smith averaged 13.1 points for the Pistons this
 season and posted 21 points in Friday's 117-111 overtime win at Memphis.
 
 "It feels great to play for the Rockets," Smith said. "It's a big opportunity
 for me. I have newfound brothers in this locker room."
 
 Smith's teammate and NBA leading scorer James Harden (27.2 ppg) recorded 32
 points and added the tying layup late in regulation. Harden also had 10
 assists and eight rebounds, while Trevor Ariza ended with 15 points and 10
 boards for Houston, which scored 13 of the 20 points in overtime and won for
 the 12th time in the past 16 tries.
 
 Houston had a 54-44 advantage on the glass against the Grizzlies and shot 45.1
 percent from the floor.
 
 The Rockets will close the quick trip in San Antonio and have won three in a
 row as the visitor. They are 11-2 on the road this season and will return to
 Space City to play Washington and Charlotte.
 
 Houston is one of the top defensive teams in the NBA and is allowing 96.8
 points per game.
 
 San Antonio hasn't been playing like defending champions with back-to-back
 losses and eight in the last 11 games. The Spurs dropped a 114-106 decision to
 Oklahoma City on Christmas, then sustained a 97-90 loss in New Orleans Friday.
 
 Tim Duncan finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Cory Joseph also had
 20 points starting in place of Tony Parker (hamstring). However, the Spurs
 were hurt by 17 turnovers that led to 20 New Orleans points.
 
 "We turned it over and fouled too much. We were our own worst enemy," said
 Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. "You can't go to (injuries). Both teams play,
 whoever shows, plays. Whoever doesn't show doesn't matter. When you give up 20
 points off turnovers on the road, you're going to have a hard time."
 
 Perhaps playing back-to-back games wore down the veteran Spurs, who recorded
 just one offensive rebound and had won 11 of the last 12 meetings with New
 Orleans prior to the Pelicans' 100-99 road triumph on Nov. 8.
 
 Duncan is three games shy of passing Charles Oakley (1,282) for 18th place on
 the NBA's all-time games played list. He is two double-doubles (points-
 rebounds) short of passing Karl Malone (814) for fifth all-time.
 
 Parker is questionable Sunday for San Antonio, which is 9-5 at home and lost
 to Houston, 98-81, on Nov. 6. Rockets center Dwight Howard had 32 points and
 16 rebounds, while Duncan and Manu Ginobili did not play.
 
 The Rockets have won six in a row against the Spurs. San Antonio leads the
 all-time series with Houston, 97-81.
 
 
 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (15-16) AT DALLAS MAVERICKS (21-10), 7:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of Western Conference contenders collide in Big D
 Sunday, as the Dallas Mavericks entertain the Oklahoma City Thunder.
 
 The Mavericks opened a three-game homestand with Friday's 102-98 victory over
 the Los Angeles Lakers and were led by Rajon Rondo's 21 points, eight rebounds
 and seven assists.
 
 Tyson Chandler had 15 points and 12 rebounds, Monta Ellis also scored 15
 points and Dirk Nowitzki netted 14 for Dallas, which shot 50.6 percent and
 halted a two-game slide to win for the fourth time in six tries.
 
 Nowitzki moved into eighth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, passing
 Elvin Hayes.
 
 "We are very fortunate we have had a chance to watch it for an extended period
 of time," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki's career.
 
 Dallas is 11-5 at home and will close the homestand Tuesday versus Washington.
 
 The Thunder are coming off Friday's 98-75 victory over the Charlotte Hornets
 and were led by Russell Westbrook's 29 points. Serge Ibaka posted 13 points
 and 14 rebounds for the Thunder, who have won two straight after losing two in
 a row and 10 of the last 13 games.
 
 "We talked about playing every night, playing with a defensive brand every
 night. Back-to-back games now... I was proud of our defensive effort," Thunder
 coach Scott Brooks said.
 
 Oklahoma City, which posted a 114-106 triumph over San Antonio on Christmas,
 has been without Kevin Durant the last five games (3-2) because of an ankle
 issue. He is not expected to play Sunday and is averaging 22.4 ppg.
 
 The Thunder and Mavericks will play the first of four meetings this season.
 
 Dallas went 2-1 against OKC in 2013-14.
 
 
 NEW YORK KNICKS (5-27) AT PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (24-7), 9 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Portland Trail Blazers will resume a seven-game
 homestand Sunday versus the struggling New York Knicks.
 
 The Blazers opened the residency with Friday's 114-93 victory over the
 Philadelphia 76ers and were led by Damian Lillard's 28 points. Wesley Matthews
 scored 25 points and buried 7-of-14 3-pointers, while Joel Freeland pulled
 down 17 rebounds.
 
 "He came in and he played comfortable," Lillard said of Freeland. "He
 rebounded really well. We knew we were short-handed. We knew that it was going
 to be a different type of game. I thought we went out there and did what we
 needed to do."
 
 Portland, which is 13-1 against the East this season and 19-2 when scoring 100
 points, was without Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge, but managed to win for
 the seventh time in eight tries.
 
 The Trail Blazers are 13-2 in Rip City and will also host the Raptors, Hawks,
 Lakers, Heat and Magic on the homestand.
 
 Aldridge (upper respiratory illness) is doubtful for Sunday and is averaging
 22.9 points and 10.6 rebounds this season.
 
 New York opened a three-game western trek with Saturday's 135-129 overtime
 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
 
 Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 19 and Cole Aldrich
 netted 18 points for the Knicks, losers in seven straight.
 
 "Playing hard is really what I try to do," Aldrich said. "If you're going to
 play hard, most nights are going to be better than others."
 
 The Knicks are 5-27 on the season and 2-14 on the road. They will close the
 western jaunt Wednesday against the Clippers.
 
 Anthony is averaging 27.7 ppg in his last 10 games.
 
 New York dropped a 103-99 decision to Portland at home on Dec. 7, as Aldridge
 recorded 24 points and 11 rebounds. Lillard had 20 points in that one for the
 Blazers, who have won five straight against the Knicks.
 
 
 TORONTO RAPTORS (23-7) AT DENVER NUGGETS (13-17), 9 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors will
 resume a six-game road trip Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.
 
 The Raptors are 1-1 on the trip and posted a 110-98 victory over the Los
 Angeles Clippers on Saturday, as Kyle Lowry netted 25 points and handed out
 seven assists.
 
 Jonas Valanciunas delivered 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Raptors,
 who rebounded from a loss in Chicago to win for the seventh time in the last
 eight games.
 
 Toronto shot 47.7 percent for the game and improved to 9-4 on the road.
 
 "A win is a win," Lowry said. "We made shots and our defense picked us up at
 the end."
 
 The Raptors will also visit Portland, Golden State and Phoenix on the trip.
 
 Denver opened a three-game homestand with Friday's 106-102 victory over the
 Minnesota Timberwolves.
 
 Kenneth Faried had a monster game with 26 points and a career-best 25
 rebounds, while Wilson Chandler scored 21 points for the Nuggets, who ended a
 two-game slide and won for the third time n the last five tries.
 
 It's one of the best games I've seen him play," Nuggets guard Ty Lawson said
 of Faried. "I feel like he's just playing his game. Instead of taking shots
 from the perimeter or midrange jumpers, he's either getting a rebound and
 putting it back in or he's getting dump-offs. He's playing like he was toward
 the end of last year."
 
 The Nuggets are 9-6 at home and will close the residency Tuesday against the
 Los Angeles Lakers.
 
 Denver suffered a 112-107 overtime defeat in Toronto on Dec. 8. Arron Afflalo
 and Lawson scored 25 and 22 points, respectively, while Lou Williams paced the
 Raptors with 26 points. Toronto has won two straight against Denver.
 
 
 PHOENIX SUNS (17-14) AT LOS ANGELES LAKERS (9-21), 9:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Suns are clicking on all cylinders and will
 continue a four-game road trip Sunday night against the Los Angeles Lakers at
 Staples Center.
 
 The Suns have won five in a row after losing six straight and opened the road
 trip with Friday's 115-106 win at Sacramento. Suns reserve Isaiah Thomas
 scored 17 points in his return to Sacramento and posted eight points during a
 16-2 second-half run that lifted Phoenix to a season-high fifth straight win.
 
 Marcus Morris also had a big night for the Suns, hitting 6-of-7 attempts from
 3-point range to finish with 20 points. Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris
 contributed 18 and 17 points, respectively, while Goran Dragic had 16 along
 with six assists.
 
 "We got a big lift from Marcus," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "When we are
 making the shots, we're getting good looks."
 
 Phoenix has won four in a row on the road and is 10-7 away from the desert. It
 will also visit New Orleans and Oklahoma City on the trek.
 
 The Lakers have lost two in a row and five of their last six games, including
 Friday's 102-98 setback at Dallas.
 
 Carlos Boozer scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Los Angeles,
 which played without Kobe Bryant for a third straight game. Nick Young totaled
 15 points with Jordan Hill and Wayne Ellington adding 12 points apiece.
 
 "What have I learned? That we would love to have him in the lineup," Lakers
 coach Byron Scott said of Bryant's absence. "I think these three games prove
 that we do need him on the floor."
 
 Bryant has been dealing with soreness and is listed as probable Sunday. He is
 averaging 24.6 ppg this season.
 
 The Lakers are 4-10 at home and have lost the first two meetings with the Suns
 this season. The Pacific rivals will meet again Jan. 19 in Phoenix.
 
 The Suns have won nine of the past 12 meetings with LA, but are only 3-10 in
 the past 13 games as the guest in this series.
 
 12/28 11:04:46 ET