National Basketball Association
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                ***** NBA Previews from The Sports Network *****
                             Wednesday, December 17
                              (All times Eastern)
 ( - Two of the Eastern Conference's top teams tangle
 Wednesday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers welcome the Atlanta Hawks to
 Quicken Loans Arena.
 The Hawks sit third in the East, while the Cavs are fifth. Both squads come
 into Wednesday's tilt after victories their last time out.
 The Cavs snapped a two-game losing streak Monday night with a nine-point
 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Both of those losses came on the road and
 Cleveland has won six straight as the host.
 On Monday, LeBron James and Kevin Love each delivered monster efforts to get
 the Cavaliers back on track via a 97-88 victory over the Hornets.
 Back home after being dealt back-to-back defeats at Oklahoma City and New
 Orleans, the Cavaliers raced out to a 21-0 lead and held on the rest of the
 way. James came through with 27 points and 13 assists to lead the charge, with
 Love pulling down 18 rebounds in addition to a 22-point performance.
 "Having a chance to be home a bit and recharge our batteries certainly helped
 tonight," said Cavaliers head coach David Blatt.
 Kyrie Irving added 16 points to help Cleveland drop the Hornets to 1-10 on the
 During this six-game home winning streak, the Cavs have won by an average of
 14.3 points. The win was Cleveland's ninth straight against an Eastern
 Conference team and improved the Cavs to 12-3 versus the East this season.
 Cleveland knocked off the Hawks by 33 points at the Q on Nov. 15. At that
 time. Atlanta was floundering a bit, but two weeks after the humbling
 thrashing, the Hawks nine straight.
 That streak was halted on Saturday in Orlando, but Atlanta got back into the
 win column on Monday with a 93-86 home victory over the Chicago Bulls.
 Al Horford totaled 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Hawks as
 they picked up their first win over the Bulls in nearly two years.
 Paul Millsap chipped in 17 points while Jeff Teague added 12 with seven
 assists for the Hawks, who had dropped six straight against the Bulls since
 besting them on Dec. 22, 2012.
 Atlanta bounced back from the Orlando loss by forcing 16 turnovers and holding
 the Bulls to 37.6 percent shooting.
 "(Chicago) is the type of team where you can't really get behind on, so I felt
 like our energy was great in the beginning," Horford said.
 Wednesday's contest is the start of a brutal three-game road trip for the
 Hawks. They'll visit the Houston Rockets on Saturday, then the Dallas
 Mavericks on Monday.
 For the Cavs, Wednesday will be game two of a five-game homestand which will
 see the Brooklyn Nets, Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves head to
 The Cavs' victory over the Hawks earlier this season snapped a four-game
 series losing streak. Atlanta is 5-2 in its last seven at the Q.
 ( - The Phoenix Suns hope an eastern road trip will cure
 their woes when they kick off a three-game sojourn Wednesday night at Time
 Warner Cable Arena against the Charlotte Hornets.
 The Suns have dropped six in a row, including three straight on the road.
 Their home losses during this skid came against the Miami Heat, Detroit
 Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks, not exactly murder's row.
 Phoenix hasn't won since an impressive road victory over the Dallas Mavericks
 on Dec. 5. During this slide, the Suns have fallen behind both the New Orleans
 Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder in the bid, albeit a very early one, for
 the eighth playoff seed out west.
 On Monday, Khris Middleton banked in a 3-pointer as time expired to give the
 Bucks a 96-94 win in Phoenix. Milwaukee, which was down one, burned two
 timeouts before the final possession. Middleton came to the ball near the left
 sideline and let fly with a contested, off-balance trey that hit the backboard
 and every part of the rim before falling through.
 On Dec. 8, the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin's game-winning 3 bounced
 off the front of the rim before sneaking into the basket.
 "Some years, the breaks aren't going your way. Obviously, so far this year,
 they haven't," Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said. "We've got to make our own
 Markieff Morris had 25 points and Isaiah Thomas gave 20 off the bench. Gerald
 Green finished with 12 for the Suns, although he shot 3-for-18 from the field
 and 2-for-15 from long range. Eric Bledsoe chipped in 11.
 The Suns will visit the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards on this trip.
 The Hornets have dropped three straight since a two-game winning streak.
 During this rut, Charlotte has averaged 94 ppg and twice failed to crack the
 90-point plateau.
 One of those instances occurred Monday when the Hornets fell, 97-88, at
 Quicken Loans Arena to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
 Cleveland raced out to a 21-0 lead on Monday and never looked back. The
 Hornets fought back, several times cutting double-digit leads down, but the
 Cavs pulled away late in the third.
 "We played a good enough offensive game to win...(but) our first quarter
 defense was obviously poor," Hornets head coach Steve Clifford said.
 The Hornets received 24 points out of Kemba Walker and 14 from Al Jefferson.
 Marvin Williams was Charlotte's only other double-figure scorer with 10 off
 the bench.
 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made his first start since Nov. 11, but managed only
 one point in 21 minutes.
 The Hornets beat the Suns by eight in Phoenix on Nov. 14 to snap a five-game
 series losing streak. The Suns have won two straight as the visitor in this
 ( - The Dallas Mavericks will try to sweep a short road trip
 against some of the worst in the Eastern Conference Wednesday night when they
 travel to The Palace of Auburn Hills to meet the Detroit Pistons.
 The Mavs toppled the New York Knicks on Tuesday night, then face the Pistons.
 Save for the Philadelphia 76ers, those two squads own the worst records in the
 Eastern Conference.
 On Tuesday, at Madison Square Garden,  Dirk Nowitzki registered 16 points with
 five rebounds and five assists to lead a balanced effort in the Mavericks'
 107-87 win.
 Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, while
 Devin Harris tallied 11 points off the bench and J.J. Barea added 10 in a
 reserve role for the Mavs.
 Tyson Chandler, who was acquired by Dallas along with Raymond Felton in an
 offseason trade with the Knicks, notched eight points and pulled down a game-
 high 14 rebounds in his return to Madison Square Garden.
 "To get a positive response (from the fans) felt great because I feel that way
 about them," Chandler said of his return.
 Dallas came out firing on all cylinders in the first quarter. The Mavs shot at
 a scorching 73-percent clip, including a 57-percent rate from 3-point range,
 leading by as many as 19 and taking a 36-24 lead into the second.
 The Mavs return home Saturday for a huge matchup with Texas rivals, the
 defending champion San Antonio Spurs.
 After a two-game winning streak, during a western road no less, the Pistons
 crashed back to earth in the finale of the odyssey Monday night. Detroit lost
 to the Los Angeles Clippers, 113-91.
 The Pistons committed 18 turnovers and trailed by as many as 27 in this one.
 The two-game winning streak came to a crashing halt for a team that dropped 13
 in a row before its spurt of good play.
 Jodie Meeks netted a game-high 20 points while Andre Drummond donated 18
 points and 13 rebounds in a losing cause. Greg Monroe finished with 15 points
 and eight boards.
 "We couldn't get stops," Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "They tore
 our defense apart. They're a good offensive team. They were at a quicker pace
 than we were defensively."
 The Pistons have three of their next four in The Palace.
 The Mavs have owned this matchup in recent history. Dallas has won five
 straight and 10 of the last 11. The Mavs have won three in a row in Detroit
 and five of their last six.
 UTAH JAZZ (6-19) AT MIAMI HEAT (12-13), 7:30 P.M.
 ( - The Miami Heat begin their longest homestand of the
 season, a seven-gamer, Wednesday night when the Utah Jazz head to American
 Airlines Arena.
 During this two-week stay, the Heat will welcome the Washington Wizards,
 Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic and of
 course, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day.
 Miami returns to South Beach after a 95-91 win over the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday
 night at the Barclays Center.
 Dwyane Wade scored 28 points, Luol Deng added 18 and the Heat held off a late
 Nets rally.
 The game was delayed 31 minutes late in the first quarter due to a leakage in
 the arena's ceiling. The Heat were in the midst of a 10-0 run, and they never
 relinquished the lead the rest of the way.
 Brooklyn trailed by 10 with just over a minute to play, but two free throws
 from Mason Plumlee and 3-pointers from Joe Johnson and Bojan Bogdanovic cut
 the deficit to 93-91 with 35.1 seconds remaining.
 The Nets forced Wade into a contested 3-pointer that drew iron, and Deng
 gained position on the block for the rebound over Bogdanovic, who was whistled
 for a foul with 11.8 ticks left.
 Deng made both free throws and Miami successfully bounced back from Sunday's
 18-point home loss to Chicago.
 "To me this is one of the most gratifying wins of the season. To be able to
 pull it out shows a lot character and toughness," Wade said.
 Miami is only 4-7 at home this season.
 The Jazz have been dreadful of late. They've lost three straight and 12 of
 their last 13. Utah's only victory during that time period was, shockingly, a
 home win over the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 9.
 Utah began a six-game road trip with back-to-back losses to the Wizards and
 New Orleans Pelicans, with that setback coming Tuesday night. The Jazz fell
 119-111 at Smoothie King Center.
 Utah blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead on Tuesday and was outscored 41-19
 over the final 11-plus minutes. After making 57.6 percent of their shots over
 the first three quarters, the Jazz shot just 29.2 percent (7-of-24) in the
 fourth, while New Orleans connected on 59.5 percent of its shots for the game.
 "(New Orleans) turned it up and a couple of their players made some great
 plays and had some big-time efforts," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said.
 The Jazz were without forward Derrick Favors due to an ankle injury, but Enes
 Kanter finished with a career-high 29 points. Gordon Hayward chipped in 17 in
 the loss.
 Trey Burke poured in 14 of his 16 points in the game's first eight minutes.
 Alec Burks also tallied 16 points, while fourth overall pick in this summer's
 draft, Dante Exum, finished with a career-high 12. Trevor Booker chipped in
 The Jazz still have stops against the Orlando Magic, Charlotte Hornets and
 Memphis Grizzlies before heading back to Salt Lake City.
 The two teams have split the last 10 meetings, but the Heat won in Utah on
 Friday. The Jazz have won just one of their last 10 trips to American Airlines
 ORLANDO MAGIC (10-17) AT BOSTON CELTICS (8-14), 7:30 P.M.
 ( - The Boston Celtics return home to TD Bank Garden looking
 for consecutive victories Wednesday night when they host the Orlando Magic.
 The C's ended a three-game slide in Philadelphia on Monday and did so in
 resounding fashion. The Celtics squashed their long-time rivals, 105-87, on
 the strength of one of their young big men.
 Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 30 points on 12-of-17 from the field and was
 a plus-29 off Boston's bench, which outscored the Sixers' reserves, 61-31.
 "The bench has great energy. The bench has great spirit. The bench is a great
 group of guys," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
 Avery Bradley added 15 points while Brandon Bass and Jeff Green each finished
 with 14 for the Celtics, who scored 32 points off 23 turnovers. They kept the
 Sixers winless at home.
 The hosts actually scored 11 of the game's first 13 points, but the Celtics
 quickly erased the deficit behind the sharp shooting of Olynyk, who netted 14
 points in the opening quarter and made three 3-pointers in the final 2:08.
 Olynyk's triple just before the buzzer gave Boston a 30-25 lead, which grew to
 as many as 19 in the second quarter. Philadelphia's 15th turnover of the half
 led to a Rajon Rondo fastbreak layup in the closing seconds, and the Celtics
 were in front by a healthy 57-38 margin at the break.
 The closest the Sixers got in the second half was a dozen.
 Boston hosts the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, then hits the road for two
 The Magic have dropped three of their last four and the only shining light was
 a last-second bucket by Tobias Harris to propel them to victory over the
 Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
 On Monday, the Magic traveled to Toronto and left with a 95-82 loss.
 The Raptors stepped up on the defensive end to overcome a 52-44 halftime
 deficit, holding Orlando to a mere 30 points while forcing 12 turnovers over
 the final two quarters to earn their 10th straight win over the Magic.
 Orlando shot just 37.1 percent in the second half after hitting at a 59
 percent clip prior to the break.
 "You're not going to win too many games scoring 30 points in a half," Magic
 head coach Jacque Vaughn said.
 Harris led Orlando with 18 points but had only four in the second half. Ben
 Gordon finished with 16 points in the loss, with Nikola Vucevic posting 13
 points and nine rebounds.
 The Magic return home for their next four spanning the Christmas holiday.
 Orlando defeated the Celtics on Jan. 14 to snap a 10-game losing streak in the
 series, but lost against to Boston a few weeks later. Including the playoffs,
 the Celtics haven't lost at home to the Magic since May 24, 2010, a span of
 eight games.
 ( - The Toronto Raptors will try to become the first 20-game
 winner in the Eastern Conference when they host the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday.
 The Raptors lead the East with a 19-6 record and have won three straight and
 six of their last eight games.
 Toronto posted a 95-82 win over Orlando on Monday, as Lou Williams scored 18
 points off the bench and Kyle Lowry added 17. Amir Johnson scored 11 points
 for the Raptors, who shot 44.6 percent from the floor.
 "We came out more aggressive," Lowry said. "We had to keep our intensity up."
 The Raptors have won three in a row at home and are 12-3 at Air Canada Centre.
 Brooklyn had a two-game winning streak stopped with Tuesday's 95-91 loss to
 the Miami Heat.
 Mason Plumlee scored 21 points and Joe Johnson added 16 in defeat.
 Deron Williams provided 15 points and 11 assists for the Nets, who have lost
 four of their last six games.
 The Nets also experienced some issues with the arena's roof.
 "Tonight's delay was caused by a water leak due to the installation of our new
 green roof. We've taken all necessary steps to rectify."
 The Nets and Raptors split four meetings last season.
 ( - The Memphis Grizzlies just knocked off the NBA's best
 and will turn their attention to the defending world champions Wednesday
 against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center.
 The Grizzlies ended a 16-game winning streak by the Golden State Warriors with
 Tuesday's 105-98 victory at FedExForum to improve to 20-4.
 Marc Gasol had 24 points and seven rebounds, while Zach Randolph and Mike
 Conley scored 17 points apiece for the Grizzlies. Vince Carter provided 16
 points in a winning cause.
 "Our defense held firm, it was great to see Vince Carter get going," Grizzlies
 coach Dave Joerger said.
 Memphis has won five in a row and is 8-3 on the road this season.
 San Antonio has alternated wins and losses over the last six games and dropped
 a 108-95 decision at Portland on Monday.
 Kawhi Leonard had 21 points and nine rebounds, while Aron Baynes and Kyle
 Anderson each scored 15 points for the Spurs.
 San Antonio rested Tim Duncan for the game and Manu Ginobili (lower back
 contusion), Tony Parker (strained left hamstring) and Tiago Splitter (calf)
 all sat out with injuries.
 "We competed, but turnovers killed us," Spurs guard Cory Joseph said. "We just
 didn't execute as well as we should've."
 Leonard (hand) and Tony Parker (hamstring) are expected to miss Wednesday
 night's game, while Ginobili and Tiago Splitter are questionable. Ginobili is
 dealing with a lower back issue and Splitter has a sore calf.
 The Spurs handed the Grizzlies a 107-101 setback on Dec. 5 and were led by
 Ginobili's 17 points. Danny Green scored 16 points and both Duncan and Parker
 had 14.
 Gasol posted 28 points and 12 rebounds for Memphis.
 San Antonio leads the all-time series with Memphis, 58-18.
 ( - The Portland Trail Blazers will take on the Milwaukee
 Bucks Wednesday night at the Moda Center.
 The Blazers have won seven of their last nine games, including Monday's 108-95
 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
 LaMarcus Aldridge had 23 points and 14 rebounds, while Damian Lillard posted
 23 points, 10 boards and six assists.
 After the game, the Blazers announced center Robin Lopez suffered a broken
 right hand in the third quarter. No timeline was given as to how long the 7-
 footer would be sidelined, but Lopez said there are two fractures in the hand.
 "I did hear it pop, but I didn't feel any pain or anything, so I was just
 trying to shake it off," Lopez said.
 Milwaukee has won two in a row and three of its last five games.
 In Monday's 96-94 win over the Phoenix Suns, Khris Middleton banked in a 3-
 pointer as time expired for the win.
 "It wasn't pretty, but the guys kept fighting," said Bucks coach Jason Kidd.
 "We found a way to win."
 Brandon Knight scored 20 points to lead the Bucks, who opened a four-game road
 trip on a positive note. The Bucks will also visit the Sacramento Kings and
 Los Angeles Clippers.
 The win over Phoenix was not all roses for the Bucks.
 Prize rookie Jabari Parker tore his ACL in the third quarter Monday night. The
 team confirmed the injury and announced Parker will most likely miss the
 remainder of the season following surgery.
 Parker was a favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors. He was averaging 12.3
 points (second among rookies) and 5.5 rebounds (third) in 29.5 minutes per
 game (third).
 Milwaukee and Portland will also meet on Jan. 31 at the Bradley Center.
 Portland won both meetings with Milwaukee last season.
 ( - The Houston Rockets will take on the Denver Nuggets
 Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center.
 The Rockets have won two straight and nine of their last 11 games, including
 Saturday's 108-96 victory over these same Nuggets.
 Dwight Howard had 26 points and 13 rebounds after missing the last 11 games
 with right knee soreness.
 "I'm just glad that I'm back out there with the team playing, healthy," Howard
 said. 'It's good being on the floor. Just thankful."
 James Harden posted a triple-double with 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds
 and Donatas Motiejunas added 25 points for Houston.
 Denver opened a four-game homestand with Sunday's 99-91 loss to the San
 Antonio Spurs and has lost two straight and six of seven games.
 Arron Afflalo poured in a season-high 31 points to lead the Nuggets. Wilson
 Chandler added 14 points and Timofey Mozgov scored 11 with 13 rebounds.
 "Guys are pressing," said Nuggets coach Brian Shaw. "I know they're tired,
 they're banged up, we're short-handed and I don't want to use any of that as
 an excuse, but we just have to find a way to get it done. We can't afford to
 get pushed around inside."
 The Nuggets will also host the Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers on this
 Houston defeated Denver on Saturday and won two of three against the Nuggets
 last season. Denver is 8-3 in its last 11 in the series.
 ( - The Los Angeles Clippers will try to stay on the right
 path when they entertain the Indiana Pacers Wednesday at Staples Center.
 The Clippers have won 10 of their last 12 games and halted a two-game slide
 with Monday's 113-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
 Blake Griffin scored 18 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 16 points and
 15 rebounds.
 "Coming home and closing a team out is a really good feeling," Jordan said.
 "After losing two games in a row it feels like you lost 10."
 Chris Paul posted 11 points and eight assists for the Clippers, who have won
 five in a row at home.
 Indiana ended an eight-game losing streak with Monday's 110-91 victory over
 the Los Angeles Lakers.
 Rodney Stuckey posted 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while C.J.
 Miles also scored 20 points for the Pacers.
 "Defensively, we made it tough on them," Miles said. "We have to go out there
 and know it's not going to be given to us."
 The Pacers will also visit Denver and Minnesota on the trek.
 Indiana suffered a 103-96 loss to the Clippers on Dec. 20, as Paul scored 17
 points, handed out 15 assists and pulled down eight rebounds.
 Miles led all scorers with 30 points off Indiana's bench.
 12/17 10:39:47 ET

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