National Basketball Association
<    December    >
S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31

 
                ***** NBA Previews from The Sports Network *****
                              Friday, December 26
                              (All times Eastern)
 
 
 BROOKLYN NETS (12-15) AT BOSTON CELTICS (10-16), 1 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics will engage in a
 day-after Christmas matinee on Friday when the Atlantic Division rivals tangle
 at TD Garden.
 
 The two teams are heading in opposite directions at the moment. Brooklyn is
 riding a two-game winning streak, while the Celts have fallen in their last
 two.
 
 The Nets swept a recent mini homestand with a win over the Detroit Pistons on
 Sunday, then a victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.
 
 Joe Johnson scored 27 points to lead the Nets to a 102-96 triumph over the
 Nuggets at Barclays Center. Mason Plumlee added 19 points and 13 rebounds, and
 Jarrett Jack supplied 17 points and eight assists for the Nets.
 
 "I thought it was a great grind-it-out game. We showed a lot of composure and
 a lot of mental toughness," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said.
 
 Brook Lopez (lower back strain) returned from an eight-game absence and had
 six points in over eight minutes of court time for the Nets.
 
 Deron Williams sat out the last two victories with a strained right calf. He
 has returned to practice, although it's expected he won't start on Friday
 night.
 
 The Nets, who have lost two straight on the road, return to Brooklyn on
 Saturday and play two there before hitting the road for three.
 
 The Celtics made an unsuccessful swing through Florida earlier in the week. On
 Sunday, they fell to the Miami Heat, then two nights later, lost to the
 Orlando Magic.
 
 Boston was game on Tuesday, nearly erasing a 27-point fourth-quarter lead. The
 Celtics held the Magic to 15 points over the final 10 minutes of the game, but
 didn't have enough.
 
 Tyler Zeller scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to pace the Celtics, who
 have dropped two in a row on the heels of a three-game winning streak.
 
 Jameer Nelson, playing his first game as a visitor in Orlando, finished with
 nine points and 11 assists and was vital in Boston's near comeback. Nelson
 made a 3-pointer and assisted on five other baskets during a 27-3 run that
 trimmed a 27-point deficit down to three, 90-87, coming down the stretch.
 
 "He spurred us on and fired us up," Zeller said of Nelson.
 
 However, it wasn't enough for the Celtics to come away with a victory.
 
 Avery Bradley scored 20, followed by 14 from Kelly Olynyk off the bench.
 Brandon Bass chipped in 11 in a reserve role, while Nelson finished with nine
 points and 11 assists.
 
 The Celtics defeated the Nets in Boston on Oct. 29 and have won two of the
 last three against Brooklyn. Boston has won six of its last nine as the host
 in this series.
 
 
 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (17-11) AT ORLANDO MAGIC (11-20), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - LeBron James will try to get his Cleveland Cavaliers
 back on track Friday night when they visit the Amway Center to take on the
 Orlando Magic.
 
 James' return to South Beach did not go as planned. In his first game in Miami
 against the Heat since spurning them this summer to return to Cleveland, James
 and company fell on Christmas, 101-91.
 
 James, who helped the Heat to a quartet of NBA Finals appearances and a pair
 of titles during his four-year stay with Miami, was the first Cleveland player
 introduced out of its starting five.
 
 "I think these fans are great," James said. "They always showed their
 loyalty."
 
 He was greeted with a standing ovation with a scattering of boos, but James
 wasn't able to fully sink in the reaction as public-address announcer Michael
 Baiamonte quickly went through the rest of Cleveland's lineup.
 
 The cheer was more elongated midway through the opening frame when the Heat
 played a video tribute. James acknowledged the applause by waving to the
 crowd.
 
 "A lot of emotions come back," James said. "I spent four years here with those
 guys. Some guys (are) still here, some guys are not here. We put in a lot of
 hard work and dedication just to be the best we could."
 
 James finished with 30 points and eight assists, but Dwyane Wade shot a
 blistering 10-of-16 in the first half, helping the Heat build a margin as high
 as 17 in the opening 24 minutes.
 
 This was the first game for the Cavs since center Anderson Varejao went down
 with an Achilles injury. Kevin Love slid over to the center spot and finished
 with 14. Kyrie Irving scored 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting.
 
 The Magic stopped a four-game losing streak on Tuesday with a five-point
 victory over the Boston Celtics. Orlando is 2-6 in its last eight, but
 survived against Boston, 100-95.
 
 Tobias Harris scored 19 points, and Kyle O'Quinn and Nikola Vucevic each
 recorded double-doubles. The Magic won despite nearly blowing a 27-point lead
 in the fourth quarter. They were held to 15 points over the last 10 minutes,
 but did just enough to snap a four-game slide.
 
 O'Quinn and Vucevic each provided 18 points and combined for 25 rebounds.
 Elfrid Payton added 12 points as the Magic were able to hold off a rally
 spurred on by former Orlando star, Jameer Nelson.
 
 "We let up...but we somehow found a way," O'Quinn said.
 
 The Cavaliers beat the Magic by 32 in Cleveland on Nov. 24 and have taken
 eight in a row in this series. The Cavs have emerged victorious in their last
 three trips to Orlando.
 
 
 INDIANA PACERS (10-19) AT DETROIT PISTONS (5-23), 7:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Pistons will begin life without Josh Smith
 on Friday night when they welcome the Indiana Pacers to The Palace of Auburn
 Hills.
 
 In a rather stunning move, the Pistons released Smith on Monday despite two-
 plus years and close to $30 million remaining on his contract, which he signed
 prior to last season.
 
 Detroit's trio of big men - Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond - have not
 worked as a unit. It's now expected head coach Stan Van Gundy will keep Monroe
 and Drummond together with Kyle Singler replacing Smith in the starting
 lineup.
 
 "Probably a few more post-ups for Andre and Greg and more plays for Jodie
 (Meeks) and (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope)," Van Gundy told the Detroit Free
 Press. "That's where I'd say the majority of that is going to come from. We're
 gonna ride (Monroe) in the post. We've done that when he's been in there, but
 he'll get more minutes now."
 
 Detroit has dropped four in a row after a two-game winning streak. The Pistons
 have lost 12 straight at The Palace with their last home victory coming on
 Nov. 7 against Milwaukee.
 
 The Pistons haven't played since a 110-105 road loss to the Brooklyn Nets on
 Sunday.
 
 Brooklyn had a 15-point fourth-quarter lead cut down to one after Kentavious
 Caldwell-Pope buried a 3-point shot with 9.8 seconds left. The Nets held on
 the rest of the way.
 
 Caldwell-Pope finished with 20 points and Drummond had 18 along with 20
 rebounds -- 13 on the offensive end. However, the Pistons couldn't complete
 the rally and fell for the 17th time in 19 games.
 
 Monroe delivered 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and pulled down eight boards in
 the loss.
 
 The Pistons hit the road for three straight following Friday's contest.
 
 The Pacers have won two in a row, including a 12-point victory over the New
 Orleans Pelicans at home on Tuesday night.
 
 George Hill was in the Indiana lineup for the first time all season and helped
 the Pacers to a 96-84 win. Hill, who missed Indiana's first 28 games due to a
 right knee contusion sustained in the preseason, scored a team-high 15 points
 off the bench in 21 minutes of action.
 
 "He looked great out there," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of Hill. "He just
 played a great game on both ends."
 
 Roy Hibbert supplied 14 points, while Solomon Hill and David West each posted
 13 points in the win. C.J. Miles and Watson went for 11 and 10 points,
 respectively.
 
 These two Central Division rivals haven't met yet this season, but Indiana has
 won two in a row and eight of the last nine against Detroit. The Pacers have
 won four straight at The Palace.
 
 
 MILWAUKEE BUCKS (14-15) AT ATLANTA HAWKS (21-7), 7:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Atlanta Hawks are once again the hottest team in the
 NBA and they'll put a five-game winning streak on the line Friday night when
 the Milwaukee Bucks pay a visit to Philips Arena.
 
 The Hawks share the league's longest current winning streak with the Chicago
 Bulls and are a half-game behind the Toronto Raptors for Eastern Conference
 supremacy.
 
 Atlanta has lost only once since Nov. 28, going 14-1 during that span. The
 Hawks' only setback came on a buzzer-beater by Tobias Harris in a one-point
 loss to the Orlando Magic on Dec. 13.
 
 The Hawks' fifth consecutive victory came Tuesday night with a 107-104 home
 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
 
 DeMarre Carroll scored a career-high 25 points and the Hawks rallied from 13
 down in the second half to beat the Clippers.
 
 Al Horford added 20 points and Paul Millsap scored 17 for the Hawks, who took
 the lead for good on Kyle Korver's 3-pointer a minute into the fourth quarter
 and held on down the stretch.
 
 During this run, the Hawks beat the Chicago Bulls at home, the Cleveland
 Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks on the road, then took care of
 the Clips.
 
 The Hawks have won eight straight in Atlanta and moved atop the Southeast
 Division.
 
 "We need to get better defensively, but I think in these last couple of weeks
 we've shown improvement," said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. "We have guys who
 step up every night and make big plays. But we've got a lot of work left and a
 long way to go."
 
 The Bucks have lost two in a row and three of four. During that time,
 Milwaukee has allowed an average of 106.3 ppg. and the most recent setback
 came Tuesday in a home loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
 
 Six Hornets scored in double figures as Charlotte pulled out a 108-101
 victory.
 
 The Bucks dropped a seventh straight game to Charlotte despite a season-high
 34 points from Brandon Knight. Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo
 finished with 12 and 11, respectively, in the loss.
 
 "We didn't have any rhythm offensively," said Bucks head coach Jason Kidd. "We
 turned the ball over, we missed a lot of shots. Everytime we tried to make a
 run we turned it over and when you do that, it puts you behind the 8-ball and
 that's what happened tonight."
 
 Milwaukee forward Ersan Ilyasova returned from a nine-game absence due to a
 broken nose, scoring four points in 16-plus minutes.
 
 The Hawks have owned this matchup in recent history, winning seven straight
 and 10 of the last 11 meetings. Atlanta has won five straight at home over the
 Bucks.
 
 
 HOUSTON ROCKETS (20-7) AT MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (21-7), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The new-look Houston Rockets will have a tough go of it
 on Friday night when they invade FedExForum to take on their Southwest
 Division rivals, the Memphis Grizzlies.
 
 The Rockets emerged victorious in the Josh Smith sweepstakes. The forward,
 released on Monday by the Detroit Pistons, decided on the Rockets, although
 the signing isn't official.
 
 "I think I can add to their toughness," Smith told Houston's Fox 26 Sports. "I
 think I can add to their versatility at the four position, being able to pass
 the basketball and score the ball down low. Just add another basketball IQ,
 which will help when we make it to the postseason."
 
 Also, the Rockets added Corey Brewer and Alexey Shved in recent trades. Both
 played in Monday's 110-95 home victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
 
 After losing two straight, James Harden carried the Rockets with 44 points.
 
 The Blazers upended the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs last
 season, but without LaMarcus Aldridge, who sat with an illness, Portland had
 no one step up to match Harden's production.
 
 Harden only played 32 minutes, shot 14-of-26 from the field and only missed
 one of his 13 free throw attempts to tie his season-best point total. He added
 seven assists and five steals for good measure.
 
 "I was aggressive," Harden said. "My teammates did a great job of finding me
 and putting me in a position to be successful."
 
 Dwight Howard recorded a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, while
 newly acquired Brewer donated 12 points off the bench for Houston.
 
 Brewer, brought in from Minnesota in a three-team deal last Friday, also
 recorded five steals and help force Portland into 23 turnovers.
 
 The Grizzlies are in the midst of a three-game losing streak for the first
 time in over a year. They've even lost two straight at home.
 
 Memphis fell to the Utah Jazz at FedExForum, 97-91, on Monday night.
 
 The Grizzlies were without top rebounder Zach Randolph for a second
 consecutive game due to a swollen knee, while defensive stopper Tony Allen
 missed his fourth in a row with an eye abrasion.
 
 "They're such a big part of our team," said Grizzlies guard Mike Conley. "For
 them to be missing, we've kind of dialed some stuff back and changed some
 things up and it's been a little bit of a learning process for different
 guys."
 
 Both Randolph and Allen are listed as questionable for Friday.
 
 Conley and Marc Gasol did their best to carry the load for the short-handed
 Grizzlies, with the former netting 28 points and Gasol tallying 24 along with
 12 rebounds. However, Memphis shot just 32 percent for the fourth quarter as
 the Jazz drew clear down the stretch.
 
 These teams have met twice already this season and the home team has held
 serve on both occasions.
 
 The Grizzlies have won three of the last four matchups and are 7-1 in their
 last eight as the host in this series.
 
 
 SAN ANTONIO SPURS (18-12) AT NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (14-14), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The San Antonio Spurs will try to break out of their
 current funk Friday night when they host the New Orleans Pelicans at AT&T
 Center.
 
 San Antonio has dropped five of its last six, including a disappointing home
 loss to the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas Day.
 
 Russell Westbrook was dominant for the Thunder as Durant sat for the fifth
 consecutive game. OKC prevailed, 114-106, to mildly avenge last season's six-
 game playoff loss in the Western Conference.
 
 Seven Spurs reached double figures, with Matt Bonner's 17 points leading the
 balanced attack. Tim Duncan scored 15, Corey Joseph and Tiago Splitter had 14
 apiece and Manu Ginobili tallied 11 with a game-high 13 assists.
 
 "They were more physical than us. They got a lot of offensive rebounds, loose
 balls and we turned the ball over a lot," Ginobili said.
 
 Danny Green chipped in 12 points, while Tony Parker only managed 10.
 
 Parker's drive and dish to Duncan for a dunk at 6:48 of the fourth gave the
 Spurs a 93-89 lead. The rest of the game belonged to Westbrook. His layup less
 than a minute after Duncan's slam tied the game, and his feed to Steven Adams
 for a thunderous dunk gave Oklahoma City the lead. Westbrook then took it from
 Joseph and went coast-to-coast for a layup.
 
 Out of a Spurs timeout, Westbrook hit a pull-up jumper and assisted on Anthony
 Morrow's 3-ball that made it 102-93.
 
 San Antonio was without Kawhi Leonard (hand) for the fifth straight game.
 
 The Pelicans have dropped two of the last three, including their most recent
 outing, a 96-84 setback Tuesday night on the road against the Indiana Pacers.
 
 Anthony Davis led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting to go along
 with nine rebounds. Jrue Holiday scored 16 points with five rebounds and five
 assists, while Tyreke Evans netted 14 points with 11 rebounds for the
 Pelicans.
 
 "They were a lot more physical than we were all night long," Pelicans coach
 Monty Williams said. "We waited too late to try and turn it on."
 
 After trailing by nine to start the fourth quarter, Holiday's layup later in
 the frame cut the deficit to five, 87-82, but C.J. Watson and Roy Hibbert
 answered with baskets to keep the Pacers out in front with over two minutes to
 go.
 
 The Pelicans defeated the Spurs by one in San Antonio on Nov. 8 to end a five-
 game series losing streak. The Spurs have won five of their last six trips to
 the Big Easy.
 
 
 CHARLOTTE HORNETS (10-19) AT OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (14-16), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Oklahoma City Thunder earned a tough road win on
 Christmas and won't have much time to dwell on it when they return home Friday
 to host the Charlotte Hornets.
 
 The Thunder escaped the Alamo City with Thursday's 114-106 triumph over the
 defending champion San Antonio Spurs and used a 38-point fourth quarter to
 halt a two-game slide and win for the ninth time in 12 tries. Russell
 Westbrook put OKC on his back to the tune of 34 points on 14-of-28 shooting
 and 11 assists.
 
 "We did a great job of being physical, using our length and our athleticism,"
 Westbrook said.
 
 Steven Adams posted 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Serge Ibaka scored 21
 points and Anthony Morrow added 15 off the bench for Oklahoma City, which made
 51.9 percent from the field and registered at least 100 or more points for the
 ninth time in the previous 10 contests.
 
 Oklahoma City isn't taking chances on superstar Kevin Durant's sprained right
 ankle and the reigning NBA MVP missed his fourth straight. Durant sustained
 the injury in a loss at Golden State on Dec. 18 and is expected to rest again
 versus the Hornets.
 
 Durant missed the start of the season because of foot surgery (Jones fracture)
 and the Thunder are 7-2 in the games he has played.
 
 The Thunder are 7-7 at home this season.
 
 Charlotte has been playing well lately with a season-best four straight wins
 and is coming off Tuesday's 108-101 road triumph against the Milwaukee Bucks.
 
 Kemba Walker scored 27 points and Gerald Henderson posted 20 for the Hornets,
 who outscored the Bucks 34-24 in the third quarter and later took a 96-84
 advantage.
 
 "They're a good team," said Charlotte coach Steve Clifford. "They beat us up-
 and-down the floor, which we've been good at, but we are able to stay in there
 and make the plays we needed."
 
 The Hornets are averaging 107.8 points during their win streak and have posted
 100-plus points in each of the past five games. They committed 13 turnovers
 against the Bucks, but are first in the NBA with 11.0 turnovers per game.
 
 Walker has scored 20 or more points six times in the last eight games and is
 posting an average of 23.1 ppg in that stretch.
 
 Charlotte is only 3-10 on the road and has won back-to-back road tests. It
 will host Orlando and Milwaukee next at The Hive.
 
 The Hornets and Thunder will meet twice this season and are scheduled to play
 Feb. 21 in Charlotte. Oklahoma City won both matchups with Charlotte last
 season and is riding a seven-game win streak in the series. The then-Bobcats
 never won in six tries in Oklahoma City.
 
 
 LOS ANGELES LAKERS (9-20) AT DALLAS MAVERICKS (20-10), 8:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks look to put a
 stop to their two-game slide when they play the next three games at home,
 starting with Friday's showdown versus Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
 
 The Mavs had won three in a row and 10 of 13 games prior to the current losing
 streak and suffered a 124-115 loss in Phoenix on Tuesday. Suns guard Eric
 Bledsoe picked up his second career triple-double with 16 points, 11 assists
 and a team-high 10 rebounds.
 
 Tyson Chandler led Dallas with 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Nowitzki also
 scored 22 points. Charlie Villanueva finished with 18 points in 20 minutes off
 the bench, Monta Ellis had 15 points and Rajon Rondo ended with 13 points,
 eight assists, six boards and five turnovers in defeat.
 
 Dallas, which committed 20 turnovers and shot 46.6 percent, is 1-2 since
 trading for Rondo and he leads the NBA with 10.6 assists per game.
 
 "We had too many (turnovers)," Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said. "Turnovers
 caught up with us and we're just struggling to defend. We've just got to do a
 better job with it."
 
 Nowitzki needs six points to pass Elvin Hayes (27,313) for eighth on the NBA's
 all-time scoring list. The German sensation trails Moses Malone (27,409) for
 seventh on the list. Nowitzki (9,599) is approaching Robert Parish (9,614) for
 15th on the NBA's all-time field goals made list.
 
 Nowitzki (1,216) will also tie former teammate and current injured Laker Steve
 Nash (1,217) for 27th on the games played list.
 
 Oklahoma City and Washington will also visit the Mavs, who have a 10-5 record
 in Big D this season and are first in scoring with 109.6 ppg.
 
 The Lakers will make a quick turnaround after dropping a 113-93 decision to
 the Chicago Bulls on Christmas. Playing without Bryant (soreness) for a second
 straight games, the Lakers were led by Wesley Johnson's 19 points and nine
 rebounds.
 
 Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, for Los
 Angeles, which faced former big man Pau Gasol. Gasol left the Lakers for the
 Bulls in the offseason and recorded 23 points, 13 boards and two blocks.
 
 "It was weird, difficult at first to get going," Gasol admitted. "Once you
 start playing, you're just playing the best game you can."
 
 Gasol was asked about Bryant and the Lakers' current struggles.
 
 "The team is struggling right now and it's difficult to see him struggle,"
 Gasol said of Bryant and the Lakers. "The game in LA will probably be a little
 more emotional than this one."
 
 Bryant will have his minutes monitored to stay fresh for the long haul. He is
 third in the NBA with 24.6 ppg and will most likely miss Friday's game.
 
 The Lakers have lost three in a row and five of the last seven road games, and
 have a 5-10 ledger as the visitor.
 
 LA suffered a 140-106 loss in Dallas on Nov. 21, as the Mavericks buried 18 of
 their 35 3-point attempts and finished with three players with more than 20
 points. Nowitzki had 23, Chandler Parsons recorded 21 and Ellis added 20.
 
 Jeremy Lin and Bryant scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, in that one for
 the Lakers, who are winless in the last four games in this series. Los Angeles
 lost all three games against the Mavs last season, but is still 9-5 in the
 past 14 encounters between the Western foes.
 
 The Lakers have lost their previous three visits to Dallas after a five-game
 win streak there.
 
 
 MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (5-22) AT DENVER NUGGETS (12-17), 9 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Timberwolves hope to put the brakes on a
 six-game losing streak when they resume a four-game sojourn Friday against the
 Northwest Division-rival Denver Nuggets.
 
 The Timberwolves were handed a 125-104 loss by Kevin Love and the Cleveland
 Cavaliers on Tuesday from Quicken Loans Arena. Love scored 20 points and
 pulled down 10 rebounds in his first game against his former team, after he
 joined forces with LeBron James in Cleveland this offseason.
 
 Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in this summer's draft, was involved in the
 Love deal and scored 27 points. Gorgui Dieng had a season-best 20 points to go
 with 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have lost six in a row and 12 of
 their last 13 games to fall to 5-22 on the season.
 
 "Before the game even started when we were in the locker room, it was just a
 different atmosphere," Wiggins said. "Emotions were a lot higher than they
 usually are. I think it's obvious this is a motivation game for me."
 
 Shabazz Muhammad posted 18 points for the T-wolves, who made 44.3 percent from
 the field and fell to 1-21 when allowing 100 or more points. Cleveland used a
 16-1 run to finish the third quarter.
 
 Minnesota, which is also 1-21 when trailing after three quarters and being
 outshot, has lost six straight on the road and has a 2-11 record away from the
 Twin Cities this season.
 
 The Wolves still have to visit Golden State and Utah on the jaunt.
 
 Denver enters Friday's game having won only three times in the previous 12
 contests and dropped its second in a row with Tuesday's 102-96 setback against
 the Brooklyn Nets.
 
 Ty Lawson scored 29 points to go with nine assists and Kenneth Faried had 20
 points and 14 rebounds for Denver, which lost in Charlotte to open the brief
 two-game trek and had an 87-86 lead at one point. Arron Afflalo and Wilson
 Chandler both netted 11 points.
 
 "We just did some unfundamentally sound things," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw
 said.
 
 Shaw was referring to the 18 turnovers and 7-of-25 3-pointers. The Nuggets,
 losers in six straight on the road, managed to record a 51-39 advantage in
 rebounds.
 
 The Nuggets are scheduled to play three straight at home and will also
 entertain the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers. They are 8-6 at the
 Pepsi Center this season.
 
 Denver and Minnesota will play the first of four matchups this season and the
 division foes split four games in 2013-14. The Nuggets are 7-2 in the last
 nine as the host against the T-wolves.
 
 
 PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (4-23) AT PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (23-7), 10 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Portland Trail Blazers can be seen around Rip City
 over the next seven games and will welcome the Philadelphia 76ers to town
 Friday night at the Moda Center.
 
 The Trail Blazers will also host the New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Atlanta
 Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. The Blazers have won
 four in a row in the Pacific Northwest, where they are 12-2 this season.
 
 Portland went 3-1 on a recent trip and closed the journey with Tuesday's
 115-111 overtime victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder behind 40 points
 from Damian Lillard. Lillard was 11-of-21 shooting, handed out 11 assists and
 came down with six rebounds.
 
 Lillard also buried 8-of-12 3-pointers and has scored 40-plus points twice in
 the past four games.
 
 LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews scored 25 and 22 points, respectively,
 for the Blazers, who overcame a 10-point hole late in regulation, scored 17 of
 the 30 points in overtime and finished 17-of-31 from beyond the arc.
 
 "Our team never quits," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "We believe we can
 win every game, regardless of the situation."
 
 Stotts' group is 6-1 in the second game of back-to-backs and 18-2 when
 reaching 100 or more points.
 
 Portland has won six of its last seven games and will try to improve its 12-1
 record against Eastern Conference foes Friday night.
 
 In injury news for Portland, forward Nicolas Batum (wrist) is questionable
 Friday night and did not play against OKC.
 
 All four of Philadelphia's wins this season have come on the road.
 
 The 76ers are 2-0 so far on a seven-game road trip, which began with a
 Sunshine State sweep of the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat. In Tuesday's 91-87
 come-from-behind victory in South Beach, a big second half catapulted the
 visitors to victory.
 
 Philadelphia had a 49-30 scoring advantage over the final two quarters and
 used a 14-4 run to open the fourth stanza. Miami came within two at 89-87 and
 missed its final seven shot attempts.
 
 Michael Carter-Williams and Luc Mbah a Moute scored 20 and 19 points,
 respectively, for the Sixers, who had an 18-9 scoring edge in the fourth
 quarter and have won two in a row following a five-game skid.
 
 "We have good momentum," Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel said. "We're confident."
 
 The Sixers, who sit last with 91.4 ppg, are 4-9 on the road and will also
 visit the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles
 Clippers on the junket.
 
 On the injury front for Philly, guards Tony Wroten (knee) and Hollis Thompson
 (illness) are questionable Friday.
 
 Portland defeated Philadelphia, 114-104, on Nov. 24 in south Philly and was
 led by Aldridge's 33 points and 11 rebounds. Carter-Williams ended with 24
 points in that one for the 76ers. The Blazers are averaging 117.3 ppg in the
 last three matchups in this series.
 
 Aldridge is posting an average of 27.3 points and 13.7 rebounds in his last
 three appearances against the 76ers.
 
 
 PHOENIX SUNS (16-14) AT SACRAMENTO KINGS (12-16), 10 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Suns will try to extend their winning streak
 to a season high five straight games when they open a four-game road trip
 Friday against the Sacramento Kings.
 
 The Suns are also slated to visit the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans
 and Oklahoma City Thunder, and have won three in a row on the road. They are
 9-7 as the guest this season.
 
 Phoenix pushed its winning streak to four with Tuesday's 124-115 triumph
 versus the Dallas Mavericks, as Eric Bledsoe recorded his second triple-double
 of the season with 16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Goran Dragic tallied
 25 points and Gerald Green scored 22 off the bench.
 
 "I thought we were great, offensively and defensively," Bledsoe said. "We
 can't ask for a better game."
 
 The Suns scored 28 points off 20 Dallas turnovers and shot 45.4 percent. They
 are outscoring opponents 109.5-100.7 during the win streak.
 
 Dragic is averaging 19.9 points in his last 11 games for the Suns.
 
 Sacramento is back home for two games versus the Suns and New York Knicks, and
 is coming off Monday's 128-108 loss at Golden State.
 
 DeMarcus Cousins scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out six
 assists, while Darren Collison posted 17 points and Omri Casspi ended with 16
 for the Kings.
 
 The Warriors shot 53.8 percent from the floor and posted 66 points in the
 paint.
 
 "This is a good team on their home floor. They were rested," said Kings
 interim coach Tyrone Corbin. "We didn't come with the energy we need to
 compete against this type of team on their home floor."
 
 The Kings have lost 11 of their last 14 games and are in the midst of playing
 12 of 14 games in California's capital.
 
 Cousins is averaging 26.0 points and 11.0 rebounds in three games since
 missing 10 straight because of viral meningitis. The Kings were 2-8 in his
 absence.
 
 Sacramento defeated Phoenix, 114-112, in double overtime on Nov. 7 and Cousins
 ended with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Bledsoe had 23 points and eight assists
 in that one for Phoenix. The Kings and Suns will tangle again on Feb. 8 and
 March 25.
 
 12/26 10:29:07 ET

Powered by The Sports Network.