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DDN Sports NBA: Hawks beat 76ers 95-79 for 8th straight win from FOX Sports Sportssouth

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DDN Sports NBA: Hornets end winless streak vs. Jazz,  104-86 from SportsSouth Hornets

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Al Jefferson said he could have returned from a strained groin late in the fourth quarter.

The Charlotte Hornets didn’t need the big man for a change.

The Hornets (8-19) improved to 2-0 with Lance Stephenson out of the lineup and snapped a 10-game losing streak against the Utah Jazz with a 104-86 win on Saturday night.

Kemba Walker led the way with 20 points, Jefferson added 19 points and 10 rebounds and Charlotte beat Utah for the first time in six years.

Jefferson nearly registered his third straight game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds but left the game with six minutes remaining with a mild groin strain and did not return. The 6-foot-10 center didn’t return with his team leading by 20.

"It feels good," Jefferson said. "If they needed me, I could’ve come back in there."

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Hornets, who have won back-to-back games for only the third time this season.

Walker was solid running the point with no turnovers in 33 minutes while getting six assists and four steals.

"I’m not saying he’s at an entirely different level, but his defense, his organizational skills as a point guard and his pick and roll game all year is better," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "He did so much in the summer that he’s a totally different player."

Gordon Hayward had 14 points to lead Utah (8-20).

The Hornets targeted Hayward this offseason as top restricted free agent, signing him to a seven-year, $63 million offer sheet. However, the Jazz matched the offer to retain his rights. The Hornets then turned their attention to Stephenson, who has struggled to fit in with the team and has been the subject of trade rumors.

Charlotte led by 21 entering the fourth quarter, but allowed Utah to get within 10 when Alec Burks knocked down a jump shot with about seven minutes left.

About a minute later when Jefferson headed to the locker room to get looked at it appeared the Hornets might be on the verge of yet another second half collapse.

But Gerald Henderson and Walker both hit 3-pointers to help the Hornets build the lead back to 21 with 3:23 left in the game and the Jazz never challenged again.

Henderson had 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting for Charlotte.

Charlotte out-rebounded Utah 49-39.

The Hornets set the tone early, shooting 47 percent from the field in the first half while holding the Jazz to 34 percent to take a 52-39 lead at the break.

"Our start hurt us," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "We let Al Jefferson catch the ball way too deep. They had a couple of easy buckets early and it made us even more tired."

It was Utah’s fourth game in five nights — all on the East coast.

"They better get used to it," Snyder said. "That’s life in the NBA. We acknowledge there is some fatigue involved but at the same time we just can’t accept that fact."



Jazz: Hayward has scored in double digits 25 times this season.

Hornets: Stephenson missed his second straight game with a groin injury and coach Steve Clifford said he will be out at least through Christmas.

GOBERT’S SPARK: Rudy Gobert had 11 points and 12 rebounds as the Jazz had its two-game winning streak snapped. “He had some energy,” Snyder said. “He seemed like he had some bounce and freshness.”


Nets: Host Miami on Tuesday night.

Hornets: At Memphis on Monday night.

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DDN Sports NBA: Jimmy Butler’s 31 points, Nikola Mirotic’s 6 3s lead Bulls over Grizzlies from FOX Sports Sportssouth

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Chicago rookie Nikola Mirotic left the locker room before the media could hear about his perfect shooting night from outside the arc.

The rest of the Bulls were willing to speak up in praising the reserve forward.

Mirotic scored a career-best 27 points, converting all six of his 3-pointers on Friday night. That, coupled with 31 points from Jimmy Butler, helped the Bulls beat the Grizzlies 103-97 on Friday night, snapping Memphis’ six-game winning streak.

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"Niko was huge with the energy right off the bench," Butler said.

"Some night’s it’s going to go more your way; some nights it’s not," said Bulls forward Pau Gasol, who was limited to six points on 2-of-7 shooting. “I think tonight he definitely didn’t play with any fear.”

Mirotic thwarted several Memphis rallies, particularly in the first half. In the second quarter he connected on four 3-pointers as Chicgo carried a 51-43 into the break. His six 3-pointers on the night also were a season-best.

But Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said there is more to Mirotic’s game than scoring.

"He’s not afraid," Thibodeau said. "He makes tough plays. He hustles all the time. .He’s never satisfied, and I love that about him."

Aaron Brooks scored 17 points and Joakim Noah finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulls outrebounded Memphis 51-45.

Mike Conley led Memphis with 21 points, while Beno Udrih added 15 points before leaving with a hand injury in the fourth quarter. Marc Gasol had 13 points, but was 5-of-15 from the field — part of Memphis shooting 39 percent for the game. Vince Carter scored 10 points for Memphis.

The game featured not only the Gasol brothers, but two of the top teams in their respective conferences. The Bulls entered the game as fourth-best in the East, while Memphis was second in the West and coming off a week that included wins in double-overtime over Charlotte, at Philadelphia in overtime and a triple-overtime victory at San Antonio on Wednesday night. Within the overtime wins was a victory over the Golden State Warriors, who own the best record in the NBA.

The wear and tear of a long stretch showed at times for Memphis.

"Tonight was a game where we didn’t have enough effort due in large part to very tired legs," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. "The minutes have added up on us."

Memphis was able to get close in the final 36 seconds. Conley’s 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds left pulled Memphis within 99-97.

But the Bulls converted nine of 10 free throws in the final 35.5 seconds.

If the battle between the teams wasn’t enough, there was some extra incentive for Pau Gasol, Noah said. Gasol not only was playing against his brother, but also the franchise where he spent the first six-plus years of his career.

"I think for us it was definitely a big win," Noah said. "(The Grizzlies) are definitely playing well. Pau told us (Thursday) that this game meant a lot for him. I like that sentimental (stuff)."



Bulls: Mirotic’s previous season high was 24 against Portland on Nov. 21. … The Bulls are now 13-2 when holding opponents under 100. … Bulls guard Derrick Rose missed his second straight game with an illness, and Taj Gibson also sat out with a right ankle injury.

Grizzlies: Memphis entered the game undefeated against the Eastern Conference in the 2014 calendar year. The Grizzlies had not lost a home game to an Eastern Conference team since Dec. 30, 2013 — to Chicago. … Memphis had won 11 straight home games when playing an opponent playing the second night of a back-to-back. 

NO HOMECOMING: Rose, who played a year at the University of Memphis before moving to the NBA, has played only twice in Memphis since joining the Bulls — his rookie season in 2008 and in 2011.

MEMPHIS INJURY REPORT: Memphis guard Tony Allen missed his second game with a right corneal abrasion. Udrih left the game in the fourth quarter with a jammed right index finger and did not return.


Bulls: Host Toronto on Monday.

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DDN Sports NBA: Conley’s 36 lead Grizzlies past 76ers in overtime from FOX Sports Sportssouth

PHILADELPHIA — Mike Conley fired an errant pass straight into a women’s lap, knocking over a beer and spilling the suds onto the court.

He was much more on target aiming for the net.

Conley hit the tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime and scored a career-high 36 points, leading the Memphis Grizzlies past the Philadelphia 76ers, 120-115 on Saturday night.

"I lined it up pretty good," Conley said. "I was able to get a good look."

Conley had plenty of good looks in the fourth and sparked a Grizzlies rally from 18 points down over the final 7 minutes of regulation to keep the Sixers winless at home. Conley scored 16 points in the fourth and kept Memphis in the hunt for best record in the Western Conference.

Zach Randolph had 24 points and 11 rebounds. Conley was 13 of 22 from the floor, hit five 3-pointers and had nine assists.

Michael Carter-Williams had an empty triple-double for the Sixers with 16 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds. But a handful of turnovers and poor shot selection helped doom the Sixers in the fourth and OT.

The Sixers are the only winless team at home in the NBA at 0-12.

Actor Will Smith, who owns a small stake in the 76ers, sat courtside.

The Fresh Prince wasn’t around at the end for this one, and neither was the 76ers’ lead.

The Sixers led 95-77 with 7:39 left in the fourth when the Grizzlies started to storm back.

Conley buried a 3 to make it 102-97 and Beno Udrih hit one to keep the Grizzlies within six. Conley struck again with another 3-pointer with 45 seconds left and it was suddenly 107-104.

Like most bad teams, the Sixers unraveled down the stretch. Carter-Williams was whistled for a push-off and Hollis Thompson was called for goaltending to help the Grizzlies pull within one.

Thompson, who scored 21 points, appeared to seal the rare win with a pair of free throws.

But Conley was left open to bury the 25-footer and tie the game at 109. Conley made 4 of 5 3-pointers in the fourth and scored 16 points without attempting a free throw.

Conley delivered in OT, too. His 3 with 23 seconds left pushed the lead to 119-112 and thwarted any last-gasp effort of a Sixers rally.

"Lot of teams would have looked at the scoreboard and said a lot of things aren’t going our way," he said. "But we fought through it."

Both teams were on the back end of a back-to-back. The 76ers lost at Brooklyn on Friday and the Grizzlies won in double overtime against Charlotte.

"Mike Conley just said, `Hey, I’m not tired. I want to win. Leave me in. I’ll do whatever it takes,’ so I got him enough minutes," coach David Joerger said. "It’s been a tough two games to be 2-0 when we could wake up tomorrow and be 0-2 on this stretch."

Carter-Williams had five of his six turnovers in the fourth quarter and overtime.

"I was trying to do too much," Carter-Williams said.

The Philly fans roared when Smith, wearing a Phillies cap, was introduced to the crowd. The fans sang along to the team anthem “Here Come The Sixers.” And they all stood for an overdue ovation when the Sixers walked off the court up 12 in the third.

Thompson snapped a tie game with a tip-in midway through the third and the Sixers appeared in control. Thompson buried a 3-pointer from the corner in the fourth for an 88-71 lead.

"I want to stand here and tell everybody that it’s a great learning experience, and there’s some truth to that," coach Brett Brown said. "But the truth of the matter is, that’s a gut-wrenching loss. That’s a fact. I feel for those guys."


Grizzlies: Memphis shot 2 of 12 from 3-point range through the first three quarters and 9 of 14 in the fourth quarter and overtime.

76ers: The 76ers had 71 points with 3:32 left in the third quarter. They scored only 70 in Friday’s loss at Brooklyn. … Carter-Williams has had at least six rebounds and six assists in each of the last nine games. … With the addition this week of forward Ronald Roberts, the 76ers have had 11 undrafted players on their roster this season.


Brown knew before the game the talent didn’t necessarily match up on paper. “To think we’re going to beat them apples to apples, we’re not,” Brown said. “They’ve got better apples.”


Grizzlies: Host Golden State on Tuesday.

76ers: Host Boston on Monday.

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DDN Sports NBA: Mike Conley leads Grizzlies past Hornets in double overtime from FOX Sports Sportssouth

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DDN Sports NBA: Millsap’s 23 points lead Hawks to 9th straight win from FOX Sports Sportssouth

ATLANTA — Paul Millsap scored 23 points, Al Horford added 17 and the Atlanta Hawks won their ninth straight game with a 87-81 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

The winning streak is Atlanta’s longest since it opened the 1997-98 season with 11 victories in a row.

Michael Oladipo scored 21 points and Evan Fournier added 18 for Orlando, which has lost four of six.

Jeff Teague, who had 13 points for the Hawks, hit a pair of free throws with 10.5 seconds left to put Atlanta up 85-81 and all but end Orlando’s hopes.

The Magic took their biggest lead at 12 on Kyle O’Quinn's three-point play midway through the third, but Atlanta went on a 20-7 run to go up 65-54 early in the fourth on Elton Brand's free throw.

With a strained lower back sidelining Nikola Vucevic for a sixth straight game, Orlando big men O’Quinn and Tobias Harris combined for 27 points and 21 rebounds. But the Magic never led after Mike Scott's free throw put the Hawks up 70-69 with 7:12 remaining.

Atlanta point guards Teague and Dennis Schroder each had five assists, but the pair was a combined 3 for 17 from the field before Teague’s 22-footer forced a 69-69 tie early in the fourth.

Millsap hit a 3-pointer to put the Hawks up 76-71 with 5:33 left, forcing Magic coach Jacque Vaughn to call timeout. Millsap scored the game’s final points with a pair of free throws.

The Hawks had 24 assists, 10 more than Orlando.



Magic: The bench was a combined 3 for 21 from the field. Willie Green went scoreless in eight attempts and had two fouls and one turnover in 10 minutes. … Orlando has lost 13 of 15 in the series and dropped to 16-32 in regular-season matchups in Atlanta.

Hawks: Scott returned after missing Wednesday’s win over Philadelphia with the flu, finishing with eight points and three rebounds in 17 minutes. … Reserve F Pero Antic, averaging 5.3 points in 19 games, couldn’t play because of the flu.


Magic: Host Atlanta on Saturday.

Hawks: Visit Orlando on Saturday.