Today is Saturday, February 25, 2017.
|Saturday, February 25, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
|Hawks||vs.||Magic||7:00 (EST) Preview|
Ross, Magic look to find chemistry vs. Hawks
Friday, February 24 at 10:49 PM (EST)
The first game after the All-Star Break and the subsequent trade deadline represent something of a new beginning for several teams and players.
While this year's trade deadline did not have any earth-shattering moves, it did see some shifts for several teams as they make their playoff push or prepare for next season.
For the players, their first game is sometimes a bit uncomfortable. There are always adjustment periods and uncertainty whether something will work.
Both the Orlando Magic and the visiting Atlanta Hawks will be trying to get themselves steady with these new additions -- big and small -- as the season enters its final sprint beginning with the two teams' meeting Saturday.
The Magic made their deadline move last week by trading Serge Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors for Terrence Ross. But the Magic had to wait until Thursday's 112-103 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers to see their new player in action.
Having to give up a player as significant as Ibaka, the Magic hoped Ross would be able to step into a starting role and provide some shooting and scoring to help transform their team -- or at least give it some momentum heading into the offseason.
Inserted into the starting lineup for his first game, Ross had some strong moments. He scored 13 points while shooting 4 for 17 from the floor. He displayed some athletic ability and some aggression to get into the paint and create for a struggling Magic offense. And in the first game he was playing, the coaching staff just wanted him to play freely and confidently.
"He had his pedal on the gas, which is what I want." coach Frank Vogel said of his play Thursday. "I want him to be aggressive and looking to score. He took a couple bad shots. I wanted him to go out and play confident and aggressive. He really has the ability to attack in closeouts. If you don't get to him, he is bombing a 3. If you do get to him, he is very electric off the bounce and makes good decisions in the paint."
Orlando is hoping for more from Ross as the season continues.
Atlanta made more cosmetic moves at the trade deadline. The Hawks shipped out lumbering big man Tiago Splitter to Philadelphia for stretch-4 Ersan Ilyasova.
Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox said the team was seeking shooting if the opportunity came around. And Ilyasova, shooting 35.9 percent from the 3-point line this year, seemed to fit that bill.
"At the end of the day, Ersan Ilyasova was one of our top guys that as we mapped this out for the last month or more could we add a player like him," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
"Lots of times, there is lots of talk and you end up with nobody. To get someone you targeted, I think we feel really good about that."
Ilyasova scored nine points in 16 minutes, failing to make a 3-pointer in two attempts in his Atlanta debut Friday. But it was the Miami Heat who caught fire from beyond the arc in a 108-90 win at Philips Arena. The Heat made 17 of 37 3-pointers in the game.
Atlanta will get point guard Dennis Schroder back in the lineup for Saturday's game against Orlando. Schroder was suspended Friday for failing to report to the team after the All-Star break.
|76ers||vs.||Knicks||7:30 (EST) Preview|
Knicks searching for direction vs. 76ers
Saturday, February 25 at 1:11 AM (EST)
NEW YORK -- Derrick Rose is unsure about the offense the New York Knicks are running. Carmelo Anthony is unclear about the direction management has for the team after standing pat at the trade deadline.
Also murky is New York's ability to consistently get victories and start any kind of winning streak.
New York's latest attempt to get a win occurs Saturday night when it hosts the Philadelphia 76ers.
Rose and Anthony will be present for New York's first home game after the All-Star break as the Knicks attempt to climb from 12th place and five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Rose and Anthony were not traded Thursday and both had some strong comments about the state of things.
Rose was rumored to be included in a deal for Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio and it would have reunited him with former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Instead, the Knicks reportedly tried to expand the trade and the deal never occurred.
Rose then wound up scoring 13 points on 6 of 14 shooting in a nationally televised 119-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
His showing occurred hours after he questioned how the offense works with the Knicks during the morning shootaround.
"It's a different offense," Rose told reporters. "As a point guard, you're always in the corner and just got to play off reads and play that way. It's new for everybody here. I get all my points off random baskets. Unless you see it go to the post, all the other stuff is just random basketball."
Anthony scored 20 points on 9 of 25 shooting and then gave his assessment when asked if he understood the vision management (primarily team president Phil Jackson) has for a team, who is on pace to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season and the 12th time in 17 seasons since trading Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing in September 2000.
"No, not now," Anthony told reporters. "No to be honest with you. No I think they were kind of planning on the trade deadline whether they were trying to make moves, I think that was one plan.
"Now they've got to get back to the drawing board and come up with another plan about the future of this team."
Anthony remains despite Jackson's best efforts to indirectly tweak him and prod the forward to waive the no-trade clause that was included in a contract extension following the 2013-14 season.
Another question for the Knicks is how long will Kristaps Porzingis (sprained ankle) be sidelined for. During the first half Thursday, Porzingis stepped on rookie Wily Hernangomez's foot and the Knicks said the forward has the sprain is mild.
Porzingis said it's getting better and there is not any ligament damage but he will miss his ninth game of the season Saturday.
New York held a 14-10 record after a six-point road win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 11 but is 9-25 since, including a 4-10 record in games decided by five points or less.
One of those close losses was Jan. 11 in Philadelphia. The Knicks squandered a 10-point lead in the final 4:44 and were handed a 98-97 loss when T.J. McConnell hit a 12-footer from the left baseline over Anthony.
McConnell's game-winner was part of a stretch where Philadelphia won 10 of 13 games from Dec. 30 through Jan. 25. Rookie Joel Embiid appeared in nine of those of those games and averaged 22.4 points, nine rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots.
Since then Philadelphia is 5-8 and Embiid's lone appearance was scoring 32 points in 28 minutes in a loss to the Houston Rockets on Jan. 27.
He missed the first of four games the Sixers declared him out for Friday while his injured left knee continues to heal.
Without Embiid, Robert Covington scored 25 points in a 120-112 win over the Washington Wizards Friday. Richaun Holmes helped compensate for Embiid's absence by getting 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks while playing 5 1/2 more minutes than starting center Jahlil Okafor.
"He came in and ended up with a double-double and five blocked shots in 26 minutes," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said of Holmes. "I thought he gave us a fantastic lift.
Holmes' impact in Philadelphia's fourth win in five games and first game since trading Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson and Andrew Bogut could get him some possible starting assignments.
"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days. We lost some teammates, but we got some guys that came in the trade."
|Pacers||vs.||Heat||8:00 (EST) Preview|
Heat try to stay hot against Pacers
Saturday, February 25 at 12:05 AM (EST)
MIAMI -- The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat -- two Eastern Conference teams with mediocre records -- meet at Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday night after both franchises decided not to make a trade before Thursday's deadline.
The Pacers (30-28) held on to star forward Paul George, who can opt out of his contract in July of 2018. They also declined to get any help for their nucleus of George, point guard Jeff Teague and forward Myles Turner.
Teague, who is a free agent after this season, said he is glad George wasn't moved.
"He's the reason I wanted to be here," Teague told the Indianapolis Star. "I can't see him without a Pacers uniform. I never thought of George not being a Pacer."
The Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak on Friday night with a 102-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, so perhaps that's a good start toward determining if standing pat at the deadline was a good move for Indiana.
Teague had a double-double -- 10 points and a game-high 10 assists -- to lead Indiana in its win over Memphis.
The Heat (26-32) was equally quiet at the deadline, resisting the urge to trade the expiring contracts of valuable assets such as Dion Waiters and/or James Johnson.
Miami made 17 3-pointers on Friday night in a 108-90 road win over the Atlanta Hawks. Miami guard Tyler Johnson came off the bench to score a game-high 23 points, making 9 of 11 shots from the floor, including 3 of 4 on three-pointers.
Waiters, who had 14 points and a game-high 10 assists against Atlanta for his first double-double of the season, said he wasn't looking to get traded this week but was prepared either way.
"You never know what can happen," Waiters told The Miami Herald. "I enjoy being with the Heat. My teammates are great, and the chemistry we've built -- I'm comfortable.
"Once you find comfort somewhere, it makes everything else easier."
Waiters also said his son loves Miami, which is a factor in wanting to stay with the Heat if all things are equal.
"It's Miami -- why not?" Waiters said. "We're going to finish out strong and let everything else take care of itself."
Miami beat the Pacers earlier this season 95-89 on Dec. 14, and the Heat has hit its stride of late, going 15-2 in their past 17 games.
The Pacers, meanwhile, started turning things around soon after losing to Miami, going 14-4 from Dec. 30 to Feb. 6. But then they fell into the six-game losing streak that they snapped on Friday.
In other storylines connected to Saturday's game:
--George needs 13 points to pass Billy Knight and move into eighth place on the Pacers' NBA career scoring list.
--Heat guard Josh Richardson (sprained left foot), Pacers forward Thaddeus Young (sprained left wrist) and Pacers forward Lavoy Allen (knee) should all be ready to play Saturday after returning from injury on Friday.
Richardson played on Friday for the first time since Jan. 6. He went scoreless in 13 minutes off the bench, missing all five of his shots.
Young played his first game since Feb. 3. He started and scored 10 points in 26 minutes.
Allen returned after missing three straight games. He had 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.
--Heat backup center Willie Reed has good numbers per 36 minutes: 12.9 points and 11.7 rebounds. Reed, 26, is expected to opt out his contract this summer and should earn his first multi-year deal.
--Al Jefferson is only averaging 8.5 points. But on an average of 36 minutes per game, he would be the team's second-leading scorer behind George.
--Former Heat forward Chris Bosh, who has been out one calendar year due to blood clots, is expected to officially be released next month.
|Bulls||vs.||Cavaliers||8:30 (EST) Preview|
Bulls will give Cavaliers a different look
Friday, February 24 at 11:24 PM (EST)
CLEVELAND -- The Chicago Bulls have already played one game without Taj Gibson.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will get their first look at the Bulls without him, and they aren't too upset about Gibson's absence.
"We had problems guarding (Doug) McDermott and Taj the last game," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "McDermott's movement and his shooting ability and then just Taj with his physical presence of being able to post up and offensive rebounding."
The Cavs host the Bulls at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in ABC's weekly primetime NBA slot.
On Thursday, the Bulls traded forwards Gibson, McDermott, and a 2018 second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for guards Cameron Payne and Anthony Morrow and center Joffrey Lauvergne.
The trading away of Gibson was emotional, as he had spent all eight of his NBA seasons in Chicago. The Bulls won their first game without him Friday night, beating Phoenix 128-121 in overtime.
"Taj was amazing to me all the years that I've been here," said Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler, who scored 22 points in Friday's win, according to ESPN. "One thing you could count on Taj, he was coming in bright spirited every day. ... He did all the little things for us and played extremely hard. But I think the person that he was -- that's what we're going to miss."
Dwyane Wade led the Bulls with 23 points Friday. Morrow and Lauvergne dressed but didn't play. Payne was inactive because of the flu.
In Chicago's two wins over the Cavs this season, Gibson was an astounding 19 of 23 (82.6 percent) from the field and averaged 20.5 points. The Bulls beat Cleveland 106-94 at Quicken Loans Arena on Jan. 4, and McDermott added 17 points off the bench.
"Those two guys gave us problems, but Chicago felt that making that move would make them better so, I mean, we don't know what they're thinking, but from their standpoint they wanted to get a point guard in (Cameron) Payne and get another shooter back in (Anthony) Morrow so they know what they're doing," Lue said. "Just have to see how it works."
The Cavs (40-16) have had their problems against the Bulls this season, but things have gone smoothly lately. Cleveland, which is in first place in the East, has won four straight and is an NBA-best 8-1 in February after beating the New York Knicks 119-104 Thursday night.
Cavs guard Kyle Korver will pass Vince Carter (2,011 3-pointers) for sixth place in career 3-pointers with two more 3s, and he will pass Jamal Crawford (2,013 3-pointers) for fifth with three more treys.
Cleveland has won six straight at home and owns the second-best home record in the NBA at 25-5.
If former Mavericks point guard Deron Williams clears waivers by 5 p.m. Saturday he is expected to sign as a free agent with the Cavs.
On Friday, injured All-Star power forward Kevin Love (knee surgery) said he would be ready for Cleveland's coming playoff run.
"I don't know what the (plan is) as far as other guys resting or me resting going forward, but I imagine between J.R. (Smith, who is recovering from thumb surgery) and myself, we'll get out there and get our wind and be ready to go for whenever (the start of the playoffs is) in April," Love said.
|Pelicans||vs.||Mavericks||8:30 (EST) Preview|
Pelicans, Mavs get back to business after big trades
Saturday, February 25 at 12:50 AM (EST)
There will be a whole lot of new blood on display when the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans collide Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
A lot of it will be Blue Blood.
The Pelicans and Mavericks pulled off the two biggest trades of the season, acquiring DeMarcus Cousins and Nerlens Noel, respectively. The additions of the former Kentucky big men were made with an eye on the future and the now.
Surprisingly, each franchise gave up relatively little in the deals and both are still gunning for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
New Orleans (23-35) dealt for Cousins to pair with fellow UK product Anthony Davis to form a towering frontline. Cousins had 27 points, 14 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 assists and 4 blocks in a 30-point defeat to Houston on Thursday.
Cousins was shocked and hurt by the move from his longtime NBA home, but was happy to get on the floor in New Orleans with his new team.
"It was good to get it under my belt, good to get it out of my way," Cousins said after the 129-99 setback. "It's good to just get back to basketball, finally. I know there was a lot of anticipation coming up to this for the city, for the fans and for myself as well."
On Friday, the Pelicans reluctantly waived Omri Casspi, who was part of the Cousins trade but broke his thumb Thursday against the Rockets. New Orleans signed Reggie Williams and Jarrett Jack to 10-day contracts.
The Mavs added Noel, the No. 6 pick in 2013 from Kentucky, from Philadelphia in a stunning move at Thursday's deadline. Noel didn't make the trip to Minnesota for the Mavs' 97-84 loss Friday, but is expected to make his Dallas debut on his new home floor against the Pelicans.
The Mavericks (22-35) are still clinging to playoff aspirations despite a three-game losing streak. Noel would be a big part of that potential postseason push.
"Our hope and expectation is to have this energize our team and really make a run, but this was an absolute move for the future," Dallas general manager Donnie Nelson said.
Noel has been compared favorably to former Dallas center Tyson Chandler, a defensive-minded rim protector and rebounder who excelled in the pick-and-roll. Noel, at 22, adds to a young nucleus that includes Harrison Barnes (24), Seth Curry (26) and rookie sensation Yogi Ferrell (23).
The Mavs not only traded away veteran center Andrew Bogut to get Noel, but waived veteran point guard Deron Williams later that same day. That opened the door for Ferrell to be the starter for the foreseeable future.
"We love his energy, his enthusiasm for the game," Mavs coach Carlisle said. "He goes hard. He's proven that he can defend some of the really good, quick point guards well. You don't stop those guys, but you can make it hard on them. And he's obviously had some good stretches of scoring the ball.
"So, for him, I want him to stay in the process of being a threat to score on offense and, off of that, being able to make plays, get other people set up. And defensively, just keep playing at a high-energy level, play without fouling, be in a hit-first mode."
|Timberwolves||vs.||Rockets||9:00 (EST) Preview|
Williams integrating in with Rockets, who host T-Wolves
Saturday, February 25 at 1:51 AM (EST)
HOUSTON -- Newly acquired Rockets guard Lou Williams readily admitted to being surprised by his productivity in his debut with Houston on Thursday night in New Orleans, an individual performance that fueled a blowout victory and only bolstered conversation that the Rockets are legitimate contenders in the West.
Williams made seven 3-pointers and poured in 27 points in the Rockets' 129-99 win over the Pelicans, doing so without the benefit of a practice or even a shootaround with his new team. He took to the floor after observing a few set plays on an iPad and did what came natural after that: he shot and he scored.
What comes next for the Rockets (41-18) beyond their hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves (23-35) on Saturday night at Toyota Center is the process of integrating Williams into their team dynamic. Houston produced the second most efficient offense in the league prior to trading with the Los Angeles Lakers and receiving a frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year honors. By adding Williams to their potent mix, the Rockets aim to overwhelm every remaining opponent.
"You've got to be able to score the basketball," Rockets All-Star guard James Harden said.
"I call him the professional scorer," Rockets guard Eric Gordon said of Williams. "That dude, he can score. I've been watching him his whole career and he's a tough person to guard, to stop."
Williams was averaging career highs in scoring (18.6 points), effective field goal percentage (52.7) and PER (24.1) toiling with the lottery-bound Lakers. In joining Houston, he leapt up the standings and claimed a role with a playoff-bound team.
"It means a lot at this stage of my career, being in the latter stages of my career and having an opportunity to compete at a high level," Williams said. "Being with a group of guys that have experienced some success already this year and to be added to that means a lot to me."
Given the volatility at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the Timberwolves began what they hope to be a charge into postseason contention with a 97-84 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night, a victory that left Minnesota three games behind the Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spot.
That Minnesota, ranked in the bottom third of the league defensively, opened the stretch run with a solid defensive performance served as a promising start.
"To win consistently we have to improve our defense," Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We know that and we've got to work at it every day. We know that's key for us and we'll go as far as our defense is going to take us."
If the Timberwolves are going to strike they'd better hurry. They open a four-game road trip in Houston, a stretch that includes games at Utah and San Antonio. Of their final 24 games, the Timberwolves will play 16 on the road.
Minnesota bypassed the Mavericks in the standings with the win and is tied for 12th in the West.
"That's what motivated us," said Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins, who scored 27 points and tied a franchise record with his 16th consecutive 20-plus point game. "They were in a position we wanted to be in."
|Nets||vs.||Warriors||10:30 (EST) Preview|
Nuggets likely to need more than Lin's return vs. Warriors
Saturday, February 25 at 1:14 AM (EST)
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jeremy Lin returns to a site that predates "Linsanity" when he leads the Brooklyn Nets against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
Lin, who grew up in the San Jose suburb of Palo Alto, began his NBA career quietly as a member of the Warriors after going undrafted out of Harvard in 2010.
His 29-game stint with Golden State, interrupted three times by assignments to the NBA Developmental League, ended when he was waived in December 2011, having averaged 2.6 points and 1.4 assists.
Lin was signed three days later by the Houston Rockets and cut loose again before "Linsanity" was born with his signing with the New York Knicks three days after Christmas in 2011.
The San Francisco Bay Area native has returned "home" eight times since then, with mixed results.
The point guard has had two 15-point games and a 14-point, 10-assist double-double as an opponent at Oracle Arena. But he also hasbeen held scoreless once and has lost on five of the eight occasions.
The chances of a sixth loss appear to be high Saturday night, with not only the Nets having to endure the second night of a back-to-back sequences, but also facing a Warriors team that has the best record in the NBA.
Lin returned from a 26-game absence due to a hamstring injury to contribute seven points and five assists to a 129-109 loss on Friday night at Denver. The seven-year veteran had scored in double figures in all 12 games in which he'd previously played this season.
Despite not having played in seven weeks, Lin was pressed right back into the starting lineup and played 15 minutes as the Nets are attempting to gauge whether he and center Brook Lopez can be cornerpieces to a brighter future.
Friday's loss at Denver was the Nets' 15th in a row, adding to their league-worst 9-48 record.
"To have a healthy Jeremy and a healthy Brook out there together with this team, it'll be nice to evaluate that," Nets general manager Sean Marks told reporters Thursday. "It's something we started the season off with, and unfortunately, we only got a handful of games under our belt seeing that. We all know what those two bring to the table: They lift everybody else's play."
Even with Lin having missed a majority of their games, the Nets lead the NBA in pace of play. That has helped produce an average offensive team, but also the NBA's worst defensive numbers.
Meanwhile, the Warriors, coming off a 123-113 home win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, lead the NBA in scoring.
The Warriors will be facing the Nets at full strength, having gotten big men Zaza Pachulia and David West back from injuries for Thursday's game.
"(Pachulia and West) both made huge impacts on the game," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after watching them combine for 10 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots in 29 minutes. "I loved Zaza's physicality. We missed that. I thought David came in and gave us a huge lift as well. Really nice to have both of them back."
|Hornets||vs.||Kings||5:00 (EST) Preview|
Kings shoot for second win with new players
Friday, February 24 at 10:12 PM (EST)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Maybe the sky won't be falling on the Sacramento Kings anytime soon. They certainly don't seem to think it will.
"It feels good," coach Dave Joerger said after watching his new collection of players in their first game. "There's a good vibe."
It's different, that's for sure. The departure of franchise forward DeMarcus Cousins -- still big news in this town five days after his trade to the New Orleans Pelicans -- has created uncertainty about Sacramento's ability or desire to win, but the Kings ripped the Denver Nuggets 116-100 on Thursday in their first contest since Sunday's big deal.
Now comes a chance to generate some real momentum. Sacramento (25-33) faces the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday at the Golden 1 Center. The Hornets (24-33) limp into town with five straight losses and 12 defeats in their past 13 games, including Thursday's 114-108 overtime loss at Detroit.
The Hornets' late-game defensive woes continued in their latest defeat. Charlotte allowed the Pistons to outscore them 44-28 in the fourth quarter and overtime and missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the fourth quarter.
"This is a tough league," Hornets guard Kemba Walker told reporters.
The Kings won't argue. They're trying to end a 10-year playoff drought and trail the Nuggets by a half-game for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with slightly less than one-third of the season left.
They have won four straight at home, their longest hot streak in their home building since the 2012-13 season.
After Charlotte come home games against the Minnesota Timberwolves (22-35) and Brooklyn Nets (9-47).
"We're trying to bring the same kind of intensity every game for the next 24," Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said. "That's all we're really focused on. That outcome of the game is just going to come by how hard we're playing and the intensity we have on defense."
Cauley-Stein scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 35 minutes off the bench in his first game since the Cousins trade. Rookie Skal Labissiere, like Cauley-Stein a Kentucky product, scored a career-best 12 points.
Buddy Hield, the key player acquired in the Cousins' deal, added 15 points in the win. In all, he and Tyreke Evans, a former King who was acquired along with Langston Galloway in the deal for Cousins, combined for 31 points on 10-for-18 shooting with 10 rebounds and four assists.
"It's their opportunity," Kings guard Darren Collison said. "This is their team. They've got to step up to the plate. We're going to be there to help them out, and it feels good to see them have that success."
The Kings will have to slow down Walker and center Frank Kaminsky. Walker scored 26 points and dished seven assists in the Hornets' 109-106 loss to the Kings on Jan. 28. Kaminsky was held to eight points in that game but has scored in double-digits in eight of nine games since, including four in a row. He is averaging 16.2 points and 5.4 rebounds during that stretch.
Forward Cody Zeller (quad) is questionable for the Hornets, while forward Miles Plumlee (right calf strain) will miss his second straight game. Forward Arron Afflalo (hamstring tightness) is questionable for Sacramento.
|Friday, February 24, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
Miles, Pacers jolt Grizzlies, halt six-game skid
Friday, February 24 at 10:43 PM (EST)
INDIANAPOLIS -- With the Thursday buzz of a possible trade of All-Star Paul George behind them, the Indiana Pacers focused on a drive to the NBA playoffs during a 102-92 victory on Friday night over the Memphis Grizzlies.
C.J. Miles scored 17 points, Monta Ellis added 16 and Indiana snapped a six-game losing streak. For Indiana (30-28), it was its first victory since beating Oklahoma City 93-90 on Feb. 6.
George made only 3 of 12 shots from the floor, finished with nine points and nine rebounds and left the game in the fourth quarter with right-leg cramps.
But the second unit, led by Ellis, Lavoy Allen, Rodney Stuckey, Glenn Robinson III and Rakeem Christmas, helped Indiana pull away, combining for 44 points.
"The first unit was good early, but then that second group came in and really established themselves," Indiana coach Nate McMillan said. "Monta, Stuckey and Glenn were really good."
Memphis, which received 13 points from Troy Daniels, lost its second in a row and fell to 34-25. The Grizzlies had beaten the Pacers five consecutive times before Friday night.
"We played like it was a preseason game, quite honestly," Memphis coach David Fizdale said. "We had too many stretches in which we played like it didn't matter. Just when you think your team is looking good and feeling good, stuff like this happens. We're all in the same boat, and Indiana played better basketball."
Indiana, which shot 51.3 percent from the field, received 12 points from Myles Turner and 10 each from Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague and Allen.
Young returned after missing eight games and three weeks with a sprained wrist, and was solid at both ends.
"It felt great to be back," Young said. "I tried to bring a lot of energy, but it actually was that second unit that got us the lead."
Memphis got 12 points from Marc Gasol and 11 each from Tony Allen, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies shot 41.7 percent from the field.
"It's disappointing because it started with our transition defense," Gasol said. "We gave up way too many easy looks and too many straight line drives which put pressure on our weak-side defense. Every game is important. You have to prepare like it is your last game."
Lavoy Allen's offensive rebound basket with 2:27 left in the third quarter gave Indiana an 87-60 lead, prompting Memphis' second timeout of the quarter. Through 36 minutes, Indiana led 89-68.
During the middle quarters, Indiana outscored Memphis 64-42.
"Having Thad back in the lineup helped us have our chemistry back," George said. "I think Monta having fresh legs really helped that second unit do a great job. With me, my right leg cramped up, but the trainers rubbed it out and I feel a whole lot better now."
With the victory, Indiana improved to 21-10 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, securing a winning record on their home court for a 28th consecutive season, the longest current streak in the NBA.
The Pacers extended their halftime lead to 76-53 with 7:34 remaining in the third quarter on Miles' 3-pointer after three free throws from Teague and a 3-pointer. At that point, Indiana was shooting 64 percent from the field.
Thanks to an 11-0 run in the second quarter and a 36-12 advantage in points scored by non-starters, Indiana erased a 26-25 deficit after one quarter and built a 61-49 halftime lead.
Ellis had 14 first-half points off the bench, Lavoy Allen had eight on 4-of-4 shooting and Robinson III and Stuckey each scored five.
Indiana shot 62.5 percent from the field (25 of 40) during the opening two quarters, including 7 of 12 from 3-point range, and outrebounded Memphis 27-13.
Gasol and Conley each scored 10 first-half points for the Grizzlies, who shot 45.5 percent from the field (20 of 44). Tony Allen added nine first-half points for Memphis.
NOTES: After missing eight games with a badly sprained left wrist suffered in a Feb. 3 victory at Brooklyn, Indiana F Thaddeus Young (11.5 points, 6.1 rebounds) returned to action and was in the starting lineup. ... The Pacers were 2-6 in the eight games that Young missed. ... The game was a homecoming for Memphis G Mike Conley and F Zach Randolph, who are from Indianapolis and Marion, respectively. ... After playing the Grizzlies, Indiana has only 10 remaining home games and will play its next five on the road, including trips to Miami, San Antonio and Houston. ... Randolph leads the NBA in double-doubles coming off the bench with 14. ... Memphis F Vince Carter celebrated his 40th birthday on Jan. 26 and is the NBA's oldest active player.
76ers adapt to roster changes, whip Wizards
Friday, February 24 at 11:13 PM (EST)
PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia 76ers, besides resuming their season after the NBA All-Star break on Friday night, were playing without Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova, who were jettisoned before Thursday's trade deadline.
"That was the biggest question before we started the game -- how we would come back," rookie forward Dario Saric said.
The Sixers answered it emphatically, building a 22-point lead midway through the fourth quarter and then holding off the Washington Wizards 120-112.
Robert Covington had 25 points, 11 rebounds and four steals, and Saric added 20 points and 11 boards for Philadelphia, which won for the fourth time in five games despite the continuing absence of center Joel Embiid, the team's top scorer and rebounder.
Gerald Henderson also scored 20 points for the Sixers, and Richaun Holmes contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
"I didn't know we were going to react, but we can only control what we're able to control," Covington said. "We just had to focus on what goes on, on the basketball court."
Bradley Beal poured in 40 points and John Wall collected 29 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds for Washington, which mounted a furious comeback after falling behind 108-86 with 7:04 to play.
Wall's two free throws with 22.9 seconds left brought the Wizards within four at 116-112, but Philadelphia's Nik Stauskas made two free throws with 21.9 remaining and Henderson added two with 7.7 seconds to play.
Markieff Morris notched 14 points and Marcin Gortat had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Washington, which saw a four-game winning streak end. The Wizards also lost for just the second time in 13 outings.
Bojan Bogdanovic, acquired by Washington from Brooklyn on Thursday, scored two points while playing nearly 18 minutes off the bench.
"We didn't have it tonight," Washington coach Scott Brooks said. "We just made too many defensive mistakes. That is unacceptable."
The Sixers sent Noel to Dallas for a package that included veteran center Andrew Bogut and second-year forward Justin Anderson. Anderson did not play Friday night, and Bogut is not with the team while tending to personal business, amid speculation that he will be bought out of his contract.
Ilyasova was sent to Atlanta for center Tiago Splitter. Splitter has not played this season after undergoing hip surgery in February 2016, and he did not dress Friday.
Embiid sat out for the 12th straight game and the 15th time in 16 games because of a bone bruise and meniscus tear in his left knee.
Philadelphia also announced earlier in the day that forward Ben Simmons, the top pick in the 2016 draft, would miss the rest of the season after he underwent a CT scan Thursday showing that his surgically repaired right foot, injured in training camp, still had not fully healed.
The Sixers, down 28-26 after a quarter, surged ahead 36-30 early in the second quarter behind Covington, who contributed a steal and 3-pointer, then a layup, then another 3-pointer.
With Philadelphia leading 43-41 later in the quarter, Saric scored eight points in an 18-6 flurry, two coming on a play where he backed Beal down, spun to the goal and laid the ball in with his left hand.
The Sixers' cushion was 61-49 at halftime, at which point Covington had 18 points and Saric had contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Beal had 19 points to pace Washington, and Wall had 12 points, six assists and two blocked shots.
Philadelphia made 13 of 22 shots from the floor, 10 of them layups or dunks, while going ahead by as many as 17 in the third quarter. Their lead was 95-81 heading into the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Philadelphia C Tiago Splitter, who in addition to his hip problems has been bothered by calf injuries, said before the game he had been practicing with Atlanta. He hopes to play soon. ... Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo said at a news conference earlier in the day that he regretted the way the team failed to keep the public apprised of Joel Embiid's injury status. "It was a mistake to put out 'day to day,'" Colangelo said. "It won't happen again." ... The Sixers' bench outscored the Washington reserves 34-11. ... Washington G John Wall, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown and Sixers F Robert Covington were all assessed technical fouls in the fourth quarter.
DeRozan, Raptors race past Celtics
Saturday, February 25 at 12:32 AM (EST)
TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry, the Toronto Raptors All-Star point guard, could not play Friday night because of a sore right wrist.
That was a cue for the Raptors' All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan to take matters into his own hands.
DeRozan was up to the task, scoring 43 points to lead the Raptors to a 107-97 victory over the Boston Celtics.
"It always changes, especially when (Lowry) is not out there, understanding that the attention is going to be focused on me so I've got to pick it up a little bit," DeRozan said. "Be more aggressive, pick and choose my spots ahead of time and that's what I tried to do tonight."
DeRozan had 41 points in Toronto's win over Boston on Jan. 10 and Toronto took the season series between the teams 3-1.
"It's very frustrating, he's a great scorer, he's had his way with us the past two games," Celtics forward Jae Crowder said. "They give good effort, they play very hard. They played had and gained momentum."
DeRozan's jumper in the final minute gave Toronto a five-point lead and his two free throws with 33.6 seconds left made it a seven-point advantage DeRozan made two more free throws with 27.5 seconds left to seal the win.
Lowry injured his wrist in the win over the Charlotte Hornets on Feb. 15 but was still able to participate in the All-Star Game this past weekend. The injury will be evaluated during the weekend. The game Friday was the first for Toronto since it played Charlotte.
The Celtics, who led by as many as 17 points in the first half, held tight to a three-point edge entering the fourth quarter.
DeRozan scored four straight points to tie the game for Toronto at 88 with 4:35 to play in the game. Crowder's 3-pointer gave Boston the lead, but the Raptors scored the next five points with DeMarre Carroll's 3-pointer giving Toronto the lead with 3:27 to play.
DeRozan's jumper made it a four-point lead and Cory Joseph's 18-foot jumper gave Toronto a five-point advantage with two minutes left. Crowder's 21-foot jumper cut the lead to three.
Serge Ibaka had 15 points and seven rebounds in his Raptors' debut. Patrick Patterson and Joseph added 11 points each for Toronto (34-24). Forward P.J. Tucker, also making his Raptors' debut, scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
It was not known if Tucker would play, one day after the trade and without a practice with his new team. He said there was no question once he was in the locker room. "I haven't missed a game in a long time," he said. "I wasn't going to miss this one. We have so many weapons and we can wreak havoc on defense."
Working in two new players, DeRozan said. "We just played, we kept it simple."
Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 20 points and Marcus Smart added 19 points off the bench. Crowder also had 19 points and Jaylen Brown added 13 for Boston (37-21).
The Raptors did a good job of keeping Thomas in check down the stretch.
"They just showed (Thomas) different looks, really pressured him, switched a lot, trapped him a lot," Celtics forward/center Al Horford said. 'We will all learn how to make adjustments, I'm sure other teams will try to emulate them.
Horford said the Raptors kept pressuring the Celtics. "I think we have to do a better job of handling the pressure," he said. "We have to give them credit because they did a good job of that, really, all four times we've played them."
Ibaka, obtained in a trade with the Orlando Magic on Feb. 14, started at power forward. He had a block and four points in the first quarter.
Tucker, obtained in a deal with the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, appeared as a reserve in the first quarter and was a presence defensively.
Boston led by 17 points on Brown's 3-pointer with 1:29 left in the first half.
Tucker made a 3-pointer from the corner and DeRozan made a hook shot to complete the first-half scoring, leaving Boston with a 55-45.
NOTES: Raptors F P.J. Tucker was returning to the team that drafted him in 2006. Toronto reacquired him in a trade with the Phoenix Suns on Thursday. The Raptors sent F Jared Sullinger and two second-round draft picks to Phoenix in the transaction. ... Toronto F Patrick Patterson (left knee contusion) returned Friday and entered the first quarter after missing the previous six games following an injury against the Magic at Orlando on Feb. 3. ... Boston F Jaylen Brown (strained right hip), who returned to the lineup Friday, had missed the three previous games. ... Celtics G Avery Bradley (strained right Achilles tendon) missed his 21st game Friday but Boston coach Brad Stevens said that he has progressed well and should return soon. ... The Raptors will play their next game Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Air Canada Centre. ... The Celtics next game will be Sunday against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Heat fire 17 3-pointers in win vs. Hawks
Friday, February 24 at 11:52 PM (EST)
ATLANTA -- The Miami Heat didn't lose any momentum over the All-Star break. In fact, they returned with their best display of perimeter shooting all season.
The Heat made a season-high 17 3-pointers, with six players hitting at least two, and routed the Atlanta Hawks 108-90 on Friday night at Philips Arena.
The Heat (26-32) have won two straight games and 15 of their last 17. It marked the 15th straight game in which Miami has scored 100 points, the longest streak in the Pat Riley-Erik Spoelstra Era.
"We have to find different ways to win in this league and we'll do that going down the stretch when it gets very competitive," Spoelstra said. "Guys are starting to gain confidence and sharing the ball. They understand we're a better team when the ball moves. More guys feel in rhythm."
Guard Tyler Johnson came off the bench to score 23 points, including three 3-pointers. Miami made 17 of 37 3-point tries. Luke Babbitt had four and Johnson and Wayne Ellington three each. The Heat's previous best was 15 on Feb. 6 in a win over Minnesota.
"The guys enjoyed the way the ball was moving," Spoelstra said. "Everybody felt involved."
Atlanta (32-25) has lost two straight and five of its last 10. The victory gave Miami a split of the season's four games.
Johnson was in rhythm all night. He made 9 of 11 shots from the field and added five rebounds and five assists. Goran Dragic had 17 points and six rebounds. Dion Waters scored 14 and Rodney McGruder added 13.
"We switched a little more than usual tonight," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "They're doing a great job of getting a shoulder and getting an edge. They finish just enough when the kick it. They're doing a great job of balanching it."
Atlanta was led by forward Paul Millsap, who scored 21 points, but only two in the second half. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 11 points and Kent Bazemore scored 10. The Hawks shot 38 percent from the field.
"We got shots, the ball was moving, they just didn't fall in," Bazemore said.
Atlanta missed the floor leadership of starting point guard Dennis Schroder, who was suspended for a game for reporting late after the All-Star Game break. Schroder failed to take his visa with his passport when he went home to Germany over the break. He missed two practices and didn't return to Atlanta until 11 p.m. Thursday night.
Schroder was replaced in the lineup by Malcolm Delaney, who made his first NBA start. Delaney scored five points.
"We came in here with the right approach to play the way we needed, regardless of who's in and who's not," Spoelstra said. "That's a big component of their game to be missing."
Atlanta shot just 38.5 percent from the field in the first half and only 65.2 percent (15 of 23) from the line. That was quite a contrast from Miami, which made 11 of 19 3-point tries.
Miami led 25-24 at the end of the first quarter but scored 38 in the second quarter and led 63-29 at halftime.
The Heat had its biggest lead 63-46 when Tyler Johnson made two free throws, but the Hawks got a near-midcourt basket from Kent Bazemore at the horn to make it a 14-point game.
Budenholzer said, "We have to do a better job of keeping the ball in front of us."
The Heat continued to build the lead, which reached 25 when Rodney McGruder converted a three-point play to give Miami an 87-62 lead with 2:36 left in the third quarter.
Miami led 87-66 after three quarters and it wasn't long before Atlanta removed its starters and turned it over to the reserves.
Miami was able to overcome an off night by center Hassan Whiteside, who was limited to two points, but had 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.
"Hassan was setting some great triggers for us, setting some great screens," Spoelstra said. "The ball movement, the extra passes for the 3s, those started with picks from Hassan. He's very mature to help out the team."
NOTES: Atlanta G Thabo Sefolosha returned after missing 10 games with a thigh injury. He scored two points in 21 minutes. ... Miami G Josh Richardson returned after missing 19 games with a foot injury. He played 13 minutes and did not score. ... F Ersan Ilyasova, acquired via a trade from Philadelphia at the trade deadline, made his Atlanta debut. His first shot was an air ball, but he finished with nine points. ... The Hawks signed F Ryan Kelly and G Lamar Patterson to multiyear contracts to fill out the roster. Kelly played in nine games with the Hawks earlier this season. Patterson signed to two 10-day contracts and appeared in four games. ... Atlanta wore 1970s version blue jerseys on Friday. ... Both teams complete a back-to-back on Saturday. Atlanta travels to Orlando. Miami hosts Indiana.
Hayward helps Jazz roll past Bucks
Saturday, February 25 at 12:14 AM (EST)
MILWAUKEE -- For all the fancy plays a coach may try to draw up, winning in the NBA generally comes down to two simple ideas: Can you run the pick-and-roll, and can you defend it?
The Utah Jazz ran the pick-and-roll almost to perfection much of Friday night and the Milwaukee Bucks did not defend it.
Gordon Hayward scored 29 points to lead an offense that scored 52 points in the paint as the Jazz waltzed to a 109-95 victory.
The Jazz (36-22) won their second straight after a three-game skid.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 30 points in Sunday's All-Star Game, led all scorers with 33 points and added 12 rebounds for the Bucks. That mattered little as Milwaukee trailed by double digits for all but a few seconds of the second half.
Forward Derrick Favors scored 19 points for Utah, and center Rudy Gobert added 15 points and 16 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double and 40th of the season.
Milwaukee (25-31) had won its last three games before the All-Star break.
The game turned in a first quarter that saw the Jazz score easy basket after easy basket. When they weren't scoring at the rim, they were put on the free throw line because Bucks defenders seemed a step behind. Utah scored 22 points in the paint in the first quarter and 52 for the game.
"We did a really good job finding our rollers," Utah coach Quinn Snyder said.
That was an understatement.
Milwaukee opened with an 11-3 burst during which the Jazz went 0 of 3 from the field. After Snyder took a timeout, his team went on a serious roll.
Haywood scored nine during a 23-5 run. By the end of the quarter, the Jazz led 36-27. Other than a 3-pointer by George Hill, every Jazz point came either in the paint or at the line.
"Defensively, it wasn't the 3, it was them on the roll being able to finish," Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. "They took advantage of our defense today."
Milwaukee pulled within 36-31 early in the second quarter, but a three-point play and a basket by Favors and a 3-pointer by Hill pushed Utah to a 46-33 lead.
Milwaukee never got closer than nine the rest of the night.
"Our guards did a good job of attacking the pick-and-roll," Hayward said. "They're big enough to see over the top and they were hitting the roll man. 'Fave' did a good job of rolling, and Rudy.
"They (the Bucks) were staying home on the corners, so the roll was wide open."
Milwaukee has had trouble giving up corner 3-pointers. Working to repair that problem left a gaping hole in the middle.
"It's something we went over in the walk through," Milwaukee guard Matthew Dellavedova said of Utah's pick-and-roll attack. "It's a balancing act. You have to do both -- cover the roll and get out to the shooters.
"They killed us with the shooters and a little bit of the roll in Utah (Feb. 1). Tonight, it was the roll."
Michael Beasley added 22 points for Milwaukee.
Hill's two free throws with 35.7 seconds left in the first half gave Utah a 59-46 lead at the break.
Milwaukee did little to cut into the margin. Hayward dropped in eight more in the third quarter to reach 20 for the game. Three-pointers by Ingles and Dante Exum in the final 1:41 of the quarter sent the Jazz to the final 12 minutes with an 87-75 lead.
Milwaukee never threatened to make a game of it in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Utah C Rudy Gobert entered the game with at least one blocked shot in each of his previous 26 games. He didn't get a block in the first half but had one on the first possession of the third quarter to push his streak to 27. He finished with three blocks. Gobert also had 16 rebounds, giving him double-figure rebounds in 41 of the last 43 games. ... G Gordon Hayward, coming off his first All-Star appearance, continued to show he is one of the NBA's best all-around players with a 20-point night that included a plus-11 rating. He has scored at least 20 in seven of the last nine games, topping 30 in four of those games. ... Utah G Dante Exum totaled 12 points, giving him double figures off the bench in three straight games. Exum has reached double figures 15 times this season. ... Milwaukee G Khris Middleton continues his return after missing the first 50 games with a torn left hamstring. In his fifth game back, Middleton posted nine points in 24 minutes in Friday's loss. ... Bucks C Greg Monroe made 30 of 39 shots from the field in the previous three games but went just 2 of 8 against the Jazz.
Westbrook, Thunder too strong for Lakers
Friday, February 24 at 11:40 PM (EST)
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Alex Abrines knew there was a chance he'd get his first start of the season for Oklahoma City. With Victor Oladipo ailing, Abrines was the next man up.
However, what the rookie didn't expect was to post a career-high 19 points to help the Thunder beat the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Abrines knew how important it was for him to see his first couple of shots go through the rim.
"I was feeling pretty good," Abrines said. "For the shooters, to hit their first shot it gets more easy as you get confidence. So it was important to hit the first two."
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook collected his 28th triple-double of the season. He scored 17 points on 4-of-17 shooting from the field to go with 17 assists and 18 rebounds.
Andre Roberson matched Abrines with 19 points as they combined to hit eight of the team's 10 3-pointers. Steven Adams collected 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder (33-25).
D'Angelo Russell paced the Lakers (19-41) with 29 points on 12-of-26 shooting from the floor. Jordan Clarkson came off the bench to score 14 points and Julius Randle added 13.
Magic Johnson, the Lakers' new president of basketball operations, was in the building to watch the team for the first time since taking over. For the players, that means they are playing not only for the present but also for the future.
"It's good. It like you're starting over and trying to impress," Russell said. "It's like coming to a new team. Trying to impress the GM (general manager) and the guys in the front office with your play, with your off the court and the way you handle yourself. So it's just all different."
The Thunder reserves made the biggest impact in the first half. Abrines scorched the Lakers for 10 first-quarter points. That included knocking down two 3-pointers.
Oklahoma City also received strong contributions from its newest members. Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, who were traded from Chicago on Thursday, didn't hesitate to get involved in their first game with the Thunder. The duo combined for 10 points.
"It felt great," Gibson said. "I didn't want to mess up. I was able to calm down and have a lot of fun with the guys. It's a great group of guys, real unselfish. ... I had a great time tonight."
The Lakers stayed in striking distance throughout the first half. Russell and Clarkson were able to knock down a few jumpers while also driving to the rim for layups.
Los Angeles trailed Oklahoma City 58-51 at halftime.
Abrines once again came out on fire to start the third quarter. He hit three quick 3-pointers as the Thunder stormed ahead to a 73-58 advantage.
The third quarter was a disaster for the Lakers. Not only were they unable to slow down the Thunder, their offense fell apart.
Only Russell seemed to be able to get his shot off as they fell behind by 20 points.
Westbrook reached his triple-double midway through the quarter. He gaves his new teammates a front-row view of what the type of season he has been having.
"It's a lot better to be with him than against him," McDermott said of Westbrook.
The Lakers finally found their offense in the fourth quarter as Randle and Ingram joined the party. They were able to cut the Thunder lead to nine with four minutes left but didn't have enough left in the tank to finish the run.
"I think the key was defense," Thunder center Enes Kanter said. "I think we did a very good job of communication. We did a really good job on pick and rolls. I think the most important thing was everybody give 100 percent effort."
NOTES: Oklahoma City G Victor Oladipo missed Friday's game due to back spasms, which started Thursday. G Alex Abrines started in his place. "He did go through one practice and then he had some back spasms," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "He did some light shooting and some movement, but we kept him out of contact. This morning he felt better, but didn't feel great." ... With Lou Williams no longer on the team, Lakers coach Luke Walton said it is an opportunity for other players to take over the scoring load. That included G D'Angelo Russell and F Julius Randle. ... Thunder forward Enes Kanter returned to the lineup after missing the previous 10 games with a fractured forearm.
Wiggins, Towns lead Timberwolves past Mavericks
Friday, February 24 at 11:47 PM (EST)
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ricky Rubio tried to downplay his name in trade rumors but noted the emotional toll those rumors can take on players.
Thursday's deadline passed and Rubio was still a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, with coach Tom Thibodeau saying the team didn't see any potential trades which would help the team fight to break a long postseason drought.
Rubio showed Friday just how vital he can be to Minnesota's hopeful playoff run.
Rubio had 13 points, 14 assists, five rebounds and three steals in the Timberwolves' 97-84 win against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.
"Ricky is a big part of our team, not even just from a skill and leader standpoint; but just morale," center Karl-Anthony Towns said.
Towns had 26 points and 18 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points as Minnesota (23-35) recorded its third win in four games and pulled ahead of Dallas (22-35) in the Western Conference.
"What happened this week? Nothing happened, right?" Rubio deadpanned after the game.
He added: "It was a key game for us. They are right there fighting for the playoffs. We got a great opportunity after Denver lost last night. It's going to be like that every week now for the rest of the season. Every game is going to be a key. We have to be ready."
Seth Curry scored a career-high 31 points for the Mavericks, who were without new acquisition Nerlens Noel on Friday. Noel is expected to make his Dallas debut at home on Saturday against New Orleans.
Harrison Barnes added 20 points for the Mavericks, who have lost three in a row.
"I thought they played with more overall force for the sum total of the game," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "That can't happen, especially on the road. We just got to do better in a lot of little areas. This game is turning into a game of very thin margins for a lot of teams. We're one of them and Minnesota's one of them."
The Mavericks used a 12-4 run at the start of the fourth quarter to tie the game 75-75. Dallas would never lead, though, and Minnesota answered with a 7-0 run.
Barnes pulled the Mavericks within two with a 3-point with 5:57 left, but the Timberwolves closed the game on a 15-4 run as Rubio had four points and two assists in the final stretch.
"He just controls the ball, controls the pace of the game, puts everyone in position to score and make a play for each other," Wiggins said of Rubio.
Wiggins, coming off back-to-back 40-point games, controlled the first quarter with 16 points for Minnesota, while Dallas had six turnovers in the first.
The Mavericks entered the game averaging the fewest turnovers in the NBA with 11.6 per game. They finished with 16 for the game.
"Just some sloppy play, some bad passes, things like that," Curry said. "Just coming in off the break kind of sloppy with it. We usually don't turn it over as much. This year we've been pretty good with that. We got to be better."
Dallas then missed nine of their first 10 shots to start the second quarter as the Wolves built a 13-point lead and Towns got going. Towns was scoreless until hitting a hook shot with 7:39 left in the second period.
Curry was busy keeping Dallas close. He had 12 points in the first half and hit two 3s. Yogi Ferrell, who took over the starting point guard spot with Deron Williams being waived on Thursday, was in early foul trouble and Curry had to man the point.
Ferrell had averaged 14.2 points and 4.7 assists in his first 10 games with the Mavericks. He had just five points and four assists on Friday.
NOTES: Mavericks PG J.J. Barea missed his 14th straight game with a left calf strain. ... Minnesota activated F Adreian Payne, but he was unavailable for the ninth straight game as he deals with thrombocytopenia. ... Timberwolves F Andrew Wiggins scored at least 20 points for the 16th straight game, tying the franchise record set by Kevin Garnett. Garnett accomplished the feat twice. ... Minnesota C Karl-Anthony Towns had his 13th straight game with at least 20 points but also had seven turnovers. ... Dallas is 8-21 on the road this season. ... The Wolves shot 52.6 percent from the field. They are 12-3 when shooting at least 50 percent. ... Minnesota travels to Houston to face the Rockets on Saturday.
Butler keeps shooting; Bulls pull out OT win
Saturday, February 25 at 12:27 AM (EST)
CHICAGO -- When Jimmy Butler struggled to find his shooting touch on Friday night, his teammates, namely rookie Denzel Valentine, told him to keep shooting.
Butler missed 10 of his first 13 shots, but when the Chicago Bulls needed their star most, the shots that had missed their mark most of the night suddenly started to fall.
And in the end, that's all that mattered.
Dwyane Wade scored 23 points, Butler had 22 and five Bulls scorers reached double figures in a 128-121 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns.
Butler was a big reason why.
"The coaches kept putting the ball in my hands," Butler said. "I kept taking the same shots and making the same plays and they went in."
Butler gave the Bulls a 108-106 lead with 9.1 seconds remaining in regulation after his 3-point field goal with 48.3 seconds left knotted the score at 106.
Phoenix forced overtime when Devin Booker hit two of three free throws with 1.9 seconds left after he was fouled by Wade on a 3-point attempt.
Booker led the Suns (18-40) with 27 points and had a chance to give them a lead with less than two seconds remaining in regulation. But after hitting the first two free throws, Booker -- who finished 5 of 8 from the line - missed the third attempt, which forced overtime and opened the door for the Bulls.
"I missed the free throw," Booker said. "I'll move on."
Booker's miss gave Butler and Wade an opportunity to lift the Bulls (29-29) to their third straight victory after they erased an 11-point deficit late in the fourth quarter.
Wade's fadeaway jumper gave the Bulls a 114-110 lead with 3:39 remaining in overtime. A Butler steal and breakaway dunk extended the lead to six before a Booker 3-point play drew the Suns within three.
But Wade hit two free throws with 1:50 remaining as Chicago pushed its lead back to seven and put the game out of reach.
Nikola Mirotic scored 20 points off the bench and Robin Lopez added 19 for the Bulls, who also got 15 points from Valentine on 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.
Valentine helped spark the comeback after the Bulls fell behind by as many as 13 points in the third quarter. When the Bulls traded Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to Oklahoma City on Thursday, it opened the way for more playing time for Valentine, who hit his first five 3-point attempts.
"That gave me a lot of confidence," Valentine said. "I think I played a complete game, but I need to stay focused and keep working hard."
As key as Valentine was, though, the combination and Butler and Wade made the difference after Phoenix took an 11-point lead on Booker's 3-pointer with 4:32 remaining in regulation.
"That's what great players do -- they step up when you need it the most," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.
In overtime, the Suns couldn't produce enough offense and didn't play enough defense to stop Butler and Wade. Eric Bledsoe, Marquese Chriss and TJ Warren each scored 17 points for the Suns. Alan Williams also had 16 points for Phoenix.
"We've got to get stops to carry us in games," said Suns coach Earl Watson, whose team committed 19 turnovers in the loss, including four in the final three minutes.
"We needed a big stop and just couldn't get it."
Now, back at .500 while holding onto the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference heading into a road test against Cleveland on Saturday night, the Bulls hope to build off another win that included a late surge.
"We found a way to win -- that's what this team is all about," Wade said. "We obviously have a tough back-to-back against the best team in the East, but tonight was about taking care of this game."
NOTES: The Suns waived F Mike Scott and C/F Jared Sullinger a day after they were obtained from Toronto for P.J. Tucker. ... The Suns signed G Ronnie Price for the remainder of the season. ... F Dragan Bender is making progress after undergoing ankle surgery earlier this month but has not returned to basketball activities. ... Bulls F Paul Zipser missed his fourth straight game with ankle tendinitis and will not travel to Cleveland for the game against the Cavaliers on Saturday. ... G Dwayne Wade returned to the starting lineup after missing three games with a wrist injury. ... Bulls F Bobby Portis made his second start of the season and took the spot of Taj Gibson, who was traded to Oklahoma City. ... Newly acquired G Cameron Payne passed his physical with the Bulls, but he is recovering from the flu and did not play. G Anthony Morrow and C/F Joffrey Lauvergne also passed physicals.
Nuggets hand Nets 15th straight loss
Saturday, February 25 at 12:52 AM (EST)
DENVER -- With Denver's young star off his game, the newcomer did his best Nikola Jokic impersonation.
It worked out well for the Nuggets.
Mason Plumlee stepped in for the struggling Jokic and finished two assists shy of a triple-double, Gary Harris scored a career-high 25 points and the Nuggets beat the Brooklyn Nets 129-109 on Friday night.
Plumlee finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists to help Denver win for the first time in his three games since joining the team in a Feb. 12 trade with Portland.
"He was unbelievable tonight," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "This is the Mason Plumlee we envisioned."
Wilson Chandler scored 24 points and Danilo Gallinari had 20 points and eight rebounds for Denver, which snapped a six-game losing streak against Brooklyn.
Brook Lopez had 17 points and Trevor Booker totaled 15 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, who have lost 15 straight.
Nets guard Jeremy Lin played 15 minutes and had seven points and five assists in his return from a strained left hamstring. Lin missed the previous 26 games, but his return wasn't enough to stop Brooklyn's losing streak.
"I felt extremely slow, especially on the defensive end," said Lin, who played his first game since Dec. 26. "In that third quarter, really all game, I felt like I couldn't move at the speed I wanted to, which kind of showed itself defensively.
"I didn't get hurt again. It's going to be ugly at times, but slowly getting my rhythm back. The frustrating part as a competitor is not being able to put the imprint on the game that I want to, but it will come."
The Nets (9-48) last lost to Denver on Dec. 3, 2013, in their first season in Brooklyn. Until Friday they dominated the series, winning both games last season with buzzer-beaters.
The Nuggets (26-32) didn't let it get down to that Friday. They led by 15 in the first half and, after Lopez opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer, went on a 15-5 run to go up 79-61.
"We knew we had to come out and be aggressive in the third quarter," Harris said. "We had the lead at the half and we just kind of had to step on their necks and not let them back in the game. That's what we did."
The lead grew to 27 points late in the third quarter and to as much as 32 in the fourth.
"I don't think our energy level was where it needed to be, I don't think our execution was where it needed to be, I don't think our effort on the boards was good enough," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "We definitely didn't defend the 3-point line."
The Nuggets won despite an off night from Jokic. The catalyst of Denver's offensive revival, he picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and was on the bench for most of the first half. He had more turnovers (three) than points at halftime.
Jokic has acknowledged that he is feeling fatigued. He has seen action in 51 of Denver's 59 games after playing for Serbia at the Rio Olympics last summer.
He didn't get time off at the All-Star break, competing in the Rising Stars Game and Skills Challenge in New Orleans.
The grind of all that basketball showed Friday. He made his only field goal attempt of the game and finished with just two points, although he did have seven assists in 14 minutes.
His teammates were happy to step up, particularly Plumlee. He picked up his eighth assist on Harris' fourth and final 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter but couldn't get another before sitting with 2:31 left.
"Before I went in the last time, somebody told me to go get a couple of assists," Plumlee said. "I was trying, just didn't come through."
NOTES: Nuggets F Kenneth Faried (back spasms) left in the third quarter and did not return. ... Brooklyn C Brook Lopez stepped up to help a young fan make a basket during the timeout after the first quarter. The toddler was being held up to lay the ball in but couldn't get it over the rim. Lopez came over, lifted him higher and he put it in the bucket. ... Nuggets C Roy Hibbert, acquired from Milwaukee on Thursday, was not expected to arrive in Denver until late Friday night. ... Nets F K.J. McDaniels was not active. Brooklyn acquired McDaniels from Houston on Thursday.
Leonard leads Spurs over Clips
Saturday, February 25 at 1:29 AM (EST)
LOS ANGELES -- Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points, and the San Antonio Spurs used a third-quarter spark to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-97 on Friday night at Staples Center.
Tony Parker and Pau Gasol, who played for the first time in 15 games after breaking his left hand, contributed 17 points apiece for the Spurs (44-13), who won their third in a row. Gasol also collected 11 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points and 11 boards and Patty Mills added 14 points for San Antonio.
Blake Griffin scored 23 of his 29 points in the second half for the Clippers (35-23). Austin Rivers came off the bench to score 23 points, while Chris Paul, who returned after missing 14 games with a torn ligament in his left thumb, scored 17 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out five assists. DeAndre Jordan chipped 14 points and eight rebounds.
Los Angeles wiped out a 10-point deficit in the final quarter, cutting the margin to six after a bucket by Griffin with 7:35 remaining, but San Antonio pulled away down the stretch.
The Spurs led 47-42 at the break. However, the Clippers skated out to a 68-59 advantage with a 26-12 run after two foul shots by Griffin with 4:26 left in the third quarter. The Spurs rallied though, using an 18-5 spurt to end the quarter as Manu Ginobili's 3-pointer put the Spurs up 77-73.
The Clippers, who won the two previous meetings against the Spurs, missed an opportunity to sweep the Spurs in a season series for the second time in franchise history. The only time it occurred was during the 1996-97 season.
NOTES: Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he held PG Chris Paul out of Thursday's loss at Golden State to avoid playing him in back-to-back games. Rivers also is concerned with Paul handling the basketball during upcoming games. "Chris is a great ballhandler, so I think it will be easier for him," said Rivers, comparing Paul's situation to his when he broke a thumb as a player. "But I do think ballhandling is the toughest thing when you come back at all positions. Ballhandling is what you lose." Spurs coach Gregg Popovich couldn't resist taking a jab at President Trump again. "No one loves the First Amendment more than I do," said Popovich, referring Trump banning several news outlets from a White House briefing Friday. ... The Clippers were 6-8 during Paul's absence. ... Both teams resume play Sunday in a doubleheader at Staples Center. The Spurs play the Los Angeles Lakers in the opener, while the Clippers face the Charlotte Hornets in the nightcap.
|Saturday, February 25, 2017|
|Men's College Basketball|
|Ohio||vs.||Kent State||7:00 (EST)|
|East Tennessee State||vs.||Western Carolina||7:00 (EST)|
|South Dakota||vs.||IUPUI||7:00 (EST)|
|Western Kentucky||vs.||Old Dominion||7:00 (EST)|
|Georgia State||vs.||Little Rock||7:00 (EST)|
|Prairie View A&M||vs.||Alabama A&M||7:00 (EST)|
|Murray State||vs.||UT Martin||7:00 (EST)|
|UTSA||vs.||Florida Atlantic||7:00 (EST)|
|Abilene Christian||vs.||Sam Houston State||7:15 (EST)|
|Army West Point||vs.||Lehigh||7:30 (EST)|
|Stephen F. Austin||vs.||Central Arkansas||7:30 (EST)|
|Long Beach State||vs.||UC Davis||8:00 (EST)|
|San Diego State||vs.||Colorado State||8:00 (EST)|
|North Dakota State||vs.||Omaha||8:00 (EST)|
|Louisiana Tech||vs.||Rice||8:00 (EST)|
|Alabama||vs.||Texas A&M||8:00 (EST)|
|Georgia Southern||vs.||Arkansas State||8:00 (EST)|
|Fort Wayne||vs.||Western Illinois||8:00 (EST)|
|Cal Poly||vs.||UC Riverside||8:00 (EST)|
|Eastern Illinois||vs.||SIUE||8:00 (EST)|
|Loyola Chicago||vs.||Southern Illinois||8:00 (EST)|
|Utah Valley||vs.||Texas-Rio Grande Valley||8:00 (EST)|
|UCLA||vs.||Arizona||8:15 (EST) Preview|
Miller, No. 4 Arizona 'excited' to host No. 5 UCLA
Friday, February 24 at 9:02 PM (EST)
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona-UCLA has been one of the best, most enduring rivalries in the West for about three decades. Saturday's matchup arguably is one of their most-hyped meetings ever.
These national powers are peaking at the same time. No. 4 Arizona (26-3, 15-1 Pac-12) holds a one-game lead over Oregon in the conference race. No. 5 UCLA (25-3, 12-3) is in third place and leads the nation in scoring at 92.1 points per game.
The teams are meeting for the first time when both are ranked in the top 5. This is only the seventh matchup of top 5 teams in conference history, and the first since 2008.
ESPN's College GameDay show is in Tucson to further spotlight this game, which tips off at 10:15 p.m. ET from McKale Center.
"I hope they're excited," Arizona coach Sean Miller said of his players after Thursday night's 90-77 victory over USC.
"I probably ruined their excitement a little bit after the game, but that's kind of my job. To allow them to be the most successful, they have to be really focused on the task at hand. If you start to get too excited about the game and everything about it, you end up coming unglued or have that anxiety where you're just not yourself."
Arizona won the season's first meeting, 96-85, in Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 21. The Wildcats' guards often had easy drives to the basket as the team rolled to its highest point total of the season.
Fast-paced UCLA, led by freshman point guard Lonzo Ball, has had issues with its defense at times this season, but the Bruins have been better recently, holding five consecutive opponents -- including Oregon -- to no better than 42 percent shooting.
USC shot 33.8 percent last week against UCLA, which has won six in a row.
"We're on a good roll right now," Bruins coach Steve Alford told ESPN.
"The thing that I have been really pleased with in the month of February, our guys have really improved defensively as a team. We're mixing some things up, kind of keeping them engaged, because they're such an offensive group and we score at such a high level.
"If our defense can continue to improve like it has done in February through six games, then we have a chance to do some special things."
Arizona is led by freshman 7-foot forward Lauri Markkanen, who is averaging 15.6 points, shooting 45.4 percent from 3-point range and has recently begun to show more toughness around the basket. Guard Allonzo Trier scored a season-high 25 vs. USC and is averaging 15.0 points.
He returned from a 19-game season-opening NCAA suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in the first game vs. UCLA. He scored 14 points.
UCLA leading scorer is freshman forward T.J. Leaf (17.0), followed by guard Bryce Alford (16.2, 45.5 percent shooting), but Ball makes it all go. He averages 15.0 points, 7.5 assists and 6.3 rebounds.
"Just proud of him. He's such a special player," Alford said.
"He makes guys around him better. And what we've seen here in February is now he makes guys around him better defensively. That's just how special Lonzo is. He impacts every area of the game at a high level."
Arizona has won 70 of its past 71 games at McKale Center. With a victory Saturday, the Wildcats will be one win away from an outright Pac-12 title.
"We're going to have to play with incredible effort and incredible togetherness," Miller said of the matchup against UCLA. "And even with that, they're still going to score. We enjoy the challenge, but it's an immense challenge."
|Grambling State||vs.||UAPB||8:30 (EST)|
|Air Force||vs.||Utah State||9:00 (EST)|
|North Dakota||vs.||Northern Colorado||9:00 (EST)|
|Montana||vs.||Montana State||9:00 (EST)|
|UMKC||vs.||Grand Canyon||9:00 (EST)|
|Portland||vs.||San Diego||9:00 (EST)|
|Seattle||vs.||New Mexico State||9:00 (EST)|
|Santa Clara||vs.||Saint Mary's||10:00 (EST) Preview|
Plenty at stake when Saint Mary's hosts Santa Clara
Friday, February 24 at 9:26 PM (EST)
No. 20 Saint Mary's does not want to jeopardize its chances of getting an NCAA tournament berth, and Santa Clara wants to achieve its highest West Coast Conference finish in 10 years.
That is what is at stake when the Gaels host Santa Clara Saturday night in the final regular-season game for both teams.
Saint Mary's (25-3, 15-2 WCC) will finish second in the conference no matter what happens Saturday. But a loss to the Broncos (16-14, 10-7) might make the Gaels a little nervous about their postseason status. With a current RPI ranking of 16, and no bad losses, Saint Mary's would seem to be safely into the NCAA tournament regardless of the result Saturday and in next week's WCC tournament in Las Vegas.
But the Gaels had a 26-5 record after losing to Gonzaga in the WCC finals last year, and wound up in the NIT. The difference is that this season Saint Mary's has no losses to teams ranked outside the RPI top 40 and has two wins over teams in the RPI top 40 (Dayton and Nevada). Last season Saint Mary's had no wins over a top-40 team and had two losses to a team (Pepperdine) ranked outside the RPI top 100.
Saint Mary's doesn't want to ruin its resume with a loss to Santa Clara, which has an RPI ranking of 147 as of Friday morning.
Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett was miffed by the exclusion from the NCAA tournament last year, and is steering clear of predictions this time.
"Our team will be motivated to play Saturday night," Bennett said. "It is against Santa Clara, one of our rivals, and it is senior night. Our guys will be ready to play."
The Gaels are coming off a solid performance in a 78-49 road victory over Pepperdine, as the Gaels shot 52.5 percent from the floor while limiting the Waves to 29.3 percent shooting. A 20-minute interruption in the second half because of a power outage did not bother the Gaels.
Just as important was the fact that Saint Mary's leading scorer and rebounder, Jock Landale, bounced back for a poor game against BYU by scoring 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting while collecting 14 rebounds against Pepperdine.
"I thought we played really well tonight," Bennett said after the game. "I thought Jock played well. We used our size advantage inside and our players did a good job finding him and giving him the ball."
Landale had 20 points and 11 rebounds when Saint Mary's beat Santa Clara 72-59 back on Jan. 28.
The Broncos have played well lately, winning three of their last four games, including a 69-68 victory over Pacific in their final home game on Thursday.
If Santa Clara beats Saint Mary's and Gonzaga defeats BYU in Spokane, Wash., Saturday night, the Broncos would finish tied for third, which would be their best finish since 2006-07.
"What we have been able to do this season as a team has been awesome," said Broncos forward Nate Kratch, who has averaged 20.0 points over the past four games and scored 18 points Thursday.
However, Broncos guard Jared Brownridge, who is the fourth-leading career scorer in WCC history, has hit a bit of slump recently. He still leads the team in scoring at 17.4 points per game, but totaled just 13 points in the past two games combined, making just 4 of 20 shots overall and 2 of 14 3-pointers in the process.
He fouled out with just five points on Thursday, but K.J. Feagin made up for it by scoring 22 points and hitting 6 of 7 shots from long range.
"I just thought I had to step up and fill that void while (Brownridge) was out," Feagin said after the game. "It felt good to produce at the rate I did, and just get the W on senior night.
"This week in practice I've really been feeling good, just shooting the ball. And I had a great warmup today."
The Broncos nearly let a 10-point lead with 6:38 left slip away, but they hung on for the win.
"Well, we made our free throws down the homestretch," first-year Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek said.
It may take more than made free throws to knock off the Gaels on their home court, though.
|Chicago State||vs.||Bakersfield||10:00 (EST)|
|BYU||vs.||Gonzaga||10:00 (EST) Preview|
No. 1 Gonzaga can wrap up perfect season
Friday, February 24 at 7:16 PM (EST)
One more win against BYU on Saturday and top-ranked Gonzaga will go unbeaten in the regular season and head into the postseason bent on capturing the West Coast Conference tournament title next week.
First things first. The Bulldogs (29-0, 17-0 WCC) want to take care of the Cougars, who have upset Gonzaga the last two seasons at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. The game, which tips off at 10 p.m. ET, is Senior Night for the Bulldogs, who will honor center Przemek Karnowski and guard Jordan Mathews.
Plenty of emotions will be involved but coach Mark Few is confident his players can handle it given how they have executed to near precision this season despite the chance of losing focus against struggling teams in the WCC.
"It's been like this all year," Few said after the Bulldogs dismantled San Diego in a 96-38 win at San Diego on Thursday night. "We have just not shown up flat or not paid the proper attention to our opponent. It's the best we have ever been since I have been coaching here, as far as night in and night out doing what we have to do.''
No doubt Gonzaga has circled the date to play BYU (20-10, 11-6) to avenge the last two losses at home against the Cougars.
"We want to right that ship," Few said. "BYU is always a well-coached team. They will challenge us."
The Cougars are coming off a dominating win of their own, a 97-78 triumph over host Portland on Thursday. Elijah Bryant recorded a career-high 37 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.
Five BYU players scored in double figures, as was the case for Gonzaga at San Diego. The Cougars recorded a season-high 13 3-pointers, as did the Bulldogs against the Toreros. Bryant had seven of those 3-pointers against Portland.
Filling in for injured forward Yoeli Childs (ankle), sophomore Braiden Shaw made his first career start for BYU and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds. Eric Mika added 19 points and eight rebounds and Nick Emery had 16 points and made three 3-pointers.
"We needed some momentum for Saturday's game, and I think we got it," Bryant said.
Gonzaga defeated BYU 85-75 last month at Provo, Utah. The 10-point game is a nail-biter for the Bulldogs this season inasmuch as they have won 21 straight games, including all 17 conference games, by double digits with an average margin of 24.9 points.
The 58-point win over San Diego was the largest margin of the season for Gonzaga, which has won games by 47, 46 and 39 points. It is the largest winning margin ever by a No. 1-ranked team on the road. It was only two shy of the school record.
''Our coaches do such a great job preparing us and getting us ready for whatever the team can throw at us, and when we follow the scouting report that we did tonight (against San Diego), I think we're a really good defensive team,'' said Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins, who finished with 15 points with all five of his baskets 3-pointers.
The game against BYU could also be the last home game for junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, the potential WCC Player of the Year who could decide to go pro. Williams-Goss scored 33 points for Gonzaga in the first game against BYU.
"Williams-Goss just kind of controlled that game,'' BYU coach Dave Rose said. ''He had a pace to him and confidence to him where every time you make a run, he had an answer. He plays at a really comfortable pace for him.
"He's hard to get sped up. Some of the other guys we could speed them a little bit and maybe get a turnover or bad pass or quick shot. He's the one guy that held that thing together and controlled it and made big plays.''
|Loyola Marymount||vs.||Pacific||10:00 (EST)|
|Northern Arizona||vs.||Portland State||10:05 (EST)|
|Southern Utah||vs.||Sacramento State||10:05 (EST)|
|CSUN||vs.||UC Irvine||10:30 (EST)|
|Virginia||vs.||North Carolina State||12:00 (EST) Preview|
No. 18 Virginia takes 4-game skid to N.C. State
Friday, February 24 at 7:44 PM (EST)
RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina State was in such a nosedive that there will be a coaching change at season's end.
No. 18 Virginia is in another type of tailspin going into Saturday afternoon's game at PNC Arena.
Virginia has suffered four losses in a row, and suddenly a team that looked primed for a lofty seed for the NCAA Tournament is simply trying to find its footing before the postseason.
"There are a lot of things we're trying to overcome, and we need everyone playing at a fairly solid level for us to be able to be successful in this conference," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
The recent slide has left the Cavaliers (18-9, 8-7 ACC) in a tie for eighth place in the conference after it appeared they would contend for the regular-season title less than two weeks ago.
The four losses came in a nine-day period. It's the longest losing streak since Bennett's first season with the team in 2009-10.
"Fatigue is going to be a part of it at this time of the year," Bennett said.
Virginia senior guard London Perrantes has slumped and he said he knows that's impacting the Cavaliers. He's 16-for-58 (27.6 percent) from the field during the four-game skid.
"I wish I knew what was getting me out of rhythm so I could fix it," Perrantes said. "I'm in a pretty deep slump right now and I need to figure it out and find a way to get over it."
Despite snapping a seven-game losing skid with Tuesday night's victory at Georgia Tech, N.C. State (15-14, 4-12) remains in second-to-last place in the ACC.
That was the second game for the Wolfpack since it was announced that coach Mark Gottfried had been fired, though he's finishing out the season.
"Really happy that they get to experience something positive here," Gottfried said of a late-season victory. "Something to build on down the stretch and we'll see what happens."
The Virginia game marks the home finale for N.C. State, and it could be the last game in Raleigh for freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr., who is generally considered a lottery pick for the NBA Draft should he enter.
Gottfried said he's on a quest to assist the N.C. State players in enjoying this part of the season.
"I want to see if I can help these guys, somehow, just a little bit more," he said. "Just a little more to get over the hump and have some success on the way out."
The Wolfpack put together one of its best defensive efforts in the Georgia Tech game. If that starts a trend, then it could be a defensive tussle if Virginia is able to get back to the strong defense that has largely been a trademark the past few seasons.
N.C. State gave up at least 80 points in nine consecutive games before defeating Georgia Tech 71-69. The Wolfpack have won only two ACC home games and those came more than a month ago.
Virginia has lost four consecutive road games, including last weekend's 65-41 thumping from North Carolina.
"Our inexperience is showing and we are obviously sliding right now," Bennett said. "We have to fight like crazy to play as hard as we can and see if we can get one."
This is the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season.
|American University||vs.||Loyola Maryland||12:00 (EST)|
|Georgetown||vs.||St. John's||12:00 (EST)|
|Northern Illinois||vs.||Eastern Michigan||12:00 (EST)|
|SMU||vs.||Connecticut||12:00 (EST) Preview|
Time running short for Connecticut, which hosts SMU
Friday, February 24 at 8:26 PM (EST)
It's still the regular season, but excuse the Connecticut Huskies for feeling that they are playing tournament games every time they take the court.
A loss doesn't mean elimination or the end of the season. Not yet. But any loss is another opportunity slipping through their fingers. And in late February that can be devastating to a team trying to overcome a rough start back in November.
With No. 17 SMU (24-4, 14-1 American) coming into the XL Center Saturday (noon), there is an opportunity for a signature win. It just doesn't seem as promising as it might have been if UConn (14-13, 9-6) had held on for a victory over Houston on Wednesday.
UConn's four-game winning streak ended when the Huskies couldn't hold a 39-29 halftime and the Cougars went to a 75-70 win that moved them into third place in the American behind SMU and Cincinnati.
Coach Kevin Ollie and the Huskies agreed that they stopped playing smart basketball at the start of the second half,
"We went back to playing 'me' basketball," Ollie said. "Turnovers, people taking ill-advised shots and that's not UConn basketball,"
UConn's season appeared all but over early in January when the Huskies had lost six of eight games and were dropping like a malfunctioning elevator in the American Athletic Conference standings and the RPI. But the Huskies energized their fan base by winning seven of eight, including a squeaker against Memphis and a buzzer beater at Temple last week.
Landing an at-large spot in the NCAA field is no longer an attainable goal for the Huskies, who currently are fourth in the AAC.
"That (Houston) game is behind us," guard Jalen Adams said. "We've got to get ready for SMU. We've got to win that game."
A spot in the NIT might be the most realistic aspiration, But if they can finish in the top five of the American, theyearn a bye in the first round bye and begin play in the quarterfinals. They will have the advantage of playing in the XL Center, their second home arena, but would still need three consecutive wins to win the championship and gain the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA.
SMU remains the hottest team in the AAC. The Mustangs have won 10 straight, their second such streak of the season, They have clinched no worse than the No. 2 seed in the conference tourney, but Tim Jankovich's team has its aim on the top seed.
SMU has held 20 of the last 21 opponents to 66 points or less. The Mustangs have a season scoring defense of 58.9 that ranks third in the NCAA. SMU is also among the national leaders with a rebound margin of plus-10.9, best in the AAC. The Mustangs have outrebounded 25 of 28 opponents. They are coming off a 76-66 win over Houston.
"We looked at this season as an opportunity to, not necessarily get back on the map, but just to get what we owe ourselves," sophomore guard Jarrey Foster said. "We owe ourselves a lot, just how much we've been through."
UConn lost three injured players -- including two starters -- to injuries in November, SMU started the season with 10 scholarship players, three under the NCAA limit, due to sanctions handed down because of violations under former coach Larry Brown.
"Of course, I wish we didn't have the sanctions that we have and the limitations," Jankovich said. "But you know what, we're not going to use this as an excuse, we've just learned to deal with the hand that we're dealt."
|Hofstra||vs.||James Madison||12:00 (EST)|
|Florida State||vs.||Clemson||12:00 (EST) Preview|
Clemson hoping for 'signature win' vs. Florida State
Friday, February 24 at 8:54 PM (EST)
Florida State already owns an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume.
Clemson still has work to do in that regard.
The Tigers, in dire need of a "signature win," will get that opportunity Saturday when 19th-ranked Florida State plays at Clemson at noon in an Atlantic Coast Conference game at a sold-out Littlejohn Coliseum.
Clemson is seeking its first victory against a Top 25 opponent since Littlejohn reopened last year following a major renovation.
"We know we will have to play with a ton of energy Saturday against a talented Florida State team," Clemson Coach Brad Brownell said.
No argument there. The Seminoles are an NCAA Tournament lock at 22-6 overall and a 10-5 record in the ACC.
Clemson, at 14-13 overall and 4-11 in league play, needs to win each of its three remaining games -- all of which will be played at Littlejohn Coliseum -- and do some damage in the upcoming ACC Tournament to land in NCAA Tournament consideration.
Clemson hasn't qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2011, Brownell's first season.
The Seminoles score at a gaudy 84.4 point-per-game clip, but also know how to play defense. Florida State ranks fourth in the ACC in field goal percentage defense, so plenty of challenges await the Tigers.
There is a glimmer of hope for Clemson -- namely, because the Seminoles haven't exactly fared well on the ACC road. Florida State is 2-5 in league road games this season and is just 11-19 at Littlejohn Coliseum all-time.
"There's no doubt in my mind that we're going to have a mad Tiger, a motivated Tiger, that's out to do a lot of damage," Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton said, whose team enters the game in a four-way tie for second place in the ACC standings.
Indeed, Clemson should have plenty of motivation, thanks to a 48-point loss at Florida State last month that ranks as the most lopsided of Brownell's seven-year career at Clemson. That crushing loss prompted a postgame apology from Brownell.
"We just didn't play at all," Brownell said.
Clemson has lost five of its last six games, but it's not like the Tigers haven't been competitive. Included in those defeats are three games decided by two points or less, including a pair of one-point losses.
In all, Clemson has lost eight of its 11 league games by six points or less.
"It's hard, it's challenging -- no doubt about it," Brownell said. "When you put so much into all of these games and play well for a bunch of minutes and then don't make a play to win it.
"As good as we are physically, it's the emotional part of it that makes it really hard."
Florida State represents the 19th consecutive opponent that the Tigers have played that is ranked among the Top 100 in RPI; the Seminoles are No. 13, while Clemson is No. 60.
"If you're them, you're saying, 'If we get these three home games against this competition, we might have a chance to finish the season on a positive note," Hamilton said. "And we're next up."
|Wichita State||vs.||Missouri State||12:00 (EST) Preview|
No. 25 Wichita St. looks to keep rolling vs. Missouri St.
Friday, February 24 at 8:11 PM (EST)
With a win Saturday at Missouri State, No. 25 Wichita State will become the first Missouri Valley Conference squad to wrap up four MVC regular-season titles in a row since Southern Illinois was ruling the roost from 2002-05.
But to win it outright, the Shockers (26-4, 16-1) will need help. Illinois State, which is also 16-1 in the conference, visits Northern Iowa in a game that will start around the time Wichita State's game ends.
If the Redbirds win, they'll tie the Shockers for first and likely earn the top seed for next week's conference tournament in St. Louis on the basis of a superior RPI. Friday's RPI Report has Illinois State rated 33rd and Wichita State 42nd, mainly because of the Redbirds' tougher non-conference schedule.
In any event, the Shockers are in position to add to the considerable legacy built by coach Gregg Marshall. A win Saturday makes him the first MVC coach in 60 years to win five regular-season titles.
"It's really cool where we've put ourselves at right now," he said after Tuesday night's 109-83 rout of Evansville. "We've got work to do on Saturday. At the minimum, we know we come out of there as co-champions with a win. We hope to achieve a whole lot more."
Wichita State has remained more than relevant in its first year after the Fred VanVleet-Ron Baker era, which saw the two guards bring the Shockers into the national spotlight with a Final Four trip in 2013, a 35-1 record in 2014 and a Sweet 16 trip in 2015.
Led by 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Markis McDuffie (11.9 ppg, 5.8 rebounds), 6-4 freshman guard Landry Shamet (11 ppg, 59 3-pointers) and 6-9 junior forward Dorral Willis (10.3 ppg, 5.2 rebounds), Wichita State is averaging 82.4 ppg and has outscored the opposition by 19.5 ppg.
While the Shockers are playing for a championship, the Bears (16-14, 7-10) are shooting for a season-making win that would also allow them to stay away from Thursday night's play-in round of the MVC tourney.
Despite sinking a school-record 253 3-pointers this season and possessing the likely MVC Newcomer of the year in 6-9 junior forward Alize Johnson (14.4 ppg, 10.5 rebounds), Missouri State hasn't been able to display the needed consistency to win in its conference.
Coach Paul Lusk was particularly displeased Wednesday night with a 77-68 loss at 11-19 Bradley, calling his team's performance soft on his post-game radio show. Even the school's website chimed in with its postgame recap, saying that the Braves were outhustled down the stretch.
"I can't defend the way we performed," Lusk said. "It's my responsibility and I'll take full blame for it. It would have been a grave, grave injustice if we had found a way to win that game."
In the teams' first meeting on Feb. 9, Wichita State rolled to an 80-62 win in Koch Arena, scoring 27 points off 21 turnovers. It put five players in double figures and led by 34 points two minutes into the second half.
|North Carolina||vs.||Pittsburgh||12:00 (EST) Preview|
No. 8 North Carolina wary of Pittsburgh
Saturday, February 25 at 1:26 AM (EST)
North Carolina is making a run at a No. 1 seed in next month's NCAA Tournament.
But the first matter of business is winning the ACC regular-season crown.
The No. 8 Tar Heels are in superb position to win the tough 15-team conference and look to move closer to claiming the title when they visit Pittsburgh on Saturday.
North Carolina (24-5, 12-3 ACC) holds a two-game lead over a quartet of teams -- Louisville, Duke, Florida State and Notre Dame. A solid 74-63 home victory over Louisville on Wednesday gave the Tar Heels the multiple-game cushion.
"We keep talking about how we control our own destiny," junior guard Joel Berry II said. "We're at the top and we want to stay there. So closing this season out, we want to continue doing what we're doing and continue to win."
The Tar Heels have won three straight games and five of their past six. They are playing solid basketball at the right time of the season but coach Roy Williams isn't feeling all that comfortable.
He is less than thrilled that the schedule calls for his team to play at No. 18 Virginia on Monday two days after the contest in Pittsburgh.
"Well, it is a competitive league, but it says we have a two-game lead right now but there's still some left to play," Williams said. "We're getting ready to go on one of those trips I don't think any team in our league should have to do, on the road on Saturday and on the road on Monday."
The Panthers will try to get up off the mat after allowing a 19-point lead slip away during Wednesday's 63-59 road loss to Wake Forest.
The collapse prevented Pittsburgh from recording its fourth win in a five-game span and instead resulted in a highly disappointing setback.
"It's a game we felt like we should have won," Panthers coach Kevin Stallings said. "It's not the first time this year we've been a little tight in the second half and don't shoot it well."
Pitt, which is tied for 12th place with Clemson in the ACC, has been solid at home with an 11-5 mark.
The Panthers rely on the productive duo of senior forward Michael Young and senior guard Jamel Artis. Young has scored 20 or more points on 15 occasions while averaging 20.4 points and 7.0 rebounds. He ranks seventh in school history with 1,757 career points.
Artis is averaging 19.3 points and has made 67 3-pointers, second on the team behind sophomore guard Cameron Johnson (12.0 average, 69 3-pointers).
Johnson matched his career high of 24 points and made a career-best six 3-pointers when Pitt gave North Carolina a scare on Jan. 31 before falling 80-78. Artis was off the mark with a last-second 3-pointer.
North Carolina also features two prolific 3-point shooters in junior forward Justin Jackson (78) and Berry (64). Jackson averages a team-best 18.7 points while Berry chips in 14.6 per game.
Senior center Kennedy Meeks has recorded nine double-doubles this season while averaging 12.7 points and a team-best 9.1 rebounds. Meeks has 939 career rebounds and needs three to pass ninth-place Eric Montross (1990-94) on the school's all-time list.
Senior forward Isaiah Hicks (12.1) also averages in double digits for the Tar Heels, who have looked impressive while winning their past three games by an average of 19.7 points.
"I feel good that we're on top," Williams said. "I'd rather be on top than third, seventh or 15th but there's still a lot of work to do."
|Central Connecticut State||vs.||Bryant||1:00 (EST)|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||vs.||Saint Francis U||1:00 (EST)|
|UMBC||vs.||New Hampshire||1:00 (EST)|
|Indiana State||vs.||Evansville||1:00 (EST)|
|Tennessee||vs.||South Carolina||1:00 (EST)|
|Ball State||vs.||Western Michigan||2:00 (EST)|
|Liberty||vs.||UNC Asheville||2:00 (EST)|
|Florida||vs.||Kentucky||2:00 (EST) Preview|
No. 11 Kentucky, No. 13 Florida battle for first place
Friday, February 24 at 8:56 PM (EST)
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- With only three regular-season games left, first place in the Southeastern Conference is on the line Saturday when No. 11 Kentucky hosts No. 13 Florida at 2 p.m. at Rupp Arena.
"This is what you play for, this kind of game, where both teams have something to lose," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "Every team we play has house money. Now this game, we both have something to lose.
"I keep telling them, 'There's going to be a time this season when you lose, your season ends. This ain't it. So just play,' If you win, it's huge. It's big. If you don't, you lose the game. Next game. Who do we play next?"
The teams are dead even. Kentucky is 23-5, Florida is 23-5. Kentucky is 13-2 in SEC play, the Gators are 13-2.
Whichever team wins Saturday will hold a one-game lead with two to go.
Only one thing is certain in the eyes of Florida coach Mike White. Don't expect a repeat of the Feb. 4 game, when Florida went wire-to-wire to rout Kentucky 88-66, giving the Wildcats their worst beat down in four seasons. The Gators won the rebounding battle 54-29 and shot 67 percent in the second half.
"I don't expect to outrebound them by 25 again, I don't expect to beat them by 22. I'd take a one-point win and throw a parade," White said. "It's going to be very difficult playing on the road in our league against one of the best teams in the country. And Rupp Arena presents its own unique challenges."
In the teams' earlier meeting, Florida was led by guard Kasey Hill, who scored 21 points. Devin Robinson had 16 points for the Gators, Canyon Berry came off the bench for 14 and sophomore KeVaughn Allen scored 12. Robinson and Chris Chiozza each had nine rebounds for Florida. Center John Egbunu, who had eight points and seven rebounds, is out for the season after tearing his ACL on Feb. 14.
Kentucky, which shot only 37.7 percent in that Feb. 4 game, got 19 points from freshman De'Aaron Fox and 11 from freshman Malik Monk. Fox, who had been battling the flu, did not start and was not expected to play that day but was forced into 25 minutes of action. It was a night to forget for sophomore Isaiah Briscoe (six points, four turnovers), Dominique Hawkins (four points, three turnovers) and senior Derek Willis (two points).
Fox is a game-time decision Saturday because of a bruised knee.
Both teams have won all five of their games since their first meeting.
"Kentucky will be very prepared, they are very, very good," White said. "We know we're the underdog going up there. But if we play really well, make good decisions with the basketball, execute our game plan, both on offense and defense, then we'll have a chance. That's all you can ask for on the road in this league, especially at Kentucky."
Calipari is looking for the win and momentum going forward.
"You want them to peak at the end of the year. That's what you want," Calipari said. "We haven't peaked yet so that's not a bad thing. Now the question is, we've got to get them where we start playing a little more aggressive, more energy, more 50-50 balls, we play tougher, make easy plays, stay connected defensively and offensively, lock in more. All that kind of stuff is what we need to do."
|Tennessee Tech||vs.||Eastern Kentucky||2:00 (EST)|
|West Virginia||vs.||TCU||2:00 (EST) Preview|
No. 12 West Virginia visits desperate TCU
Friday, February 24 at 8:10 PM (EST)
While No. 12 West Virginia will be playing for seeding Saturday, TCU is vying for its postseason life.
When they meet in Fort Worth, Texas, the Horned Frogs (17-11, 6-9 Big 12) desperately need to snap a four-game slide in order to bolster their NCAA tournament bubble status. ESPN's Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm each list TCU among the last teams in the field.
"At this point there is no question our biggest game of the year is this Saturday," said TCU coach Jamie Dixon. "There's no other way to put it. Let's not make it smaller than it is -- it's the biggest game of the year."
Dixon's team has been chewed up by the Big 12 round-robin grind, losing at Baylor, Iowa State and most recently at Kansas 87-68 on Wednesday night. That was a two-point game before a second-half stretch where TCU produced only three baskets in 11 minutes.
"We missed layups and we went a little soft on some finishes," Dixon said. "Missed layups turn into baskets the other way often and that's what happened. That's something where we have to grow and get better.
"We're not ready. I thought we were, but we're not ready to beat those teams on the road the way we play."
A return home could provide a boost, though the Mountaineers have taken all four meetings in Fort Worth and own a 10-0 series edge overall.
West Virginia (22-6, 10-5), in a three-way tie with Iowa State and Baylor for second place in the league, continues its Texas road swing against Baylor in Waco on Monday.
The Mountaineers may be without second-leading scorer Esa Ahmad (11.7 points, 4.1 rebounds). The sophomore forward sat out the previous win over Texas with a strained back.
"He's been in to get treated and all that, but it depends on how he feels," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "It's something you don't want to have continue to linger."
Huggins essentially labeled Ahmad a takeoff-time decision for the team's Friday afternoon flight.
"If he's not 100 percent ready to go, I don't know if we're doing him or the team any justice," Huggins said.
The Mountaineers accommodated for Ahmad's absence in their 77-62 win over Texas thanks to guard Jevon Carter producing 24 points and 10 rebounds and reserve forward Lamont West scoring 23 points, most of them from the perimeter.
While Carter seems a cinch to earn All-Big 12 defensive honors again, his persistence in chasing down missed shots defies his 6-foot-2 stature. The junior has become West Virginia's second-leading rebounder (4.7 per game) by grabbing eight or more boards during six of the past 11 games.
"Just doing my job," Carter said. "Shot goes up, I box my man out, and the ball comes to me."
Huggins, just days after collapsing during a timeout against Texas, dispelled doubts about his own health.
"I feel good. All good," he said.
Along with Carter (12.6 points, 4.1 assists), the Mountaineers could deploy a three-guard lineup that includes Tarik Phillip (9.5 points, 3 assists) and Daxter Miles (8.9 points, 2.1 rebounds), who played only 13 minutes against the Longhorns.
West Virginia's big men -- Nathan Adrian, who averages 10.3 points, and Elijah Macon (5.5 points) -- are on different trajectories of late. Macon is on an 18-of-21 shooting surge while Adrian has made only 6 of his last 26 shots.
The Mountaineers won 82-70 when the teams met Jan. 7 in Morgantown, W.Va., and TCU remains 0-6 when allowing more than 80 points. They're next-to-last in the Big 12 in field-goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot 44.5 percent.
|Seton Hall||vs.||DePaul||2:00 (EST)|
|VCU||vs.||Rhode Island||2:00 (EST)|
|Illinois State||vs.||UNI||2:00 (EST)|
|Texas Tech||vs.||Oklahoma State||2:00 (EST)|
|Stony Brook||vs.||Vermont||2:00 (EST)|
|Towson||vs.||William & Mary||2:00 (EST)|
|Boston University||vs.||Holy Cross||2:05 (EST)|
|McNeese State||vs.||Texas A&M-Corpus Christi||2:30 (EST)|
|Creighton||vs.||Villanova||3:00 (EST) Preview|
No. 2 Villanova goes for Big East clincher
Friday, February 24 at 6:02 PM (EST)
VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Second-ranked Villanova will have another chance to clinch its fourth consecutive Big East regular-season championship when it hosts No. 23 Creighton in the home finale Saturday afternoon at The Pavilion.
The Wildcats (26-3, 13-3 Big East) suffered a rare loss 74-66 to No. 22 Butler on Wednesday night. Having already earned at least a share of the conference title, they can still capture the top seed in the conference tournament with a win over the Bluejays (22-6, 9-6).
Butler's surprising victory snapped Villanova's program-best 48-game winning streak at its 6,500-seat on-campus arena on the Main Line.
"Sometimes you come into a game and the other team plays better," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "You try everything. Our guys competed to the end. We just ran into a team that played better than us tonight."
The game against Creighton will be the final one at The Pavilion after 31 seasons. Last week, the university's Board of Trustees announced that a major arena renovation will begin in June. When the arena re-opens in the fall of 2018, it will be renamed the Finneran Pavilion.
Seniors Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds will be honored in a pregame ceremony. Amazingly, the trio had never lost a home game on campus until Wednesday.
Reynolds has missed the last four games with a rib injury and remains questionable.
More than that, Villanova must cut down on turnovers and scoreless stretches to get back on track.
"We've got to have better attention to detail," Hart said. "It starts with me, first and foremost. That's something we've got to have, better attention to detail. It starts with the seniors and trickles down."
Creighton has won its last three games against Top 25 teams but has dropped the last five games in the series against Villanova and is 0-12 all-time against teams ranked in the top three.
The Bluejays are 1-8 all-time in true road games against teams coming off a Final Four appearance, with the only win coming on Feb. 9, 1980, when they defeated Indiana State.
Creighton has alternated wins and losses in the last six games.
Marcus Foster has scored a team-best 521 points this season, including a career-high 35 Sunday against Georgetown. In addition, Foster added five assists and five rebounds to become the first player in program history to have at least 35 points, five assists and five rebounds in the same game since Benoit Benjamin had 45 points, 16 rebounds and five assists against Indiana State on January 19, 1985.
In its most recent game, Creighton fell at home to Providence 68-66.
"We have to take care of us," Creighton coach Greg McDermott told the Omaha World-Herald. "We've let some close, winnable games slip away. And we have to try to fix the reasons why that happened."
Part of the reason is the balance of the rugged Big East.
"It was a tough one to swallow," McDermott told the World-Herald of the loss to Providence. "But there's a lot of those games in our league this year."
|Southern Miss||vs.||North Texas||3:00 (EST)|
|Penn State||vs.||Minnesota||3:00 (EST)|
|Sacred Heart||vs.||Robert Morris||3:00 (EST)|
|Bowling Green||vs.||Miami (OH)||3:30 (EST)|
|Youngstown State||vs.||Cleveland State||3:30 (EST)|
|Missouri||vs.||Ole Miss||3:30 (EST)|
|Louisiana-Monroe||vs.||Appalachian State||3:30 (EST)|
|Baylor||vs.||Iowa State||4:00 (EST) Preview|
Motley, No. 9 Baylor brace for pivotal tilt vs. Iowa St.
Friday, February 24 at 8:46 PM (EST)
As the Big 12 regular-season race heads toward the finish line, Iowa State is closing fast and No. 9 Baylor is fighting to hold on to its spot right behind league-leading Kansas.
The Bears (23-5, 10-5 Big 12) have a tough run of two games in three days beginning with their trip to play the Cyclones in Hilton Coliseum on Saturday. Then Baylor hosts No. 12 West Virginia on Monday.
Because Baylor is tied with Iowa State (18-9, 10-5) and the Mountaineers for second place in the Big 12, this promises to be a decisive period in the Bears' schedule. Win both and Baylor will likely grasp the second seed in the Big 12 tournament. Lose both and the Bears quickly could drop to fourth.
Forward Johnathan Motley said the key for Baylor is to stay loose and embrace playing basketball.
"Playing games is the best part for me, so I look forward to it," Motley said. "As many games as we have, I love it. It's playing basketball, you know, it's fun. If it's not fun, then you usually don't play as well. I think we've just got to go out there and have as much fun as possible."
And even with a resume full of wins against ranked opponents and a top 10 ranking, Baylor figures to have a steep challenge versus Iowa State.
The Cyclones' current surge of five wins in their last six games includes a win over No. 3 Kansas and road victories at Kansas State and Texas Tech.
Iowa State is playing by far its best basketball of the season, something that's obvious to Cyclones coach Steve Prohm.
"We've come a long way," Prohm said. "If you go through the second half of the season, you go dissect these games prior, you're like, 'Man, we looked bad,' and we did. That's part of a process of building a team and coaching and guys getting better and understanding their roles."
Prohm said his team was as connected as it has been all season after guards Monte Morris and Matt Thomas scored 23 and 20 points, respectively, to defeat the Red Raiders on Monday.
Iowa State's guard-heavy lineup is thriving, but it will have to be extremely focused to score against Baylor's notorious long, shot-blocking zone defense.
"You've got to be smart," Prohm said. "You've got to get angles. You've got to get downhill. You've got to get space. You can't just drive in there carelessly and recklessly, because, if you do that, they're waiting on you. It's like turnovers because Motley or (forward Jo Lual-Acuil) or one of those guys are just going to block it."
That's exactly how Baylor fended off Oklahoma earlier this week.
The Bears led the Sooners by 15 early in the second half. Baylor failed to make a field goal in the last six minutes, but held Oklahoma to 33 percent shooting and the Bears blocked 10 shots to help preserve a 60-54 victory.
Even so, when Baylor's offense has been clicking this season, the Bears have shown the ability to fill up the basket with the inside-outside combination of Motley (16.9 points, 9.7 rebounds per game) and point guard Manu Lecomte (12.8 points, 4.8 assists).
"We've got to score," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "We can't score 50 or 60 and probably beat them. Hopefully we can make some shots, and the big thing is make sure we get shots. They're third in the conference in causing turnovers. We've got to make sure we take care of the ball."
|LIU Brooklyn||vs.||Wagner||4:00 (EST)|
|Duke||vs.||Miami (FL)||4:00 (EST) Preview|
Duke, Miami battle for position in ACC
Friday, February 24 at 9:13 PM (EST)
With Wednesday's loss to Syracuse on a banked 3-pointer at the buzzer, Duke not only dropped two games behind leader North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference race, the Blue Devils now find themselves in a mix with at least a half-dozen teams fighting for a double-bye in next month's ACC tournament in Brooklyn.
One of those teams is next on Duke's schedule.
The 10th-ranked Blue Devils (22-6, 10-5 ACC) take on unranked Miami (19-8, 9-6 ACC) Saturday in the Hurricanes' Watsco Center home in Coral Gables. Tipoff is at 4 p.m. with CBS telecasting the game.
The Hurricanes have won three games in a row and are alone in sixth place in the standings, a game back of the Blue Devils, Louisville, Florida State, and Notre Dame.
The Hurricanes could sneak into a top-four spot with a big finish, but they have pursuers as well.
"I told the team yesterday that we are one game out of second," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said, "and we are one game out of 10th."
Right behind the Hurricanes at 9-7 in the league is Syracuse. A full-game back at 8-7 are Virginia Tech and Virginia, and just behind them are Georgia Tech at 7-8 and Wake Forest at 7-9. Teams five through nine get first-round byes. The top four finishers go directly into the quarterfinals.
"I think the byes are critical," Larranaga said.
With a 70-58 loss to the Blue Devils back in January, Miami realistically needs to gain a split with Duke to reach their goal, and even that won't guarantee anything. The Hurricanes still will have games on the road against Virginia Tech and Florida State remaining.
The Blue Devils, meanwhile, will have Florida State at home and North Carolina on the road left in the regular season.
The Blue Devils are 4-1, including a win over North Carolina, since coach Mike Krzyzewski returned from back surgery, and they had won seven in a row before the loss to the Orange.
Krzyzewski says his players need to match the "hunger" of opponents looking for an impressive win to get into the NCAA Tournament.
"We're not desperate right now, and we're not going to be desperate because we know we're going to be in the tournament," he said. meaning the NCAAs. "Over the years that's called psychology. It's tough to beat that old "p" or human nature. A lot of these things right now are not X's and O's. They're human nature. We need to do better in that regard."
Miami will welcome back point guard Ja'Quan Newton from a three-game suspension, but Larranaga said the team's second-leading scorer (15.0 ppg) won't start.
"The team that has started the last three games will continue to start for the very simple reason they're playing well," Larranaga said. "I like the chemistry and the way they're playing."
|Purdue||vs.||Michigan||4:00 (EST) Preview|
Michigan aims for another upset against No. 14 Purdue
Friday, February 24 at 9:23 PM (EST)
It will be like a shampoo bottle in that it will be rinse and repeat from just over a week ago for the Michigan basketball team on Saturday.
Last Thursday, Michigan geared up for an anticipated home game against a ranked opponent, Wisconsin, which offered the Wolverines a chance to give a huge boost to their NCAA tournament resume while at the same time hurting a contender's chance to win the Big Ten title.
The Wolverines turned in an inspired effort and posted a 64-58 upset of the Badgers.
Fast forward to Saturday, and Michigan will once again gear up for a home game against a ranked opponent, with the chance to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume via another signature win and put a dagger in a contender's conference title hopes.
Instead of Wisconsin, this time the opposition will be No. 14 Purdue, which will pay a visit to Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Michigan set up its chance against another ranked opponent with a 68-64 win at Rutgers on Wednesday.
"We just had enough grit," Michigan coach John Beilein told the Detroit Free Press after the Rutgers win. "There was nothing pretty about that one at all, but sometimes those games that could be ugly are beautiful wins to fight through all that."
This will the only regular-season meeting of the season between the Boilermakers and Wolverines (18-10, 8-7), who both will be desperate in their own ways.
Purdue (23-5, 12-3) is in prime position for its first Big Ten title since 2010, having gone up a full game over Wisconsin after Ohio State's 83-73 upset of Wisconsin on Thursday in Columbus.
A win over Michigan in Ann Arbor would put Purdue in a position where it could clinch at least a share of the conference title with a win at home on Tuesday against archrival Indiana.
The Boilermakers, who finish the season on March 5 at Northwestern, won their sixth straight game on Tuesday with a 74-70 overtime victory at Penn State.
"It rarely happens when a team outplays another one, plays harder, and they lose the game, especially on their home court," Purdue coach Matt Painter told the Lafayette Journal & Courier after the Penn State game. "I think the only category we won (Tuesday) is the only one that's important and that's the final score."
Michigan as of Thursday had an RPI of 50, and while several projections have the Wolverines already in the NCAA Tournament, beating another team with a high RPI like Purdue (No. 17) would only strengthen their profile.
The Wolverines already have wins this season against Southern Methodist and Wisconsin, teams ranked in the top 30 in RPI.
It will be the final home game of the season for Michigan, which will finish the regular season with road games at Northwestern and Nebraska.
A big key to the game will be whether Michigan can handle the size problem that Purdue presents for opponents in the form of 6-foot-9 sophomore national Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan and 7-2 junior center Isaac Haas.
Michigan has two versatile post players who have improved greatly this year in 6-10 junior D.J. Wilson and 6-11 sophomore Moritz Wagner, but facing Swanigan and Haas will likely be their biggest challenge of the year.
|Mississippi State||vs.||Vanderbilt||4:00 (EST)|
|San Francisco||vs.||Pepperdine||4:00 (EST)|
|Oregon||vs.||Stanford||4:00 (EST) Preview|
Pac-12 title remains in play for No. 6 Oregon at Stanford
Friday, February 24 at 9:09 PM (EST)
No. 6 Oregon still has a chance to capture its second straight regular-season Pac-12 title as it heads into Saturday afternoon's game at Stanford, and the Ducks have Dillon Brooks to thank for that.
Brooks has been hot lately, averaging 21.4 points while making 24 of 43 3-pointers (55.8 percent) over the past seven games. The biggest of those threes came with 0.2 of a second remaining at California on Thursday and gave the Ducks a 68-65 victory when defeat had seemed all but certain just a few minutes earlier.
"Especially on the road, it feels so good," Brooks said of his game-winning shot. "You look at every single crowd member and see them looking down. They thought they had the game and we stole it from them."
That shot was similar to the 3-pointer Brooks made with 0.8 of a second left to beat UCLA by two points back on Dec. 28.
The big shot against Cal improved Oregon's overall record to 25-4, and the Ducks are 14-2 in conference play for the first time since the 1939 Ducks finished 14-2 in the Pacific Coast Conference and went on to win the national title.
All the 14-2 record gets Oregon at this point is second place, a game behind Arizona, with two games left. Oregon will be finished with its 1 p.m. game against Stanford (14-13, 6-9) by the time UCLA takes the court against Arizona on Saturday evening, and the Ducks will be rooting for the Bruins to pull off the road win.
The Ducks feel lucky to be within a game after digging themselves a hole against Cal.
"We were fortunate," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "The first half we were just stuck in the mud, we couldn't get any ball movement. I was really disappointed at halftime."
The Ducks scored a season-low 16 points in the first half. They trailed by 16 points with less than 17 minutes left in the game and were behind by 10 with 4:15 to go.
Yet they pulled it out by scoring on each of their final eight possessions, scoring 12 of their final 19 points on 3-pointers.
There was never any doubt who would take the final shot.
"It's a lot of pressure, but I don't feel that at all," Brooks said. "I work on those shots every day before practice, so I felt confident."
"He just made a play; that's all there is to it," Altman said.
The Ducks would rather not have the game come down to a final shot against Stanford, which has won two straight, including Thursday's 79-66 victory over Oregon State.
Oregon beat Stanford 69-52 on Jan. 21 in Eugene, Ore., but the Cardinal defeated the Ducks at Stanford's Maples Pavilion 76-72 last season when the Ducks were ranked No. 11 and went on to land a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"Oregon is really good, we need to be hungry, put together a heck of a game plan, and play exceptionally well," first-year Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. "It will be a heck of a challenge, but our guys are really up for challenges right now."
It will be Senior Day for Stanford's final home game of the season, and Marcus Allen is one of those Cardinal seniors.
"In order to beat Oregon, we have to stick to our standards and follow the game plan," said Allen, who scored 17 points against Oregon State. "We have got to buckle down on defense and be sharp on offense because Oregon is a great team.
"In the last month, we are trending in the right direction on both ends of the floor. Guys are more confident, guys are getting good looks, and we are active on defense. We are going in the right direction and I hope that continues."
Stanford shot 57.1 percent from the floor against Oregon State and will need another strong offensive performance against Oregon, which has five players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Brooks' 15.7 points per game.
"It is going to take a lot to beat Oregon," said Stanford forward Reid Travis, who leads the team in scoring at 17.3 points per game and collected 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting against the Beavers. "They have many players that can do a lot of things, but I have a lot of confidence in us, too."
|Duquesne||vs.||St. Bonaventure||4:00 (EST)|
|Maryland Eastern Shore||vs.||Delaware State||4:00 (EST)|
|Virginia Tech||vs.||Boston College||4:00 (EST)|
|Hampton||vs.||Morgan State||4:00 (EST)|
|New Orleans||vs.||Northwestern State||4:00 (EST)|
|Florida A&M||vs.||South Carolina State||4:00 (EST)|
|Gardner-Webb||vs.||High Point||4:00 (EST)|
|San Jose State||vs.||Boise State||4:00 (EST)|
|St. Francis Brooklyn||vs.||Mount St. Mary's||4:00 (EST)|
|Savannah State||vs.||North Carolina A&T||4:00 (EST)|
|Bethune-Cookman||vs.||North Carolina Central||4:00 (EST)|
|Idaho State||vs.||Eastern Washington||4:05 (EST)|
|Jacksonville State||vs.||Morehead State||4:15 (EST)|
|Saint Joseph's||vs.||Saint Louis||4:30 (EST)|
|Southeastern Louisiana||vs.||Nicholls||4:30 (EST)|
|Louisiana||vs.||Coastal Carolina||4:30 (EST)|
|Charleston Southern||vs.||Longwood||5:00 (EST)|
|Denver||vs.||South Dakota State||5:00 (EST)|
|Jackson State||vs.||Mississippi Valley State||5:00 (EST)|
|Austin Peay||vs.||Southeast Missouri State||5:15 (EST)|
|Houston Baptist||vs.||Lamar||5:30 (EST)|
|South Alabama||vs.||UT Arlington||5:30 (EST)|
|Troy||vs.||Texas State||5:30 (EST)|
|Iowa||vs.||Maryland||6:00 (EST) Preview|
Thursday, February 23 at 2:34 PM (EST)
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- -- Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon spent a lot of time praising Minnesota after the Gophers upset his No. 24 Terrapins here on Wednesday night.
"They were terrific," Turgeon said several times after Minnesota won its sixth straight with an 89-75 victory.
But the sixth-year Maryland coach certainly will be spending a lot of time focusing on his team before the Terrapins host Iowa on Saturday in Big Ten Conference play.
Maryland (22-6, 10-5 Big Ten) has lost two games in a row after it allowed Minnesota to shoot 54.5 percent in the second half and score 55 points after intermission.
The Terrapins were coming off a loss on Sunday at Wisconsin and have now lost four of their last six games.
"We had open 3s and 22 assists on 30 baskets," said Jaylen Brantley, a junior guard for Maryland. "I feel like there wasn't a lot of forced shots so those 3s were probably just in the flow of the game."
The Terrapins will try and get healthy against Iowa, who are 15-13, 7-8.
"We understand who Maryland is. They beat us here (in January). They have tremendous personnel, and a great coach. We were there last year. It is a terrific environment," Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes are coming off a 96-90 overtime win at home Tuesday against Indiana as senior guard Peter Jok had 35 points.
"He is obviously a guy that wants the ball and we want to give him the ball," McCaffery said after the game.
Jok hit an amazing 22 of 23 free throws. He is averaging 21 points per contest this season. Tyler Cook added 14 points in that game for Iowa.
"I was surprised he missed the one to be honest with you," McCaffery said of Jok at the line. "He is a shot maker. It is textbook. He was really good. He posted a little bit. He came up top, he was on the wing. He was really, really special tonight."
Iowa is scoring 80.5 points per game and allowing 78.0. They are getting 38.8 rebounds per contest while allowing 39.5.
"We had some tough losses recently," McCaffery said. "We are fighting."
Iowa assistant coach Sherman Dillard is a former Maryland assistant.
Maryland won 84-76 at Iowa on Jan. 19 as junior guard Melo Trimble had 20 points to lead five players in double figures. Trimble leads Maryland in scoring, and the next three top scorers are all freshmen: forward Justin Jackson and guards Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter.
The Terps got a boost Wednesday from reserve forward Ivan Bender, who had a career-high 15 points in 16 minutes as he made seven of 10 shots from the field. He will see more playing time now that junior center Mikal Cekovsky is out for the year with a fractured left ankle.
Jok had 14 points in the earlier game against Maryland as he made just four of 12 shots from the field. Sophomore forward Ahmad Wagner had 12 points in the first meeting against Maryland and freshman guard Jordan Bohannon had 11 for Iowa.
The Terps' defense will need to tighten up. The 89 points allowed Wednesday was the most given up this season and the most since an 89-81 loss at North Carolina on Dec. 1, 2015.
"We've had a heck of a year, but we just didn't have a great night. We've got to figure it out," Turgeon said. "I love my team. It's a great group. We've got a big game Saturday, a big game. We've got to figure it out."
Maryland will honor its 2001 Final Four team and 2002 national title squad before the game Saturday. The game will be shown on ESPN2 at 6 p.m.
|Kansas||vs.||Texas||6:00 (EST) Preview|
No. 3 Kansas eyes outright Big 12 title, visits Texas
Friday, February 24 at 9:18 PM (EST)
On paper, Saturday afternoon's Big 12 showdown in Austin between third-ranked Kansas and reeling Texas has to be considered a mismatch, a near-walkover for the surging Jayhawks on their way to clinching another outright conference championship.
But the Longhorns nearly always play their best when Kansas comes to town, and the Jayhawks would be wise to keep their guard up against Texas.
Kansas (25-3, 13-2 in Big 12 play) heads to Austin off an 87-68 victory over TCU on Wednesday that garnered the Jayhawks at least a share of its 13th straight Big 12 title.
The Jayhawks have a three-game lead on Baylor, West Virginia and Iowa State in the league standings with three games to play, meaning that a Kansas win Saturday would guarantee it a solo regular-season crown. Only one of the other three schools could potentially tie Kansas because the teams in pursuit all play each other down the stretch.
Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team has won five games in a row since a stunning home overtime loss to Iowa State on Feb. 4, said he has no plan to rest players in the Jayhawks' final three regular-season games.
"No -- after Texas, we play next Monday and then we can take Tuesday and Wednesday off," Self said. "We've got the Big 12 tournament coming up so I don't see any reason why we need to back off and do anything different than what we've been doing."
Guard Frank Mason III leads Kansas and the conference in scoring with a 20.3 points-per-game average while his 20.8 ppg in league play are also tops in the Big 12. Mason has 16 games of 20 points or more, including his last three and five of his last six contests. He is the only conference player averaging 20 points or more this season.
Mason, the Jayhawks' erstwhile Player of Year candidate, has been a key cog in winning four straight Big 12 titles.
"It's a great feeling -- this is what we worked for," Mason said. "Coach Self has done a great job of preparing us every day for this, and we do a great job of bringing energy to practice and locking in to whatever our goal is. Every year is special and I'm just glad I was able to be part of all four years. I'm just proud of my teammates, coaching staff and the fans for the unbelievable energy they bring every night."
Texas is looking to end a four-game losing streak, the latest setback a 77-62 defeat at No. 12 West Virginia on Monday. The Longhorns (10-18, 4-11 in Big 12), who have lost six out of their past eight outings, are winless on the road this season and have just two home games remaining -- Saturday's showdown versus Baylor and a March 4 showdown against No. 9 Baylor.
All seven of Texas' home league contests have been decided by four points or less (4-3 record). Fourteen of the Longhorns' first 28 contests have been decided by five points or less; Texas is 5-9 this year in games decided by five points or less and 3-7 in games decided by three points or less.
Texas guard Kendal Yancy said the Longhorns' string of losses in close games have had an effect on the team.
"It's really hard, especially for the seniors," Yancy said. "We have to be able to respond after losses and be able to win the next game because there's still hope. Any hope we can find we'll take it and run with it.
"Some of our younger guys are a little tired," Yancy said. "They are responding very well and are fighting through it. They have a big role. They really don't have any other choice but to respond, and I think they understand that."
One of those young players for Texas, freshman center Jarrett Allen, has elevated his game as the season has progressed. In Monday's loss at West Virginia, Allen reached double figures in scoring (17 points) for the 21st time this season (28 games) and 14th time in Texas' 15 Big 12 games.
Allen had a remarkable performance the only other time he's played against Kansas, when he had a career-high 22 points, a career-high 19 rebounds (seven offensive) and tied a career high with three blocks in 34 minutes at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 21.
The Jayhawks hold a 28-8 lead in the all-time series that dates back to a 36-34 Texas win in Austin on Dec. 16, 1938. Kansas has won the last six meetings in the series, with Texas' most recent victory against the Jayhawks an 81-69 win in Austin on Feb. 1, 2014.
|New Mexico||vs.||Wyoming||6:00 (EST)|
|Tennessee State||vs.||Belmont||6:00 (EST)|
|Texas Southern||vs.||Alabama State||6:00 (EST)|
|Kansas State||vs.||Oklahoma||6:00 (EST)|
|Weber State||vs.||Idaho||6:00 (EST)|
|Howard||vs.||Norfolk State||6:30 (EST)|
|Alcorn State||vs.||Southern University||6:30 (EST)|
|Friday, February 24, 2017|
|Men's College Basketball|
|Oregon State||46||vs.||76||California||Final Recap|
Cal rolls over Oregon State
Saturday, February 25 at 12:19 AM (EST)
Ivan Rabb posted 16 points and nine rebounds to lead California to a 76-46 victory over visiting Oregon State in a Pac-12 Conference game Friday night at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif.
Sam Singer came off the bench to score 14 points for Cal (19-9, 10-6 Pac-12), which snapped a three-game losing streak. Charlie Moore added 11 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Kendal Manuel scored 14 points for Oregon State (5-25, 1-16). Stephen Thompson Jr. had 12 points.
Oregon State jumped out to an 8-3 lead over the first two minutes and went up 12-5 on two free throws by Thompson. Cal responded with an 8-0 run to take a 15-14 lead on a dunk by Jabari Bird.
The Beavers briefly reclaimed the lead, but the Golden Bears mounted a 12-0 run to go up 27-16 on a pair of free throws by Kingsley Okoroh. Cal stretched its lead to 14 on a layup by Don Coleman and carried a 39-26 advantage into the break.
The Beavers cut the deficit to nine early in the second half following baskets by Gligorije Rakocevic and Manuel, but a 3-pointer by Moore helped the Bears reestablish a double-digit lead. Cal took a 46-30 lead on a dunk by Bird and extended the lead to 18 on a jumper by Rabb.
Oregon State got within 13 on two free throws by Manuel, but Cal scored the next seven points to take a 55-35 lead on a basket by Moore. The Bears pushed their lead to 25 on a 3-pointer by Grant Mullins. They led by as many as 34 in the final minutes.
Cal shot 47.5 percent from the field despite making just 2 of 13 from 3-point range. The Bears amassed a huge 42-22 rebounding advantage.
Oregon State shot 37 percent and made 4 of 14 from beyond the arc.
|Saturday, February 25, 2017|
|Major League Baseball|
|Blue Jays||vs.||Braves||1:05 (EST)|
|Twins||vs.||Red Sox||1:05 (EST)|
|White Sox||vs.||Dodgers||3:05 (EST)|
|Friday, February 24, 2017|
|Major League Baseball|
|Saturday, February 25, 2017|
|National Hockey League|
|Canadiens||vs.||Maple Leafs||7:00 (EST) Preview|
Habs hope for change of direction in Toronto
Friday, February 24 at 10:14 PM (EST)
TORONTO -- The Montreal Canadiens' coaching change has not had an immediate impact on improving the struggling team's performance.
Since Claude Julien, who himself was fired by the Boston Bruins, took over from Michel Therrien, the Canadiens are 1-2-0 and have scored a total of four goal.
The latest loss was 3-0 to the New York Islanders Thursday.
The Canadiens will try to start moving in the right direction Saturday night when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.
"(The Maple Leafs) got a lot of first-round picks that were early picks, and it makes a big difference," Julien said after practice on Friday. "Those teams obviously finished low for many years to be able to get those kind of players. Babs (coach Mike Babcock) has done a great job with them in bringing those kids along. There's a lot of skill and there's obviously a lot of speed in that lineup so we have to play smart. They can be energetic, but we have to use our experience to our advantage."
The Maple Leafs are coming off a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers Thursday in which goaltender Frederik Andersen was superb, especially in the first period in which Toronto scored the only goal against the run of play.
Toronto is 1-7 in shootouts this season.
"It's a tough way to lose a game," said Toronto right winger Connor Brown, who scored the first-period goal. "I think we'll find our way in the shootout the more we get comfortable with it, these young guys. It's a tough way to lose a hockey game for sure, especially when you battle hard for 65 (minutes)."
The Maple Leafs are again expected to be without center Mitch Marner (right shoulder), who is on injured reserve, and defenseman Connor Carrick (upper body), who is listed as day to day.
Carrick's absence allowed defenseman Alexey Marchenko to make his Maple Leafs debut Thursday. He was claimed off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings three weeks ago.
"I thought (Marchenko) made a real good play on our goal (in the first period)," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought he had another one get to the net and he turned the puck over one time on a D-zone faceoff coming around. Obviously, he's got skill and he's smart and he's a big man out there so that was a positive as well."
After Montreal's loss to the Islanders, there were questions about the possibility of splitting the No. 1 defense tandem of Alexei Emelin and Shea Weber.
"Nothing's set in stone here," Julien said on Friday "I can make changes and we're three games in. You guys are asking me about making changes right away. I think it's a matter of time here before I decide to make changes. Because you don't stay with the status quo when you're not winning hockey games. So, there's no doubt I have to think about making changes if things don't work out.
"I know Shea's played with Marky (Andrei Markov) as a pair and stuff like that. Certainly, something you could always go back to; certainly, an option here moving forward."
Julien said he intends to maintain a positive approach.
"When I say positive with these guys, it doesn't mean you don't bring to the forefront what we need to do better," he said after the game Thursday. "But tomorrow, we got to wake up and we got to get back to work here because we got a game in Toronto on Saturday and we got to be ready for that. So, if you're going to drag this game tonight into tomorrow, you're not helping yourself."
As far as team finding its identity, Julien said: "In order to have an identity as a team, you have to have consistency. And we haven't had consistency in the three games I've been here."
The Canadiens (32-21-8) have won their three games this season against the Maple Leafs (28-20-12).
"(The Canadiens) have had their way with us and we look forward to playing them," Babcock said.
|Flyers||vs.||Penguins||8:00 (EST) Preview|
Penguins, Crosby hope for better result at Heinz Field, this time against Flyers
Friday, February 24 at 10:06 PM (EST)
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby has been nothing but upbeat about the Pittsburgh Penguins' fourth outdoor game, Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field.
He has no apparent reservations about participating in one of the NHL's Stadium Series spectacles, even though he and the Penguins have had mixed results playing without a roof. Moreover, despite being a superstitious sort, Crosby can smile at the prospect of returning to the stadium normally occupied by the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field, a 3-2 loss to Washington, Crosby got clocked by a blindside hit by the Capitals' David Steckel, resulting in a concussion and heavily chronicled complications that forced Crosby to missed 101 games over the next season and a half in the prime of his career.
"I'm looking for a bit better outcome than last time," Crosby said. "It will be nice just to get out there. Playing outside is something that's special no matter where it is. To be here at home again and hopefully have a better memory of playing outside -- that's kind of the way I'm looking at it."
Crosby was the hero in the first Winter Classic, in 2008, when he scored the winning shootout goal for a 2-1 win over Buffalo in a snow globe atmosphere at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He and Pittsburgh had a forgettable time in a March 1, 2014, outdoor Stadium Series game at Soldier Field, won by Chicago 5-1.
Weather was a factor in the 2011 Winter Classic, which was moved from the afternoon to nighttime for weather reasons. Still, there was rain, and temperatures were in the 50s.
Temperatures in Pittsburgh soared into the 60s and 70s this week, but multiple forecasts called for a big dip in the hours leading up to this night game, with a chance of rain or flurries.
"I just hope the weather is good for it," said Pittsburgh's Eric Fehr, the NHL's leading scorer at Heinz Field after he had two goals while playing for Washington in the 2011 game.
"We don't want to have to put windshield wipers on the visors when we're playing out there. Things got a little interesting last time we played."
Crosby labeled the ice "pretty good" on Friday, when both teams practiced on the rink built over the past several days.
Pittsburgh was part of a big buildup for the 2011 game against the rival Capitals, but the Penguins-Flyers rivalry runs even deeper.
The Penguins (37-14-8) are in a heated race for the Metropolitan Division title, while Philadelphia (28-25-7) is clawing to get back into a wildcard spot in the East.
"I expect both teams to be at their best," Crosby said. "There's no doubt the intensity is a little higher when it's a big stage like that. Every team wants to win a game like that. Maybe the intensity will be a little higher than a typical game, but I'd like to think that any matchup between the two teams, both teams are usually motivated."
The Flyers have participated in two outdoor games, the 2012 Winter Classic, a 3-2 loss to the Rangers at Citizens Bank Park, and the 2010 Winter Classic, a 2-1 overtime loss to Boston at Fenway Park.
"It's a cool experience," Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "A lot of families are coming to town. We obviously know there are two points on the line, but it's a whole difference experience, and it's pretty cool for us as well."
Cool, and different, but not an exhibition game.
"It's pretty weird because when you're on the ice, you don't really hear the crowd," Flyers center Claude Giroux told the Bucks County Courier Times. "It's obviously pretty exciting playing in the Steelers' stadium.
"At the end of the day, we're there to get the two points. If it was earlier in the season, we could take in a little bit more. It's all business now, and for us it's just finding a way."
|Sabres||vs.||Avalanche||10:00 (EST) Preview|
Rested Sabres look to ignite surge vs. Avalanche
Friday, February 24 at 9:57 PM (EST)
The Buffalo Sabres are rested and ready for a playoff push, and their first stop is in Denver to play the lowly Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.
The Sabres (26-24-10) have not played since Sunday and enjoyed their turn at a break that every NHL team has had once in January or February. Buffalo resides in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, but it is just six points behind Toronto for third in the Atlantic Division and the New York Islanders for the second wild card.
With 22 games left, points are at a premium, and there's no better place to start a surge than the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center, where the Avalanche (16-40-3) have won just seven of their 23 games.
A win might be tough considering how teams have performed in their first game after the five-day break. Entering Friday, the collective record is 4-12-4 after the bye.
Saturday's contest is a quick two-game road trip for Buffalo. The Sabres play at Arizona on Sunday before returning home to face Nashville on Tuesday.
Buffalo, which practiced in Denver late afternoon Friday, is expected to get forward Zemgus Girgensons back after he missed seven games with an unspecified injury. Girgensons' ailment was classified as a mid-body injury, but coach Dan Bylsma referred to it as a "full-body injury" before the bye.
Whatever kept Girgensons out is not an issue now and he is set to center the Sabres' third line against the Avalanche. They are also expected to get back forward Sam Reinhart, who missed two games before the bye because of the flu.
The Sabres will need to make a move to make room for Girgensons' return from injured reserve, with Nick Baptiste the likely candidate to return to Rochester of the American Hockey League.
While Buffalo is fighting for the playoffs, the only drama surrounding Colorado is if anything will happen before Wednesday's trading deadline. The Avalanche, last in the NHL in points and wins, are sellers if they want to be.
There have been rumors for months surrounding nearly every player other than Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen -- two players general manager Joe Sakic has deemed untouchable -- but so far the only move was trading Cody McLeod to Nashville last month.
The Avalanche are adding two players to the lineup without making a deal. Forward Rene Bourque is returning after missing 11 games with head and neck injuries suffered against Los Angeles on Feb. 1 and defenseman Erik Johnson is playing after missing nearly three months with a broken fibula.
Johnson will be sporting extra padding after a shot by Dallas' Tyler Seguin on Dec. 3 shelved him.
"In hindsight, I wish I had it before, but those are the kind of adjustments you make after the fact when things like that happen," he told HockeyBuzz.com after practice Friday. "It feels good and I wouldn't be saying I'm ready to go if it wasn't perfect."
One of the bright spots in the disappointing season is the play of Rantanen, the team's first-round draft pick from 2015. After spending most of last season and the start of this year with San Antonio of the AHL, Rantanen has come on strong in late January and February. He has eight goals in the last 14 games, including his first career hat trick against Montreal on Feb. 7.
"I feel comfortable after every game," Rantanen said recently. "I'm trying to put pucks more to the net and trying to shoot more, go to the net more. That's how you play well in this league."
|Sharks||vs.||Canucks||10:00 (EST) Preview|
Short-handed Canucks look to fend off rested Sharks
Friday, February 24 at 10:10 PM (EST)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Traditionally, a team feels refreshed coming off a five-day break -- but the Vancouver Canucks are actually weaker.
The Canucks revealed Friday that several players have shown symptoms of the mumps, including one confirmed case. As a result, at least four teammates will be sidelined Saturday as the Canucks (26-28-6), who have been off on the NHL-mandated five-day break since Sunday, host the San Jose Sharks (35-18-7) at Rogers Arena.
"We're taking this very seriously, given how easily mumps can spread," Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a news release. "At this point, Troy Stecher is the only player with a confirmed test result. Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Mike Chaput and Markus Granlund have each presented symptoms.
"We'll continue to follow all protocols in accordance with Vancouver Coastal Health guidelines in order to prevent further infection."
Sportsnet reported that Stecher, fellow defenseman Tryamkin and forwards Chaput and Granlund will be out of Canucks' lineup Saturday. Tanev's status is questionable.
Benning later told reporters that the club has called up forward Alex Grenier and defenseman Evan McEneny from Utica of the American Hockey League. McEneny, in his second pro season, has yet to play an NHL game.
The outbreak comes as the Canucks are struggling to stay in the Western Conference playoff race. They have lost eight of their last 11 games. All of the setbacks have come in regulation time, denying them any points in their quest to get above the playoff bar.
The team was working with health experts, the NHL and the NHL Players Association to minimize the spread of the illness. In keeping with the health experts' guidelines, the Canucks news release stated, players showing symptoms were immediately being tested and quarantined in isolation. Vaccines were also being administered, dressing rooms were disinfected and other hygiene methods were being used.
Stecher, a rookie who earned a regular spot after beginning the season in the minors and going back down briefly again, has logged heavy minutes and is also a key power play cog. Fellow rearguard Tryamkin has become a regular in his first full NHL season, and Granlund is tied for second in team goal-scoring with a career-high 15 tallies.
Chaput is a fourth liner and penalty killer, while Tanev plays on Vancouver's top defensive unit and will be a critical loss if he can't play.
Meanwhile, the Sharks are also coming off their league-mandated break -- but in a much healthier position. San Jose leads the Pacific Division with 77 points.
While the Canucks try to get healthy, Sharks icon Joe Thornton will try to make history. He sits two assists shy of 1,000 for his career. With the two or more helpers, he will become only the 13th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000-assist mark.
But Thornton is not getting overly excited about his chance to join the exclusive company.
"I think when it arrives, it'll arrive," Thornton told The San Jose Mercury-News.
Thornton has six points -- four of which were assists -- in his last six games. He was held in check Sunday as the Sharks fell 2-1 to Boston, but had a six-game points streak before then. With five goals and 34 assists, he has not matched the point-per-game pace that he enjoyed in 2015-16 while producing 82 points in as many contests.
But he could reach the 60-point mark for the fifth straight season and 16th time in 19 seasons. Except for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Thornton only missed that mark in his first two NHL seasons, in 1997-98 and 1998-99. The 37-year-old center has amassed 1,380 points in 1,427 games over the course of his 19-year career and ranks 23rd all-time in points.
Several players have seen their production increase dramatically while playing alongside him -- and nosedive after moving off his line.
"If you're a righty and you love to shoot the puck," Sharks center Logan Couture told The San Jose Mercury-News, "he's the best guy in the world you can play with."
|Ducks||vs.||Kings||4:00 (EST) Preview|
Kings try to pick up offense against Ducks
Friday, February 24 at 9:33 PM (EST)
If the Los Angeles Kings fail to make the playoffs, an offense that failed to deliver on a consistent basis could be blamed.
The Kings will try to jump-start their offense once more on Saturday when they resume the Freeway Face-off series with the retooled Anaheim Ducks in a matinee at Staples Center.
Los Angeles (29-27-4) has been blanked twice in three games against Anaheim (32-20-10) this season, including a 1-0 setback on Sunday at the Honda Center.
"They just played good defensive hockey and the goalie played well and we didn't get enough good scoring opportunities," the Kings defenseman Drew Doughty told the team's official website.
Scoring has been an issue for Los Angeles for much of this month. The Kings have netted just 15 goals over their last nine games, with six tallies coming in a win over the Florida Panthers on Feb. 9. The Kings have gone 3-6-0 over that stretch.
"You've got to score goals to win, and obviously there are games in that stretch where we just weren't good enough," Jeff Carter told the Kings' official website. "There's games where we were good enough and we don't score. It's coming down to crunch time here, and we've got to get it going."
Over the last nine games, Carter has notched seven points (three goals, four assists) while Tanner Pearson leads the way with eight points (four goals, four assists), but the Kings have gotten virtually nothing from a pair of high-scoring veterans -- captain Anze Kopitar has just two assists and Marian Gaborik has failed to register a point in that span.
The Kings' scoring woes continued on Thursday with a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins. Kevin Gravel scored his first NHL goal for Los Angeles, which is tied with the Winnipeg Jets for ninth in the Western Conference.
"At the end of the day, you've got to win games, and we've got, what, 25 games left or something like that? You need two points, and we need all the points we can get right now," said Carter, who needs one goal to reach 30 for the fourth time in his career and for the first time since 2010-11 with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Carter had two power-play goals and an assist in the Kings' 3-2 win over the Ducks on Nov. 20.
The Ducks are in the middle of the pack among the eight teams from the West currently fighting for a playoff spot, and they made a move to fortify their offense by acquiring Patrick Eaves from the Dallas Stars on Friday for a conditional second-round pick in the 2017 draft.
If Anaheim reaches the third round of the postseason and Eaves plays in at least half of the games in the opening two rounds, then Anaheim will send a first-round pick to the Stars.
While with Dallas this season, Eaves set career highs with 21 goals, 11 power-play goals and 37 points. The right wing has a goal and an assist in nine career games at Staples Center.
"When you can make a move to add to your team -- and not subtract anything, like we did today -- it's huge," the Ducks' Ryan Kesler said on the team's official Twitter feed.
Anaheim is 6-7-1 since last winning consecutive games on Jan. 17 and Jan. 19 over the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche, respectively.
The Ducks have alternated wins and losses in their last seven games and are coming off a 5-3 win over Boston on Wednesday. After being held without a point in his previous five games, Rickard Rakell scored twice and backup goaltender and former King Jonathan Bernier made 26 saves.
Rakell has two goals and two assists in three games versus Los Angeles this season. He recorded the first of his seven game-winning goals this season in the Ducks' 4-0 victory over the Kings on Nov. 1.
Bernier got the call in place of John Gibson, who is dealing with a lower-body injury. Two of Gibson's career-high five shutouts this season have come against Los Angeles, but coach Randy Carlyle said in a tweet on the Ducks' official feed that Gibson had an MRI on Friday. The procedure revealed no serious injury and Gibson will be rested heading into the team's break, the tweet also said.
After this contest, Anaheim resumes play March 3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opener of a three-game homestand.
The Kings and Ducks will close the regular season against each other on April 9 in Anaheim.
|Capitals||vs.||Predators||5:00 (EST) Preview|
Forsberg, Preds aim to rub more salt in wound of infamous trade from Caps
Saturday, February 25 at 12:09 AM (EST)
Joe Malone, here. Mike Bossy, here.
That's all the roll one has to call when you're looking for the NHL players who have notched hat tricks in three straight games. Malone did it twice during the 1917-18 season, and Bossy pulled it off in November of 1981.
Nashville Predators left winger Filip Forsberg can swell the class' ranks to three Saturday if he can burn his old organization, the Washington Capitals, for a third hat trick in five days when the teams meet in a late-afternoon matinee at Bridgestone Arena.
And while the odds are long that Forsberg will pull off the triple-triple, he does have a few things working in his favor.
He has four career hat tricks, all coming in the last two seasons and all happening in the last week of February. He has four goals in four career games against Washington, which dealt him at the 2013 trading deadline for Martin Erat in what has turned out to be one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory.
What's more, Forsberg and his Nashville teammates could have a big schedule advantage for this one. The Capitals played Friday night, edging Edmonton 2-1 at home, and might have about 16 hours of recovery time after arriving in the Music City before playing the back end of a tough back-to-back.
Not that well-rested opponents have succeeded lately trying to corral Forsberg, who after managing just three goals in his first 30 games has 19 in the last 30.
"I just try to attack the game," Forsberg said. "I obviously love scoring goals. I watch as much video as I can and just try to pick up as much as I can from other players."
Predators coach Peter Laviolette swears there's little difference from the Forsberg who fired and couldn't find the net in November versus the one that scores as easily as he breathes these days.
"I really liked the way he played in November and there was not a whole lot of production like you are seeing right now," Laviolette said. "Being in the building or behind the bench, you can sense when somebody is on their game."
Although the schedule could work against it Saturday, Washington (41-12-7) has been on its game for months. It leads the league in regulation wins (39), points (89), fewest goals allowed (128) and goal differential (73).
Even Friday night, when right winger T.J. Oshie sat out with an injury and Edmonton kept Alex Ovechkin off the scoresheet, the Capitals found a different way to win. Justin Williams snapped a third period tie with his 19th goal and Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots for his 31st victory.
"That was a very good team that we played against that we shut down offensively, except for a bad break on their goal," Williams said.
Washington coach Barry Trotz said after Friday night's win that Oshie, along with defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, would sit out on Saturday. The plan is for Oshie and Orpik to return Tuesday night for a big Metropolitan Division showdown at the New York Rangers.
|Islanders||vs.||Blue Jackets||5:00 (EST) Preview|
Isles aim to keep up winning way at Columbus
Friday, February 24 at 9:50 PM (EST)
The New York Islanders will look to continue their newfound winning ways on the road Saturday afternoon.
For the first time all season, the Islanders won consecutive road games, and it could not have come at a better time for the surging team. New York, which currently finds itself ahold of the final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, started a season-long nine-game stretch away from Brooklyn with wins at Detroit on Tuesday and Montreal on Thursday.
The Isles next stop will be in Columbus, where they face a Blue Jackets team trying to finish a seven-game homestand on a winning note.
With a 9-13-4 mark away from the Barclays Center, the Islanders are one of six NHL teams with fewer than 10 wins on the road. However, center John Tavares told New York Newsday after Thursday's 3-0 victory over the Canadiens that record doesn't indicate everything about the team.
"We know how to win on the road, and we've played some good games on the road," said the Islanders captain, who scored an empty-net goal and an assist in the win. "No one's afraid of playing in these kinds of games."
Tavares' line, the Islanders top line, has sparked the recent resurgence for the team. On Jan. 17, when Doug Weight took over coaching duties after the team fired Jack Capuano, New York had 42 points in 42 games and was looking up to everyone in the Eastern Conference. They now have 68 points in 60 games.
Since then, the line of Tavares, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey has combined for 21 goals and 29 assists.
"It's been a clinic by them for six, seven weeks," Weight told the Newsday. "They're really confident right now, and I'm confident in them, the team's feeding off their play as well."
Columbus has gone 3-3-0 during its current 17-day stint at home.
The up-and-down homestand has been a missed opportunity for the Blue Jackets. On Feb. 8, the day before it began, they sat second in the Metropolitan Division standings seven points behind Washington with two games in hand.
Heading into Friday's action, the Blue Jackets find themselves in the top wild card spot with 79 points in 58 games, having been surpassed in the division by both the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh. They're now eight points behind the Capitals with just one game in hand.
While the homestand ends on Saturday, the Islanders game comes on the heels of the Blue Jackets league mandated five-day off period and starts a stretch of nine games in the next two weeks.
"It's different for the whole league," said Tortorella via the Blue Jackets website, after Sunday's 4-3 loss to Nashville, about the week off. "This hasn't been done before in the middle of the year, and you can see how teams have struggled. Hopefully, we'll try to find a way to scrap away here and get our game back as quickly as possible after the break."
One of the players Tortorella believed would be best served by the break is 19-year-old defenseman Zach Werenski, whose 36 points in 58 games rank fifth on the team in scoring and plus-16 rating ranks second.
"He's not used to playing this amount of hockey, and I think the break's going to help him," Tortorella said. "Some of the stuff he does, that's not teachable. It's just in him."
The Blue Jackets announced a series of moves on Friday. The called up left winger Markus Hannikainen and goalie Joonas Korpisalo from Cleveland. Goalie Anton Forsberg was sent down to the AHL squad.
|Rangers||vs.||Devils||5:00 (EST) Preview|
Rangers aim to keep road dominance vs. Devils
Friday, February 24 at 9:30 PM (EST)
The surging New York Rangers cross the Hudson River looking to maintain their standing as the league's top road team on Saturday when they face off with the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.
Following a 2-1 shootout victory over the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Thursday, the Rangers (39-19-2) lead the NHL with 20 road victories this season, the third time in four seasons under head coach Alain Vigneault that New York has won that many away from home.
Excluding the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, the Rangers have won 20 or more road contests in six of the last seven seasons, including a franchise record 28 under Vigneault in 2014-15.
Entering Saturday's contest in New Jersey, the Rangers have won nine of their last 11 games on the road.
"There's not a home way to play or a road way to play, there's just one way to play and that's the right way," Vigneault told reporters in Toronto. "We try and play the right way on the road, and at home. We've been fairly successful on the road and we want to continue that."
In the Devils (25-25-10), the Rangers will face a club that has lost two straight and three of their last four overall. New Jersey is also a team that has not taken full advantage of a home-heavy schedule in the month of February.
Coming off a 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators Tuesday at the Prudential Center, the Devils are just 3-3-1 on home ice this month. They have two home games remaining, against the Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, before the calendar flips to March.
In all, the Devils play nine of their 11 games in February in New Jersey; and, yet, are further from a playoff spot now than when the month started.
"Our backs are against the wall now, and every game has got to be played like it's the one that's going to knock us out," New Jersey's Kyle Palmieri said.
The Devils will be without talented 19-year-old rookie Pavel Zacha on Saturday. Zacha, recently promoted to the second line to play alongside Adam Henrique and P.A. Parenteau after recording nine points in 14 games, suffered a concussion Tuesday night.
"He made progress the past couple days in a good way," Devils coach John Hynes said of Zacha. "We'll start the protocol to get him back; but he's definitely out Saturday."
Zacha's absence leads to Beau Bennett's return to the Devils' lineup. Bennett has just three goals and seven assists in 43 games this season, and only one goal in his last 12 games.
Cory Schneider will start in goal for the 10th time in the last 11 matches. The Devils' No. 1 goaltender has allowed two goals or fewer in six of his last seven starts.
"It's fun to have (the Rangers) here," Schneider said to NorthJersey.com after practice Friday. "February, March games have a little more meaning. It ramps up the intensity of the rivalry a little bit more."
On the other side, Vigneault confirmed Friday that backup goaltender Antti Raanta will get the nod against the Devils, only his third start since Dec. 29. Back on Dec. 11, Raanta made 19 saves while shutting out the Devils at Madison Square Garden, 5-0.
The Rangers will be without defenseman Kevin Klein for the second consecutive game because of a back issue. Adam Clendening will replace Klein in the lineup, and will play with rookie Brady Skjei on the third pairing.
"(The Devils) will be looking for a hard win, and we'll be looking to match their intensity," Skjei said to the Rangers' web site. "We're going to play to our skill and our speed, and get all over them."
|Friday, February 24, 2017|
|National Hockey League|
Capitals beat Oilers for 13th straight home win
Friday, February 24 at 10:31 PM (EST)
WASHINGTON -- Justin Williams found some quiet ice and then scored the loudest goal. Just what the Washington Capitals needed to keep rolling at home.
Williams and Tom Wilson scored as the Washington Capitals defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Friday night for their 13th consecutive home victory.
Goaltender Braden Holtby had 30 saves for the Capitals (41-12-7), who have won two in a row overall.
Leon Draisaitl scored Edmonton's goal. The Oilers (33-21-8) had won four of the previous five games.
Connor McDavid had an assist in the series finale, but only one shot on goal against Washington's defense.
"I thought it was outstanding," said Holtby, who improved to 16-0-2 in his last 20 games. "We give that team a lot of credit. We knew what they were capable of coming in, and we knew there was a lot of areas that we were going to have to be really good or they were going to expose us. We shut down their big players."
Capitals center Evengy Kuznetsov drew the primary task of guarding the NHL's points leader.
"I think Kuzy was obviously phenomenal on the defensive side," Holtby continued.
Williams scored the go-ahead goal 5:48 into the third period from the right wing off a feed from Jay Beagle, who dug out the puck along the boards behind Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot.
"He found some quiet ice up quite high," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said of Williams. "I think he surprised everybody. ... He's a crafty veteran, he positioned himself well and he shot it right away."
McDavid made his Washington debut after missing last season's visit with an injury. The 20-year-old phenom had two assists in the Oilers' 4-1 victory over the Caps in Edmonton on Oct. 26.
Washington has a point in 15 consecutive home games, but snapped its streak of 11 games in a row with at least five goals. The Capitals returned home after a 1-2 road trip that included Wednesday's 4-1 win at the Philadelphia Flyers.
Wilson scored the game's first goal. With traffic blocking Talbot's vision, Wilson blasted a shot into the left corner of the net with 7:38remaining in the first period for a 1-0 Edmonton lead.
With Edmonton legend and NHL career points leader Wayne Gretzky in attendance, the Oilers tied the score 35 seconds into the second period. Draisaitl's slap shot beat Holtby to the inside post for his 23rd goal after a bouncing puck off two Washington players remained deep in the Capitals end.
"That was a very good team that we played against that we shut down offensively, except for a bad break on their goal," Williams said.
Talbot had 24 saves in the loss.
Considering what they were facing on the road, Edmonton focused on positives after the loss.
"That was a good test for us," center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "I don't think we can be upset about it. We've got to move on."
"I think that's a far assessment on their behalf," McLellan said when told of the postgame tone. "We knew coming in it was going to be a tough task. I thought we played with them most of the night. ... It was a pretty close game, back and forth. hard fought.
"Both teams back-ends played well. Goaltenders were good. One of those nights we were just a little bit short."
NOTES: Washington played without D Matt Niskanen (lower body), D Brooks Orpik (lower body) and F TJ Oshie (upper body). RW Riley Barber made his Capitals debut after being recalled Hershey on Thursday. ... Edmonton activated D Darnell Nurse (ankle) from injured reserve, but he was not on the game roster. ... Both teams play their next game at Nashville, starting with the Capitals on Saturday. The Oilers face the Predators on Sunday. ... Nashville F Filip Forsberg, a former Washington prospect, became the first NHL player with hat tricks in consecutive games in Thursday's 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. ... The Oilers are 0-2 against the Predators this season, including a 2-0 road loss on Feb. 2.
Johnson, Flames hand Panthers third straight home loss
Friday, February 24 at 11:15 PM (EST)
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Thanks to solid goaltending, this is becoming a marvelous road trip for the Calgary Flames.
But for the Florida Panthers, this has the makings of a miserable string of home games.
Chad Johnson made 36 saves, and Matt Tkachuk dished out two assists to lead Calgary to a 4-2 win over Florida on Friday night at the BB&T Center.
Johnson, who gave Brian Elliott a rest after he had started four straight games in goal, is 2-0-0 against the Panthers this season, allowing two goals in each win.
"Their goaltender played unbelievable," Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe said of Johnson. "He won them the game."
Johnson credited Calgary's offense.
"When you score four goals, you should win the game," Johnson said. "I felt good. But I've been feeling good lately. Tonight, I got the result."
The Flames are 3-0-1 on this trip that ends Sunday at the Carolina Hurricanes. That ledger includes a current streak of three straight wins.
Calgary (32-26-4) got goals from Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, Deryk Engelland and Troy Brouwer, who also added an assist.
Florida (28-22-10) has lost three consecutive home games, nearly negating their most recent road trip, which produced five straight wins.
The Panthers, who had 68 shot attempts to 38 for Calgary, got goals from Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov.
"We had a great road trip, and we got our chance to get back in the playoff (picture)," said Barkov, who has 16 goals this season, including seven in his past eight games. "But right now at home, it's not good. We need to play the same way we did on the road."
Florida's Roberto Luongo took the loss on the same night he passed Ed Belfour for fourth place in NHL games played by a goalie with 964.
Calgary made the game's first mistake -- a tripping penalty by Michael Frolik against Florida's Barkov. That brought on Florida's hot power-play unit that scored on its third straight attempt over the past two games. Bjugstad got the goal as Florida put up six shot attempts in 93 seconds of power-play action.
Bjugstad's shot, which bounced in off Johnson's right arm, was set up by a pass to the left by Jussi Jokinen.
Calgary tied the score with 8:57 expired in the first period. After Kris Versteeg forced a turnover behind Florida's net, Michael Stone got a shot on goal, and Bennett scored on a juicy rebound.
The Flames went up 2-1 less than two minutes later on a goal by Backlund. Tkachuk, on the rush, fed Backlund, who had gotten behind Florida's defense, beating Luongo stick-side.
Less than four minutes later, the Flames made it 3-1. Tkachuk's seemingly harmless shot from the left circle was deflected by Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad. The puck handcuffed Luongo, and Frolik slapped at the rebound before teammate Engelland tucked it into the net.
Barkov scored with 2:40 remaining in the first period to cut Florida's deficit to 3-2. Barkov picked up a steal in his own end, skated down and worked a give-and-go with Jonathan Huberdeau before scoring.
In the second period, exactly two minutes after breaking Florida's power-play-goal streak at three, Calgary scored to increase its lead to 4-2. Matt Stajan, from the left corner, threaded a bullet pass to Brouwer, who scored from in front.
That was enough offensive support for Johnson, who stopped all 30 of Florida's shots in the final two periods.
"Their goalie played great," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said of Johnson. "We got a lot of looks, but we didn't get the bounce we needed."
Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said his goalies -- Johnson and Elliott -- are lifting Calgary.
"Our goalies have given us a lot of belief," he said. "We weren't at our best tonight. But once Chad settled in, he took over the game in the second and third (periods)."
NOTES: Flames RW Kris Versteeg -- a former Panthers player -- played in career game No. 600. ... Flames RW Alex Chiasson played career game No. 300. ... Florida scratched C Greg McKegg and D Jakub Kindl. ... Calgary scratched C Freddie Hamilton, D Dennis Wideman and D Jyrkl Jokipakka. ... Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe praised team captain/ C Derek MacKenzie earlier this week: "Derek is in charge of that (locker) room. He's got those guys ready." ... Gerard Gallant, fired by the Panthers this season after he led the team to the 2016 Atlantic Division title, could be in line to coach the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights next season. ... Florida plays host to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.
Lack, Hurricanes blank Senators
Friday, February 24 at 11:22 PM (EST)
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Through a lot of inactivity, in part because of a lingering concussion, Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack never lost faith.
As it turned out his teammates had his back as well.
Lack recorded his first victory since October by stopping 34 shots as the Hurricanes defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-0 on Friday night at PNC Arena.
"When there's a couple of minutes left, you starting thinking about it," Lack said of the possibility of notching a shutout. "I felt like we were controlling it from the start. A good night for us."
Several individual scoring droughts were snapped as Carolina won for the first time in six games (1-4-1).
Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Viktor Stalberg scored for the Hurricanes, who finished with exactly three goals in a game for the first time in 2017. Phil Di Giuseppe picked up two assists.
Lack, who made his sixth start of the season, improved to 2-3-1. He has nine career shutouts.
"We've got to get him going," Carolina coach Bill Peters said of the decision to start Lack instead of Cam Ward, who played in 48 of the team's first 56 games.
Lack made 18 of his saves in the second period.
"He didn't get tested a whole lot early," Peters said. "There's a zero on the board (in the third period). ... He's a good teammate and you want to keep that zero there."
The Hurricanes had a different personnel makeup in front of Lack because it was the first game since defenseman Ron Hainsey was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hainsey had played in every Carolina game this season.
Defenseman Ryan Murphy moved into the lineup for only his second NHL game since early January as Carolina went with revamped defensive pairings.
Lack said he felt comfortable. He had gone more than a year --since January 2016 -- without registering a shutout.
"I saw it well today," he said of the puck.
The Senators, who would have pulled into the top spot in the Atlantic Division with a victory, were shut out for the third time this month.
"They came out really hard. We were expecting that," Senators coach Guy Boucher said. "There's no reason why we shouldn't be ready for their surge in the first period. It just was not there."
The Hurricanes weren't called for a penalty until more than 44 minutes into the game.
Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson made 41 saves.
The Hurricanes led 3-0 after two periods, and that was more goals than they had scored in any of their previous five games. The offensive snags were a large reason why Carolina slipped to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division standings.
"It's nice to get a win," Staal said. "It's always a lot more fun."
Carolina opened the scoring 79 seconds into the game on Staal's wrap-around goal. It was his first goal in seven games.
"The first opening you take it and go," Staal said. "You want to play with speed. We've been squeezing the stick the last few games."
Lindholm snapped a 13-game streak without a goal with his score with 4:44 left in the second period.
Stalberg halted his 11-game goal-less streak by scoring with 42 seconds to play in the period. That was accompanied by an assist from Victor Rask, who had gone 14 games without a point.
"(Play like this), you don't deserve to win," Boucher said. "And your opponent played great and we were awful and the mix is the result. We just had an off day. We'll be better next game."
NOTES: Ottawa won the first two meetings against the Hurricanes this season by 2-1 scores, so there were three goals scored in each meeting. ... The Hurricanes were charted for 19 first-period shots, matching their season high for any period. ... With Carolina going with G Eddie Lack, it meant that G Cam Ward will have to wait to appear in his 600th career game. He is at 599. ... The Senators were without two of their top scorers for the second game in a row with RW Mark Stone (neck) and C Mike Hoffman (groin) sitting out. ... The Senators play the third game of a four-game road swing Sunday at Florida. ... The Hurricanes wrap up a five-game homestand Sunday against Calgary.
Stars earn much-needed win vs. Coyotes
Saturday, February 25 at 12:37 AM (EST)
DALLAS -- Coming off a five-day break, the Dallas Stars showed few signs of rust, getting the winning goal from captain Jamie Benn early in the third period and 25 saves from Kari Lehtonen in a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night at American Airlines Center.
After his older brother, Jordie Benn, fired the puck off the end boards, Jamie Benn, who also had an assist, collected the carom and scored his 21st goal of the season on a wraparound 3:03 into the final period.
"Just a bad ice by one of the players, and I just skated by and picked it up," Benn said.
Benn's goal broke open a game that was deadlocked at 2 after two periods.
"That third goal was a big goal," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Benn makes a great play on that and then we just couldn't generate anything after that. We got to open up a little bit, opened up too much and ended up chasing it."
Devin Shore, who also had an assist, John Klingberg, appearing in his 200th career game, Lauri Korpikoski and Cody Eakin also scored for Dallas (24-27-10), which got two assists from Esa Lindell.
The Stars are just the fifth team in the NHL to win its first game after the bye week (5-12-4).
"I think that makes us 3-0 out of breaks, so that was nice," Shore said. "I think guys yesterday and even this morning were recharged."
Radim Vrbata, who added an assist, and Martin Hanzal scored for Arizona (21-32-7). Louis Domingue made 32 saves for Arizona.
Arizona scored 7:06 into the game when Vrbata one-timed a slap shot from the slot for his 14th goal of the season. Max Domi fed Vrbata from behind the Dallas net and he beat Lehtonen to his short side.
Dallas pulled even when Shore scored his 10th goal of the season on a wrist shot from the left point 5:58 before the first intermission. Shore's flick beat Domingue top shelf over his glove.
"Until maybe that last one, he was solid," Tippett said of Domingue. "It's a tough back-to-back. We get in at 2:30 in the morning and we kind of throw him out there to the wolves, but he played pretty well for most of the game."
The Coyotes regained the lead with 6:01 remaining in the second period when Hanzal scored his 16th goal of the season off a deflection. With an impossible angle to the right of the Dallas goal, Hanzal flicked a wrist shot that deflected first off Jordie Benn's skate and then off the far post before going in.
Dallas' Brett Ritchie had apparently tied it with a goal 5:00 before the second intermission. However, video review determined that Luke Schenn had prevented the puck from crossing the line at the far post and the goal was overturned.
The Stars made it 2-2 with 1:02 remaining in the second period when Klingberg scored his ninth goal of the season on a wrist shot from the slot off the rush with Dallas on the power play.
After Jamie Benn's goal, Korpikoski scored his eighth goal of the season off a rebound 9:22 into the third period. Eakin added his third goal of the season on a wrist shot from the left circle with 4:02 left.
Lehtonen is now 14-4-4 in his career against Arizona.
"Tough break on the second goal where it went off Jordie Benn's skate and caught the far post," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Lehtonen's performance. "He didn't have a lot of action, didn't have a tough action. I thought it was a lighter night for him overall, but he made a couple key saves for us."
Early in the second period, the Coyotes lost center Alexander Burmistrov to an upper-body injury. He did not return. After the game, Tippett said Burmistrov's status is day to day.
NOTES: The Coyotes scratched D Anthony DeAngelo, RW Josh Jooris, LW Jamie McGinn and G Mike Smith (illness). Due to Smith's illness, Arizona used an emergency call-up to summon G Adin Hill from AHL Tucson. ... The Stars scratched D Patrik Nemeth. ... Scouts from the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Bruins, Canadiens, Flames, Hurricanes, Islanders, Kings, Oilers, Predators, Red Wings and Senators were in the press box. ...Midway through the first period, the Stars played a tribute video honoring Coyotes D Alex Goligoski, who spent nearly six seasons in Dallas (2010-2016). ... Earlier in the day, the Anaheim Ducks acquired F Patrick Eaves from the Stars for a conditional second-round pick. Eaves has 21 goals this season.