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Anthony Davis, return of Talen Horton-Tucker help Los Angeles Lakers rebound from loss to Minnesota Timberwolves

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LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis “imposed his will” and Talen Horton-Tucker re-introduced his skill as the Lakers bounced back from a disappointing loss to beat the San Antonio Spurs 114-106 on Sunday.

Davis scored 27 of his game-high 34 points in the first half, accounting for his biggest scoring half since December 2019, and added 15 rebounds and six assists. Horton-Tucker, who underwent surgery to repair ligaments in his right thumb during training camp, played for the first time this season and scored 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, rewarding coach Frank Vogel for putting him into the starting lineup.

The pair helped the Lakers respond after they were outscored 40-12 in the third quarter of Friday’s home loss to the middling Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Anthony really imposes his will on this game,” Vogel said of Davis. “I think he, probably more than anyone, was unhappy with how last game unfolded and he was intent to impose his will.”

L.A.’s star big man turned his focus to Horton-Tucker, who along with Carmelo Anthony gave the Lakers a new-look starting lineup alongside Davis, Russell Westbrook and Avery Bradley. Kent Bazemore and DeAndre Jordan, who had been regular starters this season, both did not play at all.

“To come out in his first game and do what he did was unreal,” Davis said of Horton-Tucker. “I’m impressed. His first game and to come in and do what he did to help us win was huge and a sign of his hard work. A lot of guys usually come back and are kind of rusty, but he came in like he had been playing with us this whole time.”

Horton-Tucker, who signed a three-year, $32 million extension with the Lakers in the offseason, had one of the biggest buckets of the game when he scored on a finger roll with 2:14 remaining in the fourth quarter to put L.A. up by four and give his team some breathing room after the Spurs had cut the Lakers’ once-14-point lead down to two.

Vogel would not commit to whether the 20-year-old Horton-Tucker would remain in the starting lineup but vowed to continue to find playing time for him.

“We’ll see,” Vogel said. “He’s going to be a big part of what we do, though. We know that. We invested in him this summer for a reason. We have a strong belief in that young man and what he can do on both sides of the ball. Obviously when we get whole, we got a lot of good choices but he’s going to be a big part of it.”

Vogel said he hopes Horton-Tucker can guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player on a regular basis, and even though he had a steal and a block and drew two charges on Sunday, Horton-Tucker said his defense can improve.

“I feel like I could’ve been a little bit better but I had some good moments and I’m just happy for that,” he said. “That’s something I have to do this year so I’m just trying to lock into it.”

After dealing with a bevy of injuries through the early part of the season, the Lakers have started to get some good news on the health front. Beyond Horton-Tucker’s debut, Wayne Ellington (15 points) scored in double digits for the second time in the past three games after missing the first eight games of the season with a hamstring injury, and LeBron James, who has been out the past six games with an abdomen strain, appears to be close to a return.

“Soon,” a source close to James told ESPN when asked about James’ return timetable.

The source said James is “progressing great” in his on-court workouts. However, Vogel said the 19-year veteran has yet to participate in a full practice or take part in contact drills.

L.A. hosts the Chicago Bulls in the second leg of a back-to-back Monday and then hits the road for a five-game trip through Milwaukee, Boston, Detroit, New York and Indiana.

“One day at a time, that’s all I can tell you,” said Westbrook, who finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and seven turnovers, when asked if the Lakers could be primed to finally put a run together. “We hope so, but just take it one day at a time, slowly get guys back and get into a rhythm.”

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Source — Boston Celtics’ Enes Kanter to change last name to Freedom

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Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter is changing his name to Enes Kanter Freedom, a source confirmed to ESPN.

The decision comes ahead of the Turkish-born Kanter becoming a United States citizen on Monday. News of Kanter’s planned name change was first reported by The Athletic.

Kanter has a long history of social activism. He has been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and was indicted in his home country in 2018 on charges of belonging to an armed terrorist group, which he denies. Turkey, which revoked his passport, is seeking his extradition.

This season, Kanter has expressed support for Tibet, a stance that has led to Celtics games being pulled from Chinese media.

Drafted by Utah with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, Kanter is in his second stint with the Celtics after previous stops with the Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers.

In 11 seasons, Kanter has averaged 11.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Information from Reuters is included in this report.

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Phoenix Suns defeat Brooklyn Nets for 16th consecutive win, 1 win away from tying team mark

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NEW YORK, N.Y. — Moments after winning their 16th straight game, the Phoenix Suns could be heard clapping and shouting in celebration of their latest victory on their way into the visitor’s locker room at Barclays Center.

“We run New York!” one member of the Suns team could be heard shouting in the hallway.

The Suns (17-3) completed a road sweep of the New York teams on back-to-back nights and moved within one win of matching their franchise’s longest winning streak with a 113-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. This win came one night after the Suns beat the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

Now Phoenix will try to match the franchise’s record 17-game winning streak, set in 2006-07, when it hosts Golden State on Tuesday. The Warriors (17-2) currently own the best record in the league.

“I am looking forward to it,” said Suns guard Devin Booker, who scored 30 points. “Obviously [it is] not a make it or break it game. Not a playoff game. But we know it will be a high-energy game. Two best records in the NBA. It is going to be a high intensity fun game.”

The Suns led by as much as 22 points against the Nets, who entered this season with championship expectations. The Nets (14-6) managed to get within seven with 2:31 remaining but Brooklyn missed three straight shots to allow Phoenix to leave with the win.

Kevin Durant scored 39 points and James Harden had a triple-double with 12 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds. But Phoenix’s defensive standout Mikal Bridges helped hold the Nets’ point guard to 4-for-15 shooting, including 0-for-6 shooting from behind the 3-point arc, to go with seven turnovers.

Harden credited Bridges’ physical defense but also admitted that he is still trying to find the balance of when to be more of a scorer and distributor with Kyrie Irving not with the Nets.

“Honestly, I’m trying to figure all that out right now,” Harden said. “I’m trying to figure out when to score, when to be a playmaker, when to run offense, when to do a little bit of everything.

“It’s been a little difficult especially since — from whatever — but it’s been a little difficult but I’m just trying to figure it out.”

It’s early but the Suns look like a team that has figured out how to take the next step after making it to the NBA Finals last postseason.

“It would be nice,” Suns point guard Chris Paul said of matching the franchise’s longest winning streak on Tuesday. “Obviously everybody knows the ultimate goal is to win a championship but if you don’t enjoy the small victories throughout the regular season then what are you doing? We are having fun… We are going to keep taking it one game at a time and enjoy the moments.”

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Sources — John Wall, Houston Rockets discussing return to play

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Houston Rockets guard John Wall has expressed his hope to the organization that he can resume playing for the team in the near future, sources tell ESPN.

Wall and the Rockets had agreed on him sitting out until a trade could be found, but the five-time All-Star guard talked to Houston general manager Rafael Stone on Friday about restarting discussions on a return to the active roster, sources said. The two sides are expected to continue talks on Sunday.

For Wall to play this season, a compromise probably would need to be found between respecting his stature with a supermax contract and the Rockets’ desire to have him play a complementary role to help develop their young core. That, along with other considerations, could be key to finding a path for Wall to play for the Rockets in 2021-22.

With two years and $91 million left on his contract, trade talks surrounding Wall have been a nonstarter this season and there is been no inclination on either side for a buyout to make him a free agent, sources said.

Wall, 31, arrived in Houston via a trade with Washington that sent Russell Westbrook to the Wizards prior to the 2020-21 season. After missing the entire 2019-20 season with an Achilles tear, Wall started 40 games for the Rockets and averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists. The Rockets and Wall agreed to shut him down late in the season, trying to protect his body and trade value.

The Rockets are counting on No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green and third-year guard Kevin Porter Jr. to play cornerstone roles for the future. Before the season, the Rockets and Wall agreed that he would continue practicing and working out with the team, but wouldn’t be an active player as Houston sought trade scenarios.

The Rockets are 2-16 to start the season, but ended a 15-game losing streak with a victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

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