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Phoenix Suns set franchise record with 18th straight win

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Even with history looming as his team approached a franchise record win streak, Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said he tried not to bring it up to his team.

But after a 114-103 victory over the Detroit Pistons set a new franchise mark with 18 consecutive wins, Williams allowed himself time to reflect.

“But it is really cool to be a part of something like that,” Williams said following Thursday’s win. “To win like this, the way we’ve won, guys out of the rotation, losing [Devin Booker], the relentless attitude of our team, the way we stick together, it makes it really cool.

“Obviously it’s hard to win in this league. But we’re not satisfied. We talk about stretching it out but it takes the right things to do that. So we’ve taken it one game at a time.”

The 18th win topped the previous franchise mark of 17 set by the 2006-07 Suns who went on to finish 61-21. The streak also ties the 2019 Bucks for the longest win streak of any NBA team in the last five seasons. The longest streak in NBA history belongs to the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who won 33 straight games.

Suns players tried to downplay how much they thought about the streak on a day-to-day basis.

“It feels good but at the same time, I don’t know, I guess it feels good but we got another tomorrow,” Cameron Payne said. “We have to keep going. It’s 1-0 today. That’s how I feel.”

Suns point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 12 points and 12 assists, said it was a nice piece of history for the team but the focus remains on the bigger picture.

“But for us I think it’s always about the feeling of making sure we’re playing the game the right way,” Paul said. “We always talk about we have a standard. We say this every night and a win is a win but we feel like we could have played better.”

Phoenix was without their leading scorer in Booker, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. Without him, Phoenix focused on a more balanced scoring effort with seven players in double figures. Payne and reserve forward Cameron Johnson led the way with 19 points each off the bench.

“We have guys that can score the ball across all the lineups,” Johnson said. “Book puts a lot of points up on the board every night. We’re a team that we’re going to find buckets other ways when we need to and that’s what we did tonight.”

Phoenix, who picked up win No. 17 against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, play the Warriors again Friday night on ESPN — a matchup Johnson is looking forward to.

“A team that we just played and beat at home, we get to go to their place, a division game. It’s a lot on the line,” Johnson said. “This is what playing in the NBA is about. Going into these environments with these implications. Granted it’s a December game, but it means a lot. It means a lot to us to continue this streak. It’s gonna be a fun one.”

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LA Clippers rally from 35 down to stun Washington Wizards in latest comeback win

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Trailing by 35 shortly before the half, point guard Reggie Jackson joked that the LA Clippers were “right where we want to be” against the Washington Wizards.

Still, the Clippers could hardly believe what they had done when the buzzer sounded. Despite playing without the injured Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers tied the second-largest NBA comeback in the play-by-play era (since 1996-97) and stunned the Wizards 116-115 at Capital One Arena.

The Clippers trailed 66-31 with 1 minute, 20 seconds left in the first half. Their 35-point comeback tied the Sacramento Kings‘ win over the Chicago Bulls in 2009 and is second only to the Utah Jazz overcoming a 36-point deficit against the Denver Nuggets in 1996.

The Clippers, though, are starting to become accustomed to improbable comebacks. They are the first team in the past 25 seasons to have erased a deficit of 24 or more points and win three times in a season. And they’ve managed to do so all in the month of January, with comeback wins over the Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers and now Wizards.

“Why do we keep doing that to ourselves?” Clippers guard Luke Kennard said after the win. “I don’t know. I don’t want to do it anymore though.

“Man, that was crazy.”

Down 66-36 at the half, Clippers coach Ty Lue opened the third quarter with several of his starters on the bench. Lue didn’t play starters Jackson, Nicolas Batum and Ivica Zubac in the second half, opting to go with guys such as Amir Coffey (29 points), Kennard (25 points) and Terance Mann (16 points).

The Clippers (24-25) kept telling themselves they could come back, having erased a 25-point deficit to beat the Nuggets 87-85 on Jan. 11 and a 24-point deficit to shock their old coach Doc Rivers and the Sixers in Philadelphia, 102-101, last Friday.

Once they cut Tuesday’s deficit down to 17 by the end of the third quarter, the Clippers began to really believe.

“It’s crazy,” said Lue, who was without his two stars Leonard (right ACL rehab) and George (right elbow ligament tear) and starter Marcus Morris Sr. (personal reasons). “Because when I looked at the score [at one point] in the first half, I thought we were down 19. And I looked again, I said, ‘We’re down 29!’ I said, ‘Oh s—!’ It happened so quick.

“We kept chipping away. I know when it was like 17 going into the fourth, and I think when we got to 10, I was like, OK, we got a real shot.”

From the point when they were down 35, the Clippers used an improbable 72-39 run to get within 105-103 with 2:46 remaining. But then it appeared that they ran out of gas.

Former Clipper Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell delivered an impressive chasedown block on a Coffey fastbreak layup and Bradley Beal (23 points) hit a 3 on the other end. Washington would push the lead back up to eight with 36.8 seconds left.

The Wizards led by seven with under 20 seconds left, but Coffey drove in for a dunk. After Kyle Kuzma made one of two free throws, Kennard buried a 32-foot 3-pointer from near the logo with nine seconds left to cut the lead to 115-112.

Washington couldn’t inbound the ball and had a costly five-second violation. Kennard then hit a 27-foot 3 while being fouled by Beal with 1.9 seconds to go. The Clippers guard converted the four-point play to become the only player in the past 25 seasons with a game-winning four-point play in the final five seconds of a game, according to data from ESPN Stats & Information. It was the Clippers’ first and only lead of the game.

Even the 13-year veteran Batum had both of his hands on his head in disbelief on the sideline. Wizards players appeared shocked.

Entering Tuesday, teams were 1-16,239 over the past 20 seasons when trailing by seven or more points with under 20 seconds remaining in regulation, according to data from ESPN Stats & Information.

“I have no words,” Beal said after the game. “Besides ’embarrassing.'”

“I was frustrated when I had to go back in,” Beal added. “This should have been a game where the starters get their rest. Plain and simple.”

Washington (23-25) lost for the fourth straight time, but this was the hardest defeat of the season to swallow.

Kennard scored seven points in the last nine seconds, setting off a Clipper celebration that ended with Lue drenched in cold water in the visitor’s locker room.

“Probably the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Coffey said. “January been wild. You never know when the game is over. Play through the buzzer.

“Like tonight, anything can happen.”

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Dallas Mavericks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. leaves game with fractured left foot

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SAN FRANCISCO — Dallas Mavericks forward Tim Hardaway Jr. exited Tuesday night’s 130-92 loss to the Golden State Warriors after suffering a fracture of the fifth metatarsal on his left foot, the team said.

The injury occurred with seven minutes left in the first half when Hardaway drove to the hoop for a layup.

Hardaway could not put any weight on his left leg and had to be carried off the court. The Mavs ruled out his return soon after.

Hardaway, 29, is in the first year of a four-year, $75 million contract with the Mavericks. He’s averaging 14.3 points this season.

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Derrick Jones Jr. fractures finger during workout as Chicago Bulls’ injury woes worsen

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Chicago Bulls forward Derrick Jones Jr. fractured his right index finger while working out at their practice facility, and he is expected to miss six to eight weeks, the team said Tuesday.

Jones’ finger will be placed in a splint, and the team left open the possibility that he could return to the court earlier with a protective splint.

Jones had been sidelined since Jan. 12 with a bone bruise in his right knee. He is averaging 6.3 points and shooting 58% from the field in 31 games (eight starts) for the Bulls.

Chicago already is without guards Lonzo Ball (knee) and Alex Caruso (wrist). Caruso had wrist surgery on Monday, and Ball is scheduled to have knee surgery later this week. They both also have a recovery time of six to eight weeks.

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