Raptors 95, Knicks 83
Road crowds and fourth-quarter deficits are suddenly no problem for Toronto, which have turned from chokers to closers.
"Last year we were in a ton of situations, late-game situations we couldn't pull out. We'd kind of fold under the pressure, get frustrated or let a big shot frustrate us," guard DeMar DeRozan said. "Now, we don't let none of that get to us."
Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, DeRozan scored 25 and the Raptors rallied for a victory over New York on Friday night.
The Raptors trailed by 12 points in the third quarter but outscored the Knicks 29-12 in the fourth to take the opener of a home-and-home series.
"Second half we picked it up defensively and offensively. We got the ball up the floor a little bit faster, picked up the pace in that third and fourth quarter, and really made a charge down the stretch," point guard Kyle Lowry said.
Lowry had 15 points and 11 assists for the Atlantic Division leaders, who host the Knicks on Saturday with a chance to extend their lead to five games over last season's division champions.
Andrea Bargnani had 18 points and 12 rebounds against his former team. Beno Udrih finished with 15 points and 10 assists for the Knicks, who played again without Carmelo Anthony because of a sprained left ankle.
Anthony was hurt Monday and had hoped to play against Oklahoma City on Christmas, but instead might be out until the new year. Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Anthony likely wouldn't travel with the team to Toronto for the rematch.
Toronto shot 9 of 18 in the fourth quarter, held the Knicks to 5 of 19 and had a 16-9 rebounding advantage.
"Fourth quarter we just couldn't get a win. We couldn't get stops. They played well down the stretch," said the Knicks' Amare Stoudemire, wearing a brace over what he said was a jammed right wrist from the previous game but adding he expected to play Saturday.
John Salmons' 3-pointer gave Toronto the lead for good with 8:07 left, and DeRozan followed with a jumper. After J.R. Smith's basket, Salmons made another 3 before Valanciunas scored to make it 81-75.
Despite the Knicks' miserable 9-20 record, Woodson has continued to point their focus toward the division title. The Knicks thought for most of the game they would cut their deficit to two games, but instead headed north of the border down four.
"It's just disappointing because I felt like we had the game in control for a big part of the game. And then kind of let it dwindle away fourth quarter, it's pretty disheartening," center Tyson Chandler said.
Despite playing without Anthony and point guard Raymond Felton, the Knicks jumped out to a strong start. Toronto fought back to take a 37-36 lead with 3:17 to go in the second, but the Knicks outscored the Raptors 13-3 the rest of the half, with Smith's second 3-pointer during that span coming with 4.5 seconds left and giving New York a 49-40 lead.
The Knicks extended it to 61-49 on Tim Hardaway Jr.'s 3-pointer with 7:17 remaining in the third, but the Raptors had it down to 71-66 by the end of the period before controlling the fourth.
Smith had 17 points and Hardaway added 15.
Nets 104, Bucks 93
Jason Kidd tried his 13th different lineup this season and Brooklyn took advantage of a visit from the NBA's worst team to snap a four-game losing streak.
Backup point guard Shaun Livingston, who had scored just 14 points in his last four games, was moved into the starting lineup and led the way with 20 points, Mirza Teletovic scored a career-high 19 off the bench and Brooklyn rebounded from an embarrassing Christmas Day showing with a victory over Milwaukee.
Having Livingston on the floor gave Brooklyn an additional ballhandler besides starting point guard Deron Williams. Kidd's move worked from the start at the Nets had seven assists on 12 field goals in the first quarter.
"I thought it got us off to a good start. The ball was moving. We were getting great looks," said Kidd, who called out his team after a pair of 17-point losses this week. "We'll see how it goes tomorrow, but I thought those two played extremely well together."
The Nets had won three straight early this month before spiraling to five losses in their last six games.
Brooklyn got the win ahead of a difficult road trip.
After the game, the Nets left for Indiana for a game Saturday night against a team that's beaten them twice this season, including 106-83 on Monday night, leading Kidd to criticize his team. After the loss the first-year coach said his team looked like it "was very close to just accepting losing."
The Nets followed up that performance with a loss against the Chicago Bulls on Christmas Day before a national television audience. Brooklyn's trip will span six days with games at San Antonio on New Year's Eve and at Oklahoma City two days later.
"This is about tough as it's going to get as far a three-game road trip," said Paul Pierce, who added 13 points for the Nets. "You got the top three teams in the league."
Brooklyn hit 12 3-pointers, with Teletovic making five and Jason Terry four, and Milwaukee coach Larry Drew didn't like the way his team defended the 3-point line.
Rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Milwaukee, and Khris Middleton added 15 points and eight boards.
Kings 108, Heat 103 (OT)
DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points and 17 rebounds, Rudy Gay scored 26 and Sacramento rallied from an early 17-point deficit to beat undermanned Miami in overtime.
Isaiah Thomas added 22 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds to help the Kings snap Miami’s six-game winning streak. Gay made a tying jumper in the final minutes of regulation, and Sacramento quickly pulled away in the extra period to bring the sellout crowd of 17,317 roaring to its feet.
LeBron James finished with 33 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and Chris Bosh had 18 points and seven rebounds for the two-time defending NBA champions. Miami played without Dwyane Wade (rest), Ray Allen (right knee tendinitis) and Chris Andersen (sore back).
Warriors 115, Suns 86
Stephen Curry had career highs of 16 assists and 13 rebounds to go with 14 points, and Golden State beat Phoenix for its fourth straight victory.
Klay Thompson scored 21 points for the Warriors and David Lee added 17.
P.J. Tucker had 11 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Suns, who had won three straight and eight of nine. It was Phoenix’s worst defeat of the season.
Curry, who played 1 minute of the fourth quarter, had a rough shooting night and made just one of six 3-point attempts. He more than made up for it with his passing and rebounding for his third career triple-double.
Thunder 89, Charlotte 85
Kevin Durant had 34 points and 12 rebounds, and Oklahoma City held on to defeat Charlotte without injured guard Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder announced before the game that Westbrook had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will be out until after the All-Star break.
Durant scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and finished 14 of 28 from the field. Serge Ibaka had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Thunder, who have won seven straight road games and 11 of 12 overall.
Reggie Jackson started in place of Westbrook, shooting 4 of 19 from the floor.
The Thunder escaped after Josh McRoberts missed a wide-open 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.
Magic 109, Pistons 92
Arron Afflalo scored 23 points to lead five teammates in double figures and Orlando snapped a three-game skid by beating Detroit.
The Magic led the Pistons by as many as 22 and cruised in the fourth quarter. Nik Vucevic added 20 points and 11 rebounds, and rookie Victor Oladipo finished with 16 points and a career-high 11 assists.
The victory also halted a five-game home losing streak for the Magic, who hadn't won at the Amway Center since the day before Thanksgiving.
Brandon Jennings had 21 points for the Pistons, who had won three in a row on the road.
Pelicans 105, Nuggets 89
Tyreke Evans had 19 points and 10 assists, and New Orleans handed Denver its fifth straight loss.
Jrue Holiday had 17 points and four steals, causing two turnovers that led to late fast-break points as the Pelicans slammed the door on Denver's comeback bid.
Anthony Davis added 17 points and four blocked shots despite playing sparingly in the first half because of three early fouls.
Wilson Chandler scored 22 points and J.J. Hickson added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, who trailed by 18 in the second quarter but were as close as 93-87 on Quincy Miller's 3-pointer with 2:55 to go.
Jazz 105, Lakers 103
Derrick Favors had 18 points and 14 rebounds and made a putback dunk with 2.1 seconds remaining to lift Utah over depleted Los Angeles.
With the game tied at 103, Gordon Hayward drove to the basket on Utah's final possession but missed his off-balance attempt as the Lakers converged. Favors grabbed the rebound and slammed the ball through the hoop to snap Utah's four-game home losing streak. Hayward finished with 24 points and nine assists.
Nick Young scored 21 points in 27 minutes before fouling out with 5:45 remaining and Chris Kaman had a season-high 19 points starting in place of Pau Gasol, who was out with a respiratory infection.
Timberwolves 120, Wizards 98
Kevin Love had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and J.J. Barea scored 17 points off the bench to help Minnesota top Washington.
Ricky Rubio had 11 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 26 minutes, and Nikola Pekovic added 18 points and 10 boards for the Timberwolves. Minnesota outrebounded Washington 44-35 and only turned the ball over five times.
John Wall had 26 points and seven assists for the Wizards, who missed a chance to win their fourth straight road game for the first time since March 2008. Nene added 13 points and five rebounds, but Bradley Beal had to be helped off the floor in the fourth quarter with a left leg injury.