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Cleveland erases 20-point lead to thwart Dallas; Durant fuels Suns triumph

Cleveland erases 20-point lead to thwart Dallas; Durant fuels Suns triumph

The Cleveland Cavaliers squeezed out a victory against Luka Doncic (middle) and the Dallas Mavericks. —AFP

Cleveland’s Caris LeVert made the go-ahead three-pointer with 2:03 to play as the Cavaliers rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks, 113-110, in the National Basketball Association (NBA) on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant delivered his 18th career triple-double to lead the Phoenix Suns to a much-needed win over the Houston Rockets, and the Philadelphia 76ers downed the Orlando Magic despite the absence of reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid.

In Dallas, the Mavericks looked on their way to following up their Christmas victory over Phoenix, as they led by as many as 20 on the way to a 15-point halftime lead.

Luka Doncic scored 39 points for Dallas and Seth Curry added 19 off the bench. But they went stone cold for five minutes in the fourth quarter as the Cavs unleashed a 15-0 scoring run to take a 111-105 lead with 1:13 to play.

“Guts, plain and simple,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of what carried his team to victory. “It was the ability to dig down and go somewhere when things weren’t going your way.”

Career-high assists

LeVert scored 29 points off the bench for Cleveland. Jarrett Allen scored 24 points and grabbed 23 rebounds, and Isaac Okoro added 22 points for the Cavs, who were again without ailing star Donovan Mitchell or the injured Darius Garland and Evan Mobley.A stepback three-pointer from Doncic pulled the Mavs within three points with 17.4 seconds remaining.

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But on their final possession, Doncic was caught near midcourt and passed to Curry, whose last-gasp three-pointer was blocked by Max Strus.

“We were struggling defensively in the first half, but collectively we went out and just found a way. You don’t do that without heart, courage and fortitude,” Bickerstaff said.

In Houston, Durant scored 27 points with 10 rebounds and matched his career high with 16 assists to propel the Suns to a 129-113 victory over the Rockets.

The Suns snapped a frustrating three-game losing streak, building a 104-84 lead through three quarters and holding on for their first road win in a month.Eric Gordon, returning to Houston, where he played seven seasons for the Rockets, matched Durant’s 27 points while hitting seven of his 11 three-point attempts.

The Suns outrebounded the Rockets 43-32 and made 14 three-pointers. They connected on 57.3 percent of their shots from the field against the second-stingiest defense in the league.In Brooklyn, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out eight assists for Milwaukee, who beat the shorthanded Nets 144-122.

Without Embiid

Khris Middleton added 27 points and 10 assists for the Bucks, who outscored the Nets 44-30 in the fourth to cruise home.Brooklyn had kept it close through the third quarter, despite missing starters Spencer Dinwiddie, Nic Claxton and Cameron Johnson along with standout reserve Dorian Finney-Smith for rest and injury management.

Mikal Bridges, Cam Thomas and Royce O’Neal didn’t play after the first quarter, but the Nets still managed to grab a 79-78 lead with 5:21 left in the third.The Bucks regained the lead on Malik Beasley’s three-pointer and wouldn’t trail again.

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The 76ers won without Embiid for the first time this season, notching a 112-92 victory over the Magic in Orlando.

Tyrese Maxey scored 23 points and Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton added 22 apiece for the 76ers.

The Sixers had been 0-4 in games without Embiid this season.

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In Oklahoma City, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams scored 36 points each in the Thunder’s 129-120 victory over the New York Knicks. —AFP

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