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Clippers honour Bryant, Raptors hold off Cavs


De’Aaron Fox scored a career-high 34 points as the Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Clippers 124-103 on Thursday in the first game at Staples Center arena since Kobe Bryant was killed in a horrific helicopter crash.

Paul George narrated a heart-warming two-minute video tribute shown before the contest while Bryant’s retired No. 8 and No. 24 Los Angeles Lakers jerseys were left uncovered in the upper left corner of the arena.

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“I’m really proud of the way our guys played,” said Kings coach Luke Walton, a teammate of Bryant’s on the Lakers. 

“We came in down and tired after playing last night and then came into an emotional situation in what has been a very tough week.”

The Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard after the all-star forward was scratched due to back pain.

Buddy Hield added 19 points off the bench for Sacramento, which set a franchise record with 21 three-pointers. 

Clippers guard George managed just eight points on two-of-10 shooting.

Meanwhile, newly-named all-stars Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam combined for 42 points as the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors won their ninth straight game with a 115-109 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Lowry scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, and Siakam added 19 as the visiting Raptors extended their season-best winning streak. 

Lowry, who is headed to the All-Star Game for the sixth straight season, was named as one of seven reserves from the Eastern Conference to join teammate Siakam, who was chosen as a starter last week.

– ‘Grind it out’ –

Serge Ibaka scored a team-high 26 points in the win as the Raptors completed a three-game sweep of the season series with the Cavaliers. 

“That was anybody’s game from start to finish, to be honest,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “You’ve just got to grind it out and find a way.”

Norman Powell scored eight of his 16 points in the final 62 seconds of the game for Toronto to help blunt a Cavs’ rally. Fred VanVleet had eight points and a season-best 12 assists in the win. 

Kevin Love and Collin Sexton scored 23 points each for Cleveland. 

Darius Garland had 16 points and eight assists, Kevin Porter and Larry Nance added 13 points each, and Tristan Thompson had two points and 12 rebounds.

Toronto took a 10-point lead on a clutch three-point basket with 5:41 remaining. 

But the Cavaliers went on a 9-0 run, and Love’s three-pointer cut the lead to one point with just under four minutes left in the fourth, 100-99. 

Powell followed with a three-pointer and then a dunk with 35 seconds left to give Toronto a six-point lead. He added two free throws to get the lead back to six with 20 seconds left.

Elsewhere, Trae Young tallied 39 points, and the Atlanta Hawks upset the Philadelphia 76ers with a 39-point first quarter en route to a 127-117 victory. 

John Collins tallied 17 points and a season-high 20 rebounds for the Hawks, who avenged an earlier 105-103 loss to the Sixers. 

Ben Simmons led the 76ers with 31 points. 

Young had 14 points and De’Andre Hunter scored 10 of his 15 in the first quarter, as the Hawks won their third straight at home.

In a late game, Nikola Jokic had 28 points and 10 assists, Will Barton scored 18 as Denver Nuggets pulled out a 106-100 win over the Utah Jazz.

Jerami Grant added 15 points, Torrey Craig scored 13 and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Michael Porter came off the bench to score 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Nuggets, who overcame a fourth quarter surge from Jordan Clarkson.

Clarkson scored 24 of his season-high 37 points in the fourth quarter.

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