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Denver, OKC to vie for top spot in West

(Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Denver Nuggets woke up Thursday morning in a spot no one expected them to be in at any point of the season -- atop the Western Conference standings.

They'll have to bring their best Friday night if they want to stay there.

Denver (18-9) was percentage points ahead of Golden State and a half-game up on Oklahoma City entering Thursday's schedule. The Thunder (17-9) have a chance to change the picture when they play at Denver on Friday night.


76ers' Butler iffy vs. surging Pacers

Coming off just their second home loss of the season, a 127-124 defeat to the visiting Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, the Philadelphia 76ers now have to deal with the freight train that is the Indiana Pacers at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Wells Fargo Center.

Indiana has won five straight, including a 16-point win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, the team's seventh win in nine games. The Pacers have crept up to within a half-game of Philadelphia in the standings at 18-10 (the Sixers are 19-10) by relying on one of the deepest offenses in the league.


Celtics seek 8th straight win vs. Hawks

BOSTON -- Celtics coach Brad Stevens has to count heads in his locker room before every game to see who is available for that game.

But regardless of who is in and who is out, Boston has won seven straight games heading into Friday night's home game against the Atlanta Hawks.


Leonard questionable to face Blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Toronto Raptors are hoping that Kyle Lowry's performance in a 113-93 rout of the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night at Oracle Arena signals the end to a mini-slump by the All-Star point guard.

Lowry totaled 23 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and three steals to help the Raptors (23-7) improve their NBA-best record. It was especially important since Toronto forward Kawhi Leonard missed his second straight game with a bruised right hip.


Harden has 50-10-11, Rockets beat Lakers

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Rockets were clinging to a lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter on Thursday night when James Harden told coach Mike D'Antoni he needed to come out for a bit to rest - something the reigning MVP never does.

D'Antoni was perfectly happy to fulfill Harden's request, and the move could not have worked better for the Rockets.


Nets, Dinwiddie agree on 3 years, $34M

NEW YORK (AP) The Brooklyn Nets gave Spencer Dinwiddie a contract extension Thursday, a day after the best game of his career.

The three-year extension will be worth about $34 million for the guard who was playing in the NBA G League before he signed with the Nets on Dec. 8, 2016.


Nowitzki returns but Suns end skid at 10

PHOENIX (AP) The Phoenix Suns have just five wins this season, and two have come against the Dallas Mavericks.

The latest was Thursday night, when T.J. Warren scored a season-high 30 points and the Suns snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 99-89 victory.


Spurs rout Clippers for 4th straight win

SAN ANTONIO (AP) The Spurs appropriately returned to their defensive principles on an evening when San Antonio was celebrating "Throwback Night."

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points and the Spurs won their fourth straight, topping the Los Angeles Clippers 125-87 on Thursday for their largest win of the season.


Vucevic lifts Magic over Bulls in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) The Bulls had the fans, but Nikola Vucevic and the Magic got the win.

Vucevic scored 26 points, including a tiebreaking jumper with 28 seconds remaining, and Orlando snapped a three-game losing streak with a 97-91 victory over Chicago on Thursday night in its first of two games in Mexico.


Jordan: Monk tap on head 'only love'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Hornets owner Michael Jordan said it was a "tap of endearment."

After watching a bizarre ending to Charlotte's win against Detroit on Wednesday, a bewildered Jordan lightly smacked the back of second-year guard Malik Monk's head in closing seconds of the game.

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