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Spurs look to halt Houston's run at 11

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

HOUSTON -- For the San Antonio Spurs, the result was rendered immaterial. Having contested the first 27 games without their best player, the Spurs were so pleased to welcome back forward Kawhi Leonard on Tuesday night that their loss to the Dallas Mavericks was essentially a footnote.

San Antonio (19-9) managed just fine without Leonard, whose quadriceps injury delayed his season debut and remains an impediment at least in terms of a minutes restriction. The Spurs own the third-best record in the Western Conference and their defense did not reflect the absence of a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, with San Antonio ranking third in defensive efficiency.

With the challenge of life without Leonard met, the Spurs must now tackle the task of blending their MVP candidate back into the mix. Leonard logged 16 minutes against the Mavericks, posting 13 points and six rebounds. Step two in his transition comes Friday night at Toyota Center against the Houston Rockets (22-4), who are riding an 11-game winning streak.

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James ties Bird with 59th triple-double

CLEVELAND (AP) Lonzo Ball got an up-close look at the biggest baller of them all.

LeBron James recorded his 59th career triple-double in front of Ball and his brothers, Kevin Love scored 28 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the 16th time in 17 games, 121-112 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

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Porzingis hurts knee, Knicks top Nets

NEW YORK (AP) Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson asked before facing the Knicks if anyone knew how to stop Kristaps Porzingis.

The Nets never really did, and they couldn't beat New York even after the star forward was injured.

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Short-handed Warriors push run to 8

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) After his brilliant game, Omri Casspi returned to the court to sing a Hanukkah prayer along with hundreds of fans and then took his turn lighting the large menorah on night three of the festival of lights - and on Jewish Heritage Night at Oracle Arena.

A veteran forward from Israel, Casspi earned another start for the injury-plagued defending champions and posted his 17th career double-double with season bests of 17 points and 11 rebounds, helping send the Golden State Warriors past the Dallas Mavericks 112-97 on Thursday for their eighth straight win.

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Towns has 30 and 14 as Wolves rout Kings

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Karl-Anthony Towns put the blame for an overtime loss to Philadelphia squarely on his shoulders, saying he cost his team a win.

Towns wasn't going to let the same thing happen Thursday.

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Unions unveil player rights' declaration

WASHINGTON (AP) Leaders from the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball players associations helped unveil a universal declaration of player rights that is designed to establish a new approach to governing sports and protecting athletes.

Among the 17 articles laid out in the declaration are rights to unionize and collectively bargain, express opinions freely and receive equal pay for equal work. The declaration was made Thursday by the World Players Association, which is affiliated with 100 organizations that represent 85,000 professional athletes.

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Pistons beat Hawks, end 7-game slide

ATLANTA (AP) Leading the NBA's worst club by 21 points midway through the fourth quarter, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy took no chances.

He sent his starters back in.

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All-Star Game vote schedule unveiled

NEW YORK (AP) Debuting a new NBA All-Game format in which players will pick teams in an effort to energize the event, the league has unveiled the voting schedule for its 2018 showcase.

The NBA had previously announced that the Eastern vs. Western Conference format would be scrapped for the first time, replaced by captains choosing sides in the latest effort to generate more enthusiasm and perhaps competitiveness for the game.

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Bucks' Teletovic out with blocked lungs

MILWAUKEE (AP) Milwaukee Bucks forward Mirza Teletovic is out because of blockages in his lungs.

The team said Thursday that pulmonary embolisms were discovered in both of Teletovic's lungs. The 32-year-old consulted with Bucks team physicians after experiencing unusual fatigue earlier this week.

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TNT's studio team to call Christmas game

NEW YORK (AP) Turner Sports says its "Inside the NBA" studio team will call a Christmas night game in Los Angeles along with its other usual duties.

Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson will be at Staples Center for the Lakers' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. They will call the nightcap of the league's five-game holiday schedule in addition to their regular pregame, halftime and postgame coverage.

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