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Towns, Wolves rout Blazers 124-81, extend win streak to 5

Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and 13 rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Portland Trail Blazers by double digits for the second time in three days, 124-81By TYLER MASON Associated PressMarch 8, 2022, 4:34 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and 13 rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Portland Trail Blazers by double digits for the second time in three days, 124-81 on Monday night.Malik Beasley added 19 points, and Naz Reid had 18 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for Minnesota.Towns’ effort came in less than three quarters, as he and most of Minnesota’s starters stayed on the bench in the fourth with the game well in hand. Towns joined the home crowd in doing the wave from the bench as the Timberwolves fans reveled in their team’s blowout victory. Wolves guard Patrick Beverley added to the fun by launching T-shirts into the crowd during the fourth quarter.“It’s an outstanding sports town. We just got to give them a reason to keep coming out,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “This is a team a lot of people like to watch play. … It feels like we got something growing here and we’ve just got to keep building on it.”Monday’s game came two days after the Wolves beat Portland by 15 points at Target Center. Towns had 36 points in that win.Minnesota matched its season-high win streak at five games as it tries to keep pace in the Western Conference.Timberwolves fans, who have endured years of losing seasons, have continued to embrace their team as the wins have piled up.“That’s what makes us go, the excitement they bring,” Reid said of the crowd. “Even talking to us on the bench, we hear you. We might not say nothing, but we hear you. We definitely appreciate that.”Brandon Williams led the Trail Blazers with 27 points. Portland has dropped five straight after winning four in a row.Unlike Saturday, when Portland held a lead in the second half, Minnesota left no doubt about Monday’s outcome. The Wolves never let up on the way to the 43-point rout.“I sat at this microphone a couple nights ago. Obviously we lost the game, and I felt good about us,” Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. ”I felt good about our effort. I felt good about how hard we played, how hard we competed. Obviously, I have a different feeling today.”Both teams were without key players Monday. D’Angelo Russell, who had 14 points and 15 assists Saturday against Portland, was out with bilateral hamstring soreness. Anthony Edwards missed his fourth straight game with a left knee injury.Portland was missing Anfernee Simons, who scored a game-high 38 points against Minnesota on Saturday. The fourth-year guard is averaging 17.3 ppg this season and missed the game with a left quad contusion.Jaylen Nowell left the game with 1:31 left in the first half after getting hit in the face by Josh Hart’s elbow. His injury was announced as a nasal contusion and he missed the second half.Finch said Nowell could have returned to the game but Minnesota chose not to risk it.TOWNS EARNS WEEKLY HONORPrior to Monday’s game, Towns was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. In four games in the last week, Towns averaged 28.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists as the Timberwolves won all four games during the stretch.It’s the second time this season, and sixth time in Towns’ career, that he earned Player of the Week honors.“He has played at an All-NBA level,” Finch said of Towns. “I think he’s on the MVP ladder now.”TIP-INSTrail Blazers: Rookies Trendon Watford and Brandon Williams made their first career starts Monday for the short-handed Blazers.Timberwolves: G McKinley Wright IV was transferred to the Iowa Wolves of the G-League on Monday.UP NEXTTrail Blazers: Play at Utah on Wednesday for the final game of a four-game trip.Timberwolves: Host Oklahoma City on Wednesday to complete a three-game homestand.———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Makar, MacKinnon help Avalanche hold off Islanders 5-4

Cale Makar had two goals and an assist, Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists, and the Colorado Avalanche held off the New York Islanders 5-4 to snap a two-game skidBy VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports WriterMarch 8, 2022, 4:32 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — Cale Makar had two goals and an assist, Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists, and the Colorado Avalanche held off the New York Islanders 5-4 Monday night to snap a two-game skid.J.T. Compher and Devon Toews also scored for the Avalanche, who led 5-1 midway through the third and ran out the clock on New York’s rally. Colorado ended its longest losing streak since also dropping consecutive games Nov. 3 and 6. Nazem Kadri and Gabriel Landeskog each had two assists and Pavel Francouz made 32 saves.“A little bit too exciting,” MacKinnon said. “I don’t know what happened, we’ll have to look at the film. Just felt like everything they touched went in in the last 10 (minutes).”Anders Lee had two power-play goals and an assist, Casey Cizikas and Brock Nelson also scored, and Noah Dobson had two assists for the Islanders. Semyon Varlamov had a season-high 44 saves but lost his sixth straight.“I thought Varly was the best player on the ice for both teams,” New York coach Barry Trotz said. “The positives for us, when we fell behind we didn’t give up.”New York has not won consecutive games since Jan. 18 and 21 — falling to 7-11-2 since.After scoring three times in the third to rally for a 5-3 win at home against the Islanders last Tuesday, the Avalanche tallied four times in the first 8 1/2 minutes of the third of this one after going into the period tied 1-1.MacKinnon scored from the right circle for his 18th at 4:06 to give the Avalanche their first lead of the night. He now has nine goals and five assists in an 11-game points streak. Makar had an assist on the play, tying Joe Sakic for the franchise record with a helper in 12 straight games.Compher made it 3-1 with a quick shot from the left circle while he was falling down off a pass from Alex Newhook at 6:34. Makar got his second of the night and 20th of the season 1:07 later, and Toews made it 5-1 at 8:27.“Cale is always a stud,” MacKinnon said. “He’s been setting up a lot of guys. It was nice to see him score a few tonight.”Lee backhanded a rebound for his second of the night 16th of the season and 200th of his career with 8:02 remaining to pull the Islanders back within three.Cizikas tapped in a loose puck after Kyle Palmieri’s shot went off the crossbar for his seventh 90 seconds later, and Nelson scored from the left point for his team-leading 21st to pull the Islanders within one with 26.2 seconds to go.“It’s not good enough,” Cizikas said of the Islanders’ comeback. “Varly gave us every chance to win that game tonight. He played unbelievable, he made some incredible saves and we let him down. We let him down big time.”LINEUPSLee returned to the Islanders’ lineup after missing Saturday’s win against St. Louis for personal reasons. C Mathew Barzal (lower body) and D Zdeno Chara (IR, upper body) each missed his fifth straight game.STATSMakar leads all NHL defensemen in goals and points (63). His first-period goal extended his points streak to 12 games, second in franchise history for a defenseman behind Steve Duchesne’s 15 in 1992-93 season.WELCOME BACKThe Islanders welcomed back former teammate Toews with a video tribute during a stoppage in play in the first period. The defenseman received a nice ovation from the UBS Arena crowd and stood up on the bench and raised his arm in acknowledgement.“I appreciate it,” Toews said. “It’s never expected. You love it nonetheless.”Toews, selected by the Islanders in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL draft, had 11 goals and 35 assists in two seasons with New York before he was dealt to Colorado on Oct. 12, 2020.UP NEXTAvalanche: At New Jersey on Tuesday night in the second of a three-gameIslanders: Host Columbus on Thursday night in the fourth of a six-game homestand.———Follow Vin Cherwoo at https://www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Embiid has 43 points, 14 rebounds; 76ers thump Bulls 121-106

PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid had 43 points and 14 rebounds, and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 121-106 Monday night in a showdown between two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams headed in opposite directions.James Harden added 16 points and 14 assists, and Tyrese Maxey added 17 points for the 76ers, who have won six of seven and stayed perfect with Harden in the lineup.The 76ers improved to 5-0 with Harden since the blockbuster deal at the trade deadline that sent Ben Simmons to the Nets in exchange for the 2017-18 MVP. Harden sat out Philadelphia’s 99-82 loss at Miami on Saturday to rest his hamstring.“It’s fun,” Embiid said. “He just makes the game easy for everybody.”Harden is averaging 24.6 points, 12.4 assists and 7.4 rebounds as a member of the 76ers.“Like a dream come true,” said Georges Niang, who scored 14 points and hit four 3-pointers, three of which Harden assisted.Harden set up 76ers for open shots and driving dunks, like Embiid’s slam with 6:31 left in the third and Matisse Thybulle’s jam with 1:51 to play.“He’s teaching me on the fly,” Thybulle said.Embiid, the league’s leading scorer, made 15 of 27 field goals and 12 of 16 free throws.“Joel had it going the whole night, which obviously makes the game a little easier for everybody,” Harden said.The MVP frontrunner scored at least 40 points for the 10th time this season while upping his season average to 29.7 points per contest.“Just being aggressive,” Embiid said. “The last two games I’ve had bad starts, so I wanted to be aggressive and live in the paint.”Zach Lavine scored 24 points and DeMar DeRozan added 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who have lost five in a row.The Bulls couldn’t beat the 76ers without Harden, and it certainly didn’t get any easier with the 10-time All-Star point guard directing Philadelphia’s offense.“He’s a guy that has gotten a huge reputation, rightfully so, of being an incredible scorer; I also think he’s very unselfish,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of Harden. “He’s a pass-first kind of guy. I think he gets a lot of pleasure out of that.”HARDEN THIRD IN 3’SHarden tied Reggie Miller for third on the career 3-pointers list, draining No. 2,560 with his patented step-back move with 1:09 left in the first quarter. With Tony Brown Jr. guarding him, Harden dribbled behind his back, then got the crowd buzzing by putting the ball between his legs four times before stepping back to the 3-point line and swishing the long-range shot.BULLS VS. BESTThe Bulls have had trouble against the conference’s elite and dropped to 0-9 versus Miami, Philadelphia and Milwaukee — the three teams ahead of them in the standings. Philadelphia began play tied with the Bucks for second in the East, three games back of the Heat. The 76ers ended the season series with Chicago with a four-game sweep.DeANDRE’S DEBUTDeAndre Jordan received a loud ovation when he entered for his 76ers’ debut with 55.6 seconds left in the first quarter. The veteran center was signed by Philadelphia last week to back up Embiid. He had two points and three rebounds in 10:24.TRAINER’S ROOMBulls: The Bulls were without third-leading scorer (17.9 ppg) and top rebounder (9.6 rpg) Nikola Vucevic due to hamstring tightness. … Lonzo Ball (left knee surgery), Patrick Williams (wright) and Alex Caruso (wrist) worked out on Sunday during practice, but did not participate in any contact.76ers: Danny Green injured his left middle finger late in the first half and didn’t return.TIP-INSBulls: Hall of Famer Mo Cheeks, whose retired No. 10 76ers jersey hangs in the rafters, is an assistant coach for Chicago. … Dropped to 15-16 on the road.76ers: Paul Millsap (personal reasons) was not in attendance. … Harden trails Ray Allen (2,973) and Steph Curry (3,101 entering Monday) for most 3-pointers made. … Harden also went 5 of 6 from the free-throw line and passed Paul Pierce for ninth all-time in free throws made. … Moved within 11 wins of reaching 3,000 all-time, which only Boston and the Lakers have accomplished in NBA history.UP NEXTBulls: At Detroit on Wednesday.76ers: Host Brooklyn on Thursday.———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

No. 6 UConn wins 20th Big East title, tops Villanova 70-40

Evina Westbrook scored 13 points, Aaliyah Edwards added 12 points and No. 6 UConn put forth another dominant defensive effort to beat Villanova 70-40 in the Big East championship gameBy DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball WriterMarch 8, 2022, 4:06 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleUNCASVILLE, Conn. — There wasn’t too much doubt that UConn would win its 20th Big East championship.Now Geno Auriemma and the Huskies will turn their attention to trying to win a 12th national title. And they’ll need Paige Bueckers to continue to get healthier to do it.“She’s got a lot of work to do. She has her good days, her bad days,” Auriemma said. “She has her good days mentally, her bad days mentally. My big thing is, yeah, get her physically feeling better. She has to get her mind right now. She hasn’t been in that mode for three moths or whatever it is now. That will be job number one (the) next 10 or 11 days.”Even without getting much from Bueckers, the Huskies had more than enough to beat Villanova 70-40 on Monday night in the Big East title game and win their ninth straight conference championship — seven coming when they were in the American Athletic Conference.Evina Westbrook scored 13 points and No. 6 UConn put forth another dominant defensive effort.“We are pretty efficient on defense and that’s what we hold ourselves to,” said Aaliyah Edwards, who had 12 points. “Being able to switch one through five is very impactful and shows how aggressive we can be on defense, which leads to being aggressive on offense as well.”UConn avenged a loss last month to the Wildcats. That three-point defeat ended UConn’s 169-game conference winning streak dating to 2013.“I think all of us knew in the locker room before the game that it would be a totally different game than the first time,” Westbrook said.The Huskies (25-5) only had eight healthy players for that game with Bueckers, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Caroline Ducharme all sidelined. Now the Huskies are healthy and Auriemma has one of his deepest teams over the past two decades.“We never lost sight of who we are and what we were trying to do,” he said. “Some days it was really bleak. Some days you go to practice and we had five able bodies. … We knew when these players come back we’ll be whole again.”That includes bringing Bueckers off the bench. The reigning national player of the year has started only one game since returning from a two-month absence after suffering a left knee injury in December. The sophomore guard played eight minutes Monday night, entering the game for the first time in the second quarter with UConn leading 17-10. She made one of her four shots and finished with two points.Conference player of the year Maddy Siegrist led the Wildcats (23-8) with 16 points.“We made shots last time and we didn’t today,” Siegrest said. “I mean defensively, I don’t know what we held them to, but it wasn’t 90, it wasn’t 100. So, they scored the ball, but we just didn’t make shots today.”The Huskies extended their advantage to 33-18 at the half, holding the Wildcats to eight field goals in the opening 20 minutes. It was the eighth straight time the Huskies have held their opponent under 20 points in the first half. Only one of those teams finished with more than 49 points.The Wildcats got within 34-23 in the third quarter before UConn used a 15-3 run to put the game away. The Huskies scored the first seven points in that burst, including back-to-back layups, and led by 23 heading into the final period.The only real question in the fourth quarter was whether the Huskies would be able to break their own record for fewest points given up in the Big East championship game. UConn beat West Virginia 60-32 in 2010.Siegrist wouldn’t let that happen, scoring three quick points in a 6-0 run by Villanova early in the fourth.BIG PICTUREUConn looks like a threat to win a 12th national championship after going through one of the most difficult seasons of Auriemma’s Hall of Fame career. He said he doesn’t care where the Huskies are seeded and who they play, although the opportunity to be in the Bridgeport Region and not have to leave the state of Connecticut until the Final Four would be appealing to the team and its fans. UConn will most assuredly host the opening two rounds at home.Villanova last played UConn in the Big East championship game in 2003, when the Wildcats snapped what was then the Huskies’ NCAA-record 70-game winning streak.UP NEXTUConn: Awaits to see where it is placed in the NCAA Tournament when the bracket is revealed on Sunday.Villanova: Hopes to hear its name called when the tournament field is unveiled.———More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25

Matthews scores 40th goal as Toronto beats Blue Jackets 5-4

Auston Matthews became the first player to score 40 goals this season, Peter Mrazek made 31 saves and the Toronto Maple Leafs held off the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4By MITCH STACY AP Sports WriterMarch 8, 2022, 3:58 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCOLUMBUS, Ohio — Auston Matthews became the first player to score 40 goals this season, Petr Mrazek made 31 saves and the Toronto Maple Leafs held off the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 on Monday night.Matthews and linemates Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting each had a goal and an assist, and llya Mikheyev and Alexander Kerfoot also scored as Toronto snapped a two-game losing streak. T.J. Brodie had two assists.The Maple Leafs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in a dominant first period. The Blue Jackets had tied it by early in the third period, but couldn’t get a go-ahead tally.“I think just the start that we had was really positive, (then) letting them back in the game, but I thought just our bench and our team as a whole just stayed poised and confident,” Matthews said. “And we just kept playing and scored a couple big goals to give ourselves a lead.”Elvis Merzlikins, starting his third game in four days for Columbus, made 28 saves, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a third straight loss for the Blue Jackets, who dropped a back-to-back over the weekend.Sean Kuraly, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jack Roslovic and Patrik Laine scored for Columbus. Gus Nyquist and Max Domi each had two assists.Toronto brought sustained early pressure in the Columbus end and took advantage of turnovers.Mikheyev beat Merzlikins 8:06 into the game before Marner scored off a rebound from Bunting’s long shot with 5:59 left in the first. Matthews got his league-leading 40th goal about three minutes later with a wraparound shot to the far post.“Our whole team was really good in the first, which makes Auston’s line and Auston himself that much more dangerous,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Because shift over shift, we’re just carrying momentum and really wearing down the opponent.”The Blue Jackets closed it to 3-1 early in the second when a long shot by Domi bounced in off Kuraly. Bjorkstrand cut the lead to one with his 20th goal late in the second during a 4-on-4.The Jackets tied it early in the third when Roslovic tapped in a long pass from Domi on a power play.But the Leafs got back to work, with Kerfoot banging in a goal off the far post and Bunting shoveling one in over Merzlikin’s skate in traffic with 8:39 left in the game.Laine made it a one-goal game again with 48 seconds left, but the Blue Jackets, with an empty net, just ran out of time.“I know where we’re at here. We need the two points, but it was a step for us tonight against a really good team to stay in it and work ourselves back into the game,” Columbus coach Brad Larsen said.GOOD COMPANYMatthews became the second player in Maple Leaf’s history to record four 40-goal seasons. Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler did it in 1975-76. ’77-’78, ’79-’80 and ’80-’81. Matthews had two goals Saturday night in the loss to Vancouver.MASK FREEA half hour before the puck dropped, the Blue Jackets announced that masks would no longer be required for fans at Nationwide Arena. That followed the decision by Columbus City Council earlier Monday to lift the city-wide mask mandate.ICE CHIPSMrazek, playing in just his 15th games this season, started for Jack Campbell, who made 23 saves in Toronto’s 6-4 loss to Vancouver on Saturday. … Blue Jackets G Joonas Korpisalo was activated from injured reserve Monday after missing nine games with a lower-body injury. J-F Berube was sent back down to the AHL team in Cleveland. … D Jake Bean returned for Columbus after missing 14 games with a lower-body injury. Gavin Bayreuther was scratched to make room. … Bjorkstrand has points in his last five games and in 11 of the last 14.UP NEXT:Maple Leafs: Play the Seattle Kraken at home on Tuesday night.Blue Jackets: At New York Islanders on Thursday.———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Athanasiou scores in OT, Kings rally to beat Bruins 3-2

Trevor Moore tied the game with 26 seconds left in regulation and Andreas Athanasiou scored on a breakaway in overtime to lead the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-2 victory over the Boston BruinsBy JIMMY GOLEN AP Sports WriterMarch 8, 2022, 3:52 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBOSTON — Losing 7-0 at home to Boston stuck with the Los Angeles Kings, and they knew they’d have a chance to quickly make amends a week later.“We got embarrassed at home,” Kings goalie Cal Petersen said on Monday night after the Kings rallied to beat the Bruins 3-2 in overtime. “Yeah, we were looking for some revenge.”The Kings came back from a 2-1 deficit, with Trevor Moore tying the game with 26 seconds left in regulation and winning it on a breakaway by Andreas Athanasiou in overtime.Petersen stopped 30 shots and Blake Lizotte also scored for the Kings, who have won eight of their last 10 games. One of the losses was the Feb. 28 Boston blowout.”That’s a phenomenal hockey team — one of the best in the league. We think that we should be right there, and for us to to put in an effort like that (last week), where we got blown out, it wasn’t acceptable,” Petersen said.“We came in with something to prove, and to show that we can play with the big boys,” he added. “We want to be one of those top teams at the end of the year.”Boston never trailed in regulation, taking a 2-1 lead into the third period thanks to a goal and an assist from Craig Smith. But with Petersen pulled in the final minute, the Kings won a faceoff in the offensive zone and Moore slid home a rebound to tie it.“We found a way to get two in the last few minutes of the game,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan, who returned to the bench from the COVID-19 protocol. “Used every minute we had, which was important.”The game was scoreless until the puck bounced over Kings forward Phillip Danault’s stick in the defensive zone and Smith picked it up, skated in and shot.The rebound came out to Charlie Coyle, who quickly pushed it over to Trent Frederic.The Kings tied it just 69 seconds later when Olli Matta fed Lizotte in the slot to make it 1-1.It stayed that way until just under a minute in the second, when Coyle worked the puck against the boards and centered it to Smith for the goal.WELCOME BACKMcLellan missed six games in COVID-19 protocol. Assistant Trent Yawney filled in for him, and went 4-2.“It was it was seamless for when he left and Yawns came in. And and he did a phenomenal job,” Petersen said. “We have we have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff, regardless of who needs to step up.”UP NEXTKings: Host the Sharks on Thursday night.Bruins: Host the Blackhawks on Thursday night.———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Oladipo returns, Herro scores 31, Heat top Rockets 123-106

MIAMI — Victor Oladipo entered a game for the first time in nearly a year, a loud ovation greeting him as he stepped onto the floor.He took a charge seconds later. The cheers got louder.And when he capped his night with a dunk, even louder.Welcome back, indeed. Oladipo scored 11 points in just under 15 minutes of action, Tyler Herro came off the bench to score 21 of his game-high 31 points in the second quarter and the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat beat the Houston Rockets 123-106 on Monday night.“At the end of the day, I’m a winner,” Oladipo said. “And this team is all about winning.”Oladipo was playing his first game since April 8 following a second surgery to repair a right quadriceps tendon. He took a charge on his first defensive possession, hitting the deck without any signs of problems.Jimmy Butler scored 21 points for Miami, which got Kyle Lowry back after a four-game absence for personal reasons. Bam Adebayo finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who had a quick celebration for Oladipo in the postgame locker room.“That was very uplifting for everybody,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.Kevin Porter Jr. scored 22 points for Houston, which got 20 from Jalen Green, 16 from Josh Christopher and 14 from KJ Martin. Green was 4 for 4 from 3-point range in the game’s first 5:40, then missed his final six tries from beyond the arc.Alperen Sengun had 13 points and eight rebounds, getting the start at center for Houston because Christian Wood was ill. It was just the sixth start this season for the 19-year-old from Turkey.“We are almost to the end of the season,” Sengun said. “I’m playing more comfortable and I’ve learned a lot.”The Heat trailed by 13 late in the first half before Herro scored 15 points in a 23-6 run over the final 4:35 before intermission. Butler had the other eight points in that run for the Heat, a burst capped by Herro making a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left and then a 36-footer just before the buzzer.“Just trying to come in and impact the game,” said Herro, the likely frontrunner for the NBA’s sixth man of the year award. “The second quarter was fun.”But the story was Oladipo, who was 4 for 7 from the field, 2 for 3 from 3-point range, plus had four assists against his former team. He was with the Rockets briefly last season, before getting traded to Miami and playing in just four games before being shut down for a second surgery on the leg he originally injured in 2019.“Everybody is really encouraging him,” Spoelstra said. “They’ve seen him behind the scenes, really working and grinding.”Rockets coach Stephen Silas had Oladipo in Houston last season and said he enjoyed their 20 games together.“He’s competitive. He wants to do things the right way. He is a fighter. For him to fight through all of the injuries that he’s had and manage the ups and downs and the emotional part of what he’s been through is admirable,” Silas said. “And he’s just a great guy, a really good person to kind of sit down and talk to.”Oladipo had missed each of Miami’s last 89 games, including last season’s playoff appearance. He missed 201 games since the initial injury three years ago, sidelined for a year following the first surgery and more 11 months this time after the second surgery.Finally, he’s back.“Just to see him out there, it’s crazy,” Heat forward P.J. Tucker said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s pretty cool.”TIP-INSRockets: PG John Wall, who missed his 77th consecutive game dating back to last season, was in attendance. … An off-court item that the Rockets pointed to as a positive came a few nights ago, when Wood rented out a movie theater to take teammates to see “The Batman,” which was released Friday. “That’s growth from Christian to do that. … We’ve had a lot of cool moments,” Silas said.Heat: The Heat outrebounded Houston 50-33. … Miami had more than just Oladipo playing with ties to Houston. Lowry and Tucker — who had 11 points and 12 rebounds — both spent parts of four seasons with the Rockets and Butler is a Houston-area native. … Lowry was scoreless, missing all three of his shots. … Gabe Vincent and Max Strus were out of the regular rotation with Lowry and Oladipo playing. “Guys understand the opportunity with this group. … We’re going to need everybody,” Spoelstra said.22 OVERAt 44-22, Miami is 22 games over the .500 mark for the first time since the end of the 2013-14 season. The Heat remained three games ahead of Philadelphia in the East standings; the 76ers beat Chicago on Monday night.STILL OUTRockets guard Dennis Schröder missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained right ankle. “He’s been able to do his rehab. He’s been on the floor for a couple of days. He’s just trying to get to 100%,” Silas said.UP NEXTRockets: Host the L.A. Lakers on Wednesday.Heat: Host Phoenix on Wednesday.———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports