Season-long Kia MVP chase won't be swayed by just one game

Tonight on TNT:  Rockets vs. Bucks, 8 ET

In a perfect world — or at least, a perfect NBA postseason-awards evaluation world — Giannis Antetokounmpo and reigning Kia MVP James Harden would go head-to-head in The Finals. They and their respective teams, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Houston Rockets, would put on full display their skills, their competitiveness and their impact, not just on random nights in random basketball games but in snagging a championship.

They would demonstrate, in a word, their value. To their teams and to winning, relative to all the league’s other players watching from home.

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo bring unique traits to the MVP discussion.

It could happen. The Bucks and the Rockets conceivably could meet in The Finals to set up this dream MVP showdown. A long shot though, right? Besides, in the current “imperfect” system, ballots are due by the end

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Milwaukee plays Houston, seeks 4th straight home win

Houston Rockets (47-27, third in the Western Conference) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (55-19, first in the Eastern Conference)

Milwaukee; Tuesday, 8 p.m. EDT

BOTTOM LINE: Milwaukee hosts Houston aiming to extend its three-game home winning streak.

The Bucks have gone 30-6 at home. Milwaukee is fifth in the NBA with 17.3 fast break points per game, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo averaging 4.4.

The Rockets are 20-17 on the road. Houston is fourth in the Western Conference allowing just 109.7 points and holding opponents to 46.9 percent shooting. The Bucks won 116-109 in the last matchup between these two teams on Jan. 9. Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 27 points and James Harden led Houston with 42 points.

TOP PERFORMERS: Brook Lopez leads the Bucks averaging 2.4 made 3-pointers and scoring 12.5 points per game while shooting 37.1 percent from beyond the arc. Antetokounmpo has averaged 24.4 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting

Leonard and the Raptors host the Bulls

Chicago Bulls (21-53, 13th in the Eastern Conference) vs. Toronto Raptors (51-23, second in the Eastern Conference)

Toronto; Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EDT

BOTTOM LINE: Kawhi Leonard leads Toronto into a matchup with Chicago. He’s seventh in the NBA scoring 27.2 points per game.

The Raptors are 29-9 on their home court. Toronto is 28-9 in games decided by at least 10 points.

The Bulls have gone 12-25 away from home. Chicago is third in the Eastern Conference scoring 50.1 points in the paint per game, led by Zach LaVine averaging 10.7. The two teams square off for the third time this season.

TOP PERFORMERS: Leonard is scoring 27.2 points per game and averaging 7.5 rebounds for the Raptors. Pascal Siakam has averaged 4.2 assists and 19.9 points over the last 10 games for Toronto.

LaVine has averaged 23.7 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Bulls. Robin Lopez is shooting 55.6

Boston takes on Cleveland, seeks to break 4-game skid

Boston Celtics (43-31, fifth in the Eastern Conference) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-55, 14th in the Eastern Conference)

Cleveland; Tuesday, 7 p.m. EDT

BOTTOM LINE: Boston is looking to break its four-game skid with a victory against Cleveland.

The Cavaliers have gone 13-25 at home. Cleveland is 5-4 in one-possession games.

The Celtics are 29-15 against Eastern Conference opponents. Boston ranks sixth in the NBA with 26.4 assists per game, led by Kyrie Irving averaging 7.1. The Celtics won the last meeting between these two squads 103-96 on Feb. 5. Jayson Tatum led Boston to the win with a 25-point performance.

TOP PERFORMERS: Kevin Love leads the Cavaliers with 11.4 rebounds and averages 17.9 points. Collin Sexton has averaged 23.4 points and totaled 2.7 rebounds while shooting 52.7 percent over the last 10 games for Cleveland.

Irving has shot 49 percent and is averaging 23.8 points for the Celtics. Jaylen Brown

Hornets host the Spurs in cross-conference matchup

San Antonio Spurs (43-31, eighth in the Western Conference) vs. Charlotte Hornets (34-39, 10th in the Eastern Conference)

Charlotte; Tuesday, 7 p.m. EDT

BOTTOM LINE: Charlotte and San Antonio meet in non-conference action.

The Hornets are 23-15 on their home court. Charlotte averages 44.3 rebounds per game and is 23-11 when winning the rebound battle.

The Spurs have gone 14-23 away from home. San Antonio is 22-15 in games decided by at least 10 points. The Hornets won the last meeting between these two squads 108-93 on Jan. 14. Kemba Walker scored 33 points to help lead Charlotte to the victory.

TOP PERFORMERS: Walker is scoring 25 points per game and averaging 4.4 rebounds for the Hornets. Jeremy Lamb has averaged 2.3 assists and 14.7 points over the last 10 games for Charlotte.

DeMar DeRozan has averaged 21.4 points and 6.2 rebounds for the Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge has averaged 9.7

Orlando plays Miami on 5-game win streak

Orlando Magic (36-38, ninth in the Eastern Conference) vs. Miami Heat (36-37, eighth in the Eastern Conference)

Miami; Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EDT

BOTTOM LINE: Orlando looks to keep its five-game win streak alive when the Magic take on Miami.

The Heat are 17-20 on their home court. Miami ranks sixth in the NBA with 11.4 offensive rebounds per game, led by Hassan Whiteside averaging 3.7 offensive boards.

The Magic are 7-6 against opponents in the Southeast Division. Orlando is third in the Eastern Conference allowing only 106.2 points and holding opponents to 45.3 percent shooting. In their last meeting on Dec. 23, the Heat won 115-91. Tyler Johnson scored a team-high 25 points for Miami in the victory.

TOP PERFORMERS: Whiteside is shooting 55.2 percent and averaging 12.3 points. Bam Adebayo is shooting 68.7 percent and averaging 12.4 points over the last 10 games for Miami.

Nikola Vucevic leads the

About Last Night: Trail Blazers' costly win

It was a painful night for the Portland Trail Blazers, despite extending their winning streak to four games and clinching a playoff berth, outlasting the Brooklyn Nets 148-144 in double overtime.

The sad story centers on the loss of Blazers’ center Jusuf Nurkic, who crumpled to the floor with a gruesome left leg injury early in the second overtime. It’s a severe setback for the Trail Blazers’ chances to advance in the playoffs, which start in less than a month, and devastating for the 7-foot Nurkic, who was having a career season with averages of 15.4 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

Jusuf Nurkic is carted off after his left leg buckled as he fought for a rebound.

Nurkic’s stat line for the night highlights his two-way presence in the paint: He had four blocks in addition to 32 points, 16 rebounds and five assists before being carted off on a gurney.

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Red Sox's Rick Porcello stays in spring training game after getting hit in head by line drive

Boston Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello escaped serious injury when a line drive hit him on the side of his head during Monday’s spring training game against the Chicago Cubs

In the second inning, a comebacker off the bat of Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras struck Porcello, sending him falling on his stomach. But Porcello was quick to get back on his feet — he got up before the ball landed in the outfield.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora and trainer Brad Pearson rushed out to the mound to check on him, but Porcello insisted that he was fine. He even appeared to crack a smile.

Apparently, Porcello was joking around with Cora and Pearson. The Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman has more on the mound exchange:

What was so funny on mound between Rick Porcello,

Gobert sets single-season dunk record with 270th

2:02 AM ET

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gobert dunked his way to a season-high 27 points and set the single-season NBA dunk record to fuel the Utah Jazz to a 125-92 victory Monday night over the Phoenix Suns.

“I’m not rushing like I used to, and my teammates are doing a great job finding me. When I’m able to finish and draw fouls, it gives them more confidence to pass me the ball,” Gobert said.

Gobert’s alley-oop off a lob from Donovan Mitchell in the second quarter was his 270th dunk of the season. The 7-foot-1 center’s 275 dunks are the most in the NBA since the statistic started being tracked by the Elias Sports Bureau in 1997-98, besting Dwight Howard‘s 269 slams in 2007-08.

Derrick Favors and Ricky Rubio each had 18 points, and Joe Ingles added 14 as the Jazz won for

Nurkic exits in double overtime after suffering serious leg injury

Jusuf Nurkic suffered a serious left leg injury during the second overtime of Portland’s Monday-night game against the Nets, forcing him to exit on a stretcher under the concerned watch of teammates, opponents and fans.

The Blazers big man was attempting to tip in a teammate’s missed shot when he came down awkwardly in traffic, causing his leg to bend between the knee and ankle. He finished the game with 32 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and two steals.

A 2014 first-round pick, Nurkic is enjoying a career year, averaging 15.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals for the fourth-place Blazers. will have more on this story as it develops.

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