Rockets break losing streak, beat Timberwolves

The Rockets have racked up losses lately. But the Timberwolves are in a state of rebuild, and do have D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, but with KAT out of action, Houston suddenly remembered how to win again. Here’s the Houston Chronicle:

Facing a team with the third-worst record in the NBA and playing without star Karl-Anthony Towns, the Rockets had seemed heading to another inexplicable defeat, trailing by 10 late in the third quarter. When they finally got on the sort of roll they could not find for a week, the Rockets built a 13-point lead and finished off the Timberwolves, 117-111, Tuesday at Toyota Center.

It might have been much more difficult than they would have liked. But by the fourth quarter, much of the formula was back in place. Harden finished with 37 points, making 5 of 10 3s (including a heave from the backcourt he missed.) Russell Westbrook had 27, driving to fourth-quarter slams.

When the Timberwolves were within six, Eric Gordon, who had missed his first six 3-pointers in his first game back from a sore knee, nailed consecutive 3s to take the lead back to a safe double-digits.

The Rockets continue to play extreme “small-ball,” starting 6-foot-7, 209-pound Robert Covington and 6-foot-5, 245-pound forward P.J. Tucker at their big-man spots.

Caris LeVert scores 51 points against the Celtics

Nets shooting guard Caris LeVert wasn’t having a standout game last night in Boston against the Celtics. And then a switch was flipped, and he went absolutely wild, unleashing one of the most dramatic late-game performances we’ve seen in the NBA this season. Here’s the New York Post:

Caris LeVert led the way with a career performance to carry them to a 129-120 come-from-behind overtime win at TD Garden.

LeVert poured in a career-high 51 points, including 37 after the third quarter that saw the Nets trail by as much as 21.

The Nets hung up a team-record 51 points in the fourth quarter. LeVert had 26 of them, as well as every point for them in overtime as the Nets outscored the Celtics 11-2.

The Nets got 16 points and eight rebounds from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, eight points and a game-high 15 rebounds from DeAndre Jordan and sparkplug play from little-used two-way Chris Chiozza.

The Nets are now 27-33, currently 7th in the Eastern conference, narrowly ahead of the 8th place Magic.

Kyrie Irving, who earlier Tuesday underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, and Kevin Durant, who isn’t playing at all this season, have to be excited to see LeVert’s ability and potential.

Suns lose again, now to Warriors

The Suns got off to a good start this NBA season. Then things started going downhill. Very downhill. We’re talking about a really long hill. Here’s the Arizona Republic:

Marquese Chriss followed up a missed shot with an emphatic dunk in the fourth quarter, stared into the stands – and there was no reaction.

That’s how lifeless the Phoenix Suns were.

Facing the worst team in the Western Conference that had only eight available players, Phoenix lost embarrassing fashion, 115-99, before 16,395 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The Suns (24-37) cleared the bench with 1:42 left to a half empty arena that housed perhaps Phoenix’s worst loss of the season.

The Suns shot 40%, gave up 17 points off 20 turnovers and blew an 18-point lead in losing a third straight game, all at home, at the halfway mark of a six-game homestand.

In the win, Eric Paschall scored 25 points off the bench, starting guard Damion Lee had 20 points, five rebounds, eight assists and no turnovers, and Andrew Wiggins shot just 6 of 20 but still filled the stat-sheet with 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. The Warriors had 30 assists on their 41 made field goals.

The Suns are now 24-37 this season, which is the third-worst record in the Western conference.

Kings hand Clippers another loss

Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, the Kings came to town and beat the Clippers, 112-103. In the win, Sacramento got 20 or more points from starting guards De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic as well as backup forward Kent Bazemore. The Clippers were still without starters Patrick Beverley and Paul George. Here’s the Sacramento Bee:

The Kings went nearly two years without beating the Los Angeles Clippers. Now they’ve done it twice in three weeks…

Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 20 points for the Kings (23-33), who have won eight of their last 12 games. De’Aaron Fox finished with 19 points and eight assists. Harry Giles III recorded his first career double-double, posting 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Kawhi Leonard had 31 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Clippers (37-19). Lou Williams came off the bench to score 24 points.

The Kings made a franchise-record 21 3-point goals in a 124-103 victory over the Clippers on Jan. 30 in Los Angeles. The Kings snapped a 10-game losing streak against the Clippers with the win, beating them for the first time since March 26, 2017.

And the LA Times:

Kawhi Leonard led all scorers with 31 points and was even serenaded with “MVP” chants less than a week after the Clippers’ star was named the most valuable player of the NBA All-Star game. His dunk with 57 seconds remaining trimmed the Clippers’ deficit from eight to six, but Kings guard De’Aaron Fox answered with a layup of his own with 39 seconds remaining to effectively shutter the Clippers’ comeback and continue his torture of the Los Angeles defense.

The Clippers added a lot of depth recently, but a clear picture of the team as a whole won’t be visible until Pat and PG13 are back in action.

Badly-injured Wizards step up and beat Heat 123-105

 

 

 

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After being outscored by 10 points in the first quarter, an incredibly short-handed Washington Wizards stepped up at home, outscored the Miami Heat 42-29 in the second quarter, and controlled the 4th quarter for a 123-105 win.

Inactive for the Wizards today were John Wall, Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, Moritz Wagner, CJ Miles and Davis Bertans. Their starting lineup was Isaiah Thomas and Gary Payton II at guard, Troy Brown Jr. and Johnathan Williams at forward, and Ian Mahinmi at center.

Here’s the Washington Post reporting:

Although seven players were inactive Monday night as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference came to play, the Wizards rolled past the Miami Heat, 123-105. And the final score doesn’t begin to tell the story of a bizarre yet delightful night.

The Wizards’ trio of Ian Mahinmi, Jordan McRae and rookie Garrison Mathews — the least likely Big Three — played like stars. Mahinmi made his first seven shots and scored a career-high 25 points. Mathews poured in 28 points — including a remarkable 20 in the second quarter alone — on 6-for-9 shooting overall and 4-for-7 shooting from beyond the three-point arc, by far the best night of his young professional career. And McRae finished with a season-high 29 points and eight assists, the most he has ever had.

Although Miami (24-9) had a healthy team led by Jimmy Butler, who finished with 27 points, and a large contingent of fans who periodically started “Let’s Go Heat!” chants, the Wizards (10-22) closed the decade with one of their most shocking wins of the season.

Mahinmi shot 10 for 11. And McRae shot 9 for 14, including 6 of 8 three-pointers, for his 29 points in 35 minutes off the bench.

After the game, Mahinmi had this to say: “It’s huge, it’s huge. This is part of building character. When you’re down and you have a lot of injuries and stuff going on and not going your way… To have the toughness of a young player to come out and step up, make big plays, be aggressive, make the right read, play good defense and give everything you have is huge. All of our young guys are taking tremendous advantage of their opportunity, so it’s good. There’s a lot of stuff not going our way, but I’m very proud of what everyone is doing: Isaac Bonga, Scho [Admiral Schofield], Gary [Gary Payton II], obviously Garrison [Mathews] tonight, Johnathan [Williams] and Troy [Brown Jr.]. It’s great.”

It was a magical day for D.C. If you’re a Wizards fan and don’t have New Year’s Eve plans, staying home and watching a replay of this game isn’t the worst way to bring in the new year.

Lonzo Ball shines, Pelicans win 4th straight game

The Pelicans on Sunday faced a badly-injured Rockets team that was without James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Clint Capela. But no win is automatic in the NBA. Work must still be put in. But the Pelicans have a bit of a flow lately and handled business. Here’s the New Orleans Times Picayune reporting:

The Rockets were forced to insert Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon into the starting lineup and dust off other little-used pieces. Somehow, their skeleton crew still set off fireworks.

Houston hit 15 3-pointers, but New Orleans countered with 18 makes of its own from behind the arc to pull out a 127-112 win. A sizzling Lonzo Ball hit seven 3s, a new career high, and E’Twaun Moore scored 25 points off the bench as the Pelicans won their fourth game in a row.

New Orleans, which outscored Houston 41-19 in the fourth quarter, has ripped off five wins in six games. It is now just 3½ games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Ball played perhaps his best all-around game in a Pelicans uniform, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

For much of the season, the story of the Pelicans has just been wait-and-see until Zion Williamson is eventually healthy enough to make his NBA regular season career debut. And yes, that’s still the big season-long picture, but lately, New Orleans is playing solid basketball.

Heat beat Pacers, improve record to 23-8

Despite the Pacers missing point guard Malcolm Brogdon, while awaiting the eventual return of shooting guard Victor Oladipo, Friday’s matchup between the Pacers and Heat was still an anticipated battle worth watching. The game proved worthy of attention. Here’s the Miami Herald reporting:

In a game that included 20 lead changes and eight ties, the Heat (23-8) survived to defeat the Indiana Pacers 113-112 on Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami improved to 14-1 at home this season, and 23-8 marks its best 31-game start to a season since starting 24-7 in 2013-14.

With the Heat trailing by one with less than a minute to play, guard Goran Dragic made a 9-foot game-winning floater with 6.8 seconds remaining. Offensive rebounds from Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler kept Miami’s final offensive possession alive before Dragic hit the shot.

In the win, the Heat had six players put up double-digit points. They were led by Jimmy Butler’s 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists, Bam Adebayo’s 18 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, Duncan Robinson’s 18 points, and Kendrick Nunn’s 17 points.

The Pacers had seven players score double-digits, and put up a respectable effort.

LeBron James misses first game of season, Lakers lose to Nuggets

LeBron James finally missed a game this season, as the Lakers fell to the Nuggets Sunday. Here’s the Denver Post reporting:

The Nuggets strode into the Staples Center and rocked the Lakers 128-104 on Sunday night, improving to 20-8 and stretching their winning streak to six. They’ll go for seven on Monday night in Phoenix against the Suns.

Though James was ruled out with a rib injury — the first game he has missed all season — the Nuggets put together a fantastic collective effort that might have won them the game had he been healthy.

Paul Millsap scored 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, but his dogged effort on Lakers superstar Anthony Davis was arguably more valuable. Though Davis finished with 32 points, Millsap chased him around the court and hounded him as the Lakers fought fruitlessly to get back into the game.

And the OC Register:

Unlike his trademark unibrow, Anthony Davis does his best work in a pair.

That’s not to say that the 26-year-old’s 32-point, 11-rebound, four-block game on Sunday night didn’t make him look like a star. But the performance came without a win, which has become the ultimate bottom line in a Lakers (24-6) season with renewed championship aspirations.

It was telling that even as Davis checked back in to start the fourth quarter, the visiting Denver Nuggets (20-8) kept on pulling away. In a 128-104 loss — the Lakers’ third straight and the largest margin of defeat this season — it was clear that Davis sorely lacked his running mate, LeBron James.

The Lakers have gotten national attention all season — quite justifiably — but the Nuggets deserve big praise as well. They’re 20-8 this season and their win Sunday was their sixth straight victory.

They’re being led in scoring this season by Jamal Murray (17.5 ppg), Nikola Jokic (17.3 ppg), Will Barton (14.6 ppg), Paul Millsap (13.0 ppg) and Gary Harris (11.3 ppg). But defense is why the Nuggets are having an excellent year. They’re second best in the league in that department, only behind the Bucks.

 

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Anthony Davis scores 50 points in Lakers win vs Timberwolves

On Sunday, the Lakers beat the Timberwolves 142-125. The star of the night was big-man Anthony Davis, who is having as good a season as almost any players in the league.

Shooting 20 for 29, Davis put up 50 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals, one block and just one turnover in 39 minutes of action.

LeBron James also had himself a game: 32 points and 13 assists. And off the Lakers bench, Alex Caruso earned himself a mention: 6 of 11, 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.

But Davis, who has gotten attention all season for his defense just as much as his offense, had as good a game as anyone has put up in the league so far this season.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the following: “Davis became the third player to post 50 points on the Wolves this season while James was no slouch either with 32 points and 13 assists. Davis was an especially efficient 20 of 29 shooting and 10 of 10 from the free-throw line. He did a lot of work around the basket, and the Wolves had no answer for him defensively. ”

From the OC Register: “Davis’ prolific, proficient output — combined with James’ 32 points in 28 minutes — mitigated a productive night offensively by the Timberwolves, who shot 51.8 percent, had eight players score in double-digits and needed only until the start of the fourth quarter to exceed opponents’ 103.7 points-per-game scoring average against the Lakers.”

 

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Nets stay hot, beat Nuggets 105-102

We’ll be writing about this ourselves later tonight, but for right now, here’s the Denver Post reporting:

Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie bullied his way to the rack twice in the final minute as the Nets hung on to beat the Nuggets 105-102. The loss dropped Denver to 14-7 and 1-2 on this road trip with a matchup at Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“They dominated the paint 66-22,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “That third quarter was a joke. … Seemed like it was layup lines out there. We took away the 3-point line, but there was no resistance at the rim.”

The loss spoiled a strong 3-point shooting night from Jerami Grant, who poured in five of Denver’s 18 makes. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray combined for 45 points, but Brooklyn’s relentless inside attack undermined their productivity.

The Nets have looked like a blatantly better team with Spencer Dinwiddie running the show lately. Kyrie Irving isn’t set to return just yet, but once he does, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson will have some interesting decisions to make.