Michael Porter Jr. making it rain for the Nuggets

Via the Denver Post:

In a quest for history, Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. couldn’t be denied.

Entering Thursday’s matchup against the New York Knicks, Porter only needed three 3-pointers to set the franchise’s single-season record. The way Porter’s been shooting of late, it felt as if it was only a matter of time during Denver’s 113-100 victory inside Ball Arena.

With 38 seconds left in the second quarter, forward Aaron Gordon drove to the free throw line before passing to Porter, who drained a contested step-back 3-pointer. Later in the third, Porter caught a pass from Nikola Jokic before draining a 3 to extend Denver’s lead to 10 points.

As the Nuggets began pulling away from the Knicks in the fourth, Gordon once again found Porter on the wing, where the sharpshooter knocked down his 193rd 3-pointer of the season, surpassing former Denver small forward Dale Ellis (192) on the franchise’s all-time list.

Weekly Rockets team notes

Some positive-minded weekly Houston Rockets team notes:

Amen Thompson is averaging 12.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals in six games as a starter this season. He is the first rookie to have recorded at least 75 points, 72 rebounds, 25 assists and 10 steals over a span of six starts since Antoine Walker in 1996-97.

Aaron Holiday has scored in double-figures in four straight games, marking his longest streak since a career-best 9-game span in December of 2019. He has scored at least 18 points in three straight games for the first time in his career after having 18+ points once prior this season.

Houston has outrebounded its opponent in eight of the past 11 games after doing so three times the 12 games prior. The Rockets have also outrebounded the opposition by double-digits seven times over the past 11 games after doing so six times the first 43 games of the season.

The Rockets have scored 20+ fast break points in seven of the past 17 games after doing so four times the first 37 games of the season. Houston has already matched last season’s total with 11 games of scoring 20+ fast break points.

Rockets playing good basketball to enter 2024

Per the Houston Chronicle:

The Houston Rockets, after three years in the Western Conference cellar, are now (mercifully) back into playoff contention as they enter 2024 at an even 15-15. But that doesn’t mean the present outlook is completely rosy for Ime Udoka’s squad as we turn the calendar to January.

The Rockets enter their New Year’s Day tilt against the (suddenly surging!) Detroit Pistons with five losses in their last seven games. They are currently without a pair of injured starters in Jabari Smith Jr. and Dillon Brooks. This is a team that is far better than last year’s 60-loss abomination. But the expected growing pains of Udoka’s first season are increasingly present in recent weeks.

We shouldn’t be too harsh on the Rockets despite their recent swoon. ‘Phase 2’ of the franchise’s rebuild is off to a relatively roaring start, and regardless, this isn’t the time of year for skepticism. So, instead of focusing on recent losses, let’s turn the page forward, offering Udoka and Co. a fresh set of New Year’s resolutions for the rest of the season.

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On what comes next for the Bulls

Per the Chicago Tribune:

January will be a formative month for the future of this franchise. Although executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas often prefers the methodical approach, this is a time for decisiveness. Over the next six weeks, the front office will be forced to determine which players to build around — a decision that will be equally informed by injury recoveries, game results and the trade market.

Everything turns on a decision that might not even be in the front office’s hands: whether or not to finally split from Zach LaVine.

After missing the last 15 games with a foot injury, LaVine could begin practicing with the Bulls within the next week. Coach Billy Donovan said LaVine will stay home from the back-to-back trip to Philadelphia and New York to ramp up his training with team staff. He remains on track for his original recovery timeline with a potential return to the court by mid-January.

But what does that even mean? Donovan and team leaders like DeMar DeRozan have insisted LaVine wasn’t the problem and winning 10 of their 15 games without the maximum contract star is an unfortunate coincidence. LaVine insists he’s prepared and eager to mold his play around the style that has brought the Bulls success in his absence.

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Lakers win over Hornets features rare Rui Hachimura starting lineup appearance

Per the LA Times:

Who was that masked man who stepped into the Lakers’ starting lineup Thursday and turned what might have been an uncomfortable situation into a forceful bounceback victory over Charlotte during a particularly difficult stretch of a still-difficult season?

With Cam Reddish unavailable against the Hornets because of a sore groin, coach Darvin Ham coyly said before the game he’d play “someone” in Reddish’s place. That “someone” turned out to be Rui Hachimura, who’s still required to wear a face covering after undergoing surgery for a nasal fracture he suffered in November.

The lineup change, born of necessity rather than choice, proved a good one. Hachimura combined with reserves Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Max Christie and Christian Wood to close the third quarter with a 14-5 surge that helped extend what had been a one-point lead at halftime to 19 after three. The same five players also started the fourth quarter, putting enough space between the Lakers and the Hornets (7-22) to allow LeBron James and Anthony Davis to be spectators for the final 12 minutes of an eventual 133-112 romp.

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The latest on Klay Thompson and the Warriors

Per the San Jose Mercury News:

Nothing about Klay Thompson’s approach changed, he assures. But the numbers certainly have.

It wasn’t long ago that Thompson reached the lowest point of his season, benched for the first time in his career during crunch time in a loss to Phoenix on Dec. 12. He threw towels, kicked chairs and yelled at anyone around him who could hear. For as ugly it looked, something sparked in his vexed mind.

Since the Warriors game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 14, Thompson is averaging 25.7 points per game shooting 50% from 3 on 11 attempts per game. Golden State is a total plus-17 when Thompson is on the floor over those six games in which the Warriors have gone 5-1. He had 28 points, including 11 straight over a pivotal two-minute stretch in the Warriors’ 126-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

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Some key Pelicans players feel at home when playing in Charlotte

Per the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Friday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets was a homecoming for multiple New Orleans Pelicans players.

Brandon Ingram grew up in Kinston, North Carolina, a working class town in the Eastern part of the state. Trey Murphy is from Durham, North Carolina. Zion Williamson, a South Carolina native, also spent time in Durham; a former Duke player, Williamson played his long season of college basketball there.

The Pelicans, stocked with talent that developed in North Carolina, beat the Hornets 112-107 for their third consecutive win Friday. Williamson scored 21 points and snagged a season-high 11 rebounds as New Orleans improved to 2-0 on its three-game road trip and 15-11 on the season.

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Knicks center Mitchell Robinson hitting the offensive glass hard this season

Per the NY Post:

Mitchell Robinson is the best offensive rebounder right now in the NBA.

It became his undisputed title after grabbing 11 offensive rebounds in Saturday night’s victory over the Hornets, giving Robinson 50 percent more than anybody else in the league this season.

But Robinson doesn’t think his greatest skill is a skill at all.

“It’s just effort,” he said. “It’s really just effort.” …

Still just 25 and in his sixth season, Robinson surpassed Bill Cartwright on Saturday for third on the Knicks’ all-time list with 1,116 for career offensive boards. He’s still less than halfway to catching No. 2 (Charles Oakley) and No. 1 (Patrick Ewing), but the outrageous pace makes it seem possible Robinson will get to the top.

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The latest on Knicks forward Julius Randle

Per the NY Post:

As he struggled through the opening week-plus of the season, Julius Randle had been battling through ankle pain and, as a player committed to availability, resisted attempts from the Knicks to get him to rest, multiple sources told The Post.

Randle, who underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery in the offseason, was operating at about “70 percent,” a source said.

And through the opening six games — while limited by that pain — Randle was among the league’s least efficient players with a notable drop-off in his explosiveness.

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Reflections from Chet Holmgren on Steph Curry

Per NBC Sports Bay Area:

Chet Holmgren proved himself a worthy adversary for the Warriors on Friday night, but it wasn’t the first time the Oklahoma City Thunder phenom has impressed Steph Curry on the court.

After Golden State’s 141-139 victory over OKC at Paycom Center in the NBA In-Season Tournament opener, the 21-year-old reflected on facing Curry for the first time after attending the SC30 Select Camp as a high schooler in 2019.

“First time playing against him in the NBA, obviously touched on it earlier but great players over there, and he’s one of them,” Holmgren told reporters of Curry after the game. “Definitely got to know where he is at all times. It’s a cool first full-circle moment, I guess you could call it, you know, going to his camp however many years ago it was and now being in the league with him and playing and competing.”

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