Today is Monday, January 23, 2017.
|Monday, January 23, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
|Wizards||vs.||Hornets||7:00 (EST) Preview|
Hornets begin week with matchup against Wizards
Sunday, January 22 at 6:10 PM (EST)
If there were any doubts about Charlotte being a viable threat in the Eastern Conference, those questions were erased after the Hornets' past two games.
On Friday, guard Kemba Walker led the Hornets to a 113-78 rout of the Toronto Raptors, one of the Eastern Conference's elite teams.
Walker had 32 points, four rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes while matched up against Toronto's All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan and his running mate, Kyle Lowry, who has a good chance of being named to the All-Star squad this week.
On Saturday, seven players scored in double figures in 112-105 victory over Brooklyn in what was arguably one of Charlotte's best overall performances despite playing the team with the worst record in the league.
The win over the Nets was the Hornets' third straight and ninth in its last 10 appearances at Spectrum Center.
Charlotte will get an even better indication of where it stands in the NBA power strata this week when the Washington Wizards invade the Spectrum Center on Monday followed by the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.
Sure, the Warriors will provide a sound measuring stick, but the Wizards?
The Wizards are one of the NBA's hottest teams despite losing 113-112 Saturday on a last-second shot to the Detroit Pistons, only their second defeat in the last nine outings.
And with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Washington backcourt doesn't take a backseat to anyone in the East.
In the loss to the Pistons, Wall finished with 19 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. He's averaging 23 points, 4.5 rebounds and 10.2 assists per game. Beal is at 21.7 points per game but is mired in a slump.
After Beal missed all seven shots from beyond the arc Saturday, his futility streak has stretched to 0 of 19 in three games. Beal was asked about his slump.
"What's a 'miss?'" Beal told The Washington Post in mock confusion. "A 'miss' is a lady."
"I don't know what a miss is."
Like any good shooter, Beal has little conscience and knows he will regain his stroke as long as he keeps shooting. He still is averaging career highs in scoring, overall shooting (.456) and 3-point percentages (.394).
"I've been around Brad," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "He's diligent in his work. He gets his shots in. He doesn't change his routine. I think that's the best way to get out of some missed shots. He's getting good looks. He just has to keep believing in it because I do and his teammates do."
There's no shortage of belief in the Hornets' locker room, especially when it comes to the diminutive Walker.
"It's not a question of 'Is he playing like an All-Star?' He's an All-Star-caliber guard, there's no question about it. He's playing great," Hornets coach Steve Clifford told reporters.
For his part, Walker is more focused on the Hornets' 21-21 record and says he doesn't deserve an All-Star nod, despite career bests in shooting percentage, 3-point shooting percentage and points per game.
"I really don't care honestly. It's starting to get old hearing about it," Walker said. "If my name is called, of course, I would be super excited. But if not I'm just going to move forward."
And moving forward for Walker means moving the Hornets up in the standings during his breakout season. Through his first four years in the league, Walker was a 39 percent shooter from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range.
This season, he's at 46.3 from the field and 41.1 from beyond the arc.
"I'm six years in now. It is a lot different when I'm out there," Walker said. "It's everything, my pace, my pick-and-roll game, of course my shot, I'm just able to score in many different ways now."
|Clippers||vs.||Hawks||7:30 (EST) Preview|
Griffin nearing return as Clippers visit Hawks
Sunday, January 22 at 3:06 PM (EST)
ATLANTA -- Blake Griffin is expected to return to the Los Angeles Clippers lineup either against the Hawks in Atlanta on Monday or against the 76ers on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
That's good news for the Clippers, who definitely need some.
Los Angeles has lost two straight games since Chris Paul had surgery on his left thumb to repair torn ligaments and the point guard will be sidelined for six-to-eight weeks.
Griffin has missed 17 games since having arthroscopic surgery to remove debris from his right knee and the Clippers (29-16) can't afford to be without both of their top players.
Los Angeles lost six straight shortly after their power forward had surgery, but they had won seven in a row before Paul was hurt last Monday against Oklahoma City.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Saturday's 123-98 loss in Denver that he hadn't made a decision on whether to play Griffin on Monday in Atlanta or wait until Tuesday in Philadelphia.
"We'll wait and see," Rivers said.
Griffin is tired of waiting and the Clippers certainly need him with a pair of games against Golden State coming soon.
"(There's) not a game that I'm targeting," Griffin told reporters in Denver. "But this trip, this is it."
The second of three games before the Clippers head back to California is against a Hawks team that has won 11 of its past 13 games and leads the Southeast Division.
At 26-18, Atlanta is eight games over .500 for the first time this season. The 1-10 skid after a 9-2 start has been followed by a 16-6 recovery.
"I think we have a lot of room to grow, but I love the direction that we are headed in," Hawks center Dwight Howard said after Saturday's 110-93 home victory over Philadelphia.
"I think we are playing great team basketball. I think our defense can be better, be a little bit sharper. But overall, I think we've done an excellent job as a team of staying focused and staying locked in to what our goal is."
The Clippers and Hawks split their two games last season, each winning on the opponents' court. The teams meet in Los Angeles on Feb.15.
Griffin worked out Friday in Denver, took part in the shootout on Saturday and was scheduled to work out in Atlanta on Sunday before a decision would be made on whether he plays against the Hawks.
"It's as close as I can be, I think," Griffin said in Denver. "It's good to get some like real work in besides just running and shooting."
"He told me he feels normal, which is good," Rivers said before the Nuggets game.
Griffin, who last played Dec. 18, was averaging 21.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists before being sidelined.
"I needed to take care of it, needed to get (the surgery) done," Griffin told reporters. "I feel so much better than the last three or four weeks before. It's January. You hate missing games. You hate leaving your teammates out there. But I think the long-term health is more important."
|Kings||vs.||Pistons||7:30 (EST) Preview|
Kings, Pistons enter matchup in opposite emotional states
Sunday, January 22 at 2:58 PM (EST)
The final seconds of their last game left the Sacramento Kings infuriated. The final second of the Detroit Pistons' last game produced euphoria.
Those two teams come into their meeting at The Palace on Monday night in very different moods.
A questionable foul call against center DeMarcus Cousins with the score tied proved pivotal in the Kings' 102-99 loss at Chicago on Saturday night. That nullified a fast break for the Kings and the Bulls' Dwyane Wade hit one of two free throws with 14 seconds remaining.
"It's deflating," Kings guard Darren Collison told the media afterward, including ESPN.com. "It's hurtful. We felt like we played a great game throughout the whole game, we played hard. We played together as a team. And the way the game ended, the way it (was taken) away from us, it hurts."
Cousins, who sarcastically praised the officials afterward, saw his huge night go to waste. He erupted for 42 points and 14 rebounds, but the Kings (16-27) lost their fifth straight.
"He keeps getting better and better," coach Dave Joerger said. "He's hard to guard. Guys love him, we love him, and he's made major strides in a lot of areas. And I think he still has room in his game to keep adding things."
The problem for Joerger and the Kings is finding other options to complement their star player. They lost their No. 2 scorer, small forward Rudy Gay, for the season on Wednesday when he ruptured his left Achilles tendon.
Cousins was the only Kings player in double figures against the Bulls. Garrett Temple and Arron Afflalo started at the wing positions and combined for 17 points while going 6 of 18 from the field.
Sacramento's lone win in the last nine games came against the Pistons. The Kings erased an 18-point deficit and Cousins sank two late 3-pointers in a 100-94 victory at Golden 1 Center on Jan. 10.
That began a three-game losing streak for Detroit, but it has since rebounded to win three in a row, including a 113-112 victory over Washington on Saturday. Marcus Morris' putback with two-tenths of a seconds remaining rescued the Pistons (21-24), who gave away a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter.
"Even at halftime, I said the reason we were ahead was we were playing really hard," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I thought our energy was really, really good. I don't think we played real well, obviously, with 20 turnovers and 33 fouls. But you have to win some games like that."
Van Gundy doesn't expect much of a carryover into Monday's game.
"It's just one more in the left-hand column," he said. "Statement games, emotional wins -- it's a win, it's one game. I have been at this too long (to think otherwise). It moves you on to the next game."
Van Gundy's club survived an off-night from its top player, center Andre Drummond, who played just 18 minutes and scored three points because of foul trouble.
Drummond also struggled against Cousins in the first meeting, scoring just nine points.
The Pistons are getting healthier. Power forward Jon Leuer, who missed that game with a bone bruise on a knee, returned Saturday and scored 10 points off the bench.
Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope remained sidelined for the third straight game with a rotator cuff strain. He's questionable to play on Monday.
|Spurs||vs.||Nets||7:30 (EST) Preview|
Leonard excelling as Spurs visit lowly Nets
Sunday, January 22 at 3:41 PM (EST)
NEW YORK -- The San Antonio Spurs may be slightly shorthanded but Kawhi Leonard is hardly lacking in the scoring department.
Fresh off his stellar performance Saturday in Cleveland, Leonard and the Spurs visit the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.
Leonard is averaging 25.5 points per game this season and is putting on an outstanding display of late. Leonard has been in double figures for 75 straight regular-season games and it includes 14 games with at least 30 points, which is four more than his career total before this season.
The latest big performance occurred during Saturday's nationally televised 118-115 overtime victory at Cleveland. Leonard topped 30 points for the sixth straight game by getting a career-best 41 on 15-of-30 shooting and enjoying his matchup against LeBron James.
"I'm just having fun out there playing against him," Leonard said. "We've been through battles in the Finals, and always when I'm playing somebody on a great team, it just pushes your energy and you're just having the most fun at that time. You can't be out there being lazy or scared. You've just got to go out there and compete and hopefully get a win."
Leonard played a career-high 45:59. He scored 10 points early in the fourth quarter and had the game-clinching dunk in overtime.
Leonard, whose scoring averages were 16.5 and 21.2 in the previous two seasons, is averaging 34.8 points and shooting 60.2 percent in the last six games. He also is playing 35.8 minutes per game, shooting 48.3 percent from 3-point range and getting to the line 9.7 times per game in his streak.
"I'm just in a groove," Leonard said after playing 40 minutes for the 15th time in the regular season.
Talk about an understatement for someone who is the first Spurs' player to get 30-plus points in six straight games in the same season since Mike Mitchell March 8-18, 1986.
Leonard's latest showing occurred as the Spurs played without Pau Gasol and Tony Parker.
Gasol underwent surgery Friday to repair a fracture of his left fourth metacarpal. He injured his hand during warmups of Thursday's game in Denver and is expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks.
Parker returned to San Antonio for an MRI exam on his bothersome left foot. Parker is expected to miss miss his third straight game with a foot injury and 12th overall due to injury or rest.
Rookie Dejounte Murray started the last two games for Parker and produced efficient stat lines. On Thursday, he scored a career-high 24 points on 7 of 11 shooting and Saturday, he added 14 points while shooting 7 of 10.
David Lee will start at center until Gasol returns and so far has recorded consecutive doubles-doubles. He finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds Saturday after getting 10 and 16 rebounds Thursday and has a double-double in three of five starts this season.
The Nets will not take a lengthy losing streak into Monday's game since they stopped an 11-game losing streak with Friday's 143-114 win at New Orleans. Brooklyn was unable to win again Saturday as it could not overcome an early deficit in a 112-105 loss at Charlotte.
Brooklyn lost for the 12th time in the last 13 games since Dec. 26 by falling into a 28-11 hole at the outset. Then the Nets took a one-point lead in the fourth but gave up 10 straight points to obscure the positives of overcoming the early deficit.
Among them were season highs of 30 assists and 17 3-pointers. It was the third time the Nets made 17 3-points and each time has been a loss.
"I think we are all a little upset with how we came out in the first half," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "I don't think that's what we're looking for. At halftime we challenged them to come out with more physicality, more energetic, more physical. I was happy the guys came out in the third quarter and responded and got themselves back in the game and had a chance at the end. That's what you want on the road. Too bad we couldn't close it out."
Brook Lopez scored 24 points Saturday and it marked his seventh straight game with at least 20 points. During those games, Lopez is averaging 23 points and shooting 48.3 percent.
"We were definitely out there fighting," Lopez said. "I think what we've got to take away from this one, and last night's game as well, is the simple fact that we gave ourselves an opportunity to win, we really did. We came in and we were exhausted from last night and had a bad first quarter, but we responded to that. We came in the second half and definitely made it a game, and that's the way we've got to play every night."
The Nets will likely play without Jeremy Lin (strained left hamstring), who will miss his 14th straight game since reinjuring it in the third quarter Dec. 26. He also missed 17 games with the injury Nov. 4 through Dec. 10, a game with a back injury Dec. 14 and Brooklyn is 6-25 when he does not play.
Lin did not play in the first meeting in San Antonio when Leonard scored 30 points and shot 10 of 18 in a 130-101 win on Dec. 10. It was the first time since 1985 San Antonio scored 130 points against the Nets and it was the Spurs' 24th win in the last 27 meetings.
|Warriors||vs.||Heat||7:30 (EST) Preview|
Heat put modest streak to test vs. Warriors
Sunday, January 22 at 5:17 PM (EST)
MIAMI -- Forgive the Golden State Warriors if they are not intimidated by the Miami's Heat's adorable, little three-game win streak.
The Warriors (38-6) have the best record in the NBA and would lead the Heat (14-30) by 24 games if the teams were in the same conference.
Golden State has won seven straight games, including a 118-98 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday afternoon. The Warriors have yet to lose consecutive games this season, and two of their six losses came in overtime.
Miami's win streak includes an impressive victory vs. a good Houston Rockets team. But the other two wins were against sub-.500 teams -- the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks.
Heat point guard Goran Dragic is averaging 26.0 points and 5.3 assists during Miami's win streak, but now he will face Warriors superstar Stephen Curry.
"Our next game, we are going to play a good team," Dragic said in a vast understatement. "But we're at home, so ... why not?"
Here's why not: Because Curry, who is averaging 24.6 points and 6.1 assists and was named the NBA's MVP in 2015 and 2016, may not even be the best player on the team this season.
The consensus opinion seems to be that teammate Kevin Durant, who is averaging 26.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.7 blocks, is the Warriors' top player.
Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson, who averages 21.1 points and is making 39.0 percent of his three-point tries, is another star. And Draymond Green leads the Warriors in rebounds (8.7), assists (7.7) and blocks (2.0) as one of the most unique talents in the league.
Forward David West (fractured left thumb) will be re-evaluated in two weeks, and that hurts Golden State's bench. But there are still some excellent reserves available such as guard Shaun Livingston and forwards Andre Iguodala, Ian Clark and JaVale McGee.
Livingston rested and did not play against Orlando, and Iguodala may get the same treatment at Miami.
In Sunday's win at Orlando, the Warriors played in their first Eastern-time-zone noon tipoff in 22 years, falling behind by 11 points to the lowly Magic.
But a 42-point third quarter in which Golden State outscored Orlando by 18 points broke open a game that had been tied at halftime.
Curry and Thompson combined to shoot 14-of-22 on three-pointers. All 21 of Thompson's points came on three-pointers.
Golden State settled down after giving away 11 turnovers in the first 15 minutes. In the final 33 minutes, Golden State was charged with just seven turnovers.
"I think we were on pace for 100 turnovers five minutes into the game," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told mercurynews.com. "Noon start after a big week, natural letdown ... You have to play through that and execute, and we did do that."
Green said the noon start on the East Coast was "brutal", but the team should have better rest for Monday night's game in Miami. Worst yet for the Heat, Curry should be relatively fresh after not being needed for Sunday's fourth quarter.
Indeed, the Heat's only shot at even keeping Monday's game close would seem to be getting big performances from its star players, including center Hassan Whiteside and Dragic.
In addition, Dion Waiters, who tied his career high with 33 points against the Bucks on Saturday, will be need to be on target.
Waiters said he's learning from Dragic, specifically when it comes to finishing at the rim for a high percentage.
"Goran is one of the best in the league (at finishing)," Waiters said. "I got some tips from him this past weekend, just being physical when you get there, lowering your shoulder.
"I get there (the rim) with the best of them. Now it's about concentrating when I get there."
Miami's backcourt took a hit on Saturday when reserve guard Tyler Johnson sat out the Bucks game due to a strained left shoulder. Even though he is a reserve, Johnson is fifth on the Heat in minutes, fourth in assists and third in points.
In addition, Johnson is among the league leaders in fourth-quarter minutes, and Miami would love to get him back in time for the Warriors.
On Sunday, Johnson did not practice but felt strong enough to lift weights, according to Anthony Chang of the Palm Beach Post.
Johnson, who is averaging a career-high 14.2 points, missed eight games last season due to a left-shoulder issue. He said this injury is not as serious.
"I'm not sure about Monday," Johnson told Chang about his ability to face the Warriors. "But it's not the same pain as it was last (time). It's just a strain. The swelling has gone down. It feels better."
|Cavaliers||vs.||Pelicans||8:00 (EST) Preview|
Cavaliers, Pelicans both attempting to bounce back
Sunday, January 22 at 9:16 PM (EST)
NEW ORLEANS -- The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off a difficult overtime loss. The New Orleans Pelicans are coming off an absolute stinker.
Despite sitting atop the Eastern Conference, the defending world champion Cavaliers (30-12) have looked like anything but world beaters in losing five of their last nine games, including a 118-115 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night in which two players forgot to run the correct inbounds play after a timeout in the waning seconds.
The Pelicans (17-27), who had shown some signs of life in the last two weeks, prompted coach Alvin Gentry to launch a tirade after a humbling 143-114 home loss to the woeful Brooklyn Nets, the team with the NBA's worst record, on Friday night.
With challenging home games Monday night against the Cavaliers, Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Friday against the Spurs, the Pelicans realize how bad their loss to the Nets was for their confidence and for their hopes for the eighth playoff spot in the West.
"I thought we were playing good," Gentry said Sunday after practice. "I thought we were kind of getting it offensively, as far as moving the ball, and so it was a real, real tough setback. Realistically, when you step away after a couple of days, you understand that was one of those games that you have. I think all the teams in the league can go through that."
After the game, Gentry was anything but genteel. He blasted his players' effort and his coaching staff for failing to get the Pelicans ready to play against the Nets.
"Everything (stunk)," Gentry said after the game. "The effort that we played with (stunk), the coaching (stunk). The ball movement, everything about it was horrendous. ... They kicked our (butt)."
New Orleans forward Solomon Hill agreed.
"I think it was the worst loss of my career, by far," Hill said. "You're not looking at Brooklyn to be an offensive juggernaut. They were out there playing like they were the Houston Rockets."
Pelicans All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who is averaging 28.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, sat out much of the second half with a deep thigh bruise. Davis did not practice Sunday, but Gentry expects him to be ready for the Cavaliers.
"I think so," Gentry said. "This is one of those things that's just nagging more than anything. I guess the layman's term would be a charley horse. It is just soreness more than anything. I think he'll be fine."
Davis said he expects to play but added that the Pelicans can't afford to take games off.
"We've got to do a better job of coming out and playing more desperate," Davis said. "Sometimes we come out and just think we're going to get a win instead of going out there and taking the win. When you end up in a predicament like we are, you have to take wins."
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn't sure if LeBron James and Kyrie Irving would play after logging 45 and 41 minutes, respectively, against the Spurs. James scored 29 points with six rebounds, seven assists and two steals, and the 45 minutes represented his second-highest total of the season.
"We've got to see how they feel," Lue said.
The Cavaliers defeated New Orleans 90-82 at home on Jan. 2, scoring the first eight points of the fourth quarter and holding the Pelicans to 13 fourth-quarter points. Irving did not play in that game and Kevin Love was not at full speed after battling the stomach flu.
Davis led New Orleans with 20 points and 17 rebounds, but he missed all five of his shots in the fourth quarter.
James said the Cavaliers can't afford to hurt themselves with late-game breakdowns. He was credited with a turnover on the crucial inbounds play in overtime, but Irving and center Tristan Thompson failed to execute the designed call.
"It's no excuse," James said. "It's a crucial part of the game. We've got to be able to execute. We come out of a timeout. We just sat down and were able to catch our breath. As a ball club trying to win a championship, we' can't go from a timeout, go on the court and forget what we're supposed to do. It's that simple."
|Knicks||vs.||Pacers||8:00 (EST) Preview|
Pacers welcome Knicks, chance to play at home
Sunday, January 22 at 11:14 PM (EST)
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers will look to end a two-game losing streak when they play host to the New York Knicks on Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The teams have met twice this season, with the home team winning both times.
The Pacers (22-21) have won seven of their last 10 games despite the recent straggles. They are returning home after a three-game Western road trip.
Things haven't gone well for the Pacers on the road this season, but they have put together a 16-5 home record.
"I think one of the biggest things right now is energy," forward Thaddeus Young told Pacers.com. "We start off with a lot of energy at home, get ourselves a big lead and we are able to sustain that throughout the games.
"For some reason in the second half (on the road) we tend to pick it up, but it's just too hard. You make a run and tire yourself out."
Indiana standout Paul George had similar comments after a 109-100 loss to Utah on Saturday night.
"To be honest, I didn't even feel the energy within our group tonight," George told The Indianapolis Star. "From the huddle to the layup line, it was just dead."
It's not the first time Pacers players have made those type of comments.
At times, they look like a top team in the Eastern Conference. Other times, they look disinterested, especially on the defensive end.
Only time will tell if they'll pick things up away from home or continue their inconsistent play.
The Knicks (19-26) have been consistent lately, but not in the way they'd like. They've lost seven of their last nine games.
After a promising 14-10 start to the season, the Knicks have gone just 5-16 since. Their last three losses have all been within three points, adding to their recent frustration.
New York fell 107-105 to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night at home despite another 30-point night from Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony had a chance to win the game with a 3-pointer but missed.
"You couldn't have asked for a better look or a better shot than that," Anthony told NorthJersey.com. "The shot felt good. It was a tough one to see not go in."
Offensively, Monday's opponents have similar numbers.
The Knicks average 105.5 points per game and the Pacers average 105.4.
They both average 14.3 turnovers per game and both shoot 36 percent from behind the arc.
The matchup between All-Stars George and Anthony will be one to watch.
The Pacers have won eight of the last nine meetings between the teams, including a 123-109 victory over the Knicks earlier this month.
Rodney Stuckey (left hamstring strain) and Lance Thomas (left orbital fracture) are still out for Indiana and New York, respectively.
With the Pacers and Knicks squaring off, it's only fitting that Reggie Miller will be in the building. The game will be televised at 8 p.m. ET on TNT, with Miller serving as one of the analysts.
|Rockets||vs.||Bucks||8:00 (EST) Preview|
Bucks' Parker to return to starting lineup versus Rockets
Sunday, January 22 at 4:15 PM (EST)
MILWAUKEE -- Jabari Parker will be back in the starting lineup Monday night when as the Milwaukee Bucks try to snap a five-game losing streak when they host James Harden and the Houston Rockets at the Bradley Center.
Parker came off the bench Saturday night in a 109-97 loss to Miami as punishment for violating team policy. It was reported that Parker was reprimanded for sharing comments of a team meeting with the media.
"I spoke up for the first time and it didn't go my way," Parker told reporters after a Friday night loss at Orlando. "I was getting thrashed, but hey, as long as I give them another perspective I did my job."
Head coach Jason Kidd wouldn't elaborate on the decision and rookie Thon Maker started in place of Parker against the Heat.
"I thought he did a great job," Kidd said of Maker. "He got into the flow of the game and I thought he was really good today."
The Rockets had their way with the Bucks last Wednesday, riding 38 points, eight assists and six rebounds from James Harden to a 111-92 victory in Houston. They have had a bit of a rough stretch of late, going 3-4 in their last seven games including a 125-108 loss against the Warriors Friday night but bounced back Saturday for a 119-95 victory over the Grizzlies at Memphis.
Second-year forward Sam Dekker got his first career start in that contest and responded in a big way, scoring a career-high 30 points. He hit his first three and went 7-of-9 from the floor to go into halftime with 16.
"It settles you in, calms you down a little bit," said Dekker, who grew up an hour north of Milwaukee and starred at the University of Wisconsin. "I think that's for every basketball player in the world. If your first few go in, I think my first five or six went in, it really puts you at ease and kinda think everything is going to go in after that and hopefully I can continue that and knock shots down."
The Bucks, meanwhile, are trying to regroup. They were 20-18 and sixth in the Eastern Conference when their losing streak began but have since plummeted to 10th in the conference, one game behind Chicago for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Looking to snap out of the funk, Kidd also put Matthew Dellavadeova back in the starting group against Miami. Dellavedova had been coming off the bench since he returned from a leg injury but hadn't been quite as sharp, averaging 4.4 points and 3.7 assists in 19 minutes over a seven-game stretch.
"I haven't been playing that well, so I've just got to play better on both ends," said Dellavedova, who had 15 points and seven assists against the Heat. "We've just got to fight our way out of this.
"It's tough to win, but that's why it's worth it. It's a little of everything but defensively we haven't done what we did at the start of the year. We've been talking through things and all that and watching film. But we've just got to go out there and do it on the court."
|Thunder||vs.||Jazz||9:00 (EST) Preview|
Surging Jazz look to slow Westbrook-led Thunder
Sunday, January 22 at 10:18 PM (EST)
SALT LAKE CITY -- If Russell Westbrook is playing angry, he's not showing his hand.
Westbrook did not claim a starting spot in the upcoming NBA All-Star game after losing a tiebreaker with James Harden and Stephen Curry in voting. The snub will likely prove temporary. Westbrook has done more than enough to bolster his All-Star credentials this season.
The Oklahoma City guard leads the NBA in scoring, averaging 30.6 points per game. He also ranks second in assists at 10.4 per game and 11th in rebounds at 10.6 per contest. Westbrook has posted 21 triple-doubles so far this season and is the first player to average a triple-double this late into a season since 1963-64.
Still, when the Thunder travel to Salt Lake City to face Utah on Monday night, Westbrook won't be looking to any special statement over being denied a starting spot.
"I don't play for All-Star bids," Westbrook told reporters on Friday. "I play to win championships, and every night I compete at a high level, and it'll work out. I just continue doing what I'm doing and play the game the right way, and everything else will work out."
Westbrook has averaged 29.7 points, 11.1 rebounds and 9.5 assists in January. He'll likely need a little help for the Thunder regain some positive momentum against the Jazz. Oklahoma City (25-19) has lost three of four games during its current road trip and is just 2-6 away from home this month. The Thunder are allowing 111.0 points per game in those eight contests.
That's music to the ears of the Jazz players. Utah (29-16) is riding a season-best six game winning streak after taking down Indiana 109-100 on Saturday. The Jazz led the Pacers wire-to-wire behind a season-high 30 points from George Hill.
Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert both added more evidence to build their respective all-star cases.
Hayward finished with 27 points -- a career-best 16th straight game with 16 or more points. He is averaging career highs in points (22.2), rebounds (5.7) and free-throw shooting percentage (.871).
Gobert totaled 19 points and 11 rebounds for his 31st double-double of the season and his 30th consecutive game with 10 or more rebounds. He is averaging 14.1 points, 15.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in January. Gobert leads the league in blocked shots per game (2.51) and ranks second in field-goal percentage (.669) and fifth in rebounds (12.7).
As good as both players have been on offense since the start of the year, Hayward points to defense as the key reason why they -- and the Jazz as a whole -- are having so much success.
"We got a lot of weapons offensively, but we're a defensive team first," Hayward said. "That's usually how we get our wins. When we play well on that end, even if we're not making shots on the other end, we give ourselves a chance. That's kind of been who we are this season. That's got to continue to be who we are. That's what we're made of."
This is the second meeting between the two teams this season. Utah beat Oklahoma City 109-89 on Dec. 14 behind 25 points from Rodney Hood, who shot 5-of-9 from distance against the Thunder. The Jazz shot 56.5 percent from the 3-point line against Oklahoma City to earn their first wire-to-wire victory of the season.
|Sunday, January 22, 2017|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
Towns lifts Timberwolves past Nuggets
Sunday, January 22 at 11:27 PM (EST)
MINNEAPOLIS -- In the first half, the anticipated matchup between Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns and Denver's Nikola Jokic was fulfilling as their two teams traded offensive blows with little defense to show from either team.
Towns owned the second half and the Timberwolves pulled out another close game.
Towns had 32 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and hit a go-ahead jump shot with 42.5 seconds left as Minnesota came from behind to beat Denver 111-108 on Sunday.
"It got late in the game and I just wanted the ball," Towns said. "I wanted to take those shots. Me and (Andrew Wiggins), we definitely wanted to take those shots at the end of the game. But we trust everyone to shoot. Tyus Jones did a great job. Kris (Dunn) did a great job. Shabazz Muhammad was absolutely fabulous tonight.
"But at the end of the game when the ball touched my hands, I knew I wanted that shot. I felt very comfortable taking it and very confident I was going to make it."
Muhammad came off the bench to score 20 and Wiggins had 24 points for the Timberwolves (16-28), who have won five of their past seven games and four in a row at home.
Minnesota finished the game on a 20-8 run, including 5-2 over the final 42.5 seconds beginning with Towns' jumper from near the 3-point line.
Towns had 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in more than 21 second-half minutes.
"I thought Karl played so unselfishly early in the game," Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He didn't fight the double team. I thought his playmaking was huge. In the last month or so, he's really grown in that area. He's seeing the double team a lot more so he knows what his reads are, what his progressions are."
Jokic had just six points and three rebounds in the second half and played just 4:37 in the fourth because of foul trouble. He finished with 18 points and eight rebounds for Denver (18-25). Gary Harris returned from an ankle injury to score 22 points for the Nuggets, who had won four of their previous five games.
Denver's recent streak has come with Jokic earning more minutes from coach Mike Malone. But Jokic took a backseat in the matchup of talented, second-year centers.
The Timberwolves scored 31 points on 18 Nuggets turnovers and withstood a suddenly explosive Denver offense that had six players score in double figures.
"First half, we defended nobody," Malone said. "So, just a step backwards defensively, then offensively, our inability to value and take care of the ball was really what caused the loss."
Nuggets rookie guard Jamal Murray scored 12 points in the second quarter, but Minnesota ended the half on a 16-4 run to lead by four points (62-58).
Jokic and Towns went at each other, showing their wide range of skills. Towns scored 11 points in the third quarter, including four turnaround jumpers over Jokic. But the two teams were tied heading to the fourth.
"We have to get stops," Harris said. "When we got stops, we were pretty good and got fast breaks. They hit some big shots down the stretch and we missed some. That's how it goes sometimes."
For the second game in a row, the Timberwolves pulled out another close game. Towns hit a go-ahead shot with 45 seconds in the last game against Los Angeles.
"I think discipline-wise, it's been improving since the beginning of the season," Towns said. "Defensively, it wasn't a great night for us, but for us to have the discipline late in the game and get the stops we needed was huge."
NOTES: Minnesota PG Ricky Rubio missed the game because of personal reasons. Rubio is expected to join the team Monday as it travels to Phoenix. Kris Dunn started in place of Rubio. ... Denver was also without its starting point guard as Emmanuel Mudiay missed the game because of low back pain. It was just the second game this season Mudiay has missed. He didn't travel to Minnesota. Jameer Nelson made his eighth start of the season. ... Nuggets SG Gary Harris returned to the starting lineup after missing the past two games with a right ankle sprain. Coach Mike Malone said the team would monitor Harris' minutes. ... Denver averaged 123.8 points per game and shot 53.1 percent over its previous five games. ... The Nuggets return home to face the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. The Timberwolves go on the road for one game against the Suns on Tuesday.
Warriors come alive after slow start for 7th win in row
Sunday, January 22 at 9:06 PM (EST)
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Even when they are half asleep, the Golden State Warriors still dominate the NBA.
With an East Coast start time of noon (9 a.m. on the West Coast), the Warriors awakened slowly Sunday morning but finished with a flourish, overpowering the Orlando Magic 118-98 at the Amway Center.
The Warriors (38-6) won their seventh consecutive game, keeping pace to become the first NBA team in history to win at least 65 games for three consecutive seasons.
Stephen Curry hit 7 of 13 3-pointers and scored a game-high 27 points, dominating the third quarter after a lackluster first half.
"It was an early start, and a challenge mentally, but it shouldn't matter what time of day it is," Curry said. "We want to win whenever we play. We showed how much winning means to this team."
Curry scored 16 points in the third quarter when the Warriors turned a tie game into an 18-point lead that was never challenged.
Warriors guard Klay Thompson scored 21 points and hit 7 of 9 3-pointers. Kevin Durant had 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Draymond Green scored just six points but had 10 rebounds. Reserve JaVale McGee scored 13 points.
"I needed a wakeup call today," Green said. "It's difficult to play this early. You could tell by the way we played at the start. But that's the NBA, and we figured it out and got it done."
It was the 20th consecutive game the Warriors scored at least 100 points and upped their record to 14-1 against teams from the Eastern Conference this season.
Guard Eldrid Payton led the Magic (18-28) with 23 points and 10 assists. Reserve center Bismack Biyombo had 12 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic and Jeff Green each scored 12 points and Serge Ibaka had 10 points.
For Curry, it was the 10th consecutive game he scored at least 20 points. For the Warriors, it was the first time since 1995 they played a noon game in the Eastern time zone and they had eight turnovers in the first six minutes before they opened their eyes.
"It was weird," Curry said. "We struggled early, but we left our mark in the third quarter. That's when we were at our best."
The Warriors never were seriously challenged in the fourth quarter and played mostly their reserves. The Warriors scored 42 points in the third quarter when they hit 8 of 16 3-pointers and took command.
Curry scored eight points in 90 seconds to close the quarter, pushing Golden State to a 92-74 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Andre Iguodala opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer that ended all Magic hopes.
The Warriors made 19 of 42 shots from 3-point range.
The score was tied at halftime with Curry leading everyone with 11 points.
"There's not much you can do when they (Warriors) get it going like that," Jeff Green said. "That's why they are who they are, and get the acclaim that they do. It gets tough for any opponent playing against them."
The Magic shot poorly from the 3-point line (7 of 28) and at the free throw line (7 of 16), giving the Warriors more than enough help to pull away.
"There's just no margin for error against them," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "The way you punch back against them is by making shots yourself. We missed too many today."
The Magic led 38-28 after scoring the first 16 points of the second quarter, sparked by Jeff Green with nine points before intermission. The Warriors missed their first nine shots of the quarter.
Mario Hezonja hit a 3-pointer for the 44-33 advantage, the Magic's biggest lead of the game.
The Warriors started slowly, making only three of their first 10 shots from the field and committing eight turnovers in the opening six minutes. They still led 28-22 after the first quarter, thanks to reserve JaVale McGee with eight points in his first five minutes.
NOTES: The Magic signed G/F Anthony Brown to a 10-day contract. He played nine games earlier this season for the New Orleans Pelicans, but has been playing in the NBA Development League. ... Warriors reserve G Shaun Livingston, who had shot 50 percent or better in each of his last 11 games, sat out to rest. ... The Warriors have won their last three games -- against Houston, Oklahoma City and Cleveland and Orlando -- by a combined 92 points. ... The Magic were without starting SG Evan Fournier (sore heel) and backup SG Jodie Meeks (dislocated thumb), which is why they signed Brown. ... Magic C Bismack Biyombo, who grew up in the Congo, made it clear he would not be intimidated by the Warriors and their success. "I'm not afraid of a human being. I'm afraid of lions," Biyombo said.
Mavs hand Lakers worst loss in franchise history
Sunday, January 22 at 7:19 PM (EST)
DALLAS -- The Los Angeles Lakers endured some low points in recent seasons, but the nadir occurred Sunday.
The Dallas Mavericks blitzed Los Angeles in the second quarter and handed the Lakers the worst loss in franchise history, 122-73.
"We have teaching points, but what I say to them behind those doors, that is between us," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "I think they understand and would agree and would feel inside the same way that I feel."
It was the Mavericks' largest margin of victory and 13th consecutive win against the Lakers. Dallas missed its first 50-point victory since a win over Philadelphia on Nov. 13, 2014.
The Mavericks, whose 15-29 record is better than the marks of just four NBA teams, including the Lakers (16-32), snapped to a two-game losing streak.
Dallas rode a 31-9 surge in the second quarter that built upon its 29-22 lead after one quarter. The margin quickly ballooned into double digits and then reached as high as 34 points in the second quarter, a lead that was insurmountable for the short-handed Lakers, who failed in an attempt to win consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 12.
The Mavericks took a 67-33 lead into the locker room, and the advantage grew in the second half. The Lakers dropped to 3-11 this season when playing without starting point guard D'Angelo Russell, who sustained knee and calf injuries in Los Angeles' win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
The Mavericks, who followed a season-best, three-game game winning streak with consecutive close losses to the Miami Heat and Utah Jazz on Thursday and Friday, respectively, shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half, including 9 of 20 from 3-point range.
The Lakers were a brutal 13 of 37 from the floor -- including 2 of 16 from beyond the arc -- in the first half and committed nine turnovers. Dallas outrebounded Los Angeles 28-15 before the break, including 8-2 on the offensive glass.
For the game, the Mavericks outshot the Lakers 49.4 percent to 38.4 percent and amassed a 49-32 edge on the glass.
"You've got to point to our defense. In that second quarter, I thought we did a great job defensively, setting the tone and setting the tempo," said Mavs guard Deron Williams, who finished with 13 points and eight assists. "It created a lot of offense off the turnovers, and then just getting out and running. They only had 11 points in that quarter, so our defense got us going."
The Lakers put up little resistance in the third quarter as Dallas grew its lead to 37 points.
The margin hit 40 points for the first time at 99-59 with just under 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The biggest lead was 53 points as the Mavericks nearly doubled the Lakers' scoring.
Dallas got extremely balanced scoring with seven players finishing in double figures, but with no player totaling more than Justin Anderson's 19 points. Anderson, who has had trouble maintaining a spot in coach Rick Carlisle's rotation, was 5 of 11 from the floor, 3 of 6 from 3-point range. Guard Seth Curry had 14 points, and Dirk Nowitzki and Wesley Matthews each scored 13 points.
Matthews had to leave the game with a hip injury.
"A little hip strain or something. Not considered serious," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "I don't expect him to miss Wednesday (when the New York Knicks visit Dallas). We're going to be off (Monday). We'll practice Tuesday; there will be an update on Tuesday. I don't think he'll be missing Wednesday -- that's just my opinion. He said he's OK, just a little bit tight."
Only two Lakers players scored in double figures -- Lou Williams with 15 points and Jordan Clarkson with 10. Luol Deng, Justin Randle and Nick Young all scored nine points.
Los Angeles shot a paltry 14.3 percent from beyond the arc, making must 3 of 21 attempts.
"They hit shots, we didn't. They defended, we didn't. It's as simple as that," said Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr., who had four points in 10 minutes of playing time. "I don't know why we didn't defend. Some nights shots don't fall, but it's unacceptable to give up 122 on any night."
NOTES: Mavericks G J.J. Barea likely will be out until after next month's NBA All-Star Game after sustaining a left calf strain in Friday's loss against Utah, coach Rick Carlisle said. ... Dallas C Andrew Bogut (right hamstring strain) could return this week, according to Carlisle. ... With his eight assists, Mavericks PG Deron Williams passed Kevin Johnson (6,711) for 20th place on the NBA's career list. ... Lakers PG D'Angelo Russell will miss one to two weeks after an MRI confirmed a mild MCL sprain in his right knee, a right calf strain and a bone bruise. Russell, who did not make the trip to Dallas, will be re-evaluated in one week. ... Los Angeles F Larry Nance Jr. is on a restriction with total time and consecutive minutes played, coach Luke Walton said.
Bledsoe's 40 lead Suns over Raptors
Sunday, January 22 at 10:26 PM (EST)
TORONTO -- The Phoenix Suns were the team that was playing for the second night in a row.
The Toronto Raptors, who rested on Saturday, only looked as if they were.
The Suns overcame an eight-point disadvantage 45 seconds into the fourth and outscored the Raptors 33-18 in the final quarter on their way to a 115-103 victory Sunday.
Eric Bledsoe scored 40 points and added 13 assists and six rebounds in his sixth double-double of the season.
"Eric Bledsoe, his line was amazing," Suns coach Earl Watson said. "He is just getting better and better. He is continuing to grow. One thing about our team is we stay together, we have a lot of fight."
It was the second win in a row for the Suns, who beat the New York Knicks on Saturday night.
The Raptors lost a third game in a row for the first time this season.
"When your shots are not falling, you have to make it up on the defensive end, and we did not do that," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
The Suns took a two-point lead with 6:04 to play in the game on running a layup by P.J. Tucker, who also scored the next three points to give Phoenix a five-point advantage.
Tyson Chandler's dunk with 2:04 to play put the Suns ahead by nine points.
"We did the same thing (Saturday) night," Watson said. "We held the Knicks to 15 points (in the fourth), and tonight I believe it was 18. ... No one wants to play isolation basketball against P.J. Tucker. He had a double-double tonight, he's a tough defender, he's in your face, he's physical, he's strong and he's very shifty, quick feet."
Toronto's Kyle Lowry was ejected for a flagrant foul on Brandon Knight with 1:30 to play.
"It was not a dirty play at all," Lowry said. "Honestly, I thought he was going to go for a floater. I swiped across and hit his head. He took another dribble. I'm not a dirty player, and I already sent a text to him to apologize."
Devin Booker added 20 points for the Suns (15-29), scoring at least 20 points for a career-best ninth consecutive game. Chandler had 16 points and nine rebounds for Phoenix, Knight chipped in with 12 points, and Tucker added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"It was unbelievable, winning back to back like this," Bledsoe said. "We played great as a team. Brandon (Knight) came in and did a great job, Devin did a great job and P.J. did a great job on DeMar (DeRozan), and I could go on and on. We did a great job as a team."
DeRozan had 22 points for Toronto (28-16). Jonas Valanciunas had a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Lowry added 15, DeMarre Carroll 14 and Lucas Nogueira 13.
"(Lowry) was frustrated, " Casey said. "DeMar was frustrated. He played through it down the stretch, but he tweaked his ankle a little bit. Frustration comes; we have to learn to play through that."
The Raptors, who had an early nine-point advantage, led 31-28 after the first quarter and 60-57 at halftime.
A pair of free throws by Knight with 31.3 seconds to play in the third cut the Toronto lead to one point. Jared Sullinger completed the scoring in the quarter with a layup, and the Raptors led 85-82.
The Raptors scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer by Terrence Ross, to take an eight-point lead.
Booker's 3-pointer with 9:42 cut Toronto's lead to two points.
Chandler banked in a driving hook shot with 7:29 to play to tie the game at 95.
Carroll's 16-foot jump shot with 6:37 left gave Toronto a two-point lead. Two free throws by Bledsoe tied the game again.
Tucker's layup put the Suns into a 99-97 lead. After a Toronto shot-clock violation, Tucker made one of two free throws with 5:27 to play, and Phoenix led by three.
Tucker said the key to covering DeRozan was to "take away his air space."
"DeMar wants to get to the rim, and he makes some tough shots," Tucker said. "I just tried to get in his air space. Contest his shot and be physical."
Lowry's missed shot led to a turnaround hook shot for Tucker and a 102-97 Phoenix lead.
Bledsoe's layup with 3:58 to play gave Phoenix and a six-point lead, and his jumper with 3:26 to go made it 107-100.
"I'm just trying to win, no matter if I'm playing good or bad," Bledsoe said.
NOTES: Toronto C Lucas Nogueira (concussion protocol) was cleared to return for Sunday's game after missing the two previous games. He was injured at Brooklyn last Tuesday. ... Raptors F Patrick Patterson (strained left knee) did not play Sunday, and it is uncertain if he will be ready to play at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday against the San Antonio Spurs. He has missed 10 of the past 12 games since being injured on Dec. 29 at Phoenix. ... The Suns won the other meeting between the teams this season, 99-91 at Phoenix on Dec. 29. ... The Suns will play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.