NBA Scores

Today is Thursday, December 14, 2017.

Thursday, December 14, 2017
National Basketball Assoc.
Knicks vs. Nets 7:30 (EST) Preview

Nets' improved defense to be tested by Knicks' Porzingis

-

Thursday, December 14 at 1:39 AM (EST)

NEW YORK -- The overall picture shows some porous defensive numbers for the Brooklyn Nets. A closer look at recent results demonstrates some improvements, though.

Brooklyn's defense will face a stiff challenge trying to contain Kristaps Porzingis Thursday night when it hosts the New York Knicks.

Brooklyn is allowing 110.6 points per game, which ranks as among the worst in the league. The Nets are a middle of the pack team in opponent's field goal percentage at 45.3 percent and are above average at defending the 3-pointer at 35.6 percent.

The improvement is appearing in the last eight games since a 127-125 loss to Portland on Nov. 24. The Nets are 5-3 since, allowing 100.9 points per game, 43.1 percent from the field and 32.3 percent from 3-point range, lowering their defensive rating to 108.4, which is slightly below the league average.

"It's just pride, really. It comes from within," Brooklyn guard Allen Crabbe said after capping a 3 of 15 showing by hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 44 seconds left in Tuesday's 103-98 win over Washington. "You can't teach defense, really. It's all effort. And I feel like guys are buying in. and then when you get stops and get out on the break you open up a lot of things."

The Nets were able to get enough stops Tuesday. They held the Wizards to 20 points in the fourth and limited Bradley Beal to 3 of 15 shooting after halftime and three points in the final 12 minutes.

"I like where we are defensively," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "I like the process and guys are buying in."

Atkinson specifically cited Brooklyn's defense on mid-range shots of late and the numbers reflect positively. Overall, the Nets are allowing 43.2 percent (230 of 533) on shots from 10 to 19 feet, and in their last eight games, that number is 40.3 percent (70 of 176).

The Nets were able to overcome shooting 23 percent from 3-point range Tuesday because of their defense. They held the Wizards to 37.5 percent shooting (12 of 32) on shots from 10 to 19 feet and limited them to 40 percent overall and 4 of 22 from 3-point range.

"I think we're just coming out with attention to detail that we not might have had before, playing harder and our defense has been a little bit better," Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie said.

The Nets experienced numerous problems when they were handed a 107-86 loss at New York on Oct. 27. Porzingis scored 30 points on 13 of 24 shooting in 29:23.

That was one of 10 30-point games for Porzingis. He scored 37 on 14 of 26 shooting in Tuesday's 113-109 overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

New York (14-13) is 8-2 when Porzingis scores at least 30. Two of those games are on the road, where the Knicks are 1-8 and average 97.2 points, and Porzingis shoots 40.2 percent.

"It's an honor that I'm capable of doing something that has never been done," Porzingis said. "But that doesn't help us make the playoffs. We want to make the playoffs and do something big as a team. I'm just playing. It's pretty cool to get cool stats and so on but I'm just doing what I can to help the team win."

Porzingis is also coming off the NBA's first game with at least 30 points, five blocks, 11 rebounds and five 3-pointers.

"This is probably hopefully the tip of the iceberg for him," New York coach Jeff Hornacek said. "This is only his third year in the league, at 22 years old, to put up these numbers is something else. He can go outside, he can put the ball down, he's got deep range. He can shoot it from a long way away. When he gets inside, he's got some jump-hook stuff that he's been making lately. And again, he's going to get better and better every year, too. He's fun to watch out there."

The Knicks are 14-10 since losing their first three games of the season but also are 4-6 in their last 10. New York is trying to get their third three-game winning streak of the season.

Porzingis is averaging 19.7 points in seven career games against the Nets and the Knicks are 4-3 against Brooklyn when the forward plays.

[CLOSE]

Pistons vs. Hawks 7:30 (EST) Preview

Reeling Pistons face struggling Hawks

-

Thursday, December 14 at 1:25 AM (EST)

ATLANTA -- The Detroit Pistons included a home victory over the Atlanta Hawks in a five-game winning streak during early November that had them off to a 10-3 start.

It is nearing mid-December now, though, and the Pistons come to Atlanta for a Thursday night game mired in a seven-game losing streak and a deep funk.

Coach Stan Van Gundy called Detroit's 103-84 home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday "one of the worst ones I've ever had as a coach."

The Pistons (14-13) need to get things headed back in the right direction, and they need to do it quickly.

"I've got to find answers. I'm not running from the responsibility. This is on me," said Van Gundy, who is also the team president. "I selected these players. I decide who plays. I decide what we run on offense. I decide how we play defense."

The Pistons aren't getting the job done, though.

"That was an embarrassment," said Van Gundy of his team's effort -- or lack of same -- against Denver.

The Hawks (6-21) might be just the opponent the Pistons need to end their losing streak.

The Pistons' 111-104 victory at Detroit on Nov. 10 was part of a 2-12 start by Atlanta. The rebuilding Hawks are 3-9 at home while posting the NBA's worst overall record.

The Pistons, though, let a 19-point lead slip away vs. Atlanta back in November and needed a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute by Reggie Jackson to secure the victory. Andre Drummond finished with 16 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists.

"I can't sugarcoat the second half," Van Gundy said afterward.

The Pistons haven't been able to find a way to win during their slump even when they play much better than they did against the Nuggets.

"When everybody was talking how great we were at 10-3, I kept saying things can change quickly in this league. And they can, and they have on us right now," Van Gundy said.

The Hawks are coming off a 123-114 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday that wasn't nearly as close as the final score would indicate.

The Cavaliers made nine 3-pointers in the first quarter en route to a season-high 20, and LeBron James, who had 25 points, tied his career high with 17 assists.

The Hawks won 117-115 in Cleveland on Nov. 5 but were no match for James and the Cavaliers this time.

"LeBron is obviously a great player and a great facilitator," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "We defended him pretty well, but when we pressured the ball, he kicked it out for open shots."

Taurean Prince, a first-round draft pick in his second season, had a career-best 24 points to lead the Hawks in scoring, but he drew his third foul in the second quarter trying to guard James.

Undrafted rookie Tyler Cavanaugh got his first NBA start with the Hawks missing three inside players because of injuries. He had 11 points and nine rebounds.

"It stunk because they kind of took it to us, but it was a great opportunity to play against the best," he said.

[CLOSE]

Kings vs. Timberwolves 8:00 (EST) Preview

Timberwolves hope for bounce-back win over Kings

-

Thursday, December 14 at 2:03 AM (EST)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's locker room was dead silent after an overtime loss Tuesday to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Timberwolves players sitting at their lockers knew they squandered an opportunity when they let a fourth-quarter lead slip away.

When Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns eventually addressed the media, he was particularly hard on himself.

"I failed my team tonight," said Towns, who had 19 points and 16 rebounds but struggled defensively to guard Philadelphia's Joel Embiid in the fourth quarter.

Minnesota, which lost despite a 38-point effort from guard Jimmy Butler, now has a chance to bounce back Thursday when the Timberwolves host Sacramento. At just 9-18 -- and with the lowest-scoring offense in the league -- the Kings could be the cure for what ails Minnesota.

Sacramento comes to Minneapolis having won two of its last three, but the Kings are one of only a few teams in the NBA averaging fewer than 100 points per game (96.2). The Wolves, meanwhile, have allowed 106.7 points per contest this season heading into Thursday's game.

The Kings are fresh off a 99-92 win over Phoenix on Tuesday and will face Minnesota for the first time this season. Veteran Zach Randolph was big in the fourth quarter of that win for Sacramento as he scored 11 of his 17 points in the final frame.

"He's just a hard matchup," Kings guard Frank Mason III told the Arizona Republic about Randolph, who is in his first year with Sacramento.

Through 25 games, Randolph is averaging 15.2 points and 7.0 rebounds. Randolph's veteran presence off the court and his production on it have earned him praise from Kings coach Dave Joerger, who also coached Randolph in Memphis.

"He plays for big moments, and big shots," Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. "We may not have a great record, but you get in a game like this and it is competition."

The Kings are in the middle of a grueling stretch of games that includes four straight on the road after recently having another four-game road trip. Joerger's club has a six-game homestand to look forward to beginning later this month, but it first must get through the likes of Minnesota, Toronto, Philadelphia and Brooklyn on the road.

Sacramento likely won't be battling for a playoff spot any time soon. Minnesota's expectations, meanwhile, are to make the postseason for the first time since 2003-04. Though the Timberwolves have inconsistent at times this year, they sit at 16-12 as they get ready to host the Kings in the midst of a five-game homestand.

Minnesota just hopes it learned a few valuable lessons from Tuesday's difficult loss to a young but talented 76ers squad. For one thing, the Timberwolves will have to shoot better from 3-point range. Minnesota was 5-of-29 from deep Tuesday but was 1-for-21 until Butler hit a pair of 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter.

"It's never fun to lose," Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins said. "Especially when it's a battle, a close game."

[CLOSE]

Lakers vs. Cavaliers 8:00 (EST) Preview

Lakers' Ball to face Cavaliers' James for first time

-

Thursday, December 14 at 1:50 AM (EST)

CLEVELAND -- There has been speculation, and it will come again, maybe soon, that LeBron James and Lonzo Ball could be teammates next summer.

On Thursday, though, James and Ball will compete against each other for the first time when the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Los Angeles Lakers.

"We have to get back in transition, I know that," James said, speaking of how his Cavs will have to prepare for Ball. "He's going to push the ball and he's going to throw it ahead and if we jog back, then they'll make us pay with a lot of their guys that love to run the floor -- (Kentavious) Caldwell-Pope, (Kyle) Kuzma, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and the rest of those guys. So, he's always looking ahead."

The Cavs are rolling, winners of 15 of their last 16 games. James, in his 15th season and 11th with the Cavs, is putting up MVP numbers -- sitting third in the NBA in scoring (28.3 points per game) and assists (9.0).

Ball, 20, is a rookie on the Lakers who in November passed James as the youngest player to record a triple-double. He's averaging 8.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists, but Los Angeles has lost six of its last eight games.

James can be a free agent at season's end, and though he reiterated in September that his intention is to finish his career in Cleveland, he'll assess his situation when the Cavs are done in 2018.

James currently has two homes (he'll sell one) in Los Angeles, and his business interests are headquartered there. But the Lakers remain far away from being a contender, they play in the same conference as the Golden State Warriors, and there is at least one big distraction on the Lakers now.

Ball's dad, LaVar, who has actually quarreled with James in the past, has been so critical of Lakers coach Luke Walton publicly that Lakers executives called a meeting with him to ask that he knock it off.

James said he likes Lonzo Ball, though.

"The kid hasn't said anything," James said, according to ESPN. "It's been everybody else. So, I love his humility. He goes out, every time someone asks him a question, he says, 'This is not about me, man. I just want to win. I don't care about what I did.' I seen he had a triple-double one game and they lost. He was like, 'I don't care. We lost.'"

Ball, speaking to reporters in New York on Tuesday, said he used to have a poster of James on his wall.

"In my opinion, he is the best player in the world," Ball said. "I just feel like he plays the game the right way. He probably can easily go out for 50 every night but focuses on his team, getting triple-doubles and (getting) guys involved. It is my first time playing him, I am looking forward to it, should be a lot of fun."

Ball, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has "a lot of pressure on him," Walton said, according to the New York Times.

"And that's just from being a starting point guard for the L.A. Lakers as a rookie," Walton said. "Obviously with how big he is in the social media world that exists now, everything that he does gets scrutinized by everybody."

For the Cavs, Dwyane Wade missed Tuesday's win over Atlanta with left knee soreness, and his status will be updated Thursday.

Cleveland has won six straight over the Lakers, the longest streak for the Cavs over L.A. in franchise history.

[CLOSE]

Mavericks vs. Warriors 10:30 (EST) Preview

Warriors, Mavericks missing point guards

-

Thursday, December 14 at 2:00 AM (EST)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Dallas Mavericks will seek a second straight win over the elite of the Western Conference when they visit the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.

The Mavericks (8-20) stunned the San Antonio Spurs 95-89 in Kawhi Leonard's season debut on Tuesday night.

The Texas rivals will meet in a rematch on Saturday.

In between, the Mavericks have to travel 1,500 miles without injured rookie standout Dennis Smith Jr. to face a Warriors team that has won seven in a row.

Smith, who ranks third among rookies in assists (4.0 per game) and fifth in scoring (14.4 points per game), remains out of action due to a strained left hip.

The Mavericks overcame the absence of their floor leader by committing just six turnovers and getting strong play from three guards against the Spurs. Starters Yogi Ferrell and Wesley Matthews and backup J.J. Barea combined for 48 points and 12 assists.

"We have been waiting for a game like this," said Ferrell, who complemented 16 points and two assists with a career-high eight rebounds. "We've had some good games this season, but we put it all together (against the Spurs)."

A Dallas visit to Golden State means the return of Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes, who contributed averages of 10.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in the Warriors' postseason run to a championship in 2015.

Barnes was the odd man out when the Warriors upgraded to Kevin Durant in free agency a year later.

He has since enjoyed two homecomings before appreciative crowds in Oakland, scoring 25 points both times.

Of course, even those lofty totals are less than what Durant averages for the Warriors, with whom Durant won a championship last June.

The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week has poured in 35, 36 and 28 points in the three games since guard Stephen Curry was lost to a sprained ankle last Monday.

The 28 came in a 111-104 home win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, Golden State's return to Oracle Arena after a historic 6-0 trip, just the 11th in NBA history.

The Warriors not only beat the Trail Blazers without Curry, but they also were missing Draymond Green (sore right shoulder) and Zaza Pachulia (sore left shoulder).

"I'm always satisfied with any win, but particularly without three starters. That's a great sign," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the win. "A good win and we move on."

It appears Kerr will have to trot out his new look again Thursday night, with Curry definitely out while Green and Pachulia remain doubtful.

Another key contributor, reserve Nick Young, was lost in the Portland game to a concussion. He also is unlikely to play against the Mavericks.

Green had 10 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and two steals when the Warriors crushed the Mavericks 133-103 in Dallas on Oct. 23.

It was Golden State's seventh straight win over Dallas by an average of 18.7 points.

The Thursday game is the Warriors' second in a stretch of 10 in which they never leave the state of California. They play only once on the road -- Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers -- between now and a trip to Dallas on Jan. 3.

[CLOSE]

Wednesday, December 13, 2017
National Basketball Assoc.
Clippers 106 vs. 95 Magic Final Recap

Williams pours in 31 as Clippers dump Magic

-

Wednesday, December 13 at 11:04 PM (EST)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Los Angeles Clippers have started winning the old fashioned way.

Reserve guard Lou Williams scored a game-high 31 points, leading a patchwork lineup that was filled with heart and hustle, sparking the Clippers to a 106-95 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.

The Clippers (11-15), who lost starting guard Austin Rivers to a concussion in the first half, won their third consecutive game, despite playing without four of their top five leading scorers.

"We're just playing hard," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "We don't have the luxury of talent, where we can where we can out-talent the other teams. We're just going to go out and play harder than the other team."

Center DeAndre Jordan, who has stepped into a leadership role, dominated around the basket with 16 points, 20 rebounds and two blocked shots in 36 minutes.

Reserve Sam Dekker was the only other Clippers' player to reach double figures. He had 12 points and hit two of his four 3-point attempts. Five other Clippers scored between six and nine points.

"When you are loaded with talent, you can just rely on that talent to win, but we don't have that anymore," Williams said. "When you're talent goes down, everyone else has to step it up and win that way. That's what we're doing now. You outhustle your opponent."

Williams, who scored 35 points Saturday against the Wizards, made 11 of 22 shots Wednesday and added eight assists.

Jonathon Simmons led the Magic (11-18) with 20 points and eight assists. Center Nikola Vucevic had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Elfrid Payton scored 13 points. Mario Hezonja, in his second start of the season, managed 17 points and nine rebounds.

"We struggled," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "We have enough to score, but we need everyone to play at their best. Some guys had good nights, but some guys struggled. You can't do that and expect to get a W."

Rivers was especially pleased with Jordan, who managed at least 17 rebounds in five of his last six games.

"We need him to be great right now, and that's what he's been," Rivers said. "Not just with his defense but with everything. He is doing the things to help you win games."

The Clippers, already playing without Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari, lost Rivers just before halftime. Rivers, who scored nine points, left and never returned after being hit in the face with an elbow from Simmons.

Rivers, who was trying to stop Simmons from finishing a layup, was called for a foul. He stayed on the ground for two minutes after the play while teammates gathered around. He was helped to the locker room, where doctors determined his concussion symptoms. He will miss at least one or two games under the NBA's concussion protocol.

The Clippers reserves outscored their Magic counterparts, 62-25. The Clippers outrebounded the Magic 51-45.

After a poor first quarter, the Clippers went on a 14-0 run in the second and never relinquished the lead. The Magic never seriously challenged in the second half.

The Clippers led 74-68 going into the fourth period. They led by as many as 11 points in the third after a 3-pointer by C.J. Williams.

Los Angeles was ahead 45-40 at intermission, riding a 24-7 run that closed the second period. They scored 14 consecutive points during that surge.

Williams had 14 points in the first half, but made only 4 of 10 shots. Hezonja led the Magic with 12 first-half points. Orlando led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter, but struggled through the second, third and fourth periods.

NOTES: The Magic activated four players Wednesday from their G League team, a reflection of their injury woes. Leading scorer F Aaron Gordon remained in the NBA's concussion protocol. Orlando also was without its second leading scorer G/F Evan Fournier (sprained right ankle). ... The Clippers beat the Magic for the eighth consecutive time. ... Los Angeles G Lou Williams is averaging 18.6 points as a reserve this season, tops in the NBA. ... After the game, the Clippers left for Washington, where they play the second contest of a four-game road trip Friday night. The Magic, who lost for the 14th time in the past 16 games, are home Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers.

[CLOSE]

Grizzlies 87 vs. 93 Wizards Final Recap

Wall returns as Wizards defeat Grizzlies

-

Wednesday, December 13 at 10:46 PM (EST)

WASHINGTON -- The return of John Wall did not immediately turn the Washington Wizards aesthetically, but they had enough to defeat the struggling Memphis Grizzlies.

Bradley Beal scored 18 points and John Wall had 13 in his return from a left knee injury as the Washington Wizards fended off the Memphis Grizzlies 93-87 on Wednesday.

Wall sat out the previous nine games after receiving injections in his knee Nov. 25 to deal with inflammation. Washington (15-13) went 4-5 without the four-time All-Star. The Wizards returned home from a 2-3 road trip.

Memphis (8-20) has dropped five in a row and 16 of 17, yet stayed with Washington until the final stages.

Wall started and played 28 minutes. His most significant stretch came during the second quarter after Washington squandered most of a 10-point lead. After JaMychal Green's 3-pointer pulled Memphis within two, Wall outscored the Grizzlies 9-0 for a 38-27 lead with 1:59 remaining before halftime.

He showed plenty of agility with a throw down dunk and by blocking a Chandler Parsons dunk attempt late in the fourth quarter.

"I think it was cool other than my four missed free throws," Wall said. "Most important thing is we got the win."

Andrew Harrison scored 20 points for the Grizzles, who shot 38.3 percent from the field and had a season-low 29 points in the first half. Green had 15 points and 15 rebounds, and Marc Gasol added 15 points and 10 boards.

Second-leading scorer Tyreke Evans sat out with right hip soreness.

The Wizards led 50-33 on Porter's 3-pointer with 7:59 remaining in the third quarter but didn't finish the period strong. The Grizzlies entered the fourth down 60-57 and took their first lead at 67-65 on a James Ennis 3-pointer.

Washington countered with a 13-0 run. Beal, who averaged 34.5 points over the previous four games, sank two 3-pointers in this stretch.

Memphis proved resilient and fought back to 83-80 on Gasol's jumper with 2:34 remaining but would get no closer. Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. sank back-to-back 3-pointers for Washington.

"When you're down at that point, you've got to play perfect," Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "And those 3s especially, they hurt you."

Otto Porter had 14 points, Marcin Gortat 12 and Oubre added 11 for the Wizards. Mike Scott started in place of Markieff Morris (right hip soreness) and scored 10 points.

"It didn't look good because we missed some shots, played a little slow for whatever reason, long trip coming back," Wizards coach Scott Brooks following his team's latest suspect outing against a suspect opponent. "I like the fact that we came out and got the win. We played better than the score, I thought. ... Good win for us. Now focus on the next game."

Washington finished 12 of 24 from the free throw line. Memphis hit 15 of 16, helping to offset shooting 38.3 percent from the field.

The Grizzlies committed 12 of their 18 turnovers in the first half and misfired throughout. They shot 5 of 21 from the floor in the first quarter. They also played effectively at times in the second half, but not enough to end the current slide.

"You want to get out of a situation that obviously nobody likes, the only way to do it is by out-hustling the other team, out-working them," Gasol said. "Obviously we're not going to out-talent the other team so we have to be overwhelming defensively and trust each other defensively because that's going to bring trust on the other end."

The Wizards were just glad to end their stretch of games played without Wall.

"He's our leader (and) he's the head to our snake. For him coming back and getting his feet wet and getting back acclimated to our game and our style of play was big for us," Oubre said. "Hopefully, we can keep this rolling."

NOTES: Washington F Markieff Morris played less than 20 minutes and sat out the fourth quarter in each of the previous two games. ... Wizards C Ian Mahinmi (sore right knee) sat out for a second consecutive game. ... Memphis fell to 1-15 without injured G Mike Conley Jr. and 0-10 against Eastern Conference opponents. ... The Wizards host the Clippers on Friday, six days after losing 113-112 in Los Angeles despite leading by four points with 51 seconds remaining. Lou Williams sank the go-ahead 3-pointer for the Clippers with 1.2 seconds left. ... Memphis opens a two-game homestand Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks. ... The sides close out the season series Jan. 5 in Memphis.

[CLOSE]

Thunder 100 vs. 95 Pacers Final Recap

Adams pushes Thunder past Pacers

-

Wednesday, December 13 at 11:20 PM (EST)

INDIANAPOLIS -- On a night when Oklahoma City's big three of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook all struggled from the field, the Thunder's Steven Adams was on target.

"He was great," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "He kept fighting for offensive rebounds and kept so many plays alive. He rim-protected and rolled to the basket. Those guys have confidence throwing the ball to him. Steven has gotten better finishing, but he's also gotten better at passing the ball out."

The 7-foot Adams scored 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass, to lead the Thunder to a 100-95 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.

"They were just falling my way," Adams said of his offensive rebounds.

Oklahoma City (13-14) registered its first two-game season sweep of Indiana since 2012-13 and snapped the Pacers' four-game winning streak.

In his return to Indiana, George was booed loudly when introduced and every time he touched the ball throughout the game.

George, a four-time All-Star, was traded to Oklahoma City in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis after he told the Pacers he didn't plan to re-sign with the team following the 2017-18 season. George was limited to 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting Wednesday.

"He had incredible poise," Donovan said. "He didn't shoot well, but I thought his defense was critical."

George knew the environment would be tough.

"I'm glad the circus is over with, now everybody can move on," George said. "I'm not sure what they (fans) wanted me to be, a circus act or some kind of show. I played my hardest. I played everything. I thought I took what the city is about and that's being blue collar."

Despite shooting 3 of 17 from the field, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook delivered his ninth triple-double of the season with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists.

"Russell was terrific in the first half," Donovan said. "He only took five shots and had nine assists."

Anthony scored 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting. The Thunder shot 36 of 88 from the floor, 40.9 percent.

Oladipo led the Pacers (16-12) with 19 points, but had a rough shooting night, 9 of 26 from the floor.

"I know he did a good job on me defensively," Oladipo said of matching up with George. "It was the first time I've had a defender like that guard me since I've been on this team. They were just trying to deny me."

Bojan Bogdanovic added 15 for the Pacers and Darren Collison 14. Thaddeus Young had 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals. The Pacers shot 40 of 89 on field-goal attempts, 44.9 percent.

Oladipo's driving layup sliced Indiana's deficit to 96-94 with 1:07 to go. Following a miss by Carmelo Anthony, Young was first ruled for an offensive foul but it was overturned. Young then hit the first for two throws to make it 96-95. A put-back by Alex Abrines gave the Thunder a 98-95 edge with 15.2 seconds remaining.

"I was just in the right place and the right time," said Abrines, who had 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

George came up with a steal and hit both free throws to make it 100-95 with 10.7 seconds left.

The Thunder held a 52-42 rebounding edge

"We've got to get stronger," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. "We've got to get more physical. I thought they really got into us defensively."

McMillian said the Thunder did a much better job of drawing fouls as well. The Thunder were 15 of 24 from the foul line while the Pacers were 4 of 6.

The Thunder sank 12 of 23 shots in the second quarter to produce a 29-19 edge in the period en route to a 51-46 lead at halftime. The Pacers regained the lead at the start of the third quarter before ending up trailing 73-69 entering the fourth.

Lance Stephenson sank a jumper at the first quarter buzzer to give the Pacers a 27-22 lead.

NOTES: Pacers G Darren Collison returned to the starting lineup after missing the Sunday game with a sore left knee. ... Pacers F Thaddeus Young has scored in double figures in 23 games, including seven straight and 12 of 13. ... NBA commissioner Adam Silver attended the game. Silver announced earlier in the day that Indianapolis will host 2021 All-Star Game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. ... Entering the game, Oklahoma City led the NBA in steals per game (10.0) and opponents' turnovers per game (18.0). The Thunder had 10 steals and the Pacers 13 turnovers on Wednesday night.

[CLOSE]

Nuggets 118 vs. 124 Celtics Final Recap

Irving, Celtics cruise past Nuggets

-

Wednesday, December 13 at 11:33 PM (EST)

BOSTON -- Brad Stevens was relieved his Boston Celtics shot a season-high 59.5 percent from the floor at TD Garden on Wednesday night.

"That was the only way we were going to win tonight the way we were guarding and rebounding," the coach said after the Celtics also registered a season high for points in a 124-118 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

The 118 points tied the most Boston has allowed this season and the Celtics were out-rebounded 48-30, with the Nuggets hauling down 20 offensive boards.

But the offense was superb.

"That was probably one of our best shot-selection games," Stevens said.

Kyrie Irving, returning from a one-game absence caused by a quad bruise, scored 33 points and Jaylen Brown had 26, one off his career and season highs in the win, which followed the team's worst effort of the year in Monday night's loss at Chicago.

"It's always something that you want to build towards as a team, being able to respond and come out, especially on our home floor, and compete," Irving said after the Celtics improved to 24-6. "We started off the game, they were really comfortable, we weren't getting stops the way we wanted to. They were in a great rhythm and we just had to be resilient practically the whole night and just kind of weather their storms.

"They kept coming and kept coming and we had to outscore them at some points because some of those guys got hot and they had some offensive boards but we were pretty resilient tonight."

The Nuggets (15-13) hit their first six shots and had a seven-point first-quarter lead but the Celtics overcame a career-high 36 points by Gary Harris and 28 by Jamal Murray to win a battle between teams hit by the injury bug.

The Nuggets, finishing 2-4 on a six-game road trip, came in with four players averaging between 15.1 and 15.6 points per game and were missing three of them. Paul Millsap (wrist), Nikola Jokic (ankle) and Will Barton (back) are averaging a combined 46.4 points, 22.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists. Harris was the fourth.

The Celtics, who lost Gordon Hayward in the opening game, were resting Al Horford (knee), while Marcus Morris (knee) is expected to be out for weeks.

Irving, who went 12-for-19 from the floor and 4-for-9 from 3-point range, dished out seven assists. Aron Baynes scored 17 points, Jayson Tatum had 15 and Shane Larkin added 14 in 17 1/2 minutes. Larkin was 6 of 6 from the floor and 2 of 2 from 3-point range, the first perfect shooting game of his career with at least six baskets.

Larkin scored nine points in a 2:36 span of the second quarter and had five points, a steal and a block during a 9-0 run that broke things open early in the fourth. He was a plus-14.

"At this point in the season I know when I'm going to go in there and I just have to provide that spark," Larkin said. "That's been my job so far this season, just to go in there, play hard on the defensive end and just take what they give me offensively and tonight I had my shot going early."

Said Stevens: "I felt like Shane's pressure kind of turned the game for us. He made it a little bit tougher for them to get into their stuff. Every action started a little bit higher because he was pressuring the ball."

Brown and Tatum combined to hit 15 of their 21 shots, also nailing four of their five 3-ppint attempts.

Harris and Murray combined for 42 shots, making 25.

"Heart, effort, hustle, determination; I saw that from most of our guys in the starting lineup," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "I thought Jamal Murray goes out and gets 10 rebounds as a point guard. I was really proud of our guys in this regard."'

But Murray, talking about Irving, said, "He's a great player and today he got the best of me."

Mason Plumlee scored 15 points and Wilson Chandler 14 for the Nuggets.

Marcus Smart had nine assists for Boston. Murray and reserve Kenneth Faried each recorded 10 rebounds for Denver.

NOTES: Boston F Gordon Hayward, who sustained a broken left tibia and dislocated ankle in the season opener, discarded his walking boot Wednesday and will stay out of it depending on how his foot responds. "Today has been awesome without the boot," he said. He is slated to miss the rest of the season, but there has been talk of a late-season return. ... Denver F Will Barton, who bruised his lower back in Detroit on Tuesday night, did not play Wednesday. ... The Nuggets go home to meet the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday but then have three of their next four on the road. The Celtics host the Utah Jazz on Friday and visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, completing a stretch of five games in seven nights.

[CLOSE]

Trail Blazers 102 vs. 95 Heat Final Recap

Lillard leads late rally in Blazers' win over Heat

-

Wednesday, December 13 at 11:52 PM (EST)

MIAMI -- The Miami Heat bench players, particularly Udonis Haslem, playfully acted as if they had fainted while watching a strong first-half shooting effort by teammate Wayne Ellington.

In the second half, the Heat wilted -- for real.

C.J. McCollum scored a game-high 28 points and Damian Lillard came alive late as the Portland Trail Blazers rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to defeat Miami 102-95 on Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena.

Lillard, who has scored more than 30 points 10 times this season, had been held to nine points through three quarters. But he finished with 18 points to help Portland (14-13) snap a season-high five-game losing streak.

"You almost hate (Lillard) having a pedestrian box score going into the fourth quarter," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Lillard, who finished the game shooting 5-of-14 from the floor. "You know he's going to put his fingerprints on the game in the fourth."

Lillard shot 2-of-8 through three quarters but had six assists. In the final seven minutes of the game, he made three free throws, two layups and one dunk ... and had no assists.

Portland coach Terry Stotts said Lillard's slow start had partly to do with Miami game-planning for him. But it also had to do with Lillard "reading the game".

"(Lillard) tried to get his teammates involved (early)," Stotts said. "When (Miami) trapped the pick and roll, he was finding the roll man.

"Then he tried to be more aggressive in the second half."

Miami (13-14) was led by Ellington, who had 24 points. He made 8-of-11 shots from the floor, including 7-of-10 on three-pointers.

"That's Wayne," Spoelstra said of Ellington, who was inserted into the game when point guard Goran Dragic picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game.

"Wayne is ignitable. He's going to run his patterns full speed every time as if the play is designed for him, even when he is potentially a decoy."

With a win, Spoelstra would have won his 454th game, tying team owner Pat Riley for the franchise record for coaching victories.

But given how Spoelstra's team was outscored 52-35 in the second half while shooting just 34.4 percent from the floor, his impending career milestone was hardly a concern.

Meanwhile, Portland won despite missing its top two centers. The Blazers turned to first-round pick Zach Collins, a 7-0 rookie who had nine points, three rebounds and one block in his first NBA start.

Early on, the Heat had the advantage as Ellington went 5-for-5 on first-quarter three-pointers.

Overall, Miami shot 52.2 percent from the floor in the first quarter, including 8-of-13 on three-pointers (61.5 percent). The Heat also held Portland to 43.8-percent shooting, leading to Miami's 33-21 lead.

Stotts said Portland made a key adjustment to Ellington in the second half. In essence, they didn't lose him in coverage and kept him from getting open.

"We limited him to three shot attempts in the second half," Stotts said, "and the one he made was well-contested."

That tight defense proved to be important as Portland won the second and third quarters, inching closer but still trailing 79-70 entering the fourth.

The Blazers took their first lead of the game, 89-88, at 6:10 of the fourth quarter on a three-point play by Ed Davis.

"We knew we were still in the game," Davis said after the Blazers extended their win streak in this series to four games. "We came out after halftime with that confidence and said, 'Let's chip away, chip away.'"

Davis said Portland played so poorly early that it should've been down by 20 points.

But by hanging around, the Blazers gave Lillard a shot to do his thing late.

"We had lost five in a row -- that's tough for anyone to deal with," Lillard said. "This wasn't a game where we came out, and everyone was making shots. We had to go get it."

NOTES: Portland is 7-5 on the road this season. Miami is 5-7 at home. ... Heat F Justise Winslow sprained his left knee in the second quarter and did not return. ... Blazers F Maurice Harkless (left quadriceps) returned after missing two consecutive games but did not score in nine minutes. ... Blazers C Myers Leonard (illness) sat out. ... Blazers C Jusuf Nurkic missed his third straight game due to an sprained right ankle. ... Heat C Hassan Whiteside (left knee) is expected to miss the rest of the month. ... Heat G Tyler Johnson sat out the game due to a migraine headache. Even though he is a reserve, Johnson is fifth on the team in scoring (10.8) and tied for fourth in assists (2.0). He is also second on the team in free throw percentage (91.5).

[CLOSE]

Bucks 108 vs. 115 Pelicans Final Recap

Cousins powers Pelicans past Bucks

-

Thursday, December 14 at 12:22 AM (EST)

NEW ORLEANS -- DeMarcus Cousins plays basketball in bold, broad strokes, perhaps because subtlety in the NBA usually is reserved for chumps.

The maddeningly talented New Orleans Pelicans center showed his entire yin-and-yang arsenal Wednesday night in a 115-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Smoothie King Center.

He scored a team-high 26 points -- including a 3-pointer from the left wing that sealed the game with 22 seconds left -- grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out seven assists and, not surprisingly, committed nine turnovers.

After finishing one turnover shy of a triple-double, Cousins said decision-making is something he is trying to work on. Cousins was a big reason the Pelicans were able to overcome 21 turnovers against Milwaukee, almost half of which he committed.

"I'm the main culprit of that," said Cousins, who is averaging 5.1 turnovers a game, most in the league next to Russell Westbrook's 4.7. "It just shows how good we could be if we just cut down half our turnovers. Just got to take care of the ball better, make better decisions. I definitely have to make better decisions with the ball. I take full responsibility for the high amount of turnovers."

With the bad comes a lot of good.

Cousins scored nine points in the final 8:12, a key reason the Pelicans (15-14) outscored the Bucks 28-14 in the final 10 minutes to win going away.

Cousins made another key play when he rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by teammate Jameer Nelson and one-handed the ball for a tomahawk dunk, putting the Pelicans up 106-101 with 4:20 left.

"I saw that Jameer was going to miss," Cousins said while laughing. "Something just told me to keep going. When it left his hand, it didn't look too good. I'm not the guy who's (normally) soaring above the rim, but the opportunity kind of presented itself, and I took advantage of that."

New Orleans' Anthony Davis, coming back from a left adductor strain that sidelined him for one game, added 25 points and 10 rebounds, and guard E'Twaun Moore continued his torrid outside shooting, making 4 of 6 from 3-point range to finish with 21 points.

Milwaukee (15-11) got a game-high 32 points and nine rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo -- his 12th 30-point-plus game of the season. However, the NBA's second-leading scorer was held to 11 points in the second half on 3-of-9 shooting.

"I thought we did a much better job of pulling in and taking away driving lanes," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "(Antetokounmpo) likes to drive the ball and then spin. We took that away from him. And then I thought AD did a great job against him, getting into him and being a little more physical with him and making him a jump shooter. We kept him out of the lane."

The Pelicans trailed 94-87 early in the fourth quarter after Milwaukee scored the first nine points of the period, but New Orleans outscored the Bucks 28-14 in the final 10 minutes. After using a 12-4 run to pull back in front 99-98 with 7:01 left, the Pelicans began to pull away, scoring nine of the next 12 points, with Cousins highlighting the 21-7 run with his one-hand rebound of Nelson's miss for the thunderous dunk.

Cousins followed up by feeding Holiday for a layup to put New Orleans up 108-101 with 3:39 left. The Pelicans made 13 of 25 3-point attempts, in part because of excellent movement (35 assists on 45 made field goals).

"We knew coming in they were going to shoot a lot of threes," Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. "We didn't do a very good job of taking that away. We didn't guard the 3-point line in the fourth quarter."

"I think they hit threes," Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon said. "Threes have been our killer for the last two years. They made threes down the stretch, and we didn't contest them. That hurts and that wins games."

NOTES: New Orleans G Darius Miller (3 of 5) has made multiple 3-pointers in 13 of his past 16 games. ... Milwaukee C Giannis Antetokounmpo has scored at least 30 points in 12 of 26 games this season. ... The Bucks have scored at least 100 points in 10 consecutive games, but they lost for only the third time in that stretch. ... Pelicans C DeMarcus Cousins had an ugly end of the first half. With the Pelicans milking the final seconds on the clock, holding a 62-61 lead, Cousins turned the ball over at the top the key and the fouled John Henson with one second left. Henson made two free throws for a 63-61 Milwaukee lead. In the second half, Cousins got into a shouting match with a fan sitting at courtside. "He was very disrespectful," Cousins said. "And he was a New Orleans fan."

[CLOSE]

Jazz 100 vs. 103 Bulls Final Recap

Balanced Bulls beat Jazz for fourth straight win

-

Wednesday, December 13 at 11:40 PM (EST)

CHICAGO -- From the instant Nikola Mirotic rejoined the Chicago Bulls lineup last week, he knew he had to add a spark of positive energy.

With the Bulls mired in a 10-game losing streak, Mirotic returned to the court and vowed to make a difference. He hasn't stopped since.

Mirotic scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Robin Lopez scored 16 as the Bulls won their fourth straight game with a 103-100 victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

The Bulls had all five starters reach double figures. Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn each scored 13 for Chicago (7-20), which also got 12 points from Justin Holiday.

But it was Mirotic who made the biggest difference, especially early.

"Right now, Niko has brought a confidence to this team," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "Whether he has come off the bench or whether he has started, he's gotten off to great starts.

Chicago has not lost since Mirotic returned last week after missing the first 23 games of the season with a concussion and facial fractures he incurred in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis in practice in October. On Wednesday, Mirotic made his second straight start as rookie Lauri Markkanen continues to be plagued by back spasms.

The Bulls held on despite struggling from the free-throw line, especially late when Chicago had the chance to put the game away. But Dunn, who struggled from the field in hitting only 6-of-18 shot attempts, hit a pair of late jumpers to help preserve the victory.

"I believe in my game," Dunn said. "The coaching staff believes in me, my teammates do. There's going to be times when there are bad games. I understand that, but I'm going to keep fighting."

The Jazz (13-15) got to within 102-100 with 4.5 seconds remaining. Holiday split a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining to put the Bulls up three before Mitchell missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

With that, the Bulls extended their winning streak, which is the longest active in the Eastern Conference.

"We have to keep building from this," Mirotic said. "We (have) some tough games now, but we have more chances (to win) now."

Donovan Mitchell scored a game-high 32 points to pace the Jazz, who also got 15 points from Rodney Hood, 14 from Ricky Rubio and 13 from Alec Burks.

Utah erased a 12-point second-quarter deficit and remained close until the end. The Jazz, who beat the Bulls by 30 points earlier this season at home, could not take chances of Chicago's inconsistency at the free throw line and couldn't hit the shots they needed to in the end.

"We're not a good enough team to be able to overcome some of those moments when we have a lack of urgency," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "There's too many of those moments."

With Mirotic leading the way both offensively and defensively, the Bulls continued to play with a resurgence of confidence that has been evident in their four straight victories. Hoiberg has seen his team feed off of Mirotic and translate it into a winning brand of basketball that had been almost non-existent before Mirotic returned.

Now, it's just a matter of keeping it going.

"Even when we went on the losing streak, our guys never stopped believing, they never lost their confidence," Hoiberg said. "Those guys kept coming in on a daily basis and getting after it and wanting to get better. That's the sign of a good group. They're continuing to grow and they're doing it together."

NOTES: Jazz G Rodney Hood returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing the last seven games due to ankle and Achilles tendon soreness. Hood was under a minutes-played restriction, but told reporters Wednesday morning that he's ready to return. "It's about time to be out there," Hood said. ... F Joe Johnson missed his 21st straight game with wrist tendon instability, but went through Wednesday's shootaround and felt comfortable in 1-on-1 drills, but remains out. Coach Quin Snyder said Johnson still can't take contact in practice, but is close to returning. ... F Jonas Jerebko was available on Wednesday after experiencing illness Tuesday. ... Bulls F Lauri Markkanen missed his second game with back spasms. Markkanen tested his back in pregame warmups and was scheduled to start, but was a late scratch when the back spasms flared up.

[CLOSE]

Raptors 115 vs. 109 Suns Final Recap

Raptors overcome strong effort from Suns' bench

-

Thursday, December 14 at 12:58 AM (EST)

PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Suns' reserves kept the game interesting, but the Toronto Raptors' starting lineup showcased too much firepower.

DeMar DeRozan scored 18 of his 37 points in the third quarter, and Toronto's starters totaled 99 points in a 115-109 win over the Suns on Wednesday.

The Raptors wrapped up a 3-1 Western Conference road trip.

"We had to fight hard for this win, and it's something we can learn from without it hurting us," said DeRozan, who recorded his sixth 30-point game of the season and 86th as a Raptor, second to Vince Carter (91) in team history. "We've had good third quarters this season, and the starters come out and get things rolling."

The Raptors got 21 points and 13 rebounds from Serge Ibaka, plus 20 points and 11 rebounds from Jonas Valanciunas. Kyle Lowry added 12 on 3-of-12 shooting, but it was enough for Toronto to overcome 55 points from Phoenix's second unit, including a career-high 32 points and seven 3-pointers from Troy Daniels.

"We talked about (Daniels) before the game, and he just shot lights out," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said after his team followed up wins over the Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings by sweeping the season series from the Suns for only the fourth time in team history. "We couldn't get consecutive stops and kept giving them confidence. But we found a way, executed down the stretch, got the line and made our free throws."

With the starters resting, Toronto let most of a 15-point, third-quarter lead slip away. Alex Len's basket capped a 12-0 Phoenix run to pull the Suns within 92-89 with 9:22 left.

"I felt like if we could just keep it to 10 points at the end of the third they'd have to go to their bench and that's where we can kind of claw back a little and we did," Phoenix interim coach Jay Triano said. "We had a couple of little lapses here and there, and we had a tough time with DeMar, who's an All-Star and tough to guard. They had more guys playing better than we did."

The Suns got as close as 111-109 in the final minute but the Raptors (18-8) made five of six free throws in the final 30 seconds to hold them off.

Daniels made seven of his 10 3-point attempts. He has 60 3-pointers this season, third behind Kyle Korver of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Wayne Ellington of the Miami Heat among NBA reserves.

"My teammates were finding me," Daniels said. "I had a couple go in early, which is very important, and the rest were just falling."

The Suns (9-21) lost their fifth in a row and are 0-4 since losing star Devin Booker to an adductor injury. Greg Monroe added 17 points and 11 rebounds, and TJ Warren had 17 points but needed 15 shots to get them.

The Raptors hit five of seven 3-pointers in the first quarter, and DeRozan and Lowry combined for seven assists on Toronto's 11 baskets. Valanciunas and Ibaka combined for 18 points in the quarter, and a 3-pointer by C.J. Miles with 31 seconds left gave Toronto a 37-31 lead.

"Our big played great," Lowry said. "They got a chance to play against their bigs, and they got the better of them tonight. They scored and rebounded the ball extremely well."

Phoenix's reserves outscored Toronto 29-13 in the first half and got a big lift from Daniels. He had nine of his 14 first-half points from three 3-pointers, the last one capping a 7-0 run to give Phoenix a 46-46 lead with 6:16 left in the half.

The Raptors came right back with an 11-2 run, and Lowry's first two points on two free throws with 17.3 seconds left gave Toronto a 58-53 lead at the half.

NOTES: With four injured players, the Suns received an injury exemption and signed G Isaiah Canaan to a contract. Canaan, who did not play Wednesday, has appeared with three other NBA teams, most recently the Houston Rockets. Canaan can play the point, where depth has been a problem since Phoenix traded Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 7. ... Phoenix C Tyson Chandler missed the game due to personal reasons. ... Toronto has played the fewest home games in the NBA (10) and won't have a road trip longer than three games or a road game west of the Central time zone for the rest of the year. ... Suns interim coach Jay Triano was 87-142 in three seasons as head coach of the Raptors (2008-11).

[CLOSE]

Hornets 96 vs. 108 Rockets Final Recap

Paul, Rockets run past Hornets

-

Thursday, December 14 at 1:40 AM (EST)

HOUSTON -- Earlier in the week, Houston Rockets guard James Harden insisted that backcourt mate Chris Paul assert himself offensively. On Wednesday night, Paul required no such prodding.

Paul ran roughshod with the second unit, and Houston parlayed a run bridging the first and second quarters into a 108-96 victory over the Charlotte Hornets at Toyota Center.

Houston (22-4) extended its winning streak to 11 games as Paul posted a season-high 31 points plus seven rebounds and 11 assists. He finished 5 of 9 on 3-point attempts and 10 of 16 overall, and he was the linchpin of a group that reeled off a 25-0 run to blow the game open.

"I sort of control the pace with that group," Paul said of being paired with the reserves upon re-entering the game late in the first period. "Early in the game, it's both me and James, and we both pick our spots. With that second unit, I dictate the tempo. I just take whatever is there."

Harden added 21 points and eight assists while Eric Gordon scored 17 points off the bench for Houston. The Rockets struggled catching a rhythm before Paul and the bench wrangled control late in the first quarter, turning a 21-18 deficit into a 26-point cushion with a relentless surge.

While Charlotte (10-17) managed just one field goal between a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist dunk at the 3:40 mark of the first quarter and a Kemba Walker pull-up jumper with 8:07 left in the first half, Houston scored 32 points during that stretch, including seven 3-pointers plus a three-point play.

The Rockets' 25-0 run started with a P.J. Tucker jumper with 2:07 left in the first and concluded when Gordon hit the Rockets' third consecutive trey at the 9:52 mark of the second. Paul scored 10 successive points at one point and later sank a 3-pointer before Gordon capped the rally.

"He was extremely aggressive," Harden said of Paul. "We just kind of rode that wave throughout the entire game.

"He's been having to play-make and get his teammates involved for the last several years. Now he doesn't have to do that consistently. He can go out there and get in his bag and shoot threes and show how his handles are crazy."

The Hornets were undone by their bench in the first half. As Houston stretched its lead, Charlotte's reserves totaled two points on 1-for-9 shooting. The Hornets' starters re-entered and managed to cut the deficit to 12 points, but that working deficit proved too large to overcome.

At the half, Charlotte reserve guard Jeremy Lamb and backup forward Frank Kaminsky were a minus-30 and minus-31, respectively, in plus-minus. Lamb finished at minus-32; Kaminsky was minus-38.

"We depend on them and we will continue to depend on those guys," Hornets associate head coach Stephen Silas said of the bench unit. "It was just one of those runs that's disappointing, but we've got to learn from it and move on."

Charlotte's Dwight Howard recorded a season-high-tying 26 points plus 18 rebounds and three blocks against one of his former teams. Kidd-Gilchrist chipped in 18 points and 11 rebounds while Walker added 13 points but on 5-for-15 shooting. Charlotte missed 17 of 21 3-point attempts.

Houston, conversely, was 16 of 35 on 3-pointers before going cold during garbage time in the fourth.

"That's their strength. That's where they're putting a lot of pressure on the league," Hornets forward Marvin Williams said. "They have guys that can shoot from all over the floor, and not just 3-pointers but 2, 3 feet behind the line. And they shoot so many of them.

"They have two great playmakers in James Harden and Chris Paul. They put a ton of pressure on your defense because they do have shooting everywhere."

NOTES: Hornets F Nicolas Batum missed the previous game with a left elbow injury but returned to the starting lineup and finished with nine points and nine rebounds. ... An added benefit to the Rockets' acquisition of G Chris Paul is the lessened workload on G James Harden. Entering Wednesday, Harden was averaging 35.9 minutes per game, his lowest in his six seasons with Houston. He played just 31 minutes against Charlotte. Harden led the NBA in total minutes in 2014-15 (2,981) and 2015-16 (3,125). ... Rockets F Luc Mbah a Moute dislocated his right shoulder after taking an awkward fall following a dunk late in the second quarter. Mbah a Moute is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Thursday morning, with the subsequent results to determine how long he will be sidelined.

[CLOSE]