NBA

Harden erupts in Rockets' victory, Giannis bullies Knicks

By Sports Desk December 22, 2019

James Harden soared to fourth for 40-point games in NBA history on Saturday, while Giannis Antetokounmpo maintained top form in a big win for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Houston Rockets star Harden hit nine three-pointers and went 15-of-27 from the field to finish with 47 points in a 135-129 win over the Phoenix Suns.

Only Wilt Chamberlain (271), Michael Jordan (173) and Kobe Bryant (122) have had more 40-point games than Harden's 89, the 30-year-old having surpassed Elgin Baylor's 88.

Russell Westbrook contributed 30 points and 10 assists as the Rockets (20-9) extended their winning run to three games.

Two days after downing the Los Angeles Lakers, Antetokounmpo made light work of the New York Knicks in 123-103 victory for the Bucks (26-4) at Madison Square Garden.

The reigning MVP posted a triple-double of 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in 26 minutes for the Eastern Conference leaders, while Kyle Korver chipped in with 17 points off the bench.

Embiid lifts 76ers out of slump

Joel Embiid's 21 points and 13 rebounds led the Philadelphia 76ers to a 125-108 win against Washington Wizards, snapping a three-game losing streak.

Fuelled by Kawhi Leonard's 26 points, the Los Angeles Clippers strengthened their grip on second spot in the Western Conference with a 134-109 rout of the San Antonio Spurs.

Trae Young put up 47 points at Barclays Center but the Atlanta Hawks still lost 122-112 to the Brooklyn Nets, who were powered by Spencer Dinwiddie's 39 points and a double-double from DeAndre Jordan.

 

Batum blows cold

The Charlotte Hornets had just two starters, Terry Rozier and Devonte' Graham, reach double figures for points in a 114-107 home defeat to the Utah Jazz. Nicolas Batum failed to offer much help as the former first-round pick attempted four field goals and a solitary three-point shot in 30 minutes on the floor.

 

Thanasis soars

Bucks star Giannis had to share the spotlight in the Big Apple as older brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo produced a huge tip-in dunk in the fourth quarter.

Saturday's results

Houston Rockets 139-125 Phoenix Suns
Portland Trail Blazers 113-106 Minnesota Timberwolves
Utah Jazz 114-107 Charlotte Hornets
Brooklyn Nets 122-112 Atlanta Hawks
Chicago Bulls 119-107 Detroit Pistons
Philadelphia 76ers 125-108 Washington Wizards
Milwaukee Bucks 123-102 New York Knicks
Memphis Grizzlies 119-115 Sacramento Kings
Los Angeles Clippers 134-109 San Antonio Spurs

 

Nuggets at Lakers

After two successive losses and with LeBron James potentially missing due to a reported muscle problem, the Lakers (24-5) look vulnerable ahead of Sunday's game against the in-form Denver Nuggets (19-8) at Staples Center.

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  • Stevens pleased with Celtics' tenacity in comeback Stevens pleased with Celtics' tenacity in comeback

    Brad Stevens felt improved defense helped the Boston Celtics turn Game 5 against the Miami Heat to stay alive in the NBA playoffs.

    The Celtics rallied for a 121-108 victory over Miami on Friday to cut the Heat's Eastern Conference finals lead to 3-2.

    But Boston struggled early, trailing by 12 points, before a 41-25 third quarter helped them turn the game.

    Celtics head coach Stevens said improvement defensively was key for Boston.

    "I just thought we played with great tenacity defensively, and our offense followed suit," he told a news conference.

    "But they're very hard. It's easy for me to sit up and say to be at our very best and get stops on every possession.

    "This is a heck of an offensive team, a heck of a well-coached team and hard to guard."

    Celtics star Jayson Tatum scored 17 of his 31 points in the third quarter, with Boston going on a 20-3 run.

    Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra lamented his side's inability to slow the Celtics down.

    "We missed some open shots to start the quarter and then those turned into run-outs that got them going, those easy ones. This is a team that has great offensive firepower," he said.

    "When they see the ball go in the basket they started to get more aggressive and putting a ton of pressure on us in the paint, much like they did in Game 3 and we weren't able to shut that off, and they just carried that through."

    Game 6 is on Sunday.

  • Celtics stay alive with Game 5 win over Miami Celtics stay alive with Game 5 win over Miami

    The Boston Celtics stayed alive in the NBA playoffs with a 121-108 win over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

    Jayson Tatum (31 points and 10 rebounds) lifted the Celtics at the Walt Disney World Resort on Friday as they reduced Miami's series lead to 3-2.

    The win came after Miami made a better start, at one stage leading by as many as 12 points.

    Tatum scored 17 third-quarter points as the Celtics rallied on their way to a victory that kept them alive in the playoffs.

    Jaylen Brown (28 points) also starred, while Kemba Walker (15 points) and Daniel Theis (15 points and 13 rebounds) were also key contributors.

    Duncan Robinson (20 points) had put Miami in position in the first half before the Celtics' fightback.

    Jimmy Butler finished with 17 points, while Goran Dragic had 23 before fouling out.

    Coming off his Game 4 heroics, rookie Tyler Herro managed just 14 points.

    Game 6 of the series is on Sunday.

     

    Nuggets face Lakers

    Leading the Western Conference finals 3-1, the Los Angeles Lakers are a win away from a first NBA Finals appearance since 2010 ahead of facing the Denver Nuggets again on Saturday.

  • LeBron asked to guard Murray during 'winning time' for the Lakers LeBron asked to guard Murray during 'winning time' for the Lakers

    LeBron James took on the responsibility of guarding Jamal Murray down the stretch because he knew it was "winning time" for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4. 

    With the Lakers holding a four-point lead with just over five minutes remaining in the final quarter, and Murray on 28 points on 12-for-17 shooting, James switched onto the Denver Nuggets guard. 

    Murray was held to 0-for-2 shooting by the four-time NBA MVP, with his four points in the last five minutes coming from the free throw line. 

    The Lakers consequently closed out a 114-108 victory to move 3-1 up in the Western Conference Finals. 

    Asked why he put himself on Murray, James said: "I knew it was winning time, and Jamal had it going. The kid is special. He has an array of shots. Triple threat from the three, mid-range and also in the paint. 

    "For me, it's just trusting my defensive keys. Trusting my study of film. Trusting personnel. And living with the results. I told my team-mates that I had him and everyone else can kind of stay at bay and stay home. 

    "I was able to get a couple stops and we were able to rebound the basketball, which is the most important thing." 

    James is averaging 34.4 minutes in the playoffs, which is the fewest of his career – his previous low was 38.2 with the Miami Heat in 2013-14. 

    The 17-year veteran denied that having less time on court helped him stay fresh to guard Murray in the closing stages. 

    "I don't reserve any energy. I'm on the floor, I give it all I've got. If I need a break, I ask for a break. Coach has done a good job of getting me out throughout the course of the game," said James. 

    "I don't look at it as a reserve tank. I've got pretty good energy when I'm on the floor all the time. It's winning time and I don't have a chance or time to be feeling tired. 

    "I'm tired now. That's when I'm tired, when it's zeros on the clock. That's when I'm tired. I'm not tired during the game."

    Murray appreciated the respect the Lakers afforded him but felt the Nuggets, who have come back from 3-1 deficits to advance in the past two rounds, still should have found a way to win. 

    He said: "I mean, they switched AD [Anthony Davis] on me to be on him, too. 

    "Obviously, with LeBron I do the same stuff I do when I see [Alex] Caruso, when I see [Rajon] Rondo and KCP [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope], and Kawhi [Leonard], Paul George and Pat Bev [Patrick Beverley]. 

    "I mean, I do the same thing. Appreciate the respect, but we've got to win the game."

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