NBA

Davis stars as LeBron's Lakers roll on, Kawhi reaches NBA milestone

By Sports Desk January 10, 2021

Anthony Davis led the way as defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers continued their fine form with a 120-102 win over James Harden's Houston Rockets.

Davis, who sat out on Friday due to a groin strain, returned to score 27 points in Sunday's victory against the Rockets in Houston.

LeBron James posted 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds as the Lakers won for the sixth time in seven games.

"[Tonight] was just A.D. being A.D. and just having him back in the line-up gives us a whole other dynamic both offensively and defensively," James said after the Lakers led by as many as 27 points.

Former MVP Harden finished with 20 points, while Rockets team-mate Christian Wood had 23 of his own.

It was a feisty game in Houston, where the Lakers' Markieff Morris and Rockets big man DeMarcus Cousins were both ejected in the opening half, while there were also five technical fouls and two flagrant fouls.

Kawhi Leonard reached a milestone after the Los Angeles Clippers held on to beat the Chicago Bulls 130-127.

Clippers star Leonard put up a season-high 35 points, including seven three-pointers, four assists and three steals to reach 10,000 career points.

Paul George contributed 28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for the Clippers, who snapped a run of back-to-back losses.

The Bulls were led by Zach LaVine's season-high 45 points away to the Clippers in Los Angeles.

 

Durant stars on return

Back on the court following a three-game absence, Kevin Durant scored 36 points and collected 11 rebounds, but the slumping Brooklyn Nets still lost 129-116 at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander inspired the Thunder with 31 points.

Julius Randle's double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds was not enough to lift the New York Knicks, who went down 114-89 to the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic (22 points and 10 rebounds) propelled the Nuggets with a double-double of his own.

 

Curry struggles

While the Golden State Warriors trumped the struggling Toronto Raptors 106-105, Stephen Curry was uncharacteristically poor. Curry was just two-of-16 from the field, while he made only one of his 10 three-point attempts for 11 points in 38 minutes.

 

LeBron, the sniper!

James produced a moment of magic to unleash Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with a stunning left-handed pass from deep.

Sunday's results

Utah Jazz 96-86 Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles Clippers 130-127 Chicago Bulls
Oklahoma City Thunder 129-116 Brooklyn Nets
Denver Nuggets 114-89 New York Knicks
Los Angeles Lakers 120-102 Houston Rockets
Minnesota Timberwolves 96-88 San Antonio Spurs
Golden State Warriors 106-105 Toronto Raptors
Miami Heat-Boston Celtics (postponed)

 

76ers at Hawks

The high-flying Philadelphia 76ers (7-3) visit the Atlanta Hawks (4-5) on Monday. Doc Rivers and the 76ers are set to welcome back All-Star Joel Embiid, but Ben Simmons is expected to miss out after a depleted Philadelphia side – ravaged by coronavirus and injuries – lost to the Nuggets.

Related items

  • Embiid wanted LeBron ejected for 'very dangerous play' as 76ers edge out Lakers Embiid wanted LeBron ejected for 'very dangerous play' as 76ers edge out Lakers

    Joel Embiid felt LeBron James should have been ejected for a foul during the Philadelphia 76ers eventful victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. 

    Embiid contributed 28 points as well as six rebounds and four assists as he played 38 minutes in Philadelphia's 107-106 triumph - a result that handed the Lakers just their second loss in 10 outings. 

    The center also picked up a flagrant foul for an elbow on Anthony Davis not long after James had been assessed one himself, having made contact with Embiid during an attempted dunk in the third quarter. 

    In obvious pain after landing flat on his back, the three-time NBA All-Star was not as effective down the stretch during a dramatic finish that saw the Lakers roar back to take a late lead, only for the 76ers to snatch the win thanks to a Tobias Harris shot with three seconds left. 

    Speaking to the media after the game, Embiid made clear LeBron should have been given a flagrant 2, which would have ended his involvement in proceedings. 

    "That's a very dangerous play," Embiid said. "I guarantee if that was me, I would have probably been ejected from the game. 

    "When you compare that to the one that I got, which I thought I didn't really hit him, I didn't elbow him. I might have touched him. But I don't think it deserved the flagrant, if you're going compare those two. 

    "Those are tough plays, and I just thought, you know, it should've been a flagrant 2."

    Embiid revealed how his sore back - an injury that has troubled him during this season - did not allow him to contribute as he would have liked down the stretch, the Lakers producing a 13-0 run to edge in front before Harris' game-winning shot.

    "I missed a couple shots. I just didn't have the legs. Not because I was tired, which I wasn't, but my back just didn't allow me to dominate the way I've been doing in fourth quarters," Embiid said. 

    Having seen his team improve to 13-6 for the season, 76ers head coach Doc Rivers revealed his immediate concern when seeing Embiid go down on the court, though insisted James was only making a "physical play", rather than anything more malicious.

    "First of all, LeBron's not a dirty player," Rivers said. "It was just a physical play, and they had to call the flagrant, I guess.

    "You know, all of the flagrants tonight... you can get a flagrant easy these days. But that fall was hard, and there was some concern there, for sure. 

    "The fact that Joel kept going, clearly he wasn't the same after that, as far as his movement. And we kinda knew that, and we used him a lot in pick-and-rolls because of that."

    James finished with 34 points and six assists during his 39 minutes, while Davis had 23 points. The Lakers will aim to bounce back when they travel to the Detroit Pistons next.

  • 76ers snap Lakers' perfect away record in thriller as Harden, Durant and Irving inspire Nets 76ers snap Lakers' perfect away record in thriller as Harden, Durant and Irving inspire Nets

    The Philadelphia 76ers topped LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers in a nail-biting finish, prevailing 107-106 against the reigning NBA champions.

    NBA leaders the Lakers had won a franchise-record 10 consecutive away games to open the season heading into Wednesday's showdown in Philadelphia.

    But the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers (13-6) handed the Lakers their first road loss thanks to Tobias Harris' 15-foot jumper with 2.4 seconds remaining.

    The Lakers rallied from a 100-86 with less than five minutes remaining in the final quarter, using a 13-0 run to hit the front for the first time since the opening period.

    But Harris and the 76ers had the final say in a thrilling finish at Wells Fargo Center, where the forward had 24 points and Joel Embiid posted 28 of his own.

    James led the visiting Lakers (14-5) with a game-high 34 points and star team-mate Anthony Davis contributed 23 points.

    James Harden and Kevin Durant put on a show again as the star-studded Brooklyn Nets outlasted the Atlanta Hawks 132-128 in overtime.

    Harden posted 31 points and 15 assists and Durant scored 32 points, while Kyrie Irving finished with 26 points away to the Hawks in Atlanta midweek.

    Former MVP Harden became the first Nets player with a 30-point, 15-assist game since Stephon Marbury in 2000, and Durant recorded his 15th consecutive 20-plus point game to start the season.

     

    Simmons with another triple-double

    76ers All-Star Ben Simmons put up 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a winning effort. It moved Simmons up to 13th on the all-time list for triple-doubles (31) – tied with Luka Doncic and Hall of Famer John Havlicek.

    Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo's 24 points and 18 rebounds lifted the Milwaukee Bucks past the Toronto Raptors 115-108.

    The Utah Jazz celebrated their 10th straight win – 116-104 over the Dallas Mavericks – behind Rudy Gobert's 29 points and 20 rebounds. Doncic's 30 points were not enough for the Mavericks.

    Bradley Beal had 47 points in a losing effort as the struggling Washington Wizards were beaten 124-106 by the New Orleans Pelicans, who were led by Zion Williamson (32 points) and Brandon Ingram (32 points).

    Chris Paul registered 32 points but the Phoenix Suns still went down 102-97 to his former team the Oklahoma City Thunder.

     

    Robinson headlines Miami's woes

    The Miami Heat are struggling to reach the heights of last season, which saw them make a run to the NBA Finals. Miami have lost four in a row following a 109-82 rout at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. Duncan Robinson was just three-of-11 from the field, making only two-of-10 three-point attempts for eight points in 36 minutes.

     

    Sabonis stays hot

    Domantas Sabonis was dominant yet again as the Indiana Pacers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 116-106. He recorded his sixth career triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

     

    Wednesday's results

    Indiana Pacers 116-106 Charlotte Hornets
    Cleveland Cavaliers 122-107 Detroit Pistons
    Sacramento Kings 121-107 Orlando Magic
    Brooklyn Nets 132-128 Atlanta Hawks (OT)
    Denver Nuggets 109-82 Miami Heat
    Philadelphia 76ers 107-106 Los Angeles Lakers
    Milwaukee Bucks 115-108 Toronto Raptors
    San Antonio Spurs 110-106 Boston Celtics
    New Orleans Pelicans 124-106 Washington Wizards
    Oklahoma City Thunder 102-97 Phoenix Suns
    Utah Jazz 116-104 Dallas Mavericks
    Golden State Warriors 123-111 Minnesota Timberwolves
    Chicago Bulls-Memphis Grizzlies (postponed)

     

    Lakers at Pistons

    James and the Lakers will look to bounce back when they continue their season-long seven-game road trip against the lowly Pistons (4-13) in Detroit on Thursday.

  • Christian Wood: Overseas castoff to potential NBA All-Star Christian Wood: Overseas castoff to potential NBA All-Star

    No player's journey to the NBA has ever been easy. Christian Wood's may just have been the hardest. 

    An undrafted player that was waived several times, including by a team in China, Wood has remarkably ascended into the upper echelon of the league behind a stellar first season in Houston.  

    The 6-foot-10 center is averaging 23.5 points and 10.8 rebounds in 12 games, and while he hasn't made Rockets fans forget James Harden, he's certainly offered a ray of optimism in a difficult season.  

    Through January 20, Wood had seven games this season with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Only Nikola Jokic, Domantas Sabonis and Nikola Vucevic had more with eight apiece during that span. 

    Wood and Philadelphia's Joel Embiid are the only players (minimum 10 games) currently among the league's top 25 in points, rebounds and blocks per game.  

    All signs point to stardom for Wood, who is a leading contender for the Most Improved Player award and is even receiving consideration for the 2021 United States Olympic team. None of this could've been predicted early in Wood's career when he had trouble just holding onto a roster spot and was a G League regular.  

    Undrafted in 2015 after two seasons at UNLV, Wood, 25, was given a chance by the Rockets but was never offered a contract. He made his NBA debut with the 76ers in 2015-16, averaging 3.6 points in 17 games but spent most of the season with Delaware in the G League. 

    Wood appeared in 13 games for Charlotte in 2016-17 but was let go after that season and then played for the Mavericks' and Suns' summer league teams in 2017.  

    With no NBA team willing to sign him, Wood accepted an offer from the Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese league. He would never play for them and was waived after the Sturgeons signed another former NBA player, Mike Harris.  

    Despite putting up impressive numbers in the G League for Philadelphia in 2017-18 and then Milwaukee the next season, Wood only played in 13 games for the Bucks and averaged 2.8 points.  

    Signed as a free agent by New Orleans in March 2019, Wood finally began to offer glimpses of his potential. He averaged 16.9 points and 7.9 rebounds in eight games, but the Pelicans decided to waive him on July 15, 2019. 

    Picked up three days later by the Pistons, Wood beat out veteran guard Joe Johnson for the final spot on Detroit's 2019-20 roster. A solid reserve most of that season with averages of 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, Wood's career truly took off when he was inserted into the starting lineup in early February following the trade of center Andre Drummond to Cleveland.

    In the final 13 games that season, Wood averaged 22.8 points on 56.8 per cent shooting and 9.9 rebounds. He even connected on 22 of 55 from three-point range, proving he can be an effective offensive player in a myriad of ways.

    Though Detroit hoped to retain Wood, the Rockets offered a three-year, $41million contract and the teams worked out a sign-and-trade deal. That contract looks like a stroke of genius now for Houston since they have no choice but to undergo a transformation with the trade of Russell Westbrook followed by Harden's blockbuster move to Brooklyn.  

    Wood is currently dealing with a sprained right ankle and has missed the past three games, but his first 12 have left quite an impression.  

    Wood is just one of five players since 1985-86 to accumulate at least 280 points and 125 total rebounds in his first 12 games with a team. The others on that list are Shaquille O’Neal (Lakers, 1996), Zach Randolph (Clippers, 2008), Charles Barkley (Suns, 1992) and Moses Malone (Washington Bullets, 1986). 

    Only Elvin Hayes (326 in 1968) and Harden (294 in 2012) have more points than Wood (282) in their first 12 games with the Rockets. That's a more productive start than Westbrook, Ralph Sampson, Tracy McGrady or even Hakeem Olajuwon had in their first few weeks with the franchise.  

    Missing time in an abbreviated season won't help his case for Most Improved Player but Wood is one of only two qualified players (appeared in 70 per cent of team's games both seasons) to have raised his scoring average by at least 10 points from last season.  

    Wood (+10.4) trails only Detroit’s Jerami Grant (+12.4) in scoring and leads in improvement in rebounds per game (+4.5) and ranks third in blocks (+0.88). 

    Among undrafted players, Wood (23.5) leads the league in scoring by a wide margin over Toronto's Fred VanVleet (18.9) and in rebounding (10.8) over JaMychal Green (6.7) of the Nuggets. 

    In matchups this season against Jokic, Vucevic and San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge – some of the game's best big men – Wood has averaged 24 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. 

    A lack of maturity certainly contributed to Wood's difficulty in landing a regular NBA role early in his career, as did a lack of on-court focus at times. But those issues seem to be a thing of the past and Wood's future is very bright given his youth, athletic ability and skill set that seems tailor made for the modern NBA. 

    Wood will have a difficult time becoming an All-Star in a stacked Western Conference but that his name is even being mentioned among the NBA's elite is rather incredible for a player that the mighty Sturgeons had no use for. 

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