NBA

Los Angeles Clippers win eighth straight

By Sports Desk December 19, 2023

James Harden scored a season-high 35 points to lead the scorching Los Angeles Clippers to an eighth consecutive win with Monday's 151-127 blowout of the Indiana Pacers.

Kawhi Leonard added 28 points and Paul George had 27 as the Clippers' two other stars also had big nights to keep the league's hottest team rolling. Harden chipped in nine assists as well, while Ivica Zubac compiled an 18-point, 16-rebound double-double.

The Clippers took control with a 10-0 second-quarter run that gave them a 67-57 lead with under 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half, then headed into the break with a 77-66 advantage.

Los Angeles then outscored the Pacers by a 37-28 margin in the third quarter to stretch the margin further, and Harden ended any hopes of an Indiana comeback by putting up 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the fourth.

The Pacers lost their fourth straight game despite a career-high 34 points from Bennedict Mathurin. Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana's leading scorer for the season, dished out 11 assists but was held to eight points on 3-of-12 shooting. 

Nuggets blow out Mavericks in clash of West contenders

Jamal Murray scored 22 points, Aaron Gordon tied a season high with 21, and the Denver Nuggets cruised to a 130-104 win over the short-handed Dallas Mavericks in a showdown between two of the Western Conference's top teams.

The defending NBA champion Nuggets shot 56.3 per cent from the field and led from start to finish en route to a fourth victory in five games. Reggie Jackson delivered 20 points off the bench on 9-of-12 shooting, while Gordon finished 7 of 9 and Murray was perfect on four attempts from 3-point range.

Dallas got 38 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists from Luka Dončić, but couldn't overcome the absence of fellow star Kyrie Irving as well as key contributors Josh Green and Dereck Lively and lost for the second time in three games.

Gordon had 16 first-half points as the Nuggets took a 68-59 lead into the break, then extended their advantage to 20 points after a 10-0 run late in the third quarter put the Mavericks at a 94-74 deficit.

Denver then rested its entire starting lineup in the fourth quarter while building a lead as large as 36 points.

Bulls continue surge, snap 76ers' six-game winning streak

Coby White racked up 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists as the Chicago Bulls continued their recent hot play and cooled off the Philadelphia 76ers with a 108-104 victory.

Chicago has now won six of its last nine games following a 5-14 start despite two-time All-Star Zach LaVine being sidelined by a foot injury. Nikola Vucevic had 23 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls, who had a 12-point lead after three quarters reduced to one late before holding on.

The 76ers had a six-game winning streak halted despite another huge performance from Joel Embiid, who totalled 40 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. 

Tyrese Maxey added 29 points and eight assists, but no other Philadelphia player managed more than eight points.

White had 16 first-half points as Chicago took a 55-44 lead into the break. Chicago was up 81-69 entering the fourth quarter before the 76ers rallied late to pull within 105-104 on a Maxey 3-pointer with 33.2 seconds left.

Embiid misfired on two shots afterward, though, and Chicago's DeMar DeRozan sealed the game by making three of four free throws in the final stages.

 

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    The New York Knicks are under no illusions as to the importance of securing home-court advantage for the Eastern Conference playoffs, with Friday's win over the Brooklyn Nets keeping them in the hunt for the second seed.

    The Knicks drew level with the Milwaukee Bucks at 49-32 with their 111-107 win at Madison Square Garden, boosting their chances of playing at the iconic venue through the postseason.

    Jalen Brunson put up 30 points and added 11 assists as the Knicks made it four straight victories, with Josh Hart adding 16 and Mitchell Robinson tacking on 15.

    The result saw New York secure a top-four seed, with the Bucks' subsequent 125-107 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder keeping their chances of finishing second in the East alive.

    With the Bucks possessing the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Knicks must beat the Chicago Bulls in their season finale on Sunday and hope Milwaukee lose on the road against the Orlando Magic. If both teams lose, the Cleveland Cavaliers could yet usurp them.

    Asked about the importance of playing at home, Hart said: "I heard the lights are really bright at MSG during that time, so it's really big for us."

    Coach Tom Thibodeau, though, said the team cannot control anything other than their own results, saying: "We want to go through the finish line so that's the way we're looking at it. We want to improve and play our best."

    With Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined by a left calf injury and Damian Lillard missing out due to pain in his left adductor, the short-handed Bucks let the Knicks into the race with their loss at Paycom Center.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 23 points and Chet Holmgren added 22 as the Thunder eased to victory, establishing a 17-point halftime lead which they never looked likely to surrender.

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    "The good news is, no matter what, we'll be at home for game one. That we do know."

    That result was also an important one in the race to top the Western Conference, with the Thunder now locked in a three-way tie with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets.

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    "We just try to have a good day in the day that's in front of us, have a good possession in the possession that's in front of us, a good game in the game that's in front of us and just be very present in the process of improving and competing."

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    Joel Embiid shook off an apparent injury to finish with 32 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists and the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to seven with a 125-113 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday.

    Embiid had 21 points, nine boards and seven assists in the first 17 minutes but appeared to land awkwardly on his left knee late in the first half. He limped to midcourt and gave up on the play.

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    Franz Wagner scored 24 points and Paolo Banchero added 22 for Orlando, which dropped its third straight game. The Magic can win the Southeast Division with a victory over Milwaukee on Sunday.

    Spurs rally to stun Nuggets

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    The loss dropped Denver out of sole possession of first place in the Western Conference and into a tie with Minnesota and Oklahoma City. After tiebreakers, the Timberwolves are first, the Thunder and second and the Nuggets are third heading into the final day of the regular season on Sunday.

    Victor Wembanyama had 34 points and 12 rebounds for the West-worst Spurs, who trailed 76-53 early in the third quarter and were still down 17 early in the fourth.

    Jamal Murray scored 35 points and Nikola Jokić had 22 and 12 rebounds for the Nuggets, who close the regular season Sunday at Memphis.

    Thunder handle depleted Bucks

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 23 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder boosted their chances at capturing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a 125-107 win over the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks.

    Chet Holmgren had 22 points and nine rebounds and Aaron Wiggins added 19 points for the Thunder, who won their fourth straight and ended the night tied for the top seed in the West after Denver lost to San Antonio and Minnesota beat Atlanta.

    Milwaukee played without superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo (strained left calf) and All-Star Damian Lillard (sore left adductor) and dropped into a tie with the Knicks for the No. 2 seed in the East. The Bucks can still finish second with a win at Orlando on Sunday or a New York loss to Chicago.

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