NBA

Surging Thunder hold off NBA-leading Celtics for another statement win

By Sports Desk January 03, 2024

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander poured in 36 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off the NBA-leading Boston Celtics, 127-123 on Tuesday for their fifth straight win.

Josh Giddey had 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Thunder, who have won eight of nine. During that stretch, they have beaten defending champion Denver twice, ended the Clippers’ nine-game win streak, beat West-leading Minnesota by 23 and now the Celtics.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 34 points and Jayson Tatum added 30 as Boston had a six-game winning streak snapped.

Oklahoma City opened a 108-90 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics rallied to cut the deficit to 121-119.

Giddey hit a pair of free throws with 12.1 seconds left to put the Thunder up 4 before Porzingis hit a deep shot in the left corner with 3.7 seconds left to make it a two-point game.

Gilgeous-Alexander sealed the victory with a pair of free throws with 2.8 to play.

Embiid leads 76ers in return

Joel Embiid tallied 31 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in his return from a sprained right ankle to lift the Philadelphia 76ers to a 110-97 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Embiid, who missed all four games on the 76ers’ holiday road trip, was 10 of 20 from the field and notched his seventh career triple-double in the third quarter. He extended his franchise records with 15 straight 30-point games and 14 consecutive games of 30 points and 10 rebounds.

Tyrese Maxey had 21 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 16 for the 76ers, who have won three straight and seven of eight at home.

DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 16 points and Andre Drummond had 11 with 17 rebounds.

Rozier helps Hornets snap 11-game skid

Terry Rozier scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter after missing a game due to illness as the Charlotte Hornets stopped an 11-game skid with a 111-104 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Rozier shot 13 of 24 from the field and handed out six assists, while Miles Bridges added 27 points for Charlotte, which played without rookie Brandon Miller (bruised left hip), LaMelo Ball (right ankle sprain), Gordon Hayward (left calf strain), Mark Williams (bruised lower back) and Frank Ntilikina (left tibia fracture).

De’Aaron Fox scored 30 points for Sacramento and Domantas Sabonis had 23 with 19 rebounds for his 15th straight double-double, tied for the NBA’s longest streak this season.

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    The return of Kawhi Leonard was enough to ensure there was positivity from the Los Angeles Clippers despite their loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

    Luka Doncic had 32 points, nine assists and six rebounds and the Mavs secured a 96-93 win to even their Western Conference first-round playoff series at a game apiece.

    Kyrie Irving added 23 points and PJ Washington had 18 for the Mavericks, who take the series back to Dallas for Game 3 on Friday.

    Leonard had 15 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes in his first game since March 31. He had not played or engaged in any contact practices during that stretch because of inflammation in his surgically repaired knee.

    He shot 7-of-17 but missed all five of his 3-point attempts as the Clippers fell short, but his return to action still came as a significant boost.

    "Kawhi is one of the best in the world," said Paul George, per ESPN. 

    "He is going to find his rhythm. We are going to find our rhythm around him. We feel good about it."

    George and James Harden each scored 22 points and Ivica Zubac added 13 with 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who shot 36.8 per cent (32 for 87) from the field and missed 22 of 30 from long range.

    The Clippers were ahead 73-67 with 9:32 remaining but the Mavs scored 14 straight points for an 81-73 lead. They did not relinquish the advantage from there.

    "Just keep trying to get a rhythm back and obviously try to win a basketball game," Leonard said about his return. 

    "We got pretty stagnant in that fourth quarter. I want to just be able to get a rhythm with the team and get a win.

    "It has just been about being able to get on the floor and shoot consistent days and being able to run the last few weeks.

    "I haven't been on the floor, so the last couple days it felt great and I was able to play.

    "This is my first game in 20-something days. We got to be better as a unit overall and it starts with me. And even if my wind is low, I got to find a way."

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    Rudy Gobert declared nobody wants to face the Minnesota Timberwolves' defense after they opened up a 2-0 series lead over the Phoenix Suns with a 105-93 win in Game 2 on Tuesday.

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    The Suns' woes were compounded when they lost guard Grayson Allen in the third quarter, the 28-year-old aggravating the right ankle sprain he suffered in Game 1.

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    On the only previous occasion on which Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in a playoff series, they went on to eliminate the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the first round in 2004.

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    "Don't count us out," Booker said. "It's a series for a reason." 

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