It’s foolish to pretend that the storylines surrounding this game won’t center around LeBron. Between the legacy, the attitude, the failure, the elbow, and everything else, LeBron being on the brink of massive failure is too intriguing not to focus on. It’s also foolish to think that LeBron’s performance in game six won’t be the single biggest factor in the game. LeBron’s had two great performances in this series, and the Cavaliers won both of those games. He’s had three lackluster performances, and the Cavaliers lost all three of those games. If the Cavs want to stay alive tonight, their franchise player needs to step up. There’s no getting around that.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Sam Dekker scored a career-high 30 points, James Harden added 29 points and 10 assists and the Houston Rockets leaned on their usual 3-point offense to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 119-95 on Saturday night.
Eric Gordon added 21 points as the Rockets built the lead to as many as 20 in the fourth quarter before easily coasting home.
Dekker, making his first career start in place of the ill Ryan Anderson, made 12 of 19 shots, including 6 of 11 from outside the arc. Houston shot 51 percent overall and 38 percent from distance.
Memphis struggled shooting the entire night, finishing at 37 percent and unsuccessfully tried to follow the Rockets’ long-range attack but converted only 9 of 34 from outside the arc.
Even with Dekker starting instead of his normal reserve role, the Houston bench outscored the Memphis subs 44-29 as the Rockets dominated most aspects of the game.
Houston took the lead in the first half and never really let up the rest of the night in bouncing back from a home loss to Golden State on Friday.
After missing their first seven 3-point shots to open the game, the Rockets converted a trio late in the first quarter to run the lead to double digits.
Meanwhile, the Rockets’ aggressive defense gummed up Memphis’ offensive flow. Houston defenders double-teamed Memphis and closed out on jumpers, resulting in the Grizzlies shooting under 30 percent in much of the second quarter.
That helped Houston stretch the lead to as many as 16 in the half before holding a 58-49 advantage at the break. Dekker already had 16 points to lead the Rockets, connecting on seven of his nine shots, missing only one of his three shots from outside the arc.
Gasol had 17 points to lead Memphis.
By the third quarter, the Rockets stretched the advantage to 91-72, and even when Memphis put together a bit of a rally in the fourth, it never cut the deficit to single digits.
Rockets: Anderson missed his third game with the flu. He sat out two games and tried to play in Friday’s loss to Golden State before leaving after nine minutes on the floor. .The Rockets used their 10th different starting lineup this season. .Despite the slow start from outside the arc, the Rockets ended the night 16 from 42 from 3. Houston has failed to connect on at least 10 3-pointers in only four games this season.
Grizzlies: Reserve G Troy Daniels sat out with a right knee injury suffered in the Friday night’s win over Sacramento. . F Chandler Parsons, who sat out Friday’s win over Sacramento for rest, returned to action, scoring 12 points.
The game featured two of the most successful teams playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Houston is now 11-1, while the Grizzlies, who beat the Kings on Friday, dropped to 8-3 on the second night of back-to-backs.
Rockets: Play the second game of a five-game road trip on Monday against the Bucks in Milwaukee
Grizzlies: Close out a three-game homestand against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
MIAMI (AP) When Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic barely beat the shot clock with a 28-footer to seal Saturday’s win, he retreated upcourt waving his arms, eager to coax more noise from the modest crowd.
Riding a three-game winning streak for the first time since last March, the Heat and their fans finally have something to cheer about.
Dion Waiters tied a career high with 33 points and Dragic added 25 to help the last-place Heat to a 109-97 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, who are headed the opposite direction.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd shook up his lineup, but they lost their fifth game in a row and second in as many nights. Following a defeat Friday at Orlando, the Bucks held a long players-only meeting that became heated at times.
“We have a lot of games to be played,” Kidd said after the latest loss. “There’s no reason to panic.”
Waiters went 12 for 19, including 5 for 8 from 3-point range. Backcourt mate Dragic went 8 for 13 and had six assists.
“Those guys were making so many shots I almost shot a 3,” center Hassan Whiteside said. “They take our team to another whole level when they play like that.”
Whiteside added 16 points and 15 rebounds while missing one shot. The Heat made 53 percent, just shy of their season high.
“Guys are playing better,” Whiteside said. “I don’t know what really got into guys, but I like it. We’re hitting shots we were missing earlier in the season.”
Miami improved to 14-30 thanks to its modest winning streak.
“It feels better than 0-3,” coach Eric Spoelstra said.
Kidd said the Heat’s record affected the Bucks’ performance.
“One of the things that we struggle with is looking at the team’s record and not coming out with that same intent if we’re playing Cleveland, if we’re playing Golden State,” he said. “That’s something we have to get better at.”
Following Friday’s players-only meeting by the Bucks, forward Jabari Parker said he wasn’t well received when he expressed his point of view. Parker was held out of the starting lineup Saturday for the first time this season for violating a team rule. Kidd declined to discuss the violation.
Parker had 16 points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench.
“It’s just a challenge, and I just try to be as positive as possible,” he said.
“I thought he did a great job,” Kidd said.
All-Star starter Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Milwaukee.
The Bucks led early, but Rodney McGruder and Dragic sank 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put the Heat ahead 68-56 midway through the third quarter.
Waiters barely beat the 24-second clock with a 3-pointer that made it 103-91 with 2 1/2 minutes left. Dragic’s buzzer-beater with 1 1/2 minutes to go put Miami ahead 106-94 lead.
Bucks: While Parker sat out the first quarter, Bucks rookie Thon Maker made his first career start, and guard Matthew Dellavedova started for the first time in 13 games. Maker had six points in 18 minutes, and Dellavedova had 15 points and seven assists.
Heat: Okaro White, who made his NBA debut Thursday after signing a 10-day deal, played 19 minutes but still hasn’t scored.
“His box score doesn’t really show the impact he had defensively,” Spoelstra said. “He finds ways to fit in.”
Waiters hurt the Bucks repeatedly with drives from the perimeter.
“I just try to play every game like it’s my last,” he said. “Tonight the coaches told me to be aggressive, be me, and do what I do best – get to the rim. I was able to do that.”
Guard Tyler Johnson sat out with a sprained left shoulder he injured in the Heat’s game Thursday. His status is day to day.
Bucks: Milwaukee plays at home Monday against Houston, which won 111-92 when the teams met Wednesday.
Heat: Miami plays at home Monday against Golden State, which has won five in a row in the series.
The San Antonio Spurs will be without Pau Gasol after he injured his hand during warmups against the Denver Nuggets this week. In light of a roster in need of a big man, the Spurs will reportedly move to sign veteran Joel Anthony to a 10-day contract, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Anthony, 34, played in 16 games last season for Detroit. He was in training camp with San Antonio this season, so he will have some familiarity with both their offensive and defensive schemes.
There’s no word yet on whether Anthony will actually see much playing time or if he’s simply slotting in as a backup.
Spurs fans no doubt want to see Davis Bertans move up the depth chart with Gasol out, so it’s possible that Anthony will simply slot into his space.
It’s also a possibility that Anthony supplants Bertans, who is playing just 9.9 minutes per-game this season.
NEW YORK (AP) The Phoenix Suns had more reason to feel good about their future, while the New York Knicks just missed a chance to escape their frustrating present.
Devin Booker scored 26 points and made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 31 seconds left, and the Suns beat the Knicks 107-105 on Saturday night.
“It was just an excellent pass by (Eric) Bledsoe,” Booker said. “I’m thinking he’s going to come off the screen but I’m always shot ready. He made a perfect pass, hit me in the hands and I just shot it with confidence. Ended up being a big shot, the last points of the game.”
Carmelo Anthony‘s attempt at a winning 3-pointer rimmed out as Phoenix snapped a two-game losing streak and handed New York its second loss in a row.
“That was a tough one to digest right there,” Anthony said. “We got the play that we wanted, got the shot that we wanted, got the look that we wanted, did everything but went in.”
Rose made a layup to give the Knicks a 105-102 lead, but Booker responded by drawing a foul on Courtney Lee and sinking both free throws to cut the deficit to one. Rose missed a jumper from the top of the key, P.J. Tucker missed a point-blank layup and Ron Baker missed a driving layup to set up Booker’s 3-pointer from the wing.
The teams traded misses before Anthony took the inbounds pass after a timeout and launched a 3 that spun around the rim before falling out to give the Knicks their 13th loss in 16 games.
Anthony scored 12 points in the third quarter, which ended in a 90-all tie. The Knicks eventually opened a 103-98 lead, their largest of the game, but couldn’t hold on as Jeff Hornacek fell to 0-2 against the team he previously coached.
Anthony led all scorers at the half with 19 points, but Booker paced Phoenix with 15 and the Suns took a 61-55 lead into the locker room.
Suns: Coach Earl Watson praised Tucker’s defensive ability. “The thing about defense is there’s no perfect technique. It’s all on intensity, passion, toughness and a lot of heart. He plays with that every time he touches the court. He’s one of our best players. To me, he’s the most underrated defender in our league, especially on isolations.” … Derrick Jones Jr. was inactive.
Knicks: Hornacek reflected on the first half of the season. “It’s been an interesting year, I’d say. It was a tough beginning with Derrick Rose missing a bunch early, part of putting in the offense and getting a new group of guys together as familiarity and he wasn’t able to be there for a big part of that so we were trying to win those first few games on the fly, Joakim with his hamstring early. There have been some distractions that we’ve had to keep the guys kind of together, the losing, minor injuries here and there. Overall, I think the guys have done a pretty good job of staying together. We still look at it when we have all our guys we still have a good chance.”
LINE THEM UP
New York went back to its original starting lineup of Joakim Noah, Porzingis, Anthony, Lee and Rose for the first time since Jan. 12 against the 76ers.
Actor Hugh Jackman and Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show” sat courtside during the game.
Suns: Visit Toronto on Sunday.
Knicks: Visit Indiana on Monday.