UPDATE 2:30 pm: Dwight Howard has flown to Los Angeles where he will get a second opinion on his back problems, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
He has had a previous MRI and there had been no structural issues, it was just muscular, according to both Howard and the team. While the Magic could use him to return soon, what really matters is that he is back when the playoffs start in two weeks. Orlando isn’t going to win a postseason game without him.
12:54 pm: The Orlando Magic will be without Dwight Howard for their key matchup against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night and may well be without him for their next two games as well due to back spasms.
Missing Friday is not a shock — Howard said Thursday he wasn’t sure he would be able to go — but the extra days are a surprise and we find it out via a tweet from Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.
#Magic C Dwight Howard out tonight against#Hawks & isn’t expected to play Sunday vs.#Cavaliers or Monday vs. #76ers.
Orlando has struggled at both ends of the floor without Howard, who has missed four of the team’s last six games since his back flared up. Yes, there is also plenty of Howard/Stan Van Gundy drama around the Magic, but Howard’s back issues are real.
The Magic are tied with the Hawks for the 5/6 seeds in the East, so Friday night is a crucial game. Although right now you may want to be the 6 seed and face Indiana in the first round and not the 5 seed that draws the red-hot Celtics. (Boston is two games back of Indiana and could catch them.)
What the Magic don’t want to do slide back three games and get caught by the 76ers — the Magic do not want to be the 7 seed and draw the Heat the first round.
Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)
The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.
Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!
Nicolas Batum zips pass between Tobias Harris’ legs to assist Frank Kaminsky (video)
ESPN thought they had a great double header on Wednesday, but those games were decided by a combined 49 points, you should have flipped over to Hairspray Live. Anyway, here are the big takeaways from Wednesday.
1) You can’t have a statement game in December. But if you could Cleveland, Golden State made them. Can we just skip ahead to Christmas when these two teams finally play each other? Plus by then my shopping will be done, and I’m dreading doing it. We’ve said before the Cavaliers and Warriors have established themselves as the best in their conferences and they made that point with authority on Wednesday.
Cleveland did it thrashing the Knicks 126-94. To be fair, the Knicks were on the second night of a back-to-back and were without Derrick Rose. But that is a small part of the disparity here. First, Phil Jackson may want to not try to piss off the best player on the planet. Just a suggestion. Beyond that, the Knicks have had a good season (12-10), but they match up poorly with Cleveland. They don’t have a good defender for Kyrie Irving. Nobody has a good one for LeBron (well, maybe the Spurs). Kristaps Porzingis struggles to defend in space, and Kevin Love can exploit that. I can go on, but you get the picture. Between beating Toronto Monday and this, the Cavs are back to exploiting their advantages out East.
Golden State made its statement by blowing out a Clippers team that had been the second-best team in the West to this point. The Warriors did it with defense first — Los Angeles shot 39.6 percent as a team. Stephen Curry did a respectable job on Chris Paul (15 points on 14 shots), Klay Thompson blanketed J.J. Redick (just four shots), and Draymond was built to guard Blake Griffin (12 points on 20 shots, with seven turnovers). The Warriors anticipated the Clippers skip passes and turned those into transition chances (Golden State won the fast break points battle 27-11). The Warriors didn’t even have a great night on offense — Curry was 0-of-8 from three — and won 115-98 (and it wasn’t that close). Still, the Warriors ball movement was there.
Marreese Speights is in a unique position — the Clippers backup big was with the Warriors the past few seasons, and he was honest and harsh in his assessment of the differences between these teams.
2) Giannis Antetokounmpo got a triple-double on an off night. He’s that good. Portland is not a good defensive team. Improved with Al-Farouq Aminu healthy and back on the court, but still not good. However, their defensive strategy of having their bigs play back and not press high off picks works against Giannis Antetokounmpo because you want to make him a jump shooter anyway — and the Greek Freak was notably frustrated at times Wednesday night.
And he still had a triple double of 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. He’s playing that well. Look at it this way, in a Westbrook/Harden world Antetokounmpo is the only NBA player averaging more than 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals a game this season.
The real story for the Bucks was the 27 from Jabari Parker, that’s the reason Milwaukee beat Portland 115-107.
3) Kemba Walker needs to be an All-Star, he got Hornets a win over Pistons. Charlotte shot 34.1 percent Wednesday night, no way they should get a win in that situation. But alas, there was Kemba Walker, who had 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter sparking a Charlotte win, 87-77. Walker is averaging 23.6 shots per game, is shooting a career-best 41.4 percent from three, has a true shooting percentage of 58.2 percent (well above the league average), and is the everything for the Hornet’s offense.
The man deserves to be playing in New Orleans in the All-Star Game this year. I know the East is loaded with quality point guards — Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall — but Kemba has earned the recognition this year.
Warriors rout Clippers 115-98 for 7th straight win over LA
LOS ANGELES (AP) —Klay Thompson scored 24 points, Draymond Green added 22 points and the Golden State Warriors routed the Clippers 115-98 on Wednesday night for their seventh straight win over Los Angeles.
Stephen Curry had 19 points for Golden State, and Kevin Durant, who came averaging a team-best 27.0 points, was held to 16 on 5-of-17 shooting.
Curry failed to make a 3-pointer for just the second time this season, going 0 of 8. The Warriors were 7 of 30 from long range.
Jamal Crawford scored 21 points for the Clippers, who have lost five of seven. Four of their seven overall losses have come at home.