James Harden has triple-double, Rockets top Clippers (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers entered their game against the Houston Rockets without star point guard Chris Paul and by halftime they were down another point guard and coach Doc Rivers.

James Harden had a triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists and the Rockets rolled to a 140-116 victory Friday night.

Clippers guard Austin Rivers and father/coach Doc Rivers were both ejected in the second quarter as Los Angeles dropped its fifth straight.

“(The Rockets) played great and it’s a shame that how beautiful they played will be marred by this crap,” Doc Rivers said. “Because they played great and we didn’t play well.”

It’s the seventh triple-double this season for Harden and his third straight 30-point game. Montrezl Harrell added a career-high 29 points to help Houston win its third in a row.

Raymond Felton had a season-high 26 points to lead the Clippers.

The Rockets had allowed what was once a 25-point lead to dwindle to six points early in the fourth quarter before scoring the next 13 points to make it 126-104 with just under seven minutes remaining. Harrell made six points to power that run and the Clippers went more than four minutes without scoring.

“They made some big shots and tough shots and got it to six,” Harden said. “We handled our business, made some shots and got some stops when we needed to and finished the game off.”

The Rockets had an 18-point lead later in the quarter when Harden hit Harrell with a bounce pass and he made the layup before crashing to the court to give Harden his 10th assist.

The younger Rivers was tossed after missing a layup and slightly pushing referee J.T. Orr with 6:38 left in the second quarter. He yelled at Orr and waved his arms at him after the ejection and was led off the court by a Clippers employee. When he got to the edge of the court, he tried going back toward the referee and had to be held back by the employee and pulled off the court.

Austin Rivers said the contact with the official was an accident.

“I would never put my hands on a ref. I have never done anything like that in my career and it was frustrating to me because he happened to be right behind me,” Austin Rivers said. “He knows I didn’t touch him like that … he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and unfortunately it cost me the game … and it was a big deal for our team me going down.”

During a timeout a few seconds later, Doc Rivers walked toward where all three referees were standing and began yelling at them. He was then ejected by crew chief Jason Phillips. The Rockets led 59-35 when the elder Rivers was ejected.

Phillips said that Rivers was ejected for using “extreme profanity” while complaining about his son being ejected. But Doc Rivers said that wasn’t the case and that he called the timeout because they saw an official call a foul on a layup Marreese Speights made on the play before the timeout, but didn’t give them the free throw.

“I said: `No you forgot to give us the free throw,”‘ Doc Rivers said. “I said: `Come on you guys don’t know what you’re doing.’ That was it.”

It was the second time the pair has been tossed in the same game after they were both ejected late in a loss to the Washington Wizards on Dec. 18. The coach has been ejected three times this season and it’s the fourth career ejection for his son.

TIP-INS

Clippers: J.J Redick returned after missing two games with a sore left hamstring. He had eight points. … DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Rockets: Beverley returned after missing one game with a bruised thigh. … Houston attempted a season-high 43 free throws. … Harrell has scored at least 10 points in four of the last five games. … The Rockets have scored at least 120 points in three straight games and 13 times this season.

CASSELL HONORED

Los Angeles assistant coach Sam Cassell was honored as part of a season-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Rockets between the first and second quarters. Cassell was drafted by Houston in 1993 and helped the Rockets to consecutive NBA titles in his first two seasons. A highlight video was played on the Jumbotron along with Cassell’s memories of his time with the Rockets. Cassell received a standing ovation when he was shown on live on the screen and welcomed back to Houston. Clippers coach Doc Rivers shook hands with Cassell after that before Beverley ran over and fist-bumped him before play resumed.

PAUL’S HEALTH

Austin Rivers started Friday with Paul out with a sore left hamstring. Paul missed three games with the problem before returning Wednesday night against New Orleans. He played 31 minutes in the loss and Doc Rivers said Paul experienced some fatigue after that game. It’s unclear how long Paul will sit out.

 

LeBron James, Stephen Curry captains as All-Star starters named

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LeBron James, you are on the clock.

LeBron was the top overall vote-getter in the NBA All-Star balloting by the fans (2,638,294 votes) and that — along with votes from the media and current players to ensure he was in — has him as one of the two captains for the All-Star Game (Feb. 18 in Los Angeles). Stephen Curry was the top vote-getter in the West (2,379,494 votes) and he will be the other captain.

This year those two captains will pick the team — playground style — first from the pool of other starters selected by fans, media, and current players, then from the list of reserves selected by the coaches (which will be announced next week). LeBron and Curry do not have to choose from their own conference, but here are the starters (two backcourt, three frontcourt players):

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Stephen Curry
James Harden
Kevin Durant
Anthony Davis
DeMarcus Cousins

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Kyrie Irving
DeMar DeRozan
LeBron James
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Joel Embiid

This is Embiid’s first All-Star Game, it’s LeBron’s 14th (one behind Kobe Bryant’s all-time record of 15). Anthony Davis is back after dropping a record 52 points in last year’s All-Star Game, and with him and Cousins starting it’s the first time New Orleans has had two starters.

In the East, Victor Oladipo and Kristaps Porzingis both just missed the cut (the players had him as a starter over Embiid, but the fans and media did not), and in the West it was Russell Westbrook and Draymond Green who were just on the outside looking in (the fans voted Green a starter, while the media had LaMarcus Aldridge in the starting five. All of them are basically locks to be selected by the coaches for the All-Star team.

Here is the voting breakdown, where each player’s score is weighted based on 50 percent for fan vote, 25 percent for player vote, and 25 percent for media vote [if you care, the formula to get the weighted score is (Fan Rank * 2 + Player Rank + Media Rank)/4].

Eastern Conference Frontcourt

Player (Team) Fan Rank Player Rank Media Rank Weighted Score
1. *#LeBron James (Cleveland)      1      2      1      1.25
2. *Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)      2      1      1      1.5
3. *Joel Embiid (Philadelphia)      3      4      3      3.25
4. Kristaps Porzingis (New York)      4      3      4      3.75
5. Kevin Love (Cleveland)      5      6      7      5.75
6. Al Horford (Boston)      7      8      5      6.75
7. Andre Drummond (Detroit)      9      5      6      7.25
8. Jayson Tatum (Boston)      6      12      8      8.0
9. Enes Kanter (New York)      8      9      8      8.25
10. Dwight Howard (Charlotte)      10      13      8      10.25

 

Eastern Conference Guards

Player (Team) Fan Rank Player Rank Media Rank Weighted Score
1. *Kyrie Irving (Boston)      1      1      1      1.0
2. *DeMar DeRozan (Toronto)      2      2      2      2.0
3. Victor Oladipo (Indiana)      4      3      3      3.5
4. Ben Simmons (Philadelphia)      3      6      6      4.5
5. John Wall (Washington)      6      4      4      5.0
6. Bradley Beal (Washington)      9      5      4      6.75
7. Isaiah Thomas (Cleveland)      7      9      6      7.25
8. Kyle Lowry (Toronto)      8      7      6      7.25
9. Dwyane Wade (Cleveland)      5      15      6      7.75
10. Eric Bledsoe (Milwaukee)      12      10      6      10.0

 

*–Voted to start
#–Team captain

Western Conference Frontcourt

Player (Team) Fan Rank Player Rank Media Rank Weighted Score
1. *Kevin Durant (Golden State)      1      1      1      1.0
2. *Anthony Davis (New Orleans)      3      2      2      2.5
3. *DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans)      4      3      4      3.75
4. Draymond Green (Golden State)      2      7      6      4.25
5. Paul George (Oklahoma City)      5      6      7      5.75
6. LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio)      8      4      3      5.75
7. Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota)      9      5      4      6.75
8. Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio)      6      8      9      7.25
9. Carmelo Anthony (Oklahoma City)      7      9      9      8.0
10. Kyle Kuzma (L.A. Lakers)      10      12      9      10.25

    

Western Conference Guards

Player (Team) Fan Rank Player Rank Media Rank Weighted Score
1. *#Stephen Curry (Golden State)      1      1      2      1.25
2. *James Harden (Houston)      3      2      1      2.25
3. Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City)      4      3      3      3.5
4. Manu Ginobili (San Antonio)      2      8      7      4.75
5. Klay Thompson (Golden State)      5      9      5      6.0
6. Chris Paul (Houston)      7      7      5      6.5
7. Damian Lillard (Portland)      8      4      7      6.75
8. Jimmy Butler (Minnesota)      9      6      4      7.0
9. Devin Booker (Phoenix)      10      4      7      7.75
10. Lonzo Ball (L.A. Lakers)      6      13      7      8.0

 

*–Voted to start
#–Team captain

Pharrell and N.E.R.D to headline NBA All-Star halftime show

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NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA announced Thursday that 11-time Grammy winner Pharrell and his hip-hop-rock band N.E.R.D will headline the halftime show at the 2018 NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles next month.

Fergie, who has eight Grammys, will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to tip-off. Canadian rockers Barenaked Ladies will perform the national anthem of their home country.

The Feb. 18 game will air live at 8 p.m. Eastern on TNT from the Staples Center. It will be seen in more than 200 countries.

Pharrell and the band, which released its fifth studio album last month, will perform a medley of chart-topping hits. Fergie released her second full-length album, “Double Dutchess,” and a companion visual album in September. She is a host of the new Fox show “The Four: Battle for Stardom.”

Kevin Hart will open the night.

 

Magic’s Aaron Afflalo suspended two games for swing at Nemanja Bjelica

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This wasn’t two guys yelling into a locker room after a game, this was an actual fight. With an actual haymaker punch being thrown — and missing.

Aaron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica had been going back-and-forth all game Tuesday night, then it bubbled over when Jamal Crawford missed a jumper, Bjelica charged right at Afflalo while going for an offensive board, Afflalo blocked him like an offensive lineman, and then it got out of control.

The league announced Thursday that Afflalo has been suspended two games for throwing a haymaker. Both men were ejected from that game, but there is no further punishment for Bjelica (which is fair, Afflalo was the instigator here, Bjelica ended it with a headlock).

Glad to see this suspension was more than one game — if Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green get two games for an incident where there wasn’t a punch thrown, this had to be at least equal to that.

LeBron James says this season has been “most challenging” one

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Kyrie Irving is gone. His replacement, Isaiah Thomas, missed the first couple months of the season and is still trying to get into game shape and find his groove on the court with a new team. Other players have missed games, Kevin Love has moved to center, and the Cavaliers have looked older and slower — particularly on defense — and with that the cloud of LeBron James potentially leaving the team this summer gets darker and darker.

Throw in that LeBron — in his 15th NBA season — is eighth in the entire league in total minutes played, and his usage rate is 10th in the league when he is on the floor, and you can feel the burden on him.

LeBron has responded with an MVP-level season, but as the Cavaliers have struggled going 2-8 in their last 10 games, he admitted to Dave McMenamin of ESPN that this season has been very hard.

“It’s been very challenging,” James said after practice Wednesday. “Just from the simple fact of how many guys have been in and out. This is a difficult year for our team. Seems like I say that every year, but this one has been even more challenging.

“With everybody who has been out and coming back in, and the rotations, and things of that nature, it’s been very challenging on our team. But we have to figure it out. At the end of the day, we have a game every other day or every two days just like everybody else in the NBA. We have to go out and play.”

The roster shakeup of losing Irving — and with Thomas still trying to find his spots with this team after missing so much time — along with the other injuries is hard to underestimate. This goes beyond the usual mid-season Cavaliers malaise, with this roster they don’t have the offense to cover up the glaring defensive issues that have plagued them since last season (they were 29th in the NBA in defense after the All-Star break last season).

Also, LeBron’s comment seems to be part of the Cavaliers coming to the realization that they are not good enough to win a title with this team as constructed. In past years they believed if they got it together they could compete with anyone, after Monday’s loss to the Warriors they seem to realize that is not the case. Maybe that attitude changes come the playoffs — get out of the East, which they still have to be favorites to do, and they get a shot — but reality seems to have hit this roster.