Houston tied it at 102 on Harden’s 3 with 2:10 remaining, but DeRozan restored Toronto’s lead with a jump shot with 1:49 left.
Paul missed a go-ahead 3 with 14 seconds to play, then fouled Lowry in the scramble for the rebound. Lowry made both, giving the Raptors a 106-102 lead with 10 seconds to go.
Gordon answered with a 3, making it a one-point game. Houston fouled Valanciunas, who made a pair to put Toronto up by 3 with 5.4 seconds to go.
Harden got the final shot but his deep 3 from the edge of the center court circle went short, giving the Raptors the win.
Lowry connected on his first five shots and scored 13 points in the opening quarter as Toronto led 32-16. The Rockets missed eight of their first 10 field goal attempts and shot 6 for 21 in the first, missing all five 3-point attempts. It was Houston’s lowest-scoring first quarter of the season and just the second time they’ve failed to score at least 20 points in the first.
Harden scored nine points in the second but the Rockets continued to struggle from long range, making one of four 3-point shots. DeRozan had seven points for the Raptors, who led 58-43 at halftime.
Houston’s only lower-scoring first half this season was a 39-point effort in a Feb. 26 win at Utah.
The Rockets were 1 for 12 from 3-point range before Harden drained back-to-back shots with 2:48 left in the third. Harden scored 14 in the third, overcoming nine points from Lowry, as Houston cut the deficit to 83-75 after three.
Rockets: F Ryan Anderson (left hip) missed his sixth straight game. … Joe Johnson returned after missing the previous two games because of an illness. … The Rockets had 62 points in the paint.
Raptors: Forward OG Anunoby (sprained right ankle) missed his fourth straight game. … G Delon Wright (sprained right big toe) was unavailable after leaving Wednesday’s win at Detroit. Wright initially suffered the injury in Tuesday’s home win over Atlanta.
Rockets: Visit Dallas on Sunday. Houston has won seven straight in the series, its third-longest streak all-time.
Los Angeles –Devin Booker‘s Suns have the NBA’s worst record (18-41).
“I think everyone is fed up with the losing, from the top to the bottom of the organization,” Booker said this afternoon. “So, for us, it’s what’s next?”
A 3-point contest victory.
Overcoming Phoenix’s poor record to draw an invite to All-Star Saturday Night, Booker won the 3-point contest with a whopping 29 points in the final round.
That score left little margin for 2016 champion Klay Thompson, who capped the event with a 25-point round that was otherwise the night’s high. Clippers forward Tobias Harris, in his new home arena, finished third.
Booker was all smiles after the rare victory.
“Season not going how we planned, but I know a lot of the city was ready for this All-Star Weekend, having somebody participate,” Booker said. “So, I’m glad I could win it.
Where he and the Suns go from here is still questionable, but he has a plan.
“I’m going to win the dunk contest next year,” Booker said. “No, I’m just kidding.”
Usually, this spot is our three things to know from the night before in the NBA, but for one day we’re changing our focus onto something to look forward to — three things to be excited about for the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
1. Dunks and threes — All-Star Saturday night is better than the big game itself. We all know this is true, can we just admit it. Sure, the actual All-Star Game on Sunday has all the biggest names (of non-injured players) in one place, but it’s not basketball. Not in any sense we recognize. It’s an exhibition played with less defensive effort than the average pickup game at the Y. We get to see dunks and slick passes, but it feels hollow.
All-Star Saturday, on the other hand, is genuinely competitive. Light-hearted, skills competitions only, but at least genuinely competitive. It’s way more entertaining.
Then there’s the highlight of the night, the dunk contest — every year I get my hopes up (and most years those hopes get dashed). This one has serious potential. Three guards with mad hops — Victor Oladipo, Dennis Smith Jr., and Donovan Mitchell — and then Larry Nance Jr., who has had a couple of the best in-game dunks of the past two seasons (plus his dad won the Dunk Contest). This should be high-flying and intense.
It will be the best show of the weekend… well, outside the Kendrick Lamar performance across the street. It’s all the stuff around the big game that makes the weekend work.
But this All-Star Game is about the future — it’s already here and taking over the All-Star Game.
Sunday we will see All-Star first-timers Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns, Victor Oladipo, Bradley Beal and Goran Dragic. Then there are second-timers such Andre Drummond and Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s putting the best and brightest of the next generation out there on the big stage. Joel Embiid on this stage? He’s going to say/Tweet something that will have us talking all weekend. Even if the game and the Dunk Contest fall flat, Embiid alone will be worth the price of admission.
And that’s just the Sunday game — the Rising Stars game on Friday has Ben Simmons, Lauri Markkanen, Jamal Murray, Jayson Tatum, not to mention Smith Jr., Mitchell, and more. Sure, the Rising Stars game has less defense played than the All-Star Game — heck, the stationary defender cutouts used in Saturday’s Skills Competition may play better defense than we see in this game — but there is a raw energy in the USA vs. The World Rising Stars game that is just fun to watch.
3. The new All-Star Game format… it’s got to make the game better. Right? The last couple of years the All-Star Game has been such a dud in terms of effort, defense, and entertainment that the Chris Paul and the players’ union sat down with Adam Silver and the league office to figure out how to make it suck less. They decided to shake up the format.
No East vs. West. It’s Team LeBron versus Team Stephen Curry with teams those guys drafted (unfortunately behind closed doors, but the NBA will hopefully get that part right in the future). The draft already led to some drama — LeBron picking Kyrie Irving to be on his team, plus the reuniting of Durant and Westbrook on a team. James Harden throwing lobs to Joel Embiid. Antetokounmpo driving and dishing to Towns. There is so much potential with this format.
I doubt the addition of the increased payout to the winners ($100,000 per player) is going to motivate them much, and the winning team getting to donate more to charity is a nice touch but likely not doing too much. Rather, the hope is that pride — wanting to play for the guy that drafted you, against teammates and friends — will motivate the players. The dream is that will bring some level of effort and caring lacking in recent years.
We’ll see. I’m not sold. But it certainly can’t be worse.
Report: Clippers, Lou Williams reach deal on three-year extension
While we don’t know the final numbers, this likely be for three years, roughly $30 million, with that team option for the final season (similar to what Josh Richardson got in Miami).
That’s a fair deal for both sides. Williams has played at an All-Star level this season for the Clippers, averaging 23.3 points and 5.3 assists per game, picking up the slack when Blake Griffin was out injured (and again now, after he’s been traded). He’s running away with the Sixth Man of the Year award (although if Evans and Eric Gordon start fewer games the final 10 weeks of the season they could move into the conversation). As well as he’s played, at age 31 Williams likely wouldn’t have gotten more than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception as a free agent, and that would have been for a couple million less per season. This way he gets paid.
There was interest in Williams on the trade market, but no team was willing to give up the first-round pick the Clippers wanted in a trade, so Los Angeles turned its attention to the extension instead.
For the Clippers, they stay competitive for a playoff spot this season (especially if they don’t move DeAndre Jordan at the trade deadline, and it seems less and less likely they will, but they might find a deal for Avery Bradley). Then, even if they lose Jordan in free agency next summer, Williams will be on a tradable contract that other teams would want.
Paul George, Eric Gordon, Klay Thompson lead 2018 3-point contest
Eric Gordon is the returning champion from 2017, having beat Kyrie Irving. Gordon will have to fend off everyone from guards to power forwards in this season’s version of the high-scoring contest.
Here are the rules, per the NBA:
The JBL Three-Point Contest is a two-round, timed competition. Five shooting locations are positioned around the three-point arc. Four racks contain four NBA regulation balls (each worth one point) and one multicolored “money” ball (worth two points). The fifth rack is a special “all money ball” rack, which each participant can place at any of the five locations. Every ball on this rack is worth two points.
The players have one minute to shoot as many of the 25 balls as they can. The three competitors with the highest scores in the first round advance to the championship round.
Perhaps the oddest part of the whole night will be the fact that Gordon has the lowest 3-point percentage of the whole group. The Rockets wing is shooting 33.6 percent from the year, four percent worse than the next lowest contestant in Beal.
Could he repeat? The 3-point shootout is typically my favorite event of the weekend, so I’ll be looking forward to watching if Gordon can repeat.