Montrezl Harrell

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Stanley Johnson drains late three, Pistons beat Rockets 114-109

Associated Press
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HOUSTON (AP) — The Detroit Pistons gave some of their young and seldom-used players a chance to play Friday night, and it helped them beat the Houston Rockets.

Boban Marjanovic, Detroit’s 7-foot-3 backup center, led the Pistons with a career-high 27 points with 12 rebounds off the bench and Stanley Johnson hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 32.4 seconds left before adding two free throws to lift the Pistons to the 114-109 victory Friday night.

“It was great and we had a bunch of guys out there that really wanted to play,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “They weren’t bogged down by the way the season has gone. They had great enthusiasm to play. I don’t care when it is in the year or what the situation is that’s a big part of this is just having a great enthusiasm to play and those guys just did.”

The Rockets led by two after a dunk by Montrezl Harrell before Ish Smith made a basket to tie it. James Harden missed a 3-pointer on the other end, and Johnson’s 3-pointer made it 110-107.

Harden missed another 3-point attempt, and Johnson added the free throws to make it 112-107. Harrell added a layup after that but Tobias Harris tacked on two more free throws with eight seconds left.

Harden finished one rebound shy of a triple-double with 33 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. He said players getting rest was no excuse for what happened on Friday night.

“Whoever is in the game has to know what they’re doing on both ends of the floor,” he said. “And just go out there and try to execute.”

The Pistons used a 12-1 spurt, capped by four points from Marjanovic, to cut the lead to 94-93 midway through the fourth quarter. Houston missed seven straight shots in span before Eric Gordon ended the drought with a 3-pointer to make it 97-93.

A 3-pointer by Johnson tied it with about three minutes left before Harden made a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a layup by rookie Henry Ellenson to give Houston a 105-101 lead.

Ellenson finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds in his first career start.

Coach Mike D’Antoni rested starting center Clint Capela and said he’ll rest other players in the last three regular-season games after Houston clinched the third spot in the Western Conference on Wednesday.

However, Harden and Patrick Beverley won’t be among those who will sit out because they refused when he asked them.

Reggie Bullock made back to back 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to get the Pistons within 6. But Houston made the next six points to extend its lead to 93-81.

Smith got the Pistons within 1 point with a jump shot with about nine minutes left in the third quarter before Houston used a 10-3 run, with two 3-pointers from Harden, to make it 69-61 midway through the period.

The Pistons scored seven straight points, with five from Harris, to cut the lead to 76-73 with about two minutes left in the quarter.

But Houston outscored the Pistons 9-2 the rest of the quarter to lead 87-75 entering the fourth. Lou Williams scored the seven points in that span and Harden capped the run with a reverse layup.

Houston led by as many as 11 in the first half and was up 54-52 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Pistons: Michael Gbinije missed the game with a respiratory infection. … Smith finished with 20 points. … The Pistons had just six turnovers. … Andre Drummond had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Rockets: Harden made seven 3-pointers for his 35th game this season with at least four 3-pointers. … Beverley had six points and a career-high 13 rebounds.

THEY SAID IT

Marjanovic on his career-best performance: “I’m more happy because we won this against a very, very good team. We just played hard like you’re supposed to do.”

ANDERSON’S RETURN

Ryan Anderson returned after missing the last six games with a sprained right ankle. He had nine points, three rebounds and a block. D’Antoni said before the game that he’d limit him to 20 minutes in his first game back, but played him for just 13 minutes, where were all in the first half.

 

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

In crowd of young modern centers, don’t forget about Pacers’ Myles Turner

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Myles Turner heard the coaches — on AAU teams, at camps, wherever he showed up.

He just just ignored them.

Despite frequently towering over opponents growing up, Turner often drifted to the perimeter. In positional workouts, he joined the guard groups.

Coaches kept telling him to get in the post.

Where did he gain the confidence to overrule them?

“My shots were going in,” Turner said, “so that’s all the confidence I needed.”

Turner, now the Pacers’ starting center, has reached the other side. Drafted No. 11 in 2014, the skilled 6-foot-11 big man entered an NBA suddenly eager to embrace his style.

No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves) and No. 4 pick Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks) dominate the headlines from their rookie class, and the middle ground for Joel Embiid (drafted No. 3 by the 76ers one year earlier but debuting this season) puts him in a similar spot on the growth curve. But Turner also warrants attention. He’s averaging 15.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game on a team rapidly improving its playoff position rather than heading back to the lottery.

If it weren’t for the red-hot Wizards (31-21) — Indiana’s opponent tonight in a nationally televised game — the Pacers’ surge would draw more attention. Indiana (29-23) just won seven in a row before falling to the Cavaliers on Wednesday.

In fact, Turner leads the Pacers in Real Plus-Minus-based wins (5.72, 27th in the NBA). That’s not to say Turner has become Indiana’s best player. Paul George doesn’t lag far behind in that stat (5.32, 33rd in NBA), and his track record of excellence more than makes up for the difference. There’s good reason George is headed to his fourth All-Star game and Turner will be relegated to the Rising Stars Challenge in New Orleans. The only other Pacer in the last decade to participate in that even was George in 2012, exposing how badly this team needed Turner to emerge.

“We’re just scratching the surface with what he’ll be able to do in this league,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said of Turner.

In George and Turner, Indiana has two building blocks. Remember, a report about the Pacers rejecting George trade inquiries also said Turner was the only other player they weren’t open to dealing.

Jeff Teague has been exceptional since a slow start, and Thaddeus Young is solid. But both are 28, two years older than George. Teague is also headed toward unrestricted free agency this summer. Teague and Young could remain in Indiana long-term, but neither are essential pieces.

George and Turner are, and they offer endless possibilities for roster construction around them. George is an elite two-way player who can score inside and out and guard four positions. Turner is the prototypical modern center.

It’s hard now to effectively use centers who neither stretch the floor nor protect the rim. The real ideal is getting someone who can do both — and that’s Turner.

Just three centers have ever averaged 1.5 3-point attempts and 1.5 blocks per game over a full season: Anthony Davis (last year), Rasheed Wallace (four times, though he also did it as a power forward) and Raef LaFrentz (thrice). This year, six centers are on pace to do it:

  • Joel Embiid (3.2 3-point attempts, 2.5 blocks per game)
  • Brook Lopez (5.1, 1.7)
  • Al Horford (4.5, 1.7)
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (3.4, 1.5)
  • Anthony Davis (1.6, 2.5)
  • Myles Turner (1.7, 2.3)

Kristaps Porzingis and Serge Ibaka have also met the statistical thresholds in previous seasons and are again on pace to reach them this year, but both are primarily power forwards. In the new NBA, though, they could become centers in the coming years.

Of the bunch — including Porzingis — the 20-year-old Turner is the youngest. His potential is just so high.

He’s already much more comfortable beyond the arc than as a rookie, when he popped 2-point jumpers freely but hesitated to venture further out. He’s making 37.9% of his 3-pointers this year, topping any other 1.5/1.5 center.

The next step for Turner is defending the rim better when he doesn’t block shots. Though his rejections are helpful, he still allows opponents to convert at a middling clip when he’s protecting the paint. His defensive positioning should improve with time.

But don’t lose sight have how much Turner has already progressed in only a year. He would have established himself as a legitimate contender for Most Improved Player if Giannis Antetokounmpo weren’t going to run away with the award.

Turner already has more win shares this season (5.3) than last season (3.1). The only players who’ve surpassed their previous career high in win shares by more this season — Lucas NogueiraSam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell — barely played in previous years. Turner started half his games as a rookie. He’s taking a bigger role this season and playing even better within it — the holy-grail combination of improvement.

If not Most Improved Player this season, Turner is on track to receive plenty of accolades in the year ahead. Without altering his approach, Turner has come so far simply because the mindset about big men has changed around him. But he says a greater appreciation for his style doesn’t mean much to him.

“I never really cared what people thought,” Turner said. “I mean, I kind of just played my own game.”

Tony Allen has season-high 22 as Grizzlies down Rockets 110-105

Associated Press
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HOUSTON (AP) — Tony Allen scored a season-high 22 points, Mike Conley added 17 and the Memphis Grizzlies rallied from a 15-point, third-quarter deficit for a 110-105 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

Memphis led by two late in the fourth quarter before scoring the next five points, capped by a 3-pointer by Troy Daniels, to make it 110-103 with 26 seconds left. A dunk by James Harden came next, but Houston missed two shots after that to allow the Grizzlies to hold on for their third win in four games.

Harden had 27 points and nine assists for the Rockets, who have lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

Memphis was up by one in the fourth when Conley tossed a ball from about halfcourt as he fell into the front row of seats to Allen for a dunk. Conley hit a 3-pointer a few seconds later to push the lead to 101-95 with about 5 minutes left.

The Grizzlies scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter, with five from Zach Randolph, to go on top for the first time in the second half, 92-85. Houston got going after that, scoring the next seven points to tie it with about 8 minutes left.

The Rockets led by 15 after an alley-oop dunk by Montrezl Harrell with about 9 minutes left third quarter. The Grizzlies then used a 9-1 run to cut the lead to 71-64 with about three minutes later.

Houston hadn’t scored a basket in almost four minutes when Harrell made a jumper with about 5 minutes left. Consecutive 3-pointers by Eric Gordon helped leave Houston ahead 79-68.

It didn’t take long for Memphis to start another run as Gasol hit a 3-pointer after that to start a 15-5 spurt that got the Grizzlies within 84-83 with about a minute left in the third. Daniels had two 3s in that stretch and Randolph added one.

Sam Dekker made a free throw for Houston near the end of the quarter to leave Houston ahead 85-83 entering the fourth.

Houston made just 2 of 14 3-pointers in the third quarter and shot just 25 percent overall in the period, while the Grizzlies made 5 of 10 3s and shot 65 percent to close the gap.

Houston led 64-51 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: Allen fouled out with 3:35 remaining. … Randolph finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. … Daniels scored 13 points.

Rockets: Gordon returned after missing two games with a toe injury and had 13 points. … Harrell scored 10 points for his ninth double-digit scoring game in the last 13. … Coach Mike D’Antoni received a technical foul early in the second quarter. … Houston has scored 100 points or more in 28 straight games.

NO LOVE

Memphis forward Chandler Parsons did not get a warm welcome in his return to Houston, getting booed loudly every time he touched the ball. Parsons was drafted by the Rockets in 2011 and played three seasons in Houston before leaving for Dallas. He spent two seasons there before joining the Grizzlies this season. He finished with five points, two rebounds and two steals.

 

This story has been corrected to show that the Grizzlies have won three of four, not four straight.

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.