Kurt Helin

Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Kobe Bryant reaches 33,000 point plateau

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If you decided to go to bed early and turned off the late TNT game when the Kings were up by 27 on the Lakers, you missed a heck of a comeback and ending. Don’t let it happen again. To help out, here are three things you need to know from a four-game slate in the NBA Thursday.

1) Kobe Bryant becomes third player ever to reach 33,000 points in his career. Author Roland Lazenby said in the latest PBT Podcast that the way Kobe has come back this season from the dreadful start to this season — when many said he should just walk away from the game now — to playing respectable basketball with flashes of vintage Kobe has been one of his most impressive feats. In a career loaded with impressive achievements. Kobe needed to leave the game on his own terms and his grinding, hard-working style has served him well again because he has gotten his legs under him and he can make some plays.

Bryant dropped 28 on the Kings Thursday, doing so in 18 shots. Along the way he scored his 33,000th career point — only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have crossed that threshold. Kobe just continues to put on a show, even on his way out the door.

2) The Lakers’ young stars made it a game, but DeMarcus Cousins was too much in the end. Kobe may have entertained, but the Sacramento Kings were smacking the Lakers around when he was in the game. Then in the fourth quarter, the Lakers made a 21-4 run behind a lineup of Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell, Anthony Brown, and Brandon Bass. Four of the young players the Lakers are grooming and one solid NBA veteran big. Clarkson had a dozen points in the fourth and Russell had 11 (until he had to leave the game with what is described by the team as a moderate ankle sprain). They made it a game and Byron Scott wisely stuck with them until the end.

But in the end, it was too much Sacramento, and too much DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings’ franchise cornerstone had a key late offensive rebound and assist, plus hit free throws down the stretch to round out his 29-point, 10 rebound, seven assist night. Throw in a key late steal by Rajon Rondo and the Kings got a much-needed win at home — the Kings are just half a game behind Utah for the final playoff spot in the West, they need to rack up wins in games like this to make the postseason.

3) James Harden dropped 33 on Utah and Houston got the win. Utah had Rudy Gobert back (off the bench at first, but still he’s back) and they played well, taking a five-point lead into the half. But Harden had 10 points in the third as the Rockets made their run, then had seven more in the second half of the fourth quarter, on his way to 33 and the Rockets getting the win. It wasn’t vintage Harden, he had eight turnovers and was 0-of-7 from three, he was far from perfect, but the Rockets snapped a four-game losing streak so they will take it regardless. They just need wins to try to right the ship for now.

Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson stops, crosses up Seth Curry

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The Lakers young stars put on quite a show Thursday night in Sacramento. The kids the Lakers talk about being the future closed a 27-point deficit to make it an entertaining ending, although the Kings ultimately held on for the 118-115 win.

One of those Laker kids finding his way is Jordan Clarkson, who finished the night with 15 points, and along the way stopped and crossed up Sacramento’s Seth Curry pretty badly.

Pau Gasol, Derrick Rose lead way as Bulls beat Celtics 101-92

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CHICAGO (AP) — Pau Gasol was so in tune he gave a performance even one of the greatest tenors could appreciate.

Gasol had 17 points and 18 rebounds with Placido Domingo looking on, and the Chicago Bulls beat the Boston Celtics 101-92 on Thursday night for their sixth straight victory.

“When our main players play at our highest level, we’re a really good team,” Gasol said.

The Bulls, who looked like they were coming apart not too long ago, certainly appear to be hitting the right notes.

Gasol had his 19th double-double. And as if that wasn’t enough, he was planning to have dinner with his countryman Domingo, who was in town to perform.

“He’s a basketball fan, he’s a sports fan,” Gasol said. “He’s here for a performance. I wish he was just here to visit me, but that doesn’t work that way. He’s a guy that I truly admire. I have a great friendship, relationship, with him.”

As good as Gasol was, this was hardly a one-man show.

Derrick Rose scored 18 points. Jimmy Butler added 19 points and 10 assists.

The Bulls used a big third quarter to extend their longest win streak of the season and handed the Celtics their fourth loss in five games.

Boston coach Brad Stevens missed this one to visit cancer-stricken former Butler center Andrew Smith, who played on the Bulldogs’ two runs to the national championship game. He has been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was scheduled to undergo a bone marrow transplant Thursday, according to The Boston Globe.

“I was obviously thinking about Brad and wanting to represent him well and our players – wanting to do right by them,” said assistant Jay Larranaga, who filled in for Stevens. “They worked really, really hard. They’re traveling all over the place. Played last night, really, really tough game.”

Boston got 17 points from Jae Crowder. Kelly Olynyk added 16 points and nine rebounds, but the Celtics shot just 35.7 percent and were 5 of 25 on 3-pointers.

Isaiah Thomas scored 14 but missed all four 3s while shooting 5 of 17 overall. Jared Sullinger added 13 points and 11 rebounds for Boston.

“They played great defense,” Sullinger said. “But we have to turn it back around and get back on our high horse and get back to running our offense the way we should.”

The Celtics got outscored 26-16 and shot 7 of 32 in the third as Chicago stretched a one-point halftime lead to 74-63.

It was 61-49 with just over 8 minutes left in the quarter after Taj Gibson hit a hook shot, finishing a 15-2 run that started with a fadeaway by Rose near the end of the first half.

Gasol, who scored eight in the third, had a pair of baskets during that run. Butler scored seven in the period, and the Bulls were never really threatened down the stretch.

“It feels good, but we can’t settle,” Butler said. “We’ve got to continue to win games, try to build upon it, just keep playing basketball the right way.”TIP-INS

Celtics: Larranaga said he found out late Thursday morning that he would be filling in. He was not sure when Stevens will rejoin the team. … G Avery Bradley missed his third straight game with a sore left hip.

Bulls: The Bulls hope C Joakim Noah will return from a sprained left shoulder next week, coach Fred Hoiberg said. Noah has not taken contact in practice and likely won’t travel with the team this weekend. He has not played since Dec. 21.

 

Kobe Bryant still has some hops, finishes alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Even in Sacramento, the fans showed up to pay tribute to and cheer Kobe Bryant.

And they got their money’s worth — Kobe had 28 points on 18 shots and even showed he still has some hops, cutting baseline then getting up to finish and alley-oop. Also in this game, Kobe passed the 33,000 total points mark, joining only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabar as people in that club.

Give the people what they want — Kobe did that.

What was maybe more impressive was the 27-point comeback led by D'Angelo Russell (career high 27 before spraining and ankle late in the fourth) as the Lakers made a game of what had been a blowout. Sacramento got the win 118-115, but the Lakers let their youngsters play the fourth (while Kobe sat) and it worked. Maybe they should try it again.

James Harden with sweet no-look pass to… second row (VIDEO)

Houston Rockets guard James Harden, center, sits on the bench with teammates Corey Brewer, right, and Clint Capela, of Switzerland, during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 121-103. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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James Harden had a good night — 33 points on 25 shots to lead the Rockets to a victory, one that moved Houston back within a game of .500 and helps solidify their likely playoff position in the West.

But this was hysterically bad.

Harden’s first option on the drive was cut off, as was his planned kick to the corner for a three. So he waited for a second, and then I guess thought someone was cutting to that space. Or the ball slipped as he tried to make a pass. Or….

He can laugh about it now after the win.