Kurt Helin

James Harden, Mason Plumlee, Damian Lillard

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Turns out Houston players can try

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The big news in the NBA on Wednesday afternoon was the Rockets’ firing coach Kevin McHale 11 games into the season, hoping to shake up the team and finally get a strong effort. The big question Wednesday night would be would the move pay off? In case you were challenging your friends to fights with Klingon weapons, here are five things to know from a Wednesday night around the NBA:

1) Would you look at that: Rockets players’ can play all out after all. If you just looked at the box score, you’d see James Harden went off for 45 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists the day after his coach was fired and teammates called out his effort. From there you could draw the conclusion, “Harden finally played like his old self.” Not really, his jumper was a mess most of the night, but to his credit he started to attack the rim and made some critical plays down the stretch. In that sense, he was more his old self. More importantly, he was trying. Harden said after the game something needed to change, apparently McHale losing his job qualifies. Harden was giving a legitimate effort — and so was the entire team. They played harder on defense, and they got back in transition, they did not give up.

All that said, the reality is the Rockets were more lucky that good to get an overtime win against Portland — Houston was down 15 in the fourth quarter, and nine points with three minutes left. They needed this miracle from Corey Brewer to even get to OT.

In his first game, J.B. Bickerstaff did some smart things — such as making Ty Lawson come off the bench, then when he was an ice-cold 1-of-8 shooting, keeping Lawson out the entire fourth quarter. Bickerstaff got the win and you should expect to see more of that, even though that’s more about timing than coaching. Bickerstaff was given the keys to the team right now for a reason — the Rockets’ schedule gets soft, in addition to Portland they face Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and plenty of other teams still under .500 the next few weeks. Even if they had kept McHale, the Rockets would have won a bunch of those games. But the Rockets made the change, and it worked for a night. And it lit a fire under Harden (which was part of the goal).

2) Sixers become first franchise ever to start 0-12 in consecutive years. The Indiana Pacers took charge of the contest in the second quarter with a 16-4 run and never looked back, picking up the 112-85 win. Philadelphia had zero answers for Paul George, save for trying to play six guys at a time at one point (which remains against the rules and led to a technical.) Then there were the 31 Sixer turnovers on the night (watch them all here):

Trust the process. This loss dropped the Sixers to 0-12 on the season — Philly is now the only franchise in NBA history to start back-to-back seasons with o-12 records or worse (they were 0-14 last season). Trust the process. There are some fans and some minority owners frustrated with the volume of losing, but the only voices that matter are still on board with the process. The thing is right now they have to trust the process — the Sixers very possibly could have two top-five picks next June (their own plus the Lakers’ pick if it is outside the top three), not to mention a couple of others in the first round come June (depending on where teams finish and the protections on the picks). Right now the Sixers need to remain committed to making their picks high ones. But the frustration with losing — 22 in a row if you go back to last season — is mounting in some quarters.

3) Orlando’s Evan Fournier drains game winner to beat Minnesota. Scott Skiles was hired in Orlando to start winning games — and if that means benching young players Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja, and Aaron Gordon for the entire second half, so be it. This isn’t about player development, it’s about wins. And Fournier — who has had an impressive start to the season — gave the Magic a dramatic victory with this shot.

4) Dunking on Rudy Gobert? That’s impressive DeMar DeRozanThis is not fair to Gobert — he had five blocks in this game and was key to Utah getting the win, plus he got the best of DeRozan on most of their encounters in this game. Gobert was the better player. But this still is the highlight everyone will see, and maybe the dunk of the year so far.

5) Russell Westbrook is a beast. I feel like that headline could be a permanent part of the five takeaways every night the Thunder play. Wednesday Westbrook had 43 points on just 25 shots, nine rebounds and eight assists to spark a Thunder victory over a struggling Pelicans squad. Enjoy the highlights, because he is a beast.

Harden, Rockets pull out OT win after firing McHale

James Harden
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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden scored 45 points, including all nine for Houston in overtime, and the Rockets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 108-103 on Wednesday night after firing Kevin McHale earlier in the day.

Corey Brewer made an off-balance 3-pointer to force overtime and Harden took over from there, finishing with 11 assists, eight rebounds and five steals as the Rockets capped off an emotional day at the Toyota Center.

It almost ended with a fifth straight loss before Brewer made his shot with 0.9 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 99.

Playing just hours after McHale was fired, the Rockets played much of the game with sloppy mistakes and dreadful shooting. Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, son of longtime NBA coach Bernie Bickerstaff, served in his first game as head coach.

The Blazers dropped their seventh straight, their worst losing streak since closing 2012-13 on a 13-game skid.

Damian Lillard led Portland with 23 points, C.J. McCollum had 19 and Al-Farouq Aminu added 16.

Houston snapped its longest skid since the 2012-13 season.

Dwight Howard hauled in 19 rebounds, Trevor Ariza had 18 points, and Brewer scored 16 off the bench.

After trailing 22-21 at the end of the first quarter, Portland outscored the Rockets 25-13, bringing the already thin Toyota Center crowd to silence. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander watched from the first row at midcourt as his seemingly uninspired team entered halftime in a 46-35 hole.

The struggles continued and the Rockets ended the third with a 15-point deficit after Marcus Thornton‘s jump shot wedged awkwardly between the rim and the backboard.

Rockets 38-year-old point guard Jason Terry got his first start of the season, replacing struggling guard Ty Lawson, who was acquired from Denver in the offseason. Lawson finished the game with two points on 1-of-8 shooting.

TIP-INS

Blazers: PF Meyers Leonard missed his fifth consecutive game with a shoulder injury but participated in pregame workouts. . Allen Crabbe scored 15 points off the bench. . The Blazers have lost four straight games that are within one-possession in the final three minutes.

Rockets: Houston scored just 13 points in the second quarter, a season low. . Houston was without PG Patrick Beverley (ankle) for a third straight game. . First-round pick Sam Dekker will have back surgery Friday and is expected to miss three months.

 

Hornets’ Marvin Williams fined $15,000 for elbow to Amundson’s head

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The NBA doesn’t mess around with blows to the head.

Charlotte’s Marvin Williams has been fined $15,000 for his shot to the lead of Knicks’ forward Lou Amundson Tuesday night during the Knicks win. He had to know the fine was coming, Williams was ejected for the blow immediately and this was not one he would win on appeal.

It was a hard foul and a bit of retribution for a hard foul from Amundson on the other end, but when you contact the head the league comes down on you, it’s pretty simple.

Doc Rivers says Chris Paul, J.J. Redick not likely to play vs. Warriors

Chris Paul, J.J. Redick
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Well, this sucks some of the fun out of a Thursday night TNT showdown between two of the top teams in the West.

Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers said Chris Paul and J.J. Redick likely will not be healthy and ready to go when the Clippers host the Warriors Thursday night. Via Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.

With those two out, the Clippers started Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford as the guards in a win over the weekend against Detroit. Expect that to continue, although it is going to be a much more challenging defensive assignment for Crawford going up against Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson. And that’s putting it kindly.

One other change from the Detroit game — Paul Pierce starting over Lance Stephenson at the three — will continue. As it should.

Just for the record, when Rivers, Pierce, and Crawford are on the court together this season the Clippers are -4.8 points per 100 possessions.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey explains firing of Kevin McHale (VIDEO)

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Kevin McHale is out as the Rockets’ coach after 11 games this season — and a rough 4-7 start with a few ugly losses. Assistant J.B. Bickerstaff will take over the team on an interim basis (and with a short leash).

Rockets GM Daryl Morey met with the media Wednesday afternoon to explain his decision.

So why J.B. Bickerstaff as the replacement?

Not surprisingly to anyone who knew him, McHale handled it with class when speaking to the Houston Chronicle.

“We were starting to address some of the issues that were the reason I was let go,” McHale said. “We just weren’t playing with any juice, with any rhythm. We haven’t been able to get the problems solved.

“We probably had more meetings in last six weeks than in my previous four years here.

“It wasn’t working.”