<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

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Reports: Kings at Knicks, Trail Blazers at Nets games Monday postponed due to coming storm

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The Northeast is about to get buried in snow from a potentially historic blizzard bearing down on the region, one that is expected to dump at least two feet of snow in New York City and it could be much more.

Connecticut already has banned travel after 9 p.m. Monday night and numerous flights have been cancelled out of the region. Other modes of transportation will be shut down as well, and there will be many more cancellations…

Including the Kings’ game at the Knicks scheduled for Madison Square Garden, reports Grant Napear, the Kings’ television play-by-play voice.

Also shut down is the Portland Trail Blazers visiting the Brooklyn Nets, reports Adrian Wojnarowski:

This is the right thing to do. Most people would stay home anyway and the fans trying to get to the arena just put themselves in danger, it’s not worth it.

The games can be re-scheduled for another date. Both Portland and Sacramento likely would have to make another cross-country trip to play the games (or not, in the case of the Kings, because with both New York and Sacramento well out of the playoffs the question is really about how a loss for once side could impact lottery seeding, if it doesn’t it may not be replayed).

Everyone reading this in the Northeast, stay warm and stay safe.

Did win over Lakers break Rockets out of their defensive slump?

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers
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LOS ANGELES — Over the course of the season, the Rockets have the fifth best defense in the NBA, allowing opponents to shoot 44.3 percent and score 99.6 points per 100 possession.

But that defense has gone AWOL of late — in the Rockets last five games they had allowed their opponents to shoot 48.2 percent and score 107.4 points per 100 possessions, both 25th in the NBA during that stretch. The Rockets went 3-2 in those games, but the defensive struggles were a bad omen.

“We went through a period where we had a lot of break downs defensively,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “But our guys worked on it, we had good, hard practices, and one thing that’s nice about this team is they get better at what you work on.”

They looked better defensively against the Lakers Sunday — they held Los Angeles to 15 points in the first quarter, and 36 in the first half as the Rockets cruised to a 99-87 win that was never really in doubt from early on. Los Angeles shot 43 percent and had an offensive rating of 88.8 points per 100 possessions on the night. All of that without Dwight Howard in the lineup (sprained ankle).

“I thought our defense was pretty solid for the most part,” McHale said. “We made them work for stuff. And I thought that our defense had been slacking, I’d say the last few weeks. We’ve been working at it, and I thought the last few nights it’s been getting better.”

The obvious answer for why it looked better Sunday is that the Lakers — especially now without Kobe Bryant — are an unfocused disaster on offense. They lack quality shot creators or anyone you have to fear.

Of course, the Rockets saw it as something more than that, as a springboard for themselves to get back to their identity. And when you asked any Rockets’ player about the improved defense they used some variant of the word “focus,” adding they had to do it more consistently.

“It’s definitely getting there,” James Harden said of the defense. “I think we’re locking in a little bit more. We still have a long way to go, but we’re definitely on the right path…

“It’s focus. We are more than capable of being the best team in the league, but we have to focus on defense every single night.”

What the Rockets focus on well is to contest three pointers, teams are shooting just 31.3 percent from beyond the arc on Houston this season, second best in the Association. The Lakers were 1-of-13 from three in the game.

That was one of the points of emphasis this season from assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the rising assistant coach who is the coach in charge of the defense and who helped turn that ship around — something especially impressive because this team lost quality defenders in Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons over the summer, then have been without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley for extended periods this season.

“Concentration more than anything else,” McHale said of why the defense improved Sunday night on the road. “It just seemed (in previous games) like we were not up, we didn’t stay in our coverages, and we had a lot of small mistakes. Whenever you have a lot of small mistakes, a lot of them are mental mistakes. I’m not sure what causes it. I don’t think it was fatigue, but we didn’t play well for a while. We’re getting it back.”

Sometimes when things aren’t working you need an easy one just to get your confidence back and get back in a rhythm. The Rockets got that with the Lakers Sunday. But the reprieve is short lived because next up on Wednesday is a real test: Dallas. The Mavericks are the second best offense in the NBA this season. After that comes games against the scrappy Celtics and Pistons.

Every team has lapses and slip ups over the marathon of 82 games. They key is to not let that linger and develop into bad habits. The problem needs to be rectified quickly.

We’ll see soon if the Rockets have ended their defensive slump, or if they have a lot more work to do.

Timberwolves’ Robbie Hummel breaks hand, says he is out six weeks

Robbie Hummel
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Injuries to Shabazz Muhammad and Kevin Martin gave Robbie Hummel a chance — he was getting almost 30 minutes a game of run the past five games, scoring 6.6 points a game. He was getting his chance.

Now all that is on hold.

The run of injuries that has hit the Timberwolves all season has now hit Hummel, who broke his hand in the game against the Hawks, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune.

The Wolves termed Hummel’s injury a nondisplaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his shooting hand. He said he expects to miss four to six weeks after he hit it during a collision at third quarter’s end.

“I don’t even know. I have to look at the play because it happened so fast,” Hummel said. “It just felt weird right away. I knew it wasn’t right….

“It’s really disappointing,” Hummel said. “It’s tough to get in a rhythm, and I felt I have been the last couple weeks. It’s frustrating, but there are worse things that could happen. I’ve been through it before [he tore his ACL twice within a year at Purdue] so it’s just a bump in the road. Compared to the ACLs, this is nothing.”

The problem is when Hummel is healthy and gets back Muhammad and Martin should be back as well and it’s going to be hard to get Hummel minutes.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $225,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Monday’s NBA games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts at7:30pm ET on MondayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Sunday: Thunder don’t look like playoff team yet

Scott Brooks, Kevin Durant
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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while taking your deceased parent to the bank to make cash withdrawals….

1) Oklahoma City does not look like a playoff team yet. They have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back healthy, plus both are playing at an elite level. Yet they have lost two in a row (including Sunday to Cleveland), are 5-5 in their last 10, and now have fallen back to .500 again. Sunday on national television it looked like the Cavaliers are finally getting it together — LeBron James is explosive and the Cavs are defending better — while the Thunder… we’re still waiting. Their defense isn’t sharp, although it’s not terrible. The offense on the other hand… They shot just 39.4 percent as a team Sunday and key guys were not efficient (Westbrook was 7-of-26, Dion Waiters 5-of-15). In their last 10 games they have the 21st ranked offense in the league. Despite those two studs. You can say there is half a season to get it together before the playoffs, but they have to make the playoffs. They are three games back of the Suns and not making up ground of late. OKC needs to find it’s groove sooner rather than later.

That said, Kevin Durant can still do this:

2) New Orleans doesn’t know it can’t make the playoffs, only two games out. This is like when his trainer Duke leans into Apollo Creed in Rocky and said “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!” We did it in the paragraph above — assumed that if anyone is going to catch the Phoenix Suns for the last playoff spot in the West, it’s the Thunder. Why not the Pelicans? They beat the Mavericks on Sunday, their third straight win, and they are now just two games back of the Suns (who lost to the Clippers). The Pelicans are in front of the inconsistent Thunder. New Orleans has the superstar in Anthony Davis and he played like it Sunday (28 points, 10 boards) but they also got 24 points out of Tyreke Evans (who will have the ball in his hands a lot until Jrue Holiday returns) and 18 from Ryan Anderson. If I had to bet I’d still put my money on OKC to finish ahead of Phoenix and New Orleans, but we shouldn’t be counting the Pelicans out of this race.

3) Hassan Whiteside is not another Miami fad. Miami fans have been hyped on Whiteside since he came to South Beach and started putting up numbers — he has a PER of 26, which is normally the kind of thing that gets one mentioned for the All-Star Team. He has been a defensive force and very efficient on the offensive end, shooting 68.4 percent. But would it last? It looks like he is not another Miami fad gone in a week. Sunday Whiteside had his coming out party on national television with 14 points, 13 rebounds and a Heat record 12 blocks. His energy and athleticism have been something they needed and he can get some easy looks as the defense focuses on Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. The Heat have found something here.

4) Monta Ellis and D.J. Augustin did their best (but it wasn’t enough). Two of the best performances of Sunday night came in a losing effort. One was from Dallas’ should-be-but-will-not-be All Star Monta Ellis who had 36 points on 27 shots and was at his best when attacking the rim or shooting threes from the left side of the court. He gave the Mavs a chance in their loss. (Sorry Mavericks fans, he’s been fantastic but in the deep West he just can’t make the All-Star cut. Nowitzki is on the outside looking in, too. Just can’t see a Mav on the team.)

D.J. Augustin got thrust into the Pistons’ starting lineup due to the Brandon Jennings injury, and he put up 35 points on 20 shots in Detroit’s loss to Toronto. He was 5-of-9 from three and 7-of-9 when he attacked and got inside eight feet of the rim. Augustin also dished out eight assists. He played well opposite Kyle Lowry, but it wasn’t enough.

5) Kyle Lowry pulled off the old fake timeout trick. We see this about once a season, this time it was Lowry’s turn to break it out.

Stephen Curry drives, dunks, does pull up on the rim (VIDEO)

Stephen Curry, Gerald Wallace
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Stephen Curry can dunk, too.

That’s not what we know him for, we remember him for the rainbow jumpers, but he can get up and he showed the Boston Celtics just that Sunday night. Then did a little pull up on the rim for good measure.

Curry had 22 points on 16 shots in the game. Give Boston credit, when a lot of teams would have rolled over they kept scrapping, but in the end Golden State won at home again, 114-111.