Kurt Helin

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 17, 2015 at The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Five Takeaways from NBA Thursday: LeBron outduels Durant, Thunder


It felt like a Throwback Thursday around the NBA — LeBron having to do all the scoring, Durant and Westbrook against the world for the Thunder, Kobe Bryant dunking, Linsanity in Charlotte. Only three games on the docket, but the NBA put on quite a show — unless you are Jason Day’s wife. Here’s what you need to know from around the NBA Friday.

1) In a matchup of stars, LeBron James outduels Kevin Durant, Thunder. Kyrie Irving isn’t back yet, Iman Shumpert was out again, so the Cleveland Cavaliers went with the system that got them to the NBA Finals last season — give the ball to LeBron and let him carry the load. It worked again. LeBron had 33 points (12-of-27 shooting), 11 assists, and nine rebounds on the night. (He wanted the triple-double late and told teammates not to go for a rebound on a late free throw so he could get the board, but Kevin Love grabbed it anyway.) It looked like the Finals Cavs from last season — LeBron scores/creates, Tristan Thompson crashes the boards hard, they slow the game down and defend, and that’s enough many nights. This is not how the Cavs will win a title, but for a Thursday night against the Thunder that formula still works.

Oklahoma City had won six in a row coming in, but this loss highlights the problem they will face deep in the playoffs — Russell Westbrook had 27, Durant 25, Serge Ibaka 23, and then it dropped off the map to single digits. The predicted creative new offense of Billy Donovan has not materialized — it’s a lot of Durant/Westbrook isolation or pick-and-roll, and the best teams can defend that. The Thunder big men don’t pass well, so even their shots have to come from those two. Here was Donovan’s other big mistake: it was a close game entering the fourth (OKC up three) when he rested Durant and Westbrook at the same time — Cleveland went on a 9-0 run. He brought Westbrook then soon after Durant back, but that run grew to 17-2 and a double-digit Cavs lead before the bleeding stopped. Ballgame. The Thunder could not dig out of that hole. The Thunder have so much talent but still feel like a clear third best team in the West, and they have work to do if they are going to threaten the Spurs or Warriors in a seven-game series.

2) LeBron James runs over Jason Day’s wife, sending her to the hospital. Ellie Day and her husband — world second-ranked golfer Jason Day — live in Columbus and had a nice date night going without the kids: Courtside seats to see the Cavaliers and Thunder. But in the fourth quarter the 6’8″, 250-pound LeBron James chased a loose ball into the front row and just ran over Ellie. She had to be taken to the hospital on a stretcher. Fortunately, early reports are that she is doing well with no serious injuries.

3) Kobe Bryant was vintage self, but Rockets still get a comfortable win. If you’re paying to see the Lakers at Staples, do you want to see the team win? If you’re a Laker fan, don’t you want to see the team increase the odds of holding on to their pick this June (it is only top three protected). Still, you want a show. You want to see some turn-back-the-clock Kobe. Well, Lakers fans got that Thursday at Staples, Kobe had 22 points, hit some tough jumpers, and even had his first dunk of the season. But James Harden and the Rockets got the win handily, 107-87.

4) Jeremy Lin goes off for 35 and Hornets beat Raptors in overtime. This game was an example of why you need League Pass — you missed a fun one if you weren’t watching. The Hornets led by double-digits much of the game, but Kyle Lowry sparked a 15-3 run that made it close and then DeMar DeRozan (31 points on the night) hit a jumper with 13 seconds left that sent the game to overtime. The Hornets relied on Lin and Kemba Walker — the pair had 24 of the Hornets’ 33 points in the fourth quarter and OT — and that was enough. Walker had nine in the OT, but the big numbers went to the guy with the spiky hair.

5) The Thunder’s Steven Adams dunked on LeBron. You don’t see this every day. (LeBron will take the win and live with it.)

Turn back the clock: Kobe Bryant dunks on Clint Capela (VIDEO)


If you paid to see some vintage Kobe Bryant at Staples Center Thursday night, you got your money’s worth. It was throwback Thursday for No. 24.

Kobe had 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting on the night, looking like his old self hitting some tough jumpers and putting the ball on the floor at times. That included getting up for his first dunk of the season and throwing it down over the Rockets’ Clint Capela. Bryant was fun to watch.

The Lakers, however, still couldn’t get any stops and fell to the Rockets 107-87.

Lin scores 35 as Hornets beat Raptors in overtime

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 17: Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets pats the back of teammate Jeremy Lin #7 during the game against the Toronto Raptors on December 17, 2015 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jeremy Lin scored a season-high 35 points, Kemba Walker had 27 and the Charlotte Hornets defeated the Toronto Raptors 109-99 in overtime on Thursday night.

P.J. Hairston added 14 points, including a 3-pointer with 90 seconds remaining in overtime that put the Hornets ahead to stay.

DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points, Kyle Lowry added 20 and Terrence Ross had 17 for Toronto. Bismack Biyombo, who spent four seasons with Charlotte, had a career-best 18 rebounds while also blocking seven shots and scoring eight points.

The Raptors rallied back from a 16-point deficit late in the third quarter.

The Hornets led 72-56 on Lin’s layup with 4:14 left in the third period. The Raptors came back, eventually tying it at 90 on DeRozan’s jumper with 26 seconds remaining.

Toronto took its only lead of the game on Lowry’s layup 15 seconds into overtime. After two ties, Hairston hit his 3. The Hornets closed out the game by outscoring the Raptors 10-3 over the final 67 seconds, going 8 of 8 from the free throw line.

Behind Lin’s 18 first-half points, Charlotte pulled ahead of Toronto early, leading by as many as 13 points and taking a 56-44 margin at the break.

The Hornets shot 50 percent from the field (22 of 44) over the first two quarters, and made 7 of 18 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the Raptors made just 16 of 41 (39 percent) and only 3 of 15 3-pointers.


Raptors: Toronto was whistled for two technical fouls – on Biyombo in the second quarter, and Lowry in the third.

Hornets: Lin made just his second start of the season in place of guard Nicolas Batum, who was out with an undisclosed illness. . Center Al Jefferson began a five-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. Jefferson had missed the previous six games with a strained calf muscle.


Going for loose ball, LeBron James crushes Jason Day’s wife sitting in first row


Hopefully, this is nothing serious. According to TNT’s Craig Sager she was conscious and talking, but being taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

Late in the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers 104-100 win against the Thunder, LeBron James chased a loose ball out of bounds and crushed Ellie Day, the wife of golfer Jason Day, as the couple sat in the front row. You can see the video above. It was a fluke thing, but LeBron is 6’8″ 250 (officially, probably a little lighter than that) coming full speed is going to level anyone in that chair.

She had to be taken out on a stretcher and straight to an ambulance. Day left the arena with her.

Ellie Day is an Ohio native and the couple and their children settled in Columbus. They are big Ohio sports fans, having gone to Ohio State football games and other events.

Day is the defending PGA Champion and the current second-ranked player in the world.

Thunder’s Steven Adams dunks on LeBron James (VIDEO)


One of the myths about Russell Westbrook is that he’s not a good passer. If someone tells you that, you know they haven’t watched much Westbrook the past couple seasons, Westbrook has become one of the better passing point guards in the game.

He showed that on this play, with a nifty pocket pass to Steven Adams, throws it down over a rotating LeBron James. To be clear, this shouldn’t be on LeBron, he rotated in to help, and he could have stayed out of the poster and let Adams just have the dunk, but he went for the big play. You want that from your stars.

LeBron got some revenge in the fourth quarter, finishing through Adams for an and-1 layup.

This game was as close and entertaining as we could have hoped for.