All series long Thunder coach Scott Brooks has been taking flack for his handling of the Thunder rotations — sitting Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at the same time, leaving guys with hot hands on the bench, not seeming to have a feel for his team.
It’s not just you and me, Kendrick Perkins feels the same way, too.
“I just don’t understand why we start out the first quarter the way we did with the lineup we had, and all of a sudden we change and adjust to what they had going on,” a clearly frustrated Perkins said in the Thunder locker room after the game. “So they won the last three quarters and that’s what happened…
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Thunder raced out to a 13-3 lead and not long after that moment Brooks subbed out Serge Ibaka to bring in Nick Collison — which worked, Collison has six points, three rebounds (two offensive) and a block in his seven minutes to end the quarter and he was a +7.
So naturally, Brooks played him less in the second half — just over five minutes and he didn’t enter until late in the third. Derek Fisher however played more than 11 minutes in the first half, had zero points or assists or rebounds and was -8. So he played more than 10 minutes in the second half (and again went scoreless).
Perkins, like all the Thunder players, had a very dejected body language after the game but spoke the words of a team not giving up.
“This series is not over,” Perkins said. “We just have to keep taking it one game at a time. We win Thursday and we’re back in Oklahoma City.”
But can a team clearly frustrated with their coach and their play late in games really rally back like that? It’s hard to imagine.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Eric Gordon scored a career-high 50 points to lead the short-handed Houston Rockets to a 126-117 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night despite playing without James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Danuel House Jr. added 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Austin Rivers also had 21 points as Houston handed the Jazz their first home loss since Dec. 9.
Gordon became the first Rockets player besides Harden to score 50 points in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon had 51 in January 1996, according to STATS. Harden has done it 23 times since then.
Donovan Mitchell scored 36 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 30, but Utah lost for just the third time in 22 games despite shooting 51% from the field.
Gordon had his first game with more than 30 points this season. His previous career best of 41 came against Oklahoma City on Jan. 23, 2009. The veteran guard stepped up and filled the scoring void with Harden, Westbrook and Clint Capela sitting out.
Harden missed his second straight game with a bruised left thigh. Capela (bruised right heel) and Westbrook (rest) sat out after playing Sunday against Denver.
Their absence had minimal impact on Houston’s offense early.
Gordon bookended an 11-0 run with a dunk and a 3-pointer to give the Rockets an 11-4 lead early in the first quarter. Houston stayed in front throughout the period.
The Jazz went ahead with a 13-2 run to open the second. Mitchell scored three baskets to fuel the spurt, and Mike Conley drove for a layup to cap it off.
Gordon provided a spark to help Houston regain the lead. He totaled 15 points in the second quarter and helped the Rockets close the first half on a 17-6 run to take a 59-46 lead into the break. Thabo Sefolosha started and finished the run by driving for a layup.
Utah trimmed the deficit to 72-66 midway through the third on consecutive 3-pointers from Bogdanovic, but got no closer. Rivers and House answered with back-to-back baskets to stop the rally. That sparked a 15-6 spurt that gave Houston an 87-72 lead near the end of the quarter.
MINNEAPOLIS — Buddy Hield scored a career-high 42 points to help the Sacramento Kings rally from a 27-point deficit for a 133-129 overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
De'Aaron Fox scored 22 for the Kings, putting back the rebound of his intentionally missed free throw as part of a 33-11 run over the final 5:42 of regulation.
Andrew Wiggins had 36 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Timberwolves, who lost their 10th consecutive game.
With the Kings down three with 4.7 seconds left in regulation, Fox made his first free throw. He intentionally fired the second off the front of the rim, grabbed his own rebound and laid it in to tie the game with 3.6 seconds left.
Hield scored 18 points in the final 4:36 of regulation on a night that featured tributes to his childhood hero, Kobe Bryant. Fox scored 17 points in the second half and overtime. Nemanja Bjelica finished with 20 points.
The Timberwolves built their lead thanks to a franchise-record 23 3-pointers. Wiggins was 7 for 11 beyond the arc.
Robert Covington had 24 points and Karl-Anthony Towns added 23 for Minnesota. It was the first time three Timberwolves have scored 20 or more points in a game since Dec. 13.
To open the game, both teams honored Bryant, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash. Minnesota took an 8-second backcourt violation and Sacramento took a 24-second shot-clock violation on the ensuing possession. While taking the 8-second violation, Wiggins placed the ball on the free throw line where Bryant scored to pass Michael Jordan for third place on the career scoring list on Dec. 14, 2014, at Target Center.
Minnesota hit 10 of its first 15 3-point attempts and shot 14 for 23 from 3 in the first half. That set a franchise record for 3s in a half and helped the Timberwolves to a 68-50 halftime lead.
The Timberwolves honored Bryant prior to tipoff with words from Towns, a video tribute and a moment of silence. Towns wore No. 24 and Covington wore No. 8 while being introduced as part of the starting lineup to honor Bryant. They donned their regular Nos. 32 and 33 before the opening tip.
Often on social issues (or just because it’s Taco Tuesday), LeBron James can be quick to post on social media.
With the death of Kobe Bryant — along with his daughter Gianna and seven others — in a tragic helicopter accident, it took LeBron some time. LeBron and Kobe were close, they won Gold Medals together and competed against each other at the highest levels of the game. There became close, even more so in the past couple of years when LeBron came West and joined the Lakers. LeBron got to know Kobe’s family — when Gianna was at a recent Lakers game, LeBron was asking her about her fadeaway (which looked a lot like her dad’s).
Understandably, it took a grieving LeBron some time to comment on what happened, but Monday night he issued his first public statement on the passing of Kobe through an Instagram post.
There’s nothing else to say.
When going up against a Utah team that has won 14-of-15, and outscored teams by 14.6 points per 100 possessions in that stretch, an opponent needs to be at full strength.
The Houston Rockets will be without James Harden and Russell Westbrook for the game. The Rockets have lost 5-of-7 heading into this game.
Harden will miss his second consecutive game with a thigh bruise. The rest ultimately may be good for him, Harden has struggled of late and looked a little worn down — in his last five games he’s averaging 23 points a game (13.1 below his season average), shooting 33.3 percent overall and 13.6 percent from three.
Harden is not expected to miss extended time, the Rockets play again on Wednesday vs. the Trail Blazers.
For Westbrook, this is a planned rest game. The Rockets are on a back-to-back and Westbrook took on a heavy load in Denver Sunday with 32 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and also 10 turnovers in the Houston loss.