Dose of Linsanity comes to Houston but it’s not enough against Spurs, 134-126

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For a night, the Jeremy Lin that captured Knicks fans last season was back — 34 points on 21 shots, 4-of-5 from three, 7 assists. Linsanity returned, for a half. The Rockets needed someone to step up because James Harden, his beard and his bum ankle were sidelined.

And it was fun, one of the most entertaining games of the season.

But it wasn’t enough — San Antonio still executes like San Antonio in the fourth quarter. And that was enough to pull off a comeback, force overtime and then win in the extra time, 134-126.

Jeremy Lin was the focal point of the offense and had a nice first half (3-of-7 shooting), but in the second half he looked like his old aggressive self and his shot was falling — 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and he got to the line six times. He came off the pick and found space to attack the defense, or hit jumpers over the top of it. He finished with 38, tying his career high. But what was the real key is that Lin, who has struggled taking care of the ball all season, turned it over just twice. His shots may not fall like this every night, but if he’s taking care of the ball his value goes up.

The Rockets also got a huge game from Omer Asik, who had 21 points and 10 boards, plus seemed to be everywhere. That propelled the Rockets out to a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter and the looked headed for the upset.

Then it happened — a 12-0 Spurs run that got them up to a three-point lead.

Then the game turned into 1980s Denver Nuggets shootout for a while.

Chandler Parsons hit a three for Houston to tie it. A couple possessions later Parsons hits another three. After a Lin missed jumper Gary Neal hit a no-arc three in transition to tie it. Parsons answered with another three — his third of the quarter. Tony Parker came through with a twisting layup. A few possessions later Parker hits a cutting Manu Ginobili for a layup. Lin drains a long two pointer. Ginobili drains a three behind a Tim Duncan three. A couple possessions later Lin goes all Curly Neal and dribbles in circles until he finds Asik who hits a Duncanesque 15-foot bank to tie it.

Both teams had a chance to win it in regulation. For the Rockets, Jeremy Lin tried to isolate on Danny Green, but Green shut him off and forced a 24-second violation.

“I was calling (Asik) up and (Lin) waived him off he went four flat,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale lamented after the game, saying he wanted Lin to have the pick. “But he played fantastic, had a great game.”

The Spurs got a last shot with five seconds on the clock and had Duncan attacking in isolation from the wing, driving into the lane, but some good defense from Asik and we were headed to overtime.

In overtime, the Spurs were the Spurs — a relentless execution machine. The rockets did not take advantage of their opportunities — Asik got the smaller Green switched on to him but still took a seven-foot jumper rather than backing him down, Carlos Delfino pulled up on a fast break and let the defense set, and the dagger was a Ginobili and-1 where he suckered Parsons into the foul then hit the layup left handed.

San Antonio was led by Tony Parker who had his first career triple-double: 27 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists.

In the end the Rockets have things they can hang their hats on in this game. Not the defense, but a lot of other things. Asik played well and continues to build a strong resume as a starting center. Lin looked like his old self. Chandler Parsons and the Rockets role players stepped up. There are building blocks there.

For the Spurs, it’s another win in a long season of them.

Giannis Antetokounmpo 29 points, 12 rebounds lead Bucks past Nuggets, 104-98

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks have been plagued lately by sluggish first-half performances.

They got away with it again Monday night.

The Bucks fell behind by 17 points before rallying to down the Denver Nuggets 104-98. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 29 points and Eric Bledsoe added 23, including two late 3-pointers.

Antetokounmpo added 12 rebounds for Milwaukee, which came from 22 down in the first half to beat the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. The Bucks also fell behind by double digits in the first quarter in a loss to Memphis on Wednesday.

“We’ve got to do a better job to try to set the tone,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think we did a better job this game, but we can do a lot better. I think our talent saves us. I feel like we are so talented that even when we are down 10, down 15, we can always get back into the game.”

The Bucks swept the two-game season series against the Nuggets for the first time since 2009-10.

Jamal Murray had 17 points, eight rebounds and a season-best nine assists for Denver, which has lost six of its last seven games.

“We still have confidence. We just aren’t winning games,” Murray said.

Nikola Jokic had 20 points, Gary Harris 14 and Malik Beasley chipped in with a season-high 12 points off the bench.

“I was really pleased with the fight and the competitive spirit. We gave ourselves a chance against a very good basketball team on the road,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “But there are no moral victories. We’ve got to start winning these games.”

The Bucks led 78-77 heading to fourth quarter. The teams exchanged leads until Milwaukee went on a late 8-0 run that featured a pair of 3-pointers by Bledsoe.

“I think Eric is in a really good place,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He is understanding what we need in different moments.”

Denver pulled within two points with less than a minute left on Jokic’s 3 but Khris Middleton, who had been 0 for 7 from deep, answered with a 3-pointer to put the Bucks up 103-98 with 27 seconds left.

After trailing by 10 to start the third quarter, the Bucks grabbed the lead late in the period on a slam dunk by Antetokounmpo.

Denver used a 17-4 to start the second quarter to build a 17-point lead and held a 56-46 advantage at the half. Milwaukee closed the half on a 10-3 run.

The Nuggets led 29-25 after the first quarter, sparked by nine points from Gary Harris.

 

Joel Embiid has 33 points, 17 rebounds as 76ers beat Suns 119-114

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid scored 19 of his 33 points after halftime and added 17 rebounds to help the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Phoenix Suns 119-114 on Monday night.

Ben Simmons added 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for Philadelphia, which won its third straight while improving to 9-0 at home, remaining the only team in the league unbeaten at home. The 76ers play five of their next six in Philadelphia.

Devin Booker had 37 points and eight assists for the Suns, who started a four-game road trip with their sixth loss in seven games. Phoenix, which fell to 3-13 overall and 0-7 on the road, has the worst record in the West and is one of three winless road teams in the NBA.

Strong first-half shooting helped Phoenix to a surprising 62-57 halftime lead. The 76ers took control in the third, going up for good on Embiid’s three-point play 3:45 into the quarter. They ended the period ahead 92-86 and led by as many as 12 early in the fourth on J.J. Redick‘s runner.

The Suns hung around and T.J. Warren‘s 3-pointer with 3:06 remaining cut it to 109-104. But Embiid’s follow layup with 58 seconds left made it 114-106 and was the clincher.

Rookie Deandre Ayton had 17 points and nine rebounds in his first matchup against fellow 7-footer Embiid.

Embiid scoffed at analysts’ comparisons of Ayton to him made on draft day, saying on Twitter: “Don’t compare Ayton to me either.I play DEFENSE.” The boisterous 76ers center then told ESPN in a preseason interview that Ayton was “about to get his (butt) kicked.”

To his credit, the Suns rookie responded to questions about Embiid by saying he would let his game do his talking.

And the 7-footer did just that in the first possession on Monday night, finishing Booker’s pass with an alley-oop dunk for an emphatic start to the game. Then, he forced Embiid into a turnover in the 76ers star’s first touch on offense.

But Embiid got the better from that point.

Four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, in his fourth game with the 76ers after last week’s trade with Minnesota, had 16 points after hitting a 3-pointer as time expired in overtime to lead Philadelphia to a 122-119 win at Charlotte on Saturday.

Philadelphia native and Villanova product Mikal Bridges had 13 points in 23 minutes for Phoenix. The rookie was drafted 10th by the 76ers before being shipped to the Suns for the No. 16 pick, Zhaire Smith, and a 2021 first-round pick. Smith has yet to play due to a left foot injury and an allergic food reaction that will sideline him at least until January.

Kemba Walker drops 21 in fourth, 43 overall on Celtics to take down Boston 117-112

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Often when fans are chanting MVP for their favorite player, it’s laughable. The guy’s not close to the conversation.

Kemba Walker is in that conversation, maybe on the fringes of it but in the conversation. He deserves those chants.

And he got them, scoring 43 against Boston Tuesday night in the game after he scored 60 (in a loss to Philly). Walker was on fire. Again.

The Boston Celtics have issues, rebounding and otherwise, but for now let’s celebrate Walker.

New Hornets coach James Borego has brought Spurs-like spacing to the Charlotte offense, there’s no Dwight Howard clogging the lane either, and Walker is eating up that space and destroying teams. And if you lay back on him to take away the drives it will rain threes down on you.

Walker might be the most entertaining player in the NBA this season.

Josh Richardson fined $25,000 for throwing shoe into stands (video)

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Josh Richardson signed a four-year contract extension worth nearly $42 million — the most the Heat could offer him at the time — last year. He said he deliberated for weeks whether to sign or risk going for more in free agency, but ultimately, it was too much money for the former second-rounder to pass up.

In hindsight, it was a mistake. Richardson is an emerging star who would have drawn far more on the open market.

That extra money would have come in handy right now.

NBA release:

Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson has been fined $25,000 for throwing his shoe into the spectator stands, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Richardson was assessed a technical foul and ejected from the game, occurred with 6:31 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s 113-97 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 18 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Standard fine for throwing something into the stands. This situation just came with the added comedy of Richardson walking around with only one shoe.