Clippers sweep the month of December, beat Jazz for 17th straight win

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They say you make your own luck, but in the month of December, the Clippers have had little need to manufacture much of it. They’ve blown out most of their opponents, coasting to victory easily and often sitting their starters the entire fourth quarter. For a franchise that many thought was legitimately cursed once upon a time, it’s been interesting to see the Clippers control their own fate without interruptions from the basketball gods.

And although they haven’t been dependent on luck, the Clippers knew what to do once a bit of it came their way on Sunday night against the Utah Jazz.

Clippers starting small forward Caron Butler averages just 9.5 points a game, but the Clippers didn’t so much as blink when Butler’s shots kept going in. Chris Paul (9 assists) fed Butler again and again, and Butler’s jumpers kept tickling the twine.

Butler is just about the only player who could score 29 points on a perfect 6-for-6 shooting from behind the arc…and then not play a single minute in the fourth quarter. That’s the luxury of depth — the Clippers can ride the hot hand, and then go away from it and still not starve for points. On the Clippers roster, there seems to be a player for every situation, and for every need.

When the need was to finally put an end to Al Jefferson’s (30 points) dominance on the left block, DeAndre Jordan got the call late. Jordan’s free throw percentage of 40 percent is virtually a “foul me” sign slapped on his back late in games. But with Jefferson overpowering every other option the Clippers threw at him, yet again, it was Jordan tasked with stopping him.

When Jazz head coach Ty Corbin eventually countered with the Hack-A-Shaq technique on Jordan, the Clippers lead began to feel a little bit more vulnerable. When the ball is in the hands of Paul, all is safe. But when the ball is in the hands of a 40 percent free throw shooter? It’s skill against luck. One you put your faith in, the other you hope for.

But with Jordan at the line, something funny happened. Again. For the fourth time in two games.

Instead of clank, DeAndre Jordan went bank.

Jordan’s bank shot free throw was one of five makes in a row that propelled the Clippers to a 107-96 win, just when the winning streak was beginning to look like it was ready to end for the second time in two games.

Instead, the Clippers will take their 17-game winning streak into the new year. And although that streak will be subject to a possible bad break or an unlucky bounce, the Clippers perfect month of December, one of only three in NBA history, will go into the record books where lady luck can no longer reach it.

Kyrie Irving scores 43, Celtics beat Raptors 123-116 in OT

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BOSTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving had 11 straight Boston points down the stretch and scored 17 in all in the last 8:06 of the fourth quarter.

Then in overtime, he really turned it on.

The Celtics guard made or assisted on every basket in the extra period, finishing with 11 assists and a season-high 43 points on Friday night to lead Boston to a 123-116 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

“Man, he made some shots tonight where you’re just like, `Wow,”‘ forward Gordon Hayward said. “You catch yourself being a fan. When he gets into that mode, the whole arena knew where we were going, and so did the Raptors. They just couldn’t stop him.”

It was the first time Irving has scored at least 40 points with 10 or more assists in a game. He was the first player do it in the NBA this year, and the first Celtics player since Antoine Walker in 2001.

“Kyrie did a great job in the fourth quarter knocking down shots,” said Kawhi Leonard, who scored 31 points and had a season-high 15 rebounds for Toronto. “We fought hard tonight, they played a better game and we’ve just got to keep playing better.”

Jayson Tatum had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Celtics, who evened the season series at one game apiece against the only team to finish above them in the Eastern Conference last season. The home team has won nine straight matchups.

Serge Ibaka scored 21 and Pascal Siakam had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost three straight since opening the season with 12 victories in their first 13 games. Toronto never led in overtime.

“It was just a veteran game out there, just great competition for a Friday night in the NBA,” Irving said. “You’ve got to appreciate that, two great teams going at it. And I’m pretty sure we’ll see them down the road.”

 

Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid lead Sixers past Jazz 113-107

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jimmy Butler had the sellout crowd chanting his name and singing his favorite theme song.

Butler scored 28 points in his home debut, Joel Embiid had 23 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz 113-107 on Friday night.

Butler, the four-time All-Star acquired Monday from Minnesota in a five-player trade, got a loud ovation during introductions and quickly made an impression as the Sixers built a 16-point lead in the first quarter.

Fans serenaded him throughout the game and he got to hear the team’s “1-2-3 Sixers” theme song after the win.

“I already knew this crowd would be excited,” Butler said. “Now that I have them on my side it’s better for me. Y’all, we, have some great fans. Y’all have the catchiest song. I used to sing it in my head when I came in here.”

The Jazz rallied after a rough first quarter and the teams went back-and-forth in the fourth quarter. Jae Crowder‘s put-back after Ricky Rubio‘s stole the ball and missed a lay-up gave Utah a 107-105 lead with 1:37 left. JJ Redick tied it on a pair of free throws. Ben Simmons‘ driving lay-up gave the 76ers a 109-107 lead.

Butler then hit a jumper to extend the lead and drew an offensive foul, sending the crowd into a frenzy as Hall of Famer Allen Iverson jumped up to celebrate from his courtside seat.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Embiid said.

The 76ers are 29-1 in last 30 regular-season home games.

Redick had 16 points and Simmons had 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Embiid scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter after he played less than a minute in the third because he had four fouls.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 31 points.

“We competed but we have to be smarter,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We had some mistakes where we have to think more. They add up against a team like this.”

After the Jazz made the first basket, Butler scored on a reverse layup to begin a 12-0 run. He also nailed a 3-pointer during that stretch as Philadelphia dominated early.

But Utah closed to 54-52 at halftime following Derrick Favors‘ alley-oop dunk.

Redick and Mike Muscala hit consecutive 3s early in the third quarter. However, the Jazz came back and went up 81-80 on Mitchell’s jumper late in the quarter.

“Up until the end, we made a few mistakes, but we played passionate,” Mitchell said. “Honestly, they’re a great team, but we had the game in the bag except for a few mistakes. I think the game just got away.”

 

Report: Rockets lure assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik out of retirement with ‘significant raise’

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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After a slow start, the Rockets got assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik to come out of retirement.

How?

The usual way employers attract someone to a job.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Fertitta was alarmed enough to personally recruit defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, who retired just before training camp, to return, offering what sources say was a significant raise that pushed his salary to a range that ranks among the NBA’s highest-paid assistant coaches.

Good for Bzdelik using his leverage. He looked like a defensive whiz last season, and Houston slipped without him. Of course, personnel matters, too. There’s no guarantee these Rockets – minus Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute – reach last year’s defensive level.

Bzdelik has been back around the team, but isn’t working full-time yet. It’ll take a while to assess his impact on Houston.

And good for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta paying up. Fertitta is still trying to determine the right amount for him to spend, but the team is better off if he’s willing to pay what’s necessary to attract the most desirable coaches.

Charles Barkley addresses Draymond Green-Kevin Durant dynamic (video)

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Want to hear an entertaining guy address an entertaining topic? Here you go.