Baseline-to-baseline recaps: Carmelo’s 40 points lead Knicks to 10th straight victory

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while choosing sides in the battle between Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi …

Knicks 95, Hawks 82: The Knicks extended their league-best winning streak to 10 games on Wednesday, thanks to a dominant offensive performance from Carmelo Anthony for the second straight game.

Anthony finished with 40 points after dropping 50 on Miami just the night before, making him the first Knicks player since Patrick Ewing in the 1989-90 season to score at least 40 points in consecutive games.

This game was actually tied with under 10 minutes to play, and Anthony largely did his damage in the first three periods. New York got 10 points each from J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton in the final period, and the Knicks finished the game on a 23-10 run to seal it.

Raptors 88, Wizards 78: John Wall was just OK in this one, and didn’t get much help on a night the Wizards managed to shoot just over 32 percent from the field for the game. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists, but after Washington led by 11 at the half, the Raptors locked down in the final two periods to hold the Wizards to just 28 points the rest of the way.

DeMar DeRozan led the way for Toronto with 25 points, and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and did it on just seven shots thanks to a 16-18 effort from the free throw line.

Bobcats 88, Sixers 83: A dismal 2-24 night shooting from Jrue Holiday doomed the Sixers in this one, but because they were playing the league-worst Bobcats, they still had a chance. Gerald Henderson put an end to all that, however, with a key steal and a breakaway dunk that extended his tam’s lead to three with under 30 seconds remaining.

Nets 113, Cavaliers 95: Games like this are why Byron Scott is on the hot seat in Cleveland, despite the injuries this season and the youth present on the Cavaliers roster. The Nets led by as many as 34 points, and Cleveland allowed both Jerry Stackhouse and Deron Williams to get loose for dunks in the same game.

Celtics 98, Pistons 93: Boston needed some big baskets down the stretch to hold off a late Pistons rally, who came back to within three after trailing earlier in the game by as many as 18 points. Jeff Green continued his strong play with 34 points and four blocked shots, and hit the key three-pointer with under a minute to play that helped seal the victory by extending his team’s lead to five.

Charlie Villanueva managed to get 17 shots up in under 24 minutes for the Pistons, and made just two.

Timberwolves 107, Bucks 98: Minnesota isn’t playing for anything but pride at this stage of the season, after injuries robbed the team of its playoff chances some time ago. But after beating the Bucks, the Timberwolves have won three of four, all against  playoff teams.

It was a 13-34 night of shooting combined from Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, while Ricky Rubio finished with 19 points, 12 assists and eight steals, which helped to cancel out his eight turnovers. The Bucks are essentially locked into the eighth seed in the playoffs, but with eight games left in the regular season, they may want to focus a little bit considering that first round matchup with the Heat which looms in the distance.

Nuggets 113, Jazz 96: Utah had been playing better lately, but thy’re still a fringe team fighting to sneak into the playoffs. Denver, meanwhile, is on the fringe of the West’s elite tier, so the result of this one wasn’t exactly a surprise.

Denver shot better than 56 percent on Utah’s home floor, and saw seven of its players finish in double figures, led by 21 points on 10 shots from Danilo Gallinari.

The loss dropped the Jazz to ninth in the Western Conference standings, a half-game back of the Lakers.

Spurs 98, Magic 84: In a game without Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and Manu Ginobili, and one where Tim Duncan played less than 14 minutes, the Spurs got a win on the strength of their team defense. San Antonio held  Orlando to under 39 percent shooting for the game, and got a team-high 20 points from Danny Green offensively on the way to the victory.

Rockets 112, Kings 102: Houston got a huge game from Chandler Parsons, who finished with 29 points on 12-18 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and four assists. The Kings shot just 39.1 percent for the game, “led” by a 3-16 effort from starting point guard Isaiah Thomas.

Grizzlies 94, Blazers 76: The Grizz are tough to beat if you can’t find a way to score, considering their defense ranks right near the top of the league in points per 100 possessions. Portland attempted to beat it by launching 29 three-point attempts, but they were able to make just four.

Mike Conley continued his strong play for Memphis, and out-dueled likely Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard by finishing with 20 points and five assists on 7-11 shooting.

Clippers 126, Suns 101: The Clippers needed to get right after losing three straight, all to playoff teams, and the Suns were more than happy to oblige. This one was over early, as L.A. jumped out to a 10-point lead by the time the first quarter was through.

Ryan Hollins provided some late-game fireworks for the fans who were still in the building, thanks to this idiotic play that saw him get ejected after appearing for all of nine minutes in garbage time.

Warriors 98, Hornets 88: New Orleans actually led this one by 11 early in the second quarter, before the Warriors woke up and finished the half on a 32-12 run to put this one in the win column. David Lee led the effort for Golden State with 23 points and 16 rebounds.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.