PBT’s Sunday night NBA Winners/Losers: Durant and Rondo both looking healthy

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Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while watching the trailer for the new Terminator movie

source:  Rajon Rondo. That’s 31. Sometimes as fans we overemphasize the triple-double (it’s not always as impactful on the game as it sounds) but if you’re hitting that number consistently then you’re doing something right. Sunday was the second time this season and the 31st time in his career that Rajon Rondo hit that number. He’s doing something right. He wasn’t exactly efficient (he had 13 points on 17 shots) and he missed some key shots late (his floater was off) but he had 13 rebounds and 11 assists, which — along with Jeff Green’s 25 points — helped fuel the Celtics past the Wizards in a quality win.

source:  Kevin Durant. He’s still getting his legs back under him, he had an off night against Philly recently, but he bounced back and looked like the KD we know and the rest of the league fears on Sunday. Durant had 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting. He was Durant again, and that included hitting what ended up being the dagger three — with less than two minutes to go Detroit got caught on a bad switch and Durant drilled the three that put them up four and gave OKC the win. But it didn’t matter if Detroit defended well, earlier in the game Jonas Jerebko defended him as well as one could and Durant just scored over him anyway. Because when he’s on Durant can score on anyone. Which is more than we can say for….

source:  Josh Smith and the Detroit Pistons. Saturday they couldn’t beat the hapless, tanking Sixers (we’re going to have a new team on the bottom of the PBT Power Rankings Monday). At least Sunday they showed a little pride and had a shot at beating an Oklahoma City team still trying to get its feet under it with Durant and Russell Westbrook back. OKC was up two with 10 seconds left in the game when Westbrook missed a 16-foot jumper, Brandon Jennings got the rebound pushed the ball up the court looking for a chance to tie or maybe win the game for the Pistons. Jennings got into the lane but saw big men coming over to contest his shot (or more likely swat it into the third row) so he made a smart, quality pass to a wide open man — Josh Smith at the arc. He got a wide open, uncontested shot to win the game. Of course, Smith is shooting 25 percent from three this season, which is just below his career average, so what the Pistons got with the game on the line was a shot they want to avoid and every opponent would encourage them to take. The results were predictable. This is why they are the Pistons right now.

source:  Chandler Parsons. For some reason the Milwaukee Bucks kept leaving Chandler Parsons open and he made them pay — 28 points on 14 shots (4-of-6 from three) as the Mavericks toyed with the Bucks in an easy win. Parsons had nine uncontested looks according the NBA’s Sports VU cameras, he hit seven of them. This was the most comfortable he has looked in the Dallas offense (being wide open will do that), which frankly already was pretty powerful.

source:  Denver’s back court’s shooting. Ty Lawson was 1-of-10 from the floor. Arron Afflalo was 4-of-14. Gary Harris came in off the bench and was 1-of-8. Throw in an 0-of-6 night from Danilo Gallinari and the Nuggets were not impressive in their loss to Atlanta. It happens, guys have off shooting nights, but Denver had one of those nights when basically everyone they count on to create points was off. (Wilson Chandler, who had 29 points on 22 shots, was the exception to the rule, but it wasn’t enough.)

Watch Zion Williamson score 25, lead Pelicans to crucial win vs. Trail Blazers

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Zion Williamson had 25 points for his seventh straight game with at least 20 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 128-115 on Friday night.

The No. 1 draft pick was playing in just his 11th game after a right knee injury sidelined him for the first half of the season.

The Pelicans, who led by as many as 22 points, have won four of their last five games.

The Blazers, who have lost three straight, were without Damian Lillard, who is expected to miss three or more games because of a groin injury that occurred in Memphis last week. It kept Lillard out of the All-Star Game and the 3-point contest last weekend.

Lillard is averaging a career-high 29.5 points and 7.8 assists per game. His absence hurts the Blazers, who went into the game 3.5 games back of Memphis for eighth in the Western Conference standings.

And it’s not just Lillard: Portland had only nine players available for the game.

CJ McCollum took over as point guard and finished with 27 points and 10 assists. Hassan Whiteside added 19 points and 12 rebounds.

The Pelicans were among four teams, along with the Blazers, fighting for those last playoff berths with just a third of the season left. Coach Alvin Gentry said he’s treating the last 27 games like a college season.

“We want to play to get into a tournament. We want a high seed. Those are the things that we’ve talked about. Obviously, we have to play good basketball,” Gentry said.

The Pelicans also won the previous three meetings this season with Portland. Earlier this month in New Orleans, Williamson had 31 points and nine rebounds in a 138-117 victory over the Blazers.

Williamson, who played just one season at Duke before going pro, went into the game against the Blazers averaging 22.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.

His streak of games with 20-plus points is the longest among NBA rookies this season. And he was the first player since Michael Jordan to have 20 or more in eight of his first 10 NBA games.

Lonzo Ball’s 3-pointer put the Pelicans up 29-17 in the opening quarter. But the Blazers closed within 40-38 early in the second on Whiteside’s dunk. It was as close as Portland could get, and Williamson’s dunk gave New Orleans a 54-46 lead.

Williamson’s layup pushed the Pelicans’ advantage to 65-50 and New Orleans led 73-63 going into halftime. He led all players with 19 points.

Consecutive jumpers from Carmelo Anthony and Whiteside’s dunk pulled Portland within 80-75 in the third quarter. The Pelicans pulled away with a 12-0 run to head to the fourth with 102-83 lead.

Portland closed the gap a bit in the fourth when back-to-back 3-pointers from Trevor Ariza and McCollum got the Blazers within 114-105. Jrue Holiday‘s 3 and Ball’s layup extended New Orleans’ lead again and fans at the Moda Center headed for the exits.

Holiday finished with 20 points and nine assists.

Pascal Siakam scores 37, Raptors remain red hot with win vs. Suns

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TORONTO (AP) — Pascal Siakam had 37 points and 12 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors beat the Phoenix Suns 118-101 on Friday night for their 16th victory in 17 games.

Serge Ibaka scored 16 points, Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis each had 14, Kyle Lowry had 13 points and 10 assists and OG Anunoby aded 12 points for the defending NBA champion Raptors.

After Toronto’s franchise-record 15-game winning streak ended with a loss at Brooklyn in the final game before the All-Star break, the Raptors bounced back by starting the second half with their eighth consecutive home victory.

The Raptors have not lost back-to-back games since an overtime loss at Indiana on Dec. 23 and a home loss to Boston on Christmas Day. Toronto has gone 19-1 since.

Siakam connected on 12 of 19 attempts, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

That was just one fewer than the six 3-pointers the Suns managed on 34 attempts. Phoenix shot 17.6%t from long range, its lowest mark of the season. No Suns player made more than one shot from distance.

Devin Booker scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Ayton returned to the starting lineup after missing the final two games before the All-Star break because of a sore left ankle.

Phoenix trailed 93-78 through three quarters, but the Suns cut the gap to six points, 96-90 on a basket by Ayton with 8:08 left to play. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a pair from the line, and VanVleet and Siakam both scored to put the Raptors up 102-90 with 6:58 remaining.

Booker missed a 3 with 4:45 left that would have made it a four-point game. Anunoby scored on a dunk and, after another missed 3 by the Suns, Ibaka banked home a 3-pointer to restore Toronto’s 12-point cushion.

Moe Harkless says no buyout with Knicks: “I’ll be here the rest of the year”

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Moe Harkless went from a guy often starting and playing critical minutes for a contender in the Clippers to being the matching salary in a trade and finding himself on the woeful Knicks.

“It is definitely an adjustment with the way things are,” Harkless told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Everything is different, the culture and everything.”

If there was a player nobody would blame for wanting a buyout and the chance to get back to a team playing for something, it would be Harkless.

That’s not happening. Multiple reports have surfaced that he is not talking buyout with New York running up to the March 1 deadline. The latest comes from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Then Harkless was even more direct speaking to Bondy.

“I’ll be here the rest of the year,” he said.

Harkless has fans in NBA front offices, with the Lakers rumored to be among them (although they are about to land Markieff Morris in a similar role). Harkless could play good defensive minutes on the wing down the stretch for a team, buying rest for key guys, plus in the playoffs he could be advantageous in certain matchups.

Morris and the Knicks have time to change their minds, but it sounds like he will play out the season in New York then be a free agent next summer.

Lakers reportedly will waive DeMarcus Cousins to clear roster spot

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If the Lakers are going to add Markieff Morrisas has been rumored — or anyone else via free agency, they are going to need to clear out a roster spot.

That has the Lakers looking to waive DeMarcus Cousins, a report broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Cousins signed with the Lakers over the summer but never set foot on the court with them after tearing his ACL during summer workouts (which led to a scramble and L.A.’s fortuitous signing of Dwight Howard). He was around the team and rehabbing, and while they would never officially rule him out, Cousins was never expected to play.

He was not waived before because his $3.5 million salary might have been useful in a trade. When that didn’t materialize at the deadline it, became likely he could get waived.

It’s highly unlikely a team picks up Cousins this season, while he continues to rehab from his injury. However, it might be a good roll of the dice this summer by a team to sign him to a minimum contract for next season. Cousins still has some NBA basketball in him, if he can just stay healthy.