PBT’s Sunday Night Winners/Losers: Anthony Davis is playing like an MVP

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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 being glad you didn’t get surgery to look like Kim Kardashian….

source:  • Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans. Nobody has an answer for Anthony Davis this season. You would think the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder might, as they have Serge Ibaka in the paint and a handful of other defensive-minded bigs to throw at him. Nope. Sunday night Davis was too much for everyone and put up 38 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a New Orleans win. He did most of his damage at the rim but also was 5-of-8 from the midrange and it didn’t matter if the Thunder defended him will — he was 8-of-11 on contested shots. This season he has been the best player in the NBA, hands down. A lot of voters will only seriously consider a player for MVP if his team is doing well (almost all the winners come from top 4 teams that year) but Davis’ play has to merit serious consideration this season. And when he gets help — like from Jrue Holiday playing good defense on Russell Westbrook — the Pelicans do win. I just wish New Orleans would keep going to him down the stretch, rather than having their guards decide to try to take over.

source:  • Kobe Bryant. He said after the Lakers loss to the Thunder Friday he was tired and feeling it in his legs. Kobe was 8-of-30 shooting against the Kings Sunday night (scoring 25 points), is 11-of-45 (24.4 percent) over his last two games and 33-of-113 (29.2 percent) in his last five games. Byron Scott has got to give the man a night or two off to rest, then run some sets for other guys even when Kobe is on the court. But that will really be up to Bryant as he has all the power in the organization (why do you think when the Lakers needed a game winner against the Thunder a clearly exhausted Kobe got his number called for an isolation set).

source:  • DeMarcus Cousins. The Lakers simply had no answer for the physicality of Cousins in the paint, and down the stretch the Kings leaned on him virtually every time down (New Orleans, this is what I’m talking about). The Lakers tried Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre, going small and then eventually doubling — which is when Cousins kicked the ball out to shooters, the reason Ben McLemore had a career high of 23. Cousins had 29 points and 14 rebounds. When he is playing like this the Kings are a dangerous team. No matter who is the coach.

source:  • LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers. That is a quality win. The Cavaliers had little trouble with one of the best teams in the NBA so far this season, dismissing the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday behind 25 points from LeBron James. (To be fair, no Zach Randolph or Tony Allen for Memphis). Again it was all about the Cavaliers offense which carved up a usually stout Memphis defense and shot 60.5 percent overall and hit 7-of-14 from three.

source:  • New York Knicks. Did you know that after Sunday’s ugly Knicks loss to the Raptors (118-108, and it wasn’t that close) and the Sixers win over the Magic, the Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers are tied in the standings? It’s true. At 5-25 the Knicks are 18 games back of the conference-leading Raptors, and so are the 3-23 Sixers. The Knicks are percentage points ahead of the Sixers in the standings, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact they are terrible.

Khris Middleton drops career-best 51 on Wizards, Bucks win without Antetokounmpo

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Khris Middleton scored a career-high 51 points in the absence of injured teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 151-131 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.

Middleton, hoping to be chosen an All-Star reserve for the second straight year on Thursday, helped the Bucks hold off a second-half Wizards rally. Middleton also had 10 rebounds and six assists while hitting 16 of 26 shots and 7 of 10 3-pointers.

Milwaukee (41-6) scored a franchise-record 88 points in the first half, finished with its highest total of the season and won its ninth straight game despite the absence of Antetokounmpo, who sat out with a right shoulder injury.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards (15-31) with 47 points, his second straight 40-point game and sixth of the season.

Milwaukee led by as many as 32 points but the Wizards rallied in the third quarter, putting up 41 points to cut their deficit to 117-104 entering the fourth. Washington got within seven points in the final period but could not get closer.

Eric Bledsoe had 34 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Bucks. Donte DiVincenzo added 16 points.

Middleton responded with 13 points in the fourth quarter as he scored the most points by a Bucks player this season. He pounded home a dunk to go over 50 points and give the Bucks a 13-point lead late in the final quarter.

Antetokounmpo had 50 points on Nov. 25 against Utah.

The Bucks came out firing from deep, hitting eight of their first nine attempts from 3-point range. Milwaukee converted 14 of 22 shots in the first quarter on the way to a 42-28 lead.

And they kept going in the second quarter. Middleton hit his fourth 3-pointer of the half to give the Bucks a 69-43 lead with 5:46 left. Middleton nailed two more 3s to finish the half 6 for 6 from 3-point range and with 28 points.

The Bucks sank 14 of 24 3-pointers in the half and established a franchise best for points in a half as they grabbed an 88-63 lead at intermission.

The previous mark for points in a half was 87 set against New Orleans on March 14, 1979.

Joel Embiid’s Kobe tribute: 24 points while wearing uniform No. 24; 76ers’ win

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Wearing No. 24 in honor of Kobe Bryant, Joel Embiid scored 24 points in his first game in three weeks, leading the Philadelphia 76ers to a 115-104 win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night.

Embiid and the rest of the Sixers wore No. 24 and No. 8 Bryant jerseys in warmups in honor of the Los Angeles Lakers star, who was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash. Embiid was granted permission from Hall of Famer Bobby Jones to wear the retired No. 24 instead of his usual 21 for his first game since he tore a ligament in a finger in his left hand.

The Sixers went 6-3 without Embiid, the first Sixer to be voted to three straight All-Star Games since Allen Iverson.

Embiid had averaged 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds in 31 games this season. Against the Warriors, Embiid played with a splint on his hand that didn’t affect him when he buried a 3 that sent the Sixers into halftime with a 59-54 lead.

Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons had “Mamba Forever” and “RIP Gigi” (for Bryant’s daughter, among the nine killed in the crash) on each sneaker and scored 17 points.

The Sixers were the latest team to honor Bryant in a pregame ceremony. Bryant led suburban Lower Merion High School to the Class AAAA state title at Hersheypark Arena in 1996, the school’s first since 1943. His framed No. 33 Aces jersey was displayed at midcourt and the Sixers held a 33-second moment of silence of Bryant and the other eight victims in Sunday’s crash. The Sixers rang a bell nine times and shone nine lights on the court during the solemn remembrance. The Sixers skipped pregame introductions for both teams and instead played a video of Bryant’s last introduction in Philadelphia in a December 2015 game and images of him with Allen Iverson and Julius Erving.

Yes, all teams have been affected by Bryant’s death, but it struck particularly hard in Philly, where the former NBA star had a turbulent relationship with Philadelphia. His high school coach Gregg Downer spoke to the media for the first time earlier in the day, and wore Bryant’s No. 33 Lower Merion warmup jacket.

The mood in the building also was tempered, in part, because the 10-win Warriors gave the Sixers a serious challenge. The Sixers were 12-point favorites but D'Angelo Russell, who scored a team-high 28 points, kept the Warriors within single digits for most of the fourth quarter.

Al Horford buried a 3 and Shake Milton followed with another to push it to a 16-point lead and send the Sixers on their way to a whopping 22-2 record at home.

 

A tearful Shaquille O’Neal talks about his time, relationship with Kobe Bryant

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Shaquille O’Neal told Justin Tasch of New York Post: “I’m not doing well. I’m sick” about the death of his former teammate Kobe Bryant (along with eight others, including his daughter Gianna).

A lot of people can relate to that, but Shaq pulled it together enough to talk about his former championship teammate.

When it came to what he could no longer tell Kobe, Shaq teared up.

Shaq and Kobe had legendary feuds back in the day, but in later years made up and were friends.

Like many people, Shaq is still trying to process all of it. That’s going to take a long time.

Chris Paul posts emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant

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Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant were tight.

The shocking death of Kobe Bryant — along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash — hit CP3 hard and the point guard missed his first game of the year Monday, sitting out as he tried to come to grips with it all. Kobe and Paul won Gold Medals together, their kids were friends, and they competed fiercely against each other on the court. 

Tuesday night, Paul posted this personal tribute to Kobe.

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I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully process it. My parents have always said everything happens for a reason and its in God’s plan. But this one is different. Broken fingers, torn Achilles, it didn’t matter. You overcame it all!! You were DIFFERENT! Sometimes we competed so hard against each other that you could never tell how I was always watching YOU!! I needed to see how much better I needed to get and how much harder I needed to work! The love you had for the game was nowhere near the love you had for YOUR girls!! All 5 of them!! And Gigi, who we had already prearranged her marriage with lil Chris, is as beautiful and feisty as she could ever be!!! As I’ve watched you in retirement, as happy as you’ve ever been, I’ve sat back and prayed and hoped that my baby girl will look at me the way Gigi looks at you!!! I Love You and will miss you with all my heart my brother!!! All my love to Vanessa and all the families during this time 🙏🏾 #Mamba4Life #Mambacita

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Like Paul, a lot of us are struggling to process it all.