Paul has 25 points, Clippers beat Hornets 97-83

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Clippers continue to win games without their leading scorer. And whenever Blake Griffin gets rid of those street clothes and returns to the lineup, they’ll only get better.

Chris Paul had 25 points and seven assists and the Clippers extended their winning streak to eight with a 97-83 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

Los Angeles is 7-0 since Griffin went down with a partially torn tendon in his left quad. Overall, they are 19-8 when the five-time All-Star has been sidelined due to injury or suspension – including a 9-6 mark last season.

“I think it’s because we all had to step up by committee,” Paul said. “We’re moving the ball and putting a huge emphasis on defense. The only way we can really score without the big fella is we defend and get out in transition.”

Center DeAndre Jordan, making a push for his first career All-Star selection, had 19 rebounds. It was the 11th straight game in double digits for the franchise’s career rebounding leader. He led the NBA in rebounding the previous two seasons.

J.J. Redick added 17 points for the Clippers. The winning streak is their fourth of eight or more games in the past four seasons. They had an 11-game run in 2013-14, a nine-game stretch last season, and won a franchise-record 17 straight in 2012-13 – going 16-0 in December.

Jeremy Lin made his sixth start of the season and scored 26 points for the Hornets, who have lost a season-worst six in a row and seven straight on the road. Shooting guard Nicolas Batum missed his fourth straight game because of a sprained toe on his right foot.

“At this point, we are just trying to get a win,” Lin said. “But I would say today that we played harder and had more communication on the defensive end than we have had in previous games. If we keep playing as hard as we did today, good things will happen in the near future.”

Jeremy Lamb had 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds.

Kemba Walker, the Hornets’ leading scorer this season, had 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting after averaging 26.6 over his previous seven games.

“He missed some shots, but I thought C.P. and Austin were really effective with their size and getting into him,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “But I thought our bigs were good with Walker today, too. They were very alert to him and they were up to the pick-and-rolls a little bit more.”

Paul’s 19-footer capped a 13-1 run that turned a three-point Clippers deficit into a 58-49 lead with 6:02 left in the third quarter. They led by six entering the fourth and made it 86-75 on Redick’s 19-footer from the left of the key. The Hornets got no closer than nine after that.

“We don’t have the residual effect of bad play. We just get out of it,” Rivers said. “I didn’t have to say much at halftime. You could just see that guys were upset, and they were talking about it when I walked in. So what else do I need to say. They’re policing themselves, and that’s important.”

The Hornets’ losing streak began with a 122-117 home loss to the Clippers, who have won 10 of the last 11 meetings. They are 7-12 since signing coach Steve Clifford to a three-year contract extension Dec. 2.

TIP-INS

Hornets: F Spencer Hawes, who spent last season with the Clippers and was traded along with Matt Barnes for F Lance Stephenson in June, had seven points in 14 minutes. … The Hornets, who came in averaging 38.5 points off the bench, finished with 31 from their reserves. … Seven-foot C Frank Kaminsky, the ninth overall pick in the draft, scored 20 points the last time the teams met. He had four in the rematch. … The Hornets had 16 turnovers. They entered Saturday averaging a league-low 12.7, after finishing last season with the fewest in the league.

Clippers: Griffin isn’t expected to see a doctor until next week. … Jordan closed out last season with a career-best double-digit rebound streak of 31 games, and had a 24-game streak in 2013-14. He entered Saturday with a .league-best 73.1 field goal percentage. The highest percentage in NBA history at the end of a season is 72.7, by the Lakers’ Wilt Chamberlain in 1972-73.

UP NEXT

Hornets: At Denver on Sunday.

Clippers: Host New Orleans on Sunday.

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
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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
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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.