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Gordon Hayward scores 28 as Jazz defeat Rockets 117-114 in overtime

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gordon Hayward scored 28 points and the Utah Jazz defeated the Houston Rockets 117-114 in overtime Tuesday night in a game with significant playoff implications.

The victory moved the Jazz into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff race, a half-game ahead of the Rockets.

The first tiebreaker for a two-way tie is head-to-head winning percentage. The Rockets fell to 2-1 against the Jazz this season.

James Harden scored 42 points for Houston, and Jason Terry hit a 3-pointer with 10.8 seconds remaining in regulation to tie it at 106 and force overtime.

It was Harden’s eighth 40-point game, tying him with Stephen Curry.

Rodney Hood made a 3 over Dwight Howard with 51.9 seconds left in OT to give the Jazz a 115-112 lead. Harden followed with a layup, but Derrick Favors‘ putback pushed the margin to 117-114 with 11.8 seconds to go.

Favors finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Howard had 13 points and 16 rebounds.

The Rockets rallied in the third quarter behind a spectacular effort from Harden, but Trey Burke hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Jazz retook the lead.

Utah jumped out to a 34-23 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to a 15-2 run. The highlight of the half came on Hood’s crossover, step-back 3-pointer over Howard to beat the buzzer.

Turnovers, however, kept the Rockets in it. Utah committed 16 turnovers in the first half that Houston converted into 23 points.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston is 24-22 since J.B. Bickerstaff took over as interim coach. … Trevor Ariza scored 18 points but the Rockets were minus-12 when he was on the court. … Patrick Beverley finished with 14 points. … The Rockets have played six overtime games this season.

Jazz: Utah rallied in the fourth quarter with the lineup of Burke, Hood, Favors, Chris Johnson and Trevor Booker. … The Jazz were outscored 32-23 in the third quarter. … Hood had a career-high five steals. … The Jazz have played eight overtime games this season.

THAT WAS QUICK

The Jazz traded for Shelvin Mack on Thursday and he moved into the starting lineup Tuesday after playing just one game. Raul Neto was the first point guard off the bench after starting 53 games. Burke checked in with 11:25 left in the second quarter. Mack scored a season-high 17 points. Coach Quin Snyder indicated before the game that he’d like to stick to one starting lineup down the stretch. “We’re not at a point now where we need to be making changes all the time and trying to find combinations and things like that,” Snyder said. “We’ve done that.”

SWITCH UP

The Rockets inserted Josh Smith into the starting lineup along with Ariza, Beverley, Howard and Harden for the second consecutive game. It’s just the second time Houston has used that starting lineup as Bickerstaff has decided to go big. “It really had nothing to do with matchups,” Bickerstaff said. “It had more to do with skill set. … We figured we needed a guy in that first group who can be a facilitator. One of Josh’s greatest strengths is moving the ball. He complements Dwight and James really, really well.”

 

LeBron James rips AAU workload: ‘AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid’

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Last week, during the pointless debate about Kawhi Leonard missing a game for load management, the most salient point came from former Suns coach Earl Watson.

He echoed a must-read story (from Baxter Holmes at ESPN) that reverberated around the NBA this summer (but for many fans got lost in the shuffle of player movement): How NBA team medical staffs — as well as just doctors working on young athletes — were noticing the extreme wear and tear on the body of AAU basketball players. The volume of games, often without enough training and conditioning to properly strengthen their young bodies or let them recover, sets young players up for injuries later in their playing career. NBA teams and doctors, with their load management techniques, are trying to make up for damage that started long before.

LeBron James, with two sons playing AAU ball right now, is in full agreement.

LeBron ripped the volume of games played in the youth basketball culture, speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f***,” James told Yahoo Sports. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through…

“I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure,” James told Yahoo Sports. “It was a few tournaments where my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f- – -ing out of control. That’s just too much… So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.

“Because a lot of these tournaments don’t have the best interest of these kids, man. I see it. It’s like one time, they had to play a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and a championship game starting at 9 a.m., and the championship game was at 12:30 p.m. Three games. I was like, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And my kids were dead tired. My kids were dead tired. This isn’t right. This is an issue.”

It is an issue. A big issue. The NBA can talk about reducing the number of games — they are, and they should, the season is too long, but cutting the number of games becomes a complex financial issue — but it goes beyond just the NBA level.

There needs to be fundamental changes in youth basketball in the NBA, down to the AAU level. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about this.

“So, where historically it’s been an area, particularly AAU basketball, that the league has stayed out of, I think these most recent revelations (from the NCAA scandal) are just a reminder that we’re part of this larger basketball community. I think ultimately, whether we like it or not, need to be more directly involved with elite youth basketball,” Silver said a couple of years ago. Since then, the league has taken steps in that direction.

However, like shortening the NBA season, there are a lot of competing interests in a complicated situation. A lot of people are making money the way things are now and don’t want them to change.

For the health of players, it needs to.

 

Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton to miss 3-4 weeks with thigh contusion

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Khris Middleton, coming off a summer with Team USA, has quietly continued his All-Star level play this season — an efficient 18.5 points per game, shooting 39.3 percent from three but also finishing well at the rim, and the Bucks offense is 3.3 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

However, he’s not going to be on the court for a few weeks due to a deep thigh bruise, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

In the third quarter of the Bucks win over the Thunder Sunday, Middleton suffered the thigh bruise, which sent him to the locker room. While he returned to the bench, he did not return to the game. Afterward, in the locker room, Middleton didn’t seem to think it was that serious.

It turned out to be a little more than that, it has to be a deep bruise to have him out for up to a month.

Kyle Korver would be next in line to get those minutes, but he sat out Sunday with a “head contusion.” Behind him look for smaller lineups with Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, Sterling Brown, and Wesley Matthews to get more minutes, plus maybe a little Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

After 0-6 start, Raptors coach Nick Nurse celebrates successful challenge like he won a championship (video)

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After the Raptors won the 2019 NBA title, Toronto coach Nick Nurse hugged Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Masai Ujiri.

Some of the hug recipients changed, but Nurse’s celebration didn’t look that different last night.

Nurse missed his first six coach’s challenges then finally got one right during the Raptors’ win over the Lakers. He responded by hugging everyone – including a Los Angeles fan – around him.

This was a long time coming. Even after a couple early failed challenges, Nurse sounded exasperated.

Michael Grange of Sportsnet:

Maybe Clippers coach Doc Rivers, a noted challenge critic, will eventually experience this euphoria.

Report: Gordon Hayward to have surgery on left hand

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How good would Gordon Hayward be if he could just stay healthy?

Hopefully we will find out someday, but probably not for the next couple of months after his agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Hayward will have surgery on his non-shooting hand to repair a broken bone.

There will be no official timeline for recovery until after the surgery, but after going under the knife Hayward is likely out at least six weeks. Stephen Curry is out three months after surgery on his non-shooting hand (that is a different injury, but it shows how long the timeline can be).

The play where the injury happened was innocuous.

Even so, it has left Boston with some big questions to answer through New Year’s Eve, or whenever Hayward returns. Hayward was having a bounce-back year, averaging 18.9 points per game, shooting 43.3 percent from three, pulling down 7.1 rebounds and dishing out 4.1 assists per game. He’s been a critical playmaker for the Celtics.

For Boston, this likely means a lot more Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, and maybe Javonte Green.