James Harden’s triple-double leads Rockets past Spurs, 101-99

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — James Harden had 24 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds as the Houston Rockets held off San Antonio 101-99 on Wednesday night to hand the Spurs their third straight home loss.

Ryan Anderson was 4 for 6 on 3-pointers in scoring 20 points, and Houston snapped a four-game skid in San Antonio. Eric Gordon had 15 points and fellow reserve Sam Dekker added 12.

Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points for the Spurs but missed his final jump shot, which could have tied the game. LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 14 points, also missed a tip-in attempt at the buzzer.

Danny Green made his season debut for San Antonio, scoring eight points in his return from a strained left quadriceps. He missed his first 3-point try but drained his second from the right corner and finished 2 for 8 on 3s.

The Spurs used a rotation spearheaded by Leonard and Green to defend Harden, but found little success.

Harden set an aggressive tone early with nine points, six assists and three rebounds in the first quarter.

When he wasn’t draining jumpers and tossing in runners, he kicked the ball out to open teammates after drawing multiple defenders on his drives.

The Rockets were 10 for 30 on 3-pointers and shot 47 percent overall.

The Spurs sat Pau Gasol the entire second quarter in favor of a quicker lineup and it helped them erase a 13-point deficit to take a 51-50 lead.

San Antonio employed the same strategy late in the third quarter to pull within a point twice, but could not overcome Harden.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Harden had his streak of four straight games with at least 30 points and 12 assists snapped. . Houston played seven of its first eight games on the road. The last team to open with such an arduous schedule was Cleveland in 1970-71. . Corey Brewer started his second straight game. Gordon started the team’s first six games.

Spurs: Tony Parker missed his third consecutive game with a sore right knee. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich expects Parker to play Friday at home against Detroit or Saturday in Houston. . Manu Ginobili joined Rashard Lewis as the only second-round draft picks in NBA history with 13,000 career points and at least 1,300 3-pointers. Ginobili is the 15th second-rounder to reach 13,000 points. . Green became the sixth player with at least one 3-pointer in 300 career games for the Spurs. Parker, Ginobili, Bruce Bowen, Matt Bonner and Sean Elliott are the others.

 

LeBron James: ‘I almost cracked’ with Lakers’ slow start

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LeBron James has played in eight straight NBA Finals.

How’s he handling reduced expectations with the Lakers, who started 2-5 before rising to 7-6?

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

‪“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”‬

LeBron warned everyone to stay clear when he loses his patience, but he has never sounded close to losing it this season. He signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, said he doesn’t feel urgency to win quickly before his prime ends and seems content to wait for a co-star.

If anything, it seemed LeBron might be too relaxed, enjoying the Los Angeles lifestyle and focusing on showbusiness.

So, this is a welcome sign of his competitiveness.

Also kudos to LeBron for harnessing it unlike others in the organization. These Lakers need time to determine how these oddly shaped pieces fit together – unless a star becomes available. Then, all bets are off.

Dwyane Wade: Making Carmelo Anthony ‘fall guy’ doesn’t address the ‘real problem’

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LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul – the banana-boat buddies – comprise the NBA’s most famous friendship group.

With Anthony nearing his end with the Rockets, that puts Houston teammate Paul in an awkward place. But Wade and LeBron are speaking up. So are the Trail Blazers’ Evan Turner and Damian Lillard.

Wade:

LeBron:

Evan Turner:

Damian Lillard:

It’s unclear whether Wade is scolding the Rockets or fans/media. That comment is far more loaded if he’s referring directly to the organization. I wonder what he sees at the “real problem” in Houston.

A struggling team waiving a minimum-salary player is rarely viewed as making that player the scapegoat. But Anthony has an outsized reputation due to his long, star-level career. With that in mind, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tried to defend Anthony.

But Anthony is a part of Houston’s problems. He’s awful defensively and shooting poorly. There is mounting evidence he’s washed up. Downgrading his role, whether or not that includes waiving him, is a step in the right direction for the Rockets.

It won’t solve everything, and Anthony – after all that he has done in the NBA – should be treated with respect. But there’s no way around his substandard current level of play.

Report: Jimmy Butler planned to hold out from Timberwolves unless traded, informing team during Friday’s game

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According to one narrative, the Timberwolves decided after Friday’s loss to the Kings to trade Jimmy Butler.

But he might have forced their hand, resulting in his trade to the 76ers.

Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Butler decided he would play on Friday night, but he viewed it as the fork in the road. If the Timberwolves didn’t find a deal to fulfill his long-simmering trade request after that, he would begin to sit indefinitely, league sources told The Athletic.

The Kings defeated Minnesota 121-110 to push the Timberwolves to 4-9 and a winless road trip; Butler had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 41 minutes. He had played almost 124 minutes in the last three games, all losses, and at halftime of the final one, the Wolves were informed that this was it for Butler, sources said.

Butler reportedly held out for a game a couple weeks ago, though he and Minnesota both denied it. It’s quite believable he would’ve held out again if not traded. Still, informing the team during a game he’s playing would have been quite bold.

I’m not sure who actually blinked first. This could be an I-quit, no-you’re-fired (or vice versa) scenario. Both Butler and Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau are stubborn.

But the most important thing is Butler is gone and both sides can move on – whatever ugliness preceded the trade.

Jimmy Butler on being a Sixer: ‘I’m ready to get started, we got a little ways to go’

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Jimmy Butler is officially a member of the 76ers.

His plane landed in Philly Monday and a camera crew from NBC Sports Philadelphia was there to get his first words on being a member of the Sixers. (You can see the video above.)

“I’m ready to get started, we got a little ways to go, we got some things to figure out. But all-in-all, I look forward to it,” Butler said out the window of the car that picked him up.

What should Sixers fans expect?

“Hard playing. A guy that wants to win. We got some things we want to get done here, we want to win a championship. I think the core group of guys we have, we’ll figure out a way to get it done.”

After that he rolled up the window and drove off… and we assume cranked up the country music.