Spurs-Rockets featured largest Game 1-to-Game 2 turnaround in decades

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The Rockets ran all over the Spurs in Game 1, winning by 27. James Harden picked apart San Antonio in transition and the pick-and-roll. The Spurs’ bigs couldn’t keep up, as Houston generated easy looks at the basket and open 3-pointers.

It was total domination.

“We haven’t won anything so far,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said the following day.

San Antonio proved him prophetic last night, winning Game 2 by 25 to even the series. Everything we thought we understood one game into this series flew out the window.

The 52-point swing was the largest from Game 1 to Game 2 in 22 years and fourth-largest ever.

The Magic beat the Celtics by 47 in Game 1 of the 1995 first round then lost to Boston by seven in Game 2. That 54-point swing was the last time fortunes changed so dramatically from Game 1 to Game 2.

In the 1956 division semifinals, the St. Louis Hawks beat the Minneapolis Lakers by one in Game 1 then lost by 58 in Game 2. The 1973 conference finals featured the Celtics beating the Knicks by 26 Game 1 and then losing to Boston by 33 in Game 2. Those 59-point swings are tied for the largest ever between Game 1 and Game 2.

Here’s every series with a 40-point swing between Game 1 and Game 2:

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As you can see, several of those swings include a massive blowout and a reasonably close outcome. In Spurs-Rockets, each team earned a big win.

This is just the eighth time in NBA history, including last year’s NBA Finals, a team won a playoff game by 25 then lost the next game in the series by 25:

2017 second round: SAS 1, HOU 1 Game 1: HOU 126, SAS 99 Game 2: SAS 121, HOU 96
2016 NBA Finals: CLE 4, GSW 3 Game 2: GSW 110, CLE 77 Game 3: CLE 120, GSW 90
2016 conference finals: GSW 4, OKC 3 Game 2: GSW 118, OKC 91 Game 3: OKC 133, GSW 105
2008 first round: CLE 4, WAS 2 Game 2: CLE 116, WAS 86 Game 3: WAS 108, CLE 72
1982 conference finals: PHI 4, BOS 3 Game 4: PHI 119, BOS 94 Game 5: BOS 114, PHI 85
1980 conference semifinals: LAL 4, PHO 1 Game 4: PHO 127, LAL 101 Game 5: LAL 126, PHO 101
1973 conference finals: NYK 4, BOS 3 Game 1: BOS 134, NYK 108 Game 2: NYK 129, BOS 96
1972 conference finals: LAL 4, MIL 2 Game 4: MIL 114, LAL 88 Game 5: LAL 115, MIL 90

Where do San Antonio and Houston go from here? The Rockets, if they didn’t know it already, learned they can’t rest on their laurels. The Spurs can’t feel secure in their turnaround, not after Tony Parker‘s injury.

After two decisive victories, this series is anything but decided.

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

Three things to know: Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks in 76ers win

The 76ers went 3-1 with Joel Embiid sidelined by a left mid-foot sprain, but they are so much more a dangerous team with him.

Embiid scored the 76ers’ final 11 points of the game against the Hawks, including the go-ahead 10-foot jumper with 18.6 seconds left, to cap a 30-point night and lift the Sixers past the Hawks 104-101.

Embiid was making critical defensive plays down the stretch as well.

Embiid finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. That’s five straight 30+ point games for Embiid, who picked up right where he left off before the injury.

Well, not exactly pick up at the start as Embiid was 1-of-7 shooting to open the game, and he wasn’t the only Sixers rusty at the start. Embiid seemed focused on sharing the ball early but settled into an offensive balance as the game went on. Philly was saved by a solid defensive night.

The 76ers continue to pick up wins with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey out, which is a good sign going forward.

That’s three-straight losses for the Hawks, a loss that stings because they should have been able to dominate the shorthanded 76ers backcourt and get the win.

2) Karl-Anthony Towns goes down with concerning leg injury

Let’s hope the optimistic report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is right and this isn’t as severe as it looked. Because it looked bad.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony simply was pushing off to run back upcourt when he fell to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf.

Towns was helped back to the locker room and did not return, with the Timberwolves officially saying he was out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A calf strain would be the best possible outcome. An MRI Monday will tell us more.

Towns’ stats are down this season as he adjusts to the odd fit of playing next to Rudy Gobert, but he is still averaging 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

The Wizards got a monster night from Kristaps Porzingis — a career-high 41 points — on their way to a 142-127 victory. When Porzingis is on this Washington team is tough to beat.

3) Big shots fall at Lakers’ game

Two big shots defined the night at the crypto.com arena Monday.

First, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 with a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

The second one hurt the Lakers more. Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

The Lakers got lost in the scramble. On the initial action, Russell Westbrook doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner, which left the screen setter Myles Turner open at the top for a clean look at a 3 — but he was short and came off the front of the rim. Tyrese Haliburton out-hustled everyone to the rebound and tried to create his own shot but saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West.

The Lakers had won 5-of-6 against a soft part of the schedule but that is about to change and over the next few weeks we will get a sense of where this 7-12 team really stands.