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Rockets extend streak to 10 games with 118-86 win over Bulls

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HOUSTON (AP) Eric Gordon scored 31 points and tied a career high with eight 3-pointers on a night James Harden sat out to rest, and the Houston Rockets got their 10th straight win with a 118-86 rout of the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.

Trevor Ariza added 21 points and Chris Paul had 13 points and 10 assists in his return after missing the last three games with a sore hamstring.

The NBA-leading Rockets became the first team since San Antonio in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season to have three winning streaks of at least 10 games in a season. They won 14 in a row from Nov. 16-Dec. 18 and 17 straight from Jan. 28-March 7.

Lauri Markkanen returned after missing Saturday’s game with lower back spasms and had 22 points for the Bulls, who dropped their sixth straight.

The Rockets had a 21-point lead at halftime, paced by 24 points from Gordon, and opened the third quarter with a 16-2 run to extend it to 76-41 with 7 1/2 minutes left in the quarter. Ariza had eight points, powered by two 3-pointers in that stretch.

The Bulls couldn’t do anything right in that span, missing four shots and committing five turnovers, including one on a shot clock violation and another when David Nwaba stepped out of bounds.

Nwaba made Chicago’s first basket in more than 3 1/2 minutes, but the Rockets scored the next seven points to make it a 40-point lead with just more than five minutes left in the quarter.

After never trailing in their blowout wins over New Orleans and Atlanta, the Rockets spent 13 seconds behind on Tuesday night after Cameron Payne put Chicago up 2-0 with a basket early in the first.

Gordon’s first 3-pointer came next to put Houston up for good. It was the first of a 14-3 run that put the Rockets ahead 14-5 with about 8 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.

Markkanen had the next seven points to get Chicago within two, but an 11-2 spurt by Houston followed to extend the lead to 25-14.

Chicago cut the lead to eight on a 3-pointer by Denzel Valentine about nine minutes before halftime before the Rockets used a 13-2 run to extend it to 51-32 five minutes later. Nene had four points in that stretch and Gordon added five, including a 3-pointer to cap it.

The Rockets were up by 16 late in the second when Gordon scored all of Houston’s points in an 8-4 run to wrap up the first half and make it 60-39.

TIP-INS

Bulls: Sean Kilpatrick, who signed a three-year deal on Tuesday, had 12 points and two rebounds. … Noah Vonleh had 10 points and 12 rebounds. … Chicago had 18 turnovers.

Rockets: Luc Mbah a Moute missed his third straight game with a sore left knee. … Houston made 18 3-pointers to give them at least 15 in six of the last seven games. … Tuesday was the third straight game where Houston held its opponent to less than 50 points in the first half.

UP NEXT

Bulls: Visit Miami on Thursday.

Rockets: Host Phoenix on Friday.

Rumor: Timberwolves bypassed Stephen Curry in draft because Minnesota is too cold for year-round golf

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Timberwolves general manager David Kahn infamously drafted two point guards – Ricky Rubio No. 5 and Jonny Flynn No. 6 – before the Warriors took Stephen Curry No. 7 in the 2009 draft.

Curry, as transcribed by Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“My guy David Kahn. I don’t know where he’s at right now,” Curry said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “I don’t know if that ever came out — there’s a story. Everybody knows how much I love golf — play it in my spare time and what not.

“I think the word on the street was that he didn’t draft me because in Minnesota it’s cold and I wouldn’t be able to play as much golf so I would have been miserable.”

A shocked Simmons asked Curry: “Is that true?”

“I hope it’s true because that’s hilarious (laughter),” Curry said. “That’s hilarious.”

If this is why Minnesota passed on Curry, it was a huge mistake. Better to take the best prospect available and hope for the best. Curry probably would have learned to appreciate Minnesota. There’s plenty of room to golf elsewhere in the offseason. Remember, Golden State was seen as a low-rung destination just a few years ago. Curry helped transform the franchise’s perception.

Mostly, though, I’m with Curry. This would be a hilarious story if true.

But that doesn’t mean we should just assume it’s accurate. Plenty of teams underestimated Curry, who looked like an undersized score-first guard when he entered the NBA. He just beat the odds and made everyone who passed on him look silly.

Orlando not getting 2023 All-Star game

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The next three NBA All-Star hosts are set:

  • 2019: Charlotte Hornets
  • 2020: Chicago Bulls
  • 2021: Indiana Pacers

Beyond that? The Orlando Magic want an All-Star game, but they apparently struck out with upcoming selections.

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins said Sunday the Magic put in a bid to host the 2023 All-Star Weekend and have been informed by league officials that another location will be selected for that year.

The league asked for bids for the 2022 and 2023 All-Star Weekends, but Martins said the Magic couldn’t bid for the 2022 game because a major convention will be held in Orlando that same weekend, leaving the city with too few hotel rooms to also host All-Star Weekend.

Orlando hosted All-Star games in 2012 and 1992. I bet one will return there soon enough. It’s a warm-weather city with the infrastructure to host.

It just won’t be within the next half decade.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer: ‘I think we got higher expectations on us than the long, hard five, six years of absolute crap like the 76ers put in’

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The Clippers will probably miss the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference. But they’re also even further from landing a high draft pick. They’re in that middling position some teams find perilous.

But not Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.

Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times:

Ballmer also vowed that the Clippers won’t tank to get a better draft pick. “That ain’t us. Nuh-uh, no way,” he said. “People can do it their way. We’re going to be good our way. We’re not going to show up and suck for a year, two years. I think we got higher expectations on us than the long, hard five, six years of absolute crap like the 76ers put in. How could we look you guys in the eye if we did that to you?”

The 76ers missed the playoffs five straight seasons, but they emerged from that self-inflicted drought with two franchise cornerstones – Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons – and multiple other helpful pieces. The Process worked as intended.

But this is also why the NBA needn’t freak out about other teams replicating Sam Hinkie’s plan. Few have the stomach for it.

Ballmer doesn’t. The Clippers are trying to attract free agents. The better they are in the interim, the more credibility they’ll build.

Jordan Clarkson, Yao Ming keen observers at Asian Games basketball

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson watched from the bench, not quite able to make it to the Asian Games in time to play in the opening game for the Philippines.

Yao Ming was there, too, also keeping a close eye on the Philippines’ opening 96-59 win over Kazakhstan.

After getting a special exemption from the NBA to play for the Philippines in Jakarta, the US-born Clarkson should be ready to suit up for the next game against China. And that has the attention of ex-Houston Rockets and Chinese all-star center Yao.

Clarkson, one of three NBA players given an exemption by the league to play in Jakarta, said he had a frustrating time while his status for the tournament was being considered. The NBA also granted exemptions to Houston Rockets 7-foot-1 (2.17-meter) center Zhou Qi and Dallas Mavericks forward Ding Yanyuhang to play for China.

“We went back and forth so many times, saying I was going to play, then I wasn’t going to play,” the 6-5 (1.96-meter) Clarkson told Philippines’ reporters after Thursday’s game. “Now, being able to participate is awesome.

“I’m very excited to know that I’m finally getting to do this, being able to play … for the country. It’s definitely something that I’ve been looking forward to.”

Clarkson, who qualifies to play for the Philippines through his maternal grandmother, has four days to get familiar with “fun style of play.”

“I feel the support, the love all the time,” he said. “My grandma is real proud I’m able to do this now.”

The Philippines is playing a tournament for the first time since 10 players and two coaches were suspended following a wild brawl in a World Cup qualifier against Australia on July 2. Three Australian players were also suspended.

Video of the brawl was widely played around the world, with punches thrown, chairs tossed at players, and security needed to restore order.