James Harden shot 2-for-18 – the worst field-goal percentage (11%) on so many attempts in a playoff game in nearly a decade and the worst ever in a first-round game.
The Rockets still won by 20 because of their stout defense, a strong supporting star in Chris Paul and Harden’s foul-drawing ability.
Houston’s took a 2-0 series lead with a 102-82 win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday. Game 3 will be Saturday in Minnesota, but the top-seeded Rockets have seized firm control.
Every No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seed to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven first-round series have won it. There’s little reason to believe Houston will become the exception.
The Rockets are no longer as reliant on Harden, the likely MVP who seemed to wear down last postseason.
They buckled down defensively before letting up in a fourth quarter that was entirely garbage time. Houston forced more turnovers (16) than allowed assists (15) and contested shot after shot.
It’s becoming increasingly clear the Timberwolves have no quick solution to the Karl-Anthony Townsproblem, and it’s not simply a matter of deciding to feed him more. Yes, he can get favorable post matchups against the Rockets’ switching scheme. But Minnesota lacks quality entry passers. The Timberwolves are also short on shooters and need him to spread the floor – even if that skill is less-helpful after a switch. Towns scored just five points in 24 minutes tonight.
His teammates were barely, if at all, better. The focus has turned to Towns, but this was a far-wider letdown.
On the other hand, Paul (27 points and eight assists) led Houston’s offense. Gerald Green (21 points and 12 rebounds) got hot. Even Harden (7-of-8 on free throws) chipped in thanks to his elite foul-drawing ability.
The Rockets aren’t always the most enjoyable team to watch, and that was the case tonight. Mostly, because they put this game out of reach long before it actually ended.
Kobe Bryant, the legendary Laker star who was saluted byLeBron James on Saturday night, has died in a helicopter crash in Southern California, sources have confirmed to NBC Sports.
The crash took place in Calabasas, an area about 30 miles northeast of the Staples Center, where Kobe stared as a player for more than a decade. It is not far from the Mamba Academy athletic training center where Kobe was active. It was a foggy day in Southern California, which could have contributed to the crash.
The crash killed five people, of which Kobe was one.
"It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and four others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas," Calabasas Mayor Alicia Weintraub said. "The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt."
Kobe was 41. He and his wife Vanessa have four daughters. It is unclear at this time if any of his family was on board the helicopter with him.
Kobe had a 20-year NBA career that will send him to the Hall of Fame (once he becomes eligible). He was a five-time NBA Champion, a 15-time All-NBA player, NBA MVP, two-time scoring champion, two-time Finals MVP, 18-time All-Star, a two-time Gold Medalist for Team USA, and a player who influenced a generation who came up after him. His work ethic was legendary and was part of what rubbed off on LeBron and many others.
Kobe became synonymous with the Lakers and their brand — the loyalty Kobe generated with his fans was unmatched in the modern NBA.
Kobe’s death came just a day after LeBron passed him for third All-Time in NBA scoring, which led LeBron to talk unscripted for more than five minutes about how he had grown up idolizing Kobe and the influence Kobe had on his life. Kobe’s last Tweet was about LeBron and, appropriately, the future of the game.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
LeBron trails only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the scoring list, with LeBron 4,733 points back of Kareem. The scoring champ was on SiriusXM NBA Radio this past week and he also showed his appreciation for LeBron — and added LeBron could pass him.
“I think it is up to LeBron. If he wants to do it, he’ll do it. He has the talent. He has the opportunity. So it’s just up to him as to how he wants to end his career. I certainly cannot be upset about it. The reason that they keep these records is so that we learn how we are improving. And we learn how to teach the game, taking note of the accomplishments of the great players. So, hey, it’s a natural progression. I don’t have any problem with it.”
Rumor: J.R. Smith to get workout with Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers head into the trade deadline — where they have limited players and picks to make a move — and the buyout market looking for a secondary playmaker to come off the bench, plus some more shooting.
However, if the Lakers wanted Smith, they could have signed him at any point this summer. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
Smith evolved into a gunner off the bench, a high volume shooter and scorer who creates shots for himself, which won his Sixth Man of the Year back in 2013 but does not fit what the Lakers are looking for right now.
Also, Smith’s skills have been in decline. Last season, Smith, 34, played just 11 games for the Cavaliers — none after November — and struggled with his shot, hitting 30.8 percent from three and he had a dreadful true shooting percentage of 44.4 (he is a career 37.3 percent shooter from three). Smith did not want to be part of a rebuild in Cleveland and asked to be traded, but the team could not find a taker that wanted Smith’s contract and would send a pick back for him. Cleveland waived Smith in July and, while he met with the Bucks, he has been without a contract since.
Don’t read much into Smith getting a workout, there could be a lot of reasons for this. Maybe this gets him on another team’s radar, but it’s hard to see how he helps the Lakers take a step forward right now.
Once again Zach LaVine has huge game against Cavaliers, scores 44 in win (VIDEO)
CLEVELAND (AP) —Zach LaVine scored 44 points for another dominating performance against Cleveland and the Chicago Bulls defeated the Cavaliers 118-106 on Saturday night.
LaVine made 16 of 30 shots and had 27 points at halftime. The 6-foot-5 guard also finished with 10 rebounds and eight assists, falling just short of his first career triple-double.
It was LaVine’s second big game against Cleveland in eight days. He scored 42 points on Jan. 20, including 21 in the fourth quarter when the Bulls rallied from a 15-point deficit to win.
Cleveland, which has lost seven straight and 12 of 14, had no better success stopping LaVine this time. He drove past his defender for clear looks at the basket, scored when he was double teamed in the lane, hit five 3-pointers and was 7 of 8 from the line.
LaVine was held to 16 points when the Cavaliers beat the Bulls in Cleveland on Oct. 30. The teams play for the fourth and final time this season in Chicago on March 10.
Tomas Satoransky had 19 points for the Bulls, who were coming off a home loss to Sacramento on Friday and arrived in around 1:30 a.m.
The game was tied at 69 midway through the third quarter before the Bulls went on a 30-7 run to go ahead 99-76. Chicago outscored Cleveland 40-19 in the period.
Cleveland cut a 24-point deficit to 112-103 with two minutes to play, but got no closer. The Cavaliers had lopsided home losses to New York and Washington this week.
Chicago didn’t play like a team that’s been plagued by injuries. Forward Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls’ second-leading scorer, will miss four to six weeks because of an injured right hip. The 7-footer had an MRI on Thursday after experiencing soreness in the hip for about a week.