Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams each score 30+ off bench, Clippers beat Knicks

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LOS ANGELES — A day after a 26-point loss to Memphis in another matinee, the Clippers had a least three players score at least 30 points for the first time in franchise history.

Montrezl Harrell scored 34 points off the bench, reserve Lou Williams scored 32 to match starter Paul George, and Los Angeles beat the New York Knicks 135-132 on Sunday.

It was the first time in the Clippers’ history that three players scored at least 30 points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time two players have scored 30 points off the bench in a regulation NBA game since the 1970-71 season.

“Montrezl and Lou were fantastic. History is good. Someone has to make it,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.

Harrell didn’t say much after tying a career high and producing the seventh 30-point game of his four-year career. One day after saying the Clippers were “not a great team” following the embarrassment by Memphis, Harrell walked past reporters with a smile on his face and said, “You all have a good Sunday.”

George, who missed Saturday’s game with left hamstring tightness, said it was important to not come out flat two afternoons in a row.

“We saw Lou and Montrezl lead the way. Watching that from the bench, it got us motivated. We knew the job we had to do,” said George, who posted his seventh 30-point game this season. He was 9 of 14 from the field, including 5 of 6 on 3-pointers, in 32 minutes.

Both teams shot 54% or more from the floor in a game that will not go down as a defensive masterpiece.

Los Angeles was up by 15 late in the third quarter and 121-110 with 7:06 remaining in the game when George fouled out. New York scored eight straight points to draw within three and was still within one possession in the final minute when Williams drove the lane and hit a floating jumper with 18.5 seconds left to make it 133-128.

Marcus Morris — who led New York with a career-high 38 points — hit a jumper with 10.4 seconds left to get the Knicks back within three, but Williams put it out of reach after a timeout with a pair of free throws.

“You can win games with bad offense and good defense,” Rivers said. “Tonight people can say either the offense was phenomenal or both teams struggled defensively. The players will say one thing but the coaches will say the other.”

Rivers might be surprised that George agreed with him.

“We still allowed too many points and have to get better,” George said. “It’s an area we have to improve, but our offense got us over the hump today.”

RJ Barrett added 24 points for New York and Julius Randle had 16 points and eight rebounds.

“At end of the day, we wanted to win but took a positive step in our competition level,” Morris said. “For us to be in the game against one of the top teams in the league and have a big lead says a lot.”

Los Angeles trailed by 16 at the end of the first quarter but put up a 47-point second quarter to lead 76-69 at halftime. That was the most points scored in the second period of an NBA game this season and tied for the fourth most in any quarter.

Williams led the way with 18 points in the period, including three straight 3-pointers that tied it at 51 with 7:16 remaining. Harrell had 14 points in the quarter, including 10 of the Clippers’ first 13 points during the run.

The Knicks went on a 24-8 run in the first quarter to lead 33-19. New York, which came in making 10.7 3-pointers per game, made four during its spurt while Randle scored seven points.

The Knicks extended their lead to 45-29 at the end of the quarter as they went 19 of 29 from the field. The output was tied for the third-most points scored in the first 12 minutes of an NBA game this season and marked the first time the Knicks have scored at least 44 points and shot over 70% from the field in the first in nearly 11 years. The last time it happened was also against the Clippers, on March 25, 2009.

“It was one of the wilder games that I have been a part of,” Knicks coach Mike Miller said. “We put together a big first quarter and then it flipped. But we showed grit to stay in the game and put ourselves in position at the end.”

Break up the Suns! Phoenix remains perfect in bubble defeating OKC

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points, and the Phoenix Suns rolled past the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder 128-101 on Monday to remain perfect and improve to 6-0 in the restart and improve their playoff chances.

The Suns have surged in the Western Conference standings. They entered the day just 1 1/2 games behind eighth-place Memphis and a game behind ninth-place Portland in the race to qualify for a spot in the play-in series.

“We haven’t accomplished anything,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “That may sound like coach-speak, but we dug ourselves a hole with our record. We scrapped all year long and won some games, but it’s been an uphill battle.”

Williams appreciates the position the Suns are in.

“We’ve done a good job of getting to this point,” he said. “No one knew we were going to be here, but we’re here and we’re thankful for that.”

Phoenix center Deandre Ayton sat out the first quarter because he missed his coronavirus test on Sunday. He tested negative on Monday and was cleared. He started the second quarter.

“In an NBA season guys are going to make mistakes,” Williams said. “You have to be able to give people grace. It wasn’t intentional. Thankfully he was able to get tested early enough that he was able to come back and play, and the guys received him with open arms because we all understand we’re human.”

With Ayton out, Oklahoma City led 37-23 at the end of the first quarter. After Ayton entered the game, Phoenix dominated the rest of the way. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds in just over 17 minutes.

Oklahoma City was without four of its top five scorers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (bruised right calf), Danilo Gallinari (left ankle maintenance), Dennis Schroder (birth of child) and Steven Adams (bruised left leg) sat out. Reserve center Nerlens Noel (sprained right ankle) also did not play.

Rookie Darius Bazley had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

The Suns rallied from 15 points down in the second quarter to take a 65-64 lead at halftime. Phoenix opened the second half on an 11-2 run and controlled the game from there.

“I thought their pressure disrupted us,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we got a little bit stagnant. We made some pretty decent plays. We were able to get some open looks, but I thought there in the second quarter they turned up their defensive intensity and that probably took us out of some rhythm.”

Rumor: Pelicans will soon fire coach Alvin Gentry

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry works for a lead executive – David Griffin – who inherited, rather than chose, Gentry in the first place. Gentry has had just one winning season in five years in New Orleans, and the Pelicans particularly underwhelmed this season.

Connect the dots.

William Guillory of The Athletic:

The worst-kept secret in the NBA is that Gentry’s time with the Pelicans won’t last much longer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Executive VP David Griffin and Pelicans ownership have a decision to make with a year left on Gentry’s contract, sources said. Consider two relationships Griffin has back to his front-office days in Cleveland and Phoenix, respectively, if there’s a change in New Orleans: LA Clippers assistant Ty Lue and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, sources said.

Zion Williamson was transcendent at times this season. Brandon Ingram blossomed. Youngsters Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Jaxson Hayes showed flashes. Veterans Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors provided reliable depth and versatility.

But New Orleans was never quite as good as the sum of its parts.

Some of that falls on Gentry.

The Pelicans’ defense was often scrambled. An offensive-minded coach, Gentry hasn’t shown he can correct that issue. His lineup decisions rarely maximized the offense, either.

Lue and Kidd are unsurprising candidates. Lue had a great record working for Griffin with the Cavaliers (obligatory LeBron James mention), and Kidd is good at getting his name tied to job searches. Are Lue and Kidd the most likely coaches to replace Gentry? Maybe. Or maybe they’re just the first candidates to emerge publicly. This job search isn’t even officially underway.

But it could be soon.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he expects Joel Embiid (ankle injury) back before playoffs

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Joel Embiid injured his ankle in the 76ers’ loss to the Trail Blazers yesterday.

How serious is it?

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid is out for Tuesday’s game against the Suns with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter Sunday vs. the Blazers. He’ll be undergoing treatment and evaluation at the team’s practice Monday night.

Brett Brown said he expected Embiid to play again before the playoffs, though characterized that view as “just one man’s opinion.”

That sounds like great news for Philadelphia, which is already without Ben Simmons.

Embiid can be dominant. With him, the 76ers still have a chance of advancing in the playoffs. It might even be easier to create space around Embiid – where Embiid can really feast – without Simmons (though the loss of the talented Simmons lowers Philadelphia’s ceiling).

However, the 76ers don’t deserve benefit of the doubt for setting accurate injury timelines, particularly with Embiid. There’s an element of “see it to believe it” here.

J.J. Redick loses NBA’s longest-active individual playoff streak (13 years)

Pelicans guard J.J. Redick
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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As J.J. Redick stared into the distance, he had to see this coming.

Redick will miss the playoffs for the first time in his 14-year career. His Pelicans were eliminated from the postseason race yesterday.

At 13 years, Redick’s playoff streak is tied for the 13th-longest in NBA history. No current player has a longer streak at any point his career. LeBron James also had a 13-year playoff streak (which was snapped last year).

Here are the longest individual postseason streaks in NBA history:

Obviously, some of Redick’s streak was out of his control. He got drafted in 2006 by the Magic, who were rising with Dwight Howard. But Redick’s competitiveness and professionalism made him a steady contributor, and he chose winning situations with the Clippers then 76ers.

But New Orleans was too flawed to make a major leap in this Western Conference.

This clears the way for Bucks wing Kyle Korver to take over the longest active playoff streak. He has played in the last 12 postseasons, and Milwaukee has already clinched a playoff berth.

Here are the longest postseason streaks that could remain active this year.

Players whose teams have already clinched a playoff berth are in blue. Players whose teams are still in the race but haven’t clinched are in gold.

Players are listed with the teams they made the postseason with during their streaks. If they haven’t reached the playoffs with their current team, that team is listed in brackets: