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 going that make the NBA great.
1) Joel Embiid with 7th straight 30+ point game, Sixers 7th straight win
Wilt Chamberlain did it in a 76ers uniform. So did Allen Iverson.
Joel Embiid has joined those Philadelphia legends by scoring 30+ points in seven straight games, and he has a 66% true shooting percentage in that stretch. Embiid scored 31 points, plus pitched in eight rebounds, six assists and two blocks leading Philadelphia to a comfortable 111-91 win against Houston.
(If you like good trivia, Embiid is the second player in NBA history to score exactly 31 points in four straight games, the other being Bob McAdoo with the Buffalo Braves in 1973).
With guards Tyrese Maxey (health and safety protocols) and Seth Curry (ankle) out, there was no pick-and-roll, there was only Embiid either on the block or facing up out by the arc and driving past (or, through) the Rockets’ centers. Embiid has counters to everything, whatever the Rockets threw at him — whatever any team throws at him — the big man knows how to counter it. Rockets’ center Daniel Theis tried, but Embiid was too much for him and had 17 points in the first quarter.
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 11, 2022
Most importantly for the 76ers, seven straight 30+ point games has meant seven consecutive wins, taking them from a team hanging around .500 to 23-16 and in fifth place in the East — and only a game out of the top four and hosting a playoff round. Philly is starting to look like a threat.
Embiid is not in the mid-season MVP discussion only because of the time he missed — sound familiar? — but if he keeps playing near this level the rest of the season, he will force his way into that conversation.
2) Hornets pick up back-to-back wins over Bucks
For two straight games, the Bucks have not been able to find a rhythm against the Hornets. Monday night Milwaukee turned the ball over on 20% of its possessions and barely got to the rim, setting for jumpers. It didn’t look like the Bucks.
The Hornets took advantage. LaMelo Ball scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half and knocked down a go-ahead floater with 15 seconds left. Charlotte went on to win 103-99, their second win over the Bucks in three days.
The other problem for the Bucks the past couple of games, they had no answer for Terry Rozier, who scored 27 points Monday night. The Hornets have won 6-of-8 and are playing their best ball of the season.
Ball, and Miles Bridges added 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Hornets, who have won six of eight games and improved to 12-5 at home.
Khris Middleton had 27 points and 11 assists, while Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points with 13 rebounds and eight assists. The Bucks are without starting guards Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen due to protocols, but this still has been a sloppy couple of games for them — and good ones for Charlotte.
3) Cade Cunningham scores career-high 29
Cade Cunningham is playing well of late. Very well.
You’re forgiven for not noticing or suffering through Detroit Pistons games. Cunningham started slow — he was injured in the preseason and missed a chunk of training camp, struggled to find his shot early, and missed time with COVID — but that is changing more and more each game.
Once he started to get his feet under him, the No. 1 pick has been asked to do more than other top rookies — such as Evan Mobley or Scottie Barnes, who are on teams filled with solid NBA players — and be the primary playmaker and scorer for a young and rebuilding roster.
But Cunningham is starting to fill that role well, and on Monday night had 29 points and eight assists against an excellent Jazz team.
Cunningham would not be in my top three for Rookie of the Year right now, but he would make an All-Rookie team, and if he keeps playing like this and coming on the second half of the season, he could rank a lot higher. However, what’s important is the No. 1 pick is starting to look more and more like the franchise cornerstone player that Detroit needs him to be.
Highlight of the Night: Kevin Porter Jr. ejected for hockey check
If this were hockey, that is a clean open-ice check by Kevin Porter Jr.: Used his shoulder, was in front of the player, kept his stick down (because he doesn’t have one).
But this is basketball, where hard checks are not allowed, and Kevin Porter Jr. was ejected for this hit on Charlie Brown.
Good on Brown for not taking it personally, but that clearly meets the criteria of ”unnecessary and excessive contact” to earn a flagrant 2 and get tossed. There are ways to make that foul that are not lowering the shoulder.
Last night’s scores:
Charlotte 103, Milwaukee 99
Detroit 126, Utah 116
Boston 101, Indiana 98
New York 111, San Antonio 96
Philadelphia 111. Houston 91
Portland 114, Brooklyn 108