Stephen Curry scores 21 of his 40 in fourth quarter, Warriors top Rockets

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HOUSTON — Stephen Curry capped a subpar January with an offensive masterpiece Monday night against the Houston Rockets that served as a reminder of just how dangerous he can be.

He scored 21 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 122-108 win.

Much had been made about his shooting slump, and his average this month entering Monday’s game had fallen more than six points from the 27.6 points he averaged in December. All the talk didn’t bother the superstar, because he said nobody is harder on him than he is on himself.

“It’s the gift and the curse of the bar that you’ve set,” he said. “You get all the praise when things are going well and obviously it’s something to talk about when I don’t meet that level.

“It’s not so much the commentary, because when I walk off the court I’m the first one to judge the way that I played,” he continued. “And I understand when I don’t meet that level and try to deal with the frustration when that happens over a consistent period of time.”

Curry sparked the Warriors to their sixth consecutive win, while Houston extended its skid at home to 11 straight games.

The Warriors were clinging to a four-point lead in the fourth when Curry scored the next five points to make it 113-104 with four minutes left. He made a basket in the lane before hitting a 3 from the corner to allow Golden State to pull away.

“We’ve seen Steph do that a million times,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It was bound to happen even though it’s been a couple of weeks or whatever. Not surprising but fun to see … him shake free and have a game like he did.”

Curry made seven 3-pointers, with four in the fourth quarter, and had nine assists and five rebounds. His 21 fourth-quarter points were the highest of his career.

He knew he was in a zone in the fourth quarter but said that he always feels like he’s capable of getting hot like he did.

“You always feel like the next shot is going to start that vibe,” he said. “It’s no secret how I’ve been shooting the ball recently, but the confidence is always there and it only takes one to ignite a night like that.”

Curry’s performance comes after he hit a buzzer-beater to give the Warriors a 105-103 win over the Rockets on Jan. 21.

“I told him after the game that I’m tired of seeing him,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said of his postgame chat with Curry. “I don’t want to see him anymore.”

Andrew Wiggins added 23 points for the Warriors and Klay Thompson had 14.

The Rockets, who lost their fourth straight game overall, were led by Christian Wood‘s 24 points and 13 rebounds. He had a great first half, piling up 17 points, but cooled down after the break.

Despite Houston’s struggles this season, Silas has been encouraged by the attitude his young team has shown.

“There’s been very, very few times I haven’t felt like we played hard and very, very few times where I felt like we haven’t had fight,” he said. “Our character and our grit show up pretty much every night.”

A 10-3 spurt by the Rockets, capped by a 3 from Garrison Mathews, got them within five points with about eight minutes to left in the game. Houston cut it to four on a another 3 by Mathews later in the fourth, but Curry scored five quick points to extend it to 108-99 with less than six minutes remaining.

But the Rockets scored the next five points, with a 3 from Kevin Porter Jr., to cut it to four again.

Houston got within three in the third quarter before Curry took over. Golden State had a lead of 74-65 with about five minutes left in the period. Porter made a shot for Houston, but Golden State responded with the next 11 points. Then Houston rediscovered its offense for an 11-2 run and was down 87-78 entering the fourth.

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.

Watch Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard drain game-winning 3 to beat Lakers

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LeBron James and Anthony Davis were on the court together (and combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds). Russell Westbrook continued to thrive as a sixth man with 24 points.

But the biggest shot of the night belonged to Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard — a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

It was a well-designed play and when Westbrook chased and doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner it left the screen setter, Myles Turner, wide open for a clean look at a 3 — but he hit the front of the rim. The long rebound caromed out, Tyrese Haliburton grabbed it and tried to create, but then he 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 that will test the surprising Pacers.

For the Lakers… they have some hard decisions to make coming up.