All the need-to-know info from Monday’s slate.
The Big Beard Theory
Any game that involves the Houston Rockets has the potential to be an offensive bonanza of historic proportions. But pair them with another top-10 offense—on Monday night it was the Pelicans—and you’ll get a performance destitute of any defense with enough shot-making to leave you as full as a holiday meal.
Here are some of the most eye-popping notes from the Rockets’ 130-123 victory over the Pelicans:
- At the half, the two teams had combined for 154 points.
- The Pelicans reached 100 points with 2:49 left … in the third quarter.
- The Beard had 14 assists, 12 points, and zero turnovers at the half. He finished with 26 points, 17 assists, and only three turnovers while adding six steals.
- Rajon Rondo had his 30th career triple-double and made three 3s, the most he’s made in a game all season.
- The two teams combined for 199 points through three quarters.
- E’Twaun Moore needed only three quarters to reach a career-high 28 points. He finished with 36 points and it wasn’t even a team high. Jrue Holiday had 37.
- The Pelicans made a franchise-record 18 3s on 33 attempts.
That’s how the Pelicans led for most of the night: They took the Rockets’ 3-point lifestyle and shot more efficiently from behind the arc, going 73.6 percent on 19 attempts in the first half and 54.5 percent for the game. Of course, it didn’t matter once crunch time arrived. James Harden, who created more than 60 points by himself in the game, owned the fourth quarter, and with just under a minute left, he closed the door on the Pelicans with a little shot-making of his own.
HARDEN DAGGER! (via @HoustonRockets) pic.twitter.com/R3wt03v4Ny— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) December 12, 2017
The Bulls Punch Above Their Weight
Heading into Monday night’s game, the Bulls had won as many games (five) as the Celtics had lost. But things were looking up in Chicago! They had broken a 10-game losing streak and won two in a row, which coincided with the return of a key player who had been out due to a facial injury—well, you know the story by now. Nikola Mirotic, who scored 19 points in Saturday’s win over the Knicks, dropped a team-high 24 points in the Bulls’ bizarre walloping of the conference-best Celtics, 108-85.
Mr. Mirotic sure is not messing around out there against the Celtics: pic.twitter.com/WCYIv1dur3— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 12, 2017
His jousting partner added 23 key points off the bench, scoring at will inside and out.
Bobby Portis bringing in the heat tonight!— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 12, 2017
1st half stats:
15 points | 4 rebounds | 1 assist | 1 steal pic.twitter.com/gsx4sjC6H5
At one point Mirotic and Bobby Portis high-fived on the bench, proving that nothing can mend old wounds like winning basketball games. (And yes, not punching a teammate—that helps, too.)
This is no small feat for the Bulls, who have the worst offense in the league and did this to the best defense in the league. They held Boston’s offense to 85 points—the fewest the Celtics have scored all season. Sure, the Bulls no longer own sole possession of the worst record in the league, which hurts their pursuit of the top pick, but who cares? They just beat the best team in the East by 23 points. Go wild, Windy City.
Capela literally just dunked right on top of DeMarcus Cousins #Rockets pic.twitter.com/7Pau1mhye9— Justin Jett (@JustinJett_) December 12, 2017
Win the Highlights, Lose the Game: An Oklahoma City Story
First, the Paul George ankle-breaking, life-extracting crossover 3 made the rounds:
Paul George had Lamb slippin' pic.twitter.com/RBstvNE35k— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) December 12, 2017
Then, Russell Westbrook’s synergized coast-to-coast tomahawk wowed us:
ANGRY. RUSS. DUNK. pic.twitter.com/s4LgtTaULG— Sports Treasury (@SportsTreasury) December 12, 2017
But vintage Russ, who had 30 points, four rebounds, and seven assists, couldn’t single-handedly keep the Thunder above water. (In fairness, neither could Melo or George.) Once the Hornets outscored Oklahoma City 40-22 in the third, it was over. The Thunder lost, 116-103, at home to a team that had won only once before on the road this season.
Paul George: “It’s not panic mode but we have to start playing better...We can say we gotta figure it out. We can say all that. But at some point, it has to stop.” pic.twitter.com/KeO4NypJWE— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) December 12, 2017
Clippers’ Curse? More like Clippers Comeback.
With fewer than eight minutes left between the Raptors and Clippers on Monday night, the two teams had combined for three fewer points than the Rockets and Pelicans combined for in one half. That tells you all you need to know about the aesthetics of the contest at Staples Center.
But sometimes a game doesn’t need aesthetics or even efficiency to provide excitement.
Late in the fourth, with the game tied, Austin Rivers took over. Sort of. Rivers hit a 3 that cut the lead to two (the Raptors had held a 13-point lead in the second quarter), then a layup to put the Clippers ahead with just over three minutes left. Rivers then forced a missed shot from DeMar DeRozan a minute later before eventually allowing the returning Milos Teodosic to hit the dagger.
Clutch work from Milos Teodosic pic.twitter.com/OWMl14IgHH— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) December 12, 2017
What was simultaneously a pleasant surprise of a win for the ailing Clips became a cough-medicine-taste-in-your-mouth bad loss for the Raptors.
A David West Dunk Party … in 2017
David West dunks so hard he breaks the backboard camera #nba pic.twitter.com/m3Ai2CVOog— All Ball (@allballapp) December 12, 2017
DAVID WEST JUST RUINED JAKE LAYMAN'S LIFE!!!!! pic.twitter.com/H9kr0GoVv9— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 12, 2017
Damian Lillard Takes His Anger Out on the Rim
HOLY COW @DAME_LILLARD pic.twitter.com/FUKSS27sKd— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 12, 2017
No one wants to beat the Warriors more than Damian Lillard does. But even as he went off for 39 against a Steph Curry–less, Draymond Green–less squad, it wasn’t enough to overpower the plug-and-play machine that is Golden State, which held off Portland, 111-104, for its seventh straight regular-season win over the Blazers.
Dame, I hope the dunk was at least therapeutic.
The Hero We Need
This might be my favorite kid hooper in America— #JaValeAndSwaggyAfterDark (@World_Wide_Wob) December 12, 2017
Takes off jersey to reveal Gasol uni
Flexes on everyone
10/10 cele pic.twitter.com/WxTD0YBcjs
On Today’s Injury Front …
Looks like Danilo Gallinari, who had been out for 13 games with a glute injury before playing last Wednesday will need a few more games to get back on the court. Again, yikes. It’s not like the Clippers, who are 10-15, need him anyway.
Meanwhile, Shams Charania of The Vertical reported that the Celtics’ Marcus Morris would miss “extended time” due to a continuing left-knee injury.