All the need-to-know info from Wednesday’s slate.
Make Morey Moves
Houston won its first game without James Harden, who is sidelined for two weeks minimum with a left hamstring strain, beating the Magic 116-98. Handy offseason addition, that Chris Paul—the OG Point God stepped in as the primary ball handler, and despite finishing with a starters-low eight points on three field goals, dished out 13 assists.
A more recent Rockets addition, Gerald Green, channeled Harden’s high-volume scoring and foul-drawing, dropping 27 points off the bench in 28 minutes.
Not My ECF
Considering all the cup-overfloweth drama and spice that led up to Cavaliers-Boston, Round 2—knowing that Isaiah Thomas was returning to Boston for the first time since his trade, and LeBron James and Kyrie Irving would battle again, and that we could be watching a preview of the Eastern Conference finals—those were some underwhelming-as-hell 48 minutes.
IT didn’t play. (The Cavs were on the second night of a back-to-back; the first, Tuesday, was Thomas’s first game all season.) Thomas didn’t get a tribute video. (Upon his request.) No words were exchanged. (Or at least, how we expect them to be when estranged former teammates play. Think Westbrook vs. KD, every single time.) The leading scorer—and this is coming from a University of Louisville graduate—was Terry Rozier. And the Cavaliers? They were a five-man roster.
The non-LeBron starters finished the first half 2-for-14 from the field. Kevin Love, who exited the game early (ankle), ended 1-for-11. Kyle Korver put up 15 points, Jeff Green had 13, and Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith both finished with 10.
Boston blew the Cavs out, 102-88. LeBron and Co. (hopefully, that includes a fully ready Thomas) have until February 11, when the two teams play next, to stew on that.
It Could (Somehow) Be Worse, Orlando
The Magic could’ve flipped this guy last year, according to a whiteboard. May the phrase “For AG?” forever keep Central Floridians grateful.
Less than an hour before game-time decision Joel Embiid made his game-time decision to play against the Spurs, he told NBC Sports insider Jessica Camerato that his sprained right hand is “just tight in general” and “pretty swollen.” Oh, and that he “can’t really use it, can’t shoot, can’t use it to shoot.”
Joel Embiid CRUSHED an alley-oop dunk over Bertans and he got the foul pic.twitter.com/KkiXr2eGma— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) January 4, 2018
So I guess he can use it to dunk, and he can use it to euthanize Davis Bertans. Embiid ended with 35 minutes, 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four blocks, and a steal. Philadelphia, 112-106.
The Evolution of a Knicks Guard
What a week for Ron Baker, who:
1. Made SportsCenter Top 10!
AD sent Ron Baker to the locker room with this mean AND1 pic.twitter.com/qOvxn4mQRY— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 31, 2017
2. Had his most-liked-ever Instagram!
3. Tried a new look!
(Drawing inspiration from the original 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera is just … Respect, Ron.)
Nikola Mirotic’s Face Is Better, but What About His Stomach?
Let it be known that Niko loves dipping Oreos in orange juice.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) January 4, 2018
The buried lede: Mirotic followed with jelly and mayo sandwiches. I’m serious.
Jahlil is back! Jahlil is back! Jahlil is back! And his first shot attempt is:
Jahlil Okafor checked in during the second quarter and ended up starting the fourth in a tight 98-87 Nets win over the Wolves. It was his second game with the Nets since joining the franchise December 7. Jah finished with two points, right here:
Dunk So Good It’ll Put a Hyphen Where It Doesn’t Belong
Karl-Anthony’s 16 points and 10 boards were good for his 31st double-double of the season.
Offense Turns Into Defense
Kyle O’Quinn just posterized himself pic.twitter.com/EyJhIsUUjO— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) January 4, 2018
“Overtime? That’s Cute” — Steph Curry
Curry finished with a game-high 32 points in 34 minutes, his final 3 sealing the 125-122 Warriors win. Dallas puffed its chest, though: Dwight Powell tied his career high with 21 points, Wesley Matthews dropped 22, and five other Mavs finished in double digits, including Harrison Barnes, whose J tied the game in the final minute—
—and Dennis Smith Jr., who should charge us every time he does this:
Beal a Make Him Dance
Want to see a unicorn dance?— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) January 4, 2018
Bradley Beal got you covered pic.twitter.com/Z6D9WPV6KB
Washington’s backcourt duo combined for 52 points on 62.5 percent shooting, 15 assists, and four steals in the Wizards’ 121-103 Knicks extermination.
Rookie Watch Gets Another Member
In place of Andre Roberson (patellar tendonitis), Billy Donovan chose rookie Terrance Ferguson—don’t fret, here’s his Wikipedia page—to start against the Lakers.
Ferguson’s averages this season are spare change, so let’s talk about his totals. Before Wednesday, in 22 games this season, he had scored 29 points, racked up 20 fouls, and taken 16 3-pointers. Of those 3s, he had made two.
Ferguson tripled his season total made 3s against L.A., going 6-for-9 from beyond the perimeter. He finished with 24 points (and tied Paul George for the game high).
Terrance Ferguson just dunked on the City of Los Angeles. WINDMILL SIGHTING IN LA. pic.twitter.com/RuVpvss1rt— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) January 4, 2018
Tough watch for Alex Abrines. The guard was inactive Wednesday due to a groin strain, but might have another reason in Ferguson for his minutes to be limited. Abrines’s inadequate defense has held him to less than 10 minutes in four of OKC’s past six games.
And As for Those Other Thunder Guys …
Oklahoma City scored the most points it has this season in the 133-96 win over the Lakers. Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony are continuing their augmented December play into the new year; in the first half, the trio combined for 50 points.
Melo had 21 points. Russell Westbrook finished with 20, 12 assists, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s head.