Nick Schwartz • USA Today
19-year-old Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic is only trailing LeBron James in All-Star voting for the Western Conference, and it’s easy to see why. Doncic capped a phenomenal week on Friday by taking over a road game in Minnesota to beat the Timberwolves, scoring seven of the Mavericks’ final nine points.
After scoring on two clutch drives to the basket, Doncic hit a deep three-pointer just a few seconds into the shot clock to put Dallas ahead by one.
Doncic finished the game with a near triple-double of 29 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.
Doncic is averaging 20 points, 6.7 rebounds and five assists on the season – but he’s taken his game to another level this week. In his last three games against the Lakers, Suns and Timberwolves, Doncic has averaged 28.6 points, 7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He’s also proven to be one of the most clutch players in the league as a rookie.
Stephen A. Smith says that an unnamed source told him that it would be easier for Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving to join the Los Angeles Lakers after apologizing to LeBron James.
What do you think? Is that really possible?
Capela suffered the injury while getting hit on a lob play during Sunday night’s loss to Orlando. He underwent an MRI in Houston on Monday.
After signing a five-year, $80 million contract extension this summer, Capela has career-high averages of 17.6 points and 12.6 rebounds to go with 1.8 blocks a game this season.
Sources previously told ESPN that Capela was expected to miss four to six weeks and that the Rockets expect him to miss the remaining 15 games before the All-Star break, with a potential return for the Feb. 21 road game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kenneth Faried agrees to Nets buyout ahead of joining Rockets
- Adrian Wojnarowski • ESPN
The Rockets plan to immediately insert Faried into the lineup as a stopgap big man to help replace some of the defense and rebounding lost with starting center Clint Capela, who is expected to be out several weeks following surgery on his right thumb.
Faried will be released Saturday, sources said, with his $13.7 million salary expected to clear waivers on Monday.
The Rockets are aggressively working to find a trade for the exiled Carmelo Anthony before Monday’s 5 p.m. ET deadline to clear a roster spot for Faried, league sources said. The Rockets will need to trade a player to a team with an open roster spot, or waive a player, before signing Faried. The team has no intention of waiving Anthony, league sources told ESPN. It is possible for Houston to hold off on signing Faried to find a way to create the roster spot, but there’s a need to get him into the team’s depleted frontcourt as soon as Monday night against the 76ers.
The cleanest solution to the Rockets clearing a roster spot without a trade is releasing James Nunnally five days early from his 10-day contract. The contract signed on Jan. 16 is set to expire Jan. 25. Nunnally would not need to be waived.
Chris Cwik • Yahoo Sports
The Detroit Pistons are trying to do something nice for government employees affected by the shutdown. The team announced it will give government employees two free upper-level tickets to Saturday’s game. All those employees have to do is present their government ID at the Little Caesar’s Arena box office.
Fans who take the Pistons up on that offer will see the team face the Sacramento Kings.
The Pistons are far from the only sports team to offer free tickets to government employees. A number of teams in the D.C. area have made similar offers.
The United States government has been shut down since Dec. 22. At 29 days, it’s the longest government shutdown in the country’s history. A number of government employees have not received pay during the shutdown.
Any Pistons fan who decides to redeem those tickets should at least be in for a competitive game. At 20-24, the Pistons are ninth in the Eastern Conference. The Kings, 23-22, sit 10th in the Western Conference.
- ESPN News Services
Davis suffered the injury late in the fourth quarter of Friday’s 128-112 loss to Portland. He had his fingers taped together and played briefly before exiting with 1:18 left to play. He finished with 27 points and seven rebounds.
Davis had an X-ray after the game, a team official told reporters.
For the season, Davis, a five-time All-Star selection, is averaging 29.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game — all above his career averages. He has missed five games due to injury and illness this season.
The Pelicans have lost three of four to drop to 21-15, four games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference entering Saturday’s games.
New Orleans next faces Memphis on Monday night to conclude a five-game road trip. The Pelicans have four games next week and a total of seven during the two weeks that Davis could miss.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Harden, Gordon help Rockets rally for OT win over Lakers
HOUSTON — James Harden scored 48 points, Eric Gordon added 30 and the Houston Rockets overcame a 21-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 138-134 in overtime Saturday night.
The Rockets trailed for most of the night and were down by 18 in the second-half. Gordon sent it to overtime with a 3-pointer, and made four free throws in the last seconds of the extra period.
Coming off 57- and 58-point games, Harden had his 19th straight game with at least 30 and he’s had 40 in 10 of 13. He was 14 of 30 from the field, going 8 of 19 3-pointers, and hit 12 of 15 free throws.
Kuzma had 32 points for Los Angeles and Brandon Ingram added 21 in a game where coach Luke Walton was ejected in the third quarter. Already without LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers have another injury concern after Lonzo Ball sprained his left ankle in the third quarter. The team said he was taken to a hospital for X-rays because the machine at the arena was broken.
Harden also had eight rebounds, six assists and four steals.
James was out for the 13th straight game with a strained left groin and did not make the trip.
THUNDER 117, 76ERS 115
PHILADELPHIA — Paul George converted a four-point play with 5.1 seconds left, sending Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City past Joel Embiid and Philadelphia.
George capped a wild finish that included another memorable exchange between Westbrook and Embiid. Westbrook hit the floor out of bounds under the basket after a foul by Embiid late in the game, and Westbrook fouled out with 14.9 seconds on Embiid’s 3-point try.
Embiid made all three foul shots, tying it at 113, and Jimmy Butler’s layup put Philadelphia in front with 6.9 seconds to go. But George hit a 3 while being fouled by Butler and made the foul shot.
Philadelphia had one last chance, but Butler missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds. The 76ers have lost 19 in a row to the Thunder.
George finished with 31 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Westbrook had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Embiid, who was a game-time decision because of back tightness, had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
RAPTORS 119, GRIZZLIES 90
TORONTO — Danny Green had a season-high 24 points and set a franchise record for 3-pointers in a quarter with seven in the third to help Toronto beat Memphis.
Green had 21 points in the third, one shy of Kyle Lowry’s franchise record for a quarter. He matched a career high with eight 3s for the game. He also made eight 3-pointers against Minnesota in 2013.
The Raptors extended their home winning streak to nine. Toronto is 20-4 at home.
Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard missed his second straight game for rest.
Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 16 points for Memphis. The Grizzlies lost for the 11th time in 12 games.
BUCKS 118, MAGIC 108
ORLANDO, Fla. — Eric Bledsoe scored 30 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 13 rebounds and Milwaukee beat Orlando for its fourth straight victory.
Malcolm Brogdon added 18 points, and Khris Middleton had 15. The Bucks are 11-2 in their last 13 games. Nikola Vucevic led Orlando with 27 points.
NUGGETS 124, CAVALIERS 102
DENVER — Nikola Jokic had 19 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in his sixth triple-double this season and Denver beat Cleveland.
Jamal Murray scored 26 points to help Denve win for the third time in four games.
Cleveland closed out a six-game trip with its third consecutive loss. It has dropped 15 of 16 overall.
CELTICS 113, HAWKS 105
ATLANTA — Kyrie Irving scored 32 points and Boston rallied to beat Atlanta for its third straight victory.
Boston took the lead with a 9-0 fourth-quarter run, including a go-ahead 3-pointer by Jaylen Brown, who had 14 points. A drive by Irving gave Boston the lead for good at 101-100. Al Horford made four free throws and a layup to help the Celtics increase their advantage to 109-100 with 1:11 left.
KINGS 103, PISTONS 101
DETROIT — Buddy Hield made an off-balance, fadeaway 3-pointer just before time expired and scored 35 points in Sacramento’s victory over Detroit.
Hield fumbled an inbounds pass with 3.4 seconds left, scrambled to regain possession and put up the winning shot from the left wing. Blake Griffin scored 38 points for Detroit.
HEAT 117, BULLS 103
CHICAGO — Dwyane Wade had 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in his final game in his hometown, helping Miami hand Chicago its 10th straight loss
Wade, who turned 37 on Thursday, plans to retire at the end of his 16th NBA season. He got a warm reception in his return, hearing several loud ovations throughout the night.
PACERS 111, MAVERICKS 99
Harrison Barnes scored 20 points for Dallas, and DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and 16 rebounds. But the Mavericks were unable to overcome a lackluster performance by rookie star Luka Doncic. The 6-foot-7 forward scored eight points — his fewest in more than a month — and was ejected for the first time after drawing a second technical late in the third quarter.
HORNETS 135, SUNS 115
Charlotte shot 54.5 percent from the field, made 16 of 34 3-point attempts and matched its season-high points total. Devin Booker had 32 points and 11 assists for the Suns.
DeMarcus Cousins finally debuts: ‘Wait until I get in midseason form
Ohm Youngmisuk ESPN Staff Writer
Making his much-anticipated return to the basketball court nearly a year after tearing his left Achilles tendon, Cousins impressed with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers before fouling out in 15 minutes in the Golden State Warriors‘ 112-94 rout of the LA Clippers at Staples Center.
“Felt like a kid on Christmas,” Cousins said. “It’s been a long journey. This is probably one of the best days of my life.”
DeMarcus Cousins announces return with thunderous dunk, plus some 3-pointers, in Warriors debut
Welp, DeMarcus Cousins is back and the Golden State Warriors have reached their final form.
For the first time since 1976, five reigning All-Stars took the floor wearing the same uniform on Friday, a sight the NBA has awaited — and feared — since it was reported that Cousins would spend this season in Golden State trying to re-establish his value after an Achilles tear and create one of the most star-studded lineups in NBA history in the process.
Cousins predictably didn’t see major minutes during his debut, an emphatic 112-94 win, but he at least showed enough to let everyone know he is still DeMarcus Cousins. That’s probably bad news for the rest of the NBA.
DeMarcus Cousins throws it down in early minutes of Warriors debut
Cousins got the start on Friday alongside Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but was the first starter to come out, which isn’t surprising considering the big man likely still has some recovering to do from what is generally considered one of the most feared injuries in basketball.
Cousins got his chance to introduce the Warriors’ new look early during the team’s game against the Clippers, taking an easy feed from Kevin Durant and slamming it home for the Warriors’ first points of the night.
As he came down, the big man unleashed a primal roar, likely feeling the catharsis of a year-long rehab process finally coming to and end.
The Warriors were clearly focused on getting Cousins his first points early, feeding him whenever they got the chance during their first three possessions before sitting him after three minutes of play.
How DeMarcus Cousins fared for the rest of the game
Cousins’ first quarter was more of a featured cameo, but he was on the floor again to open each of the remaining three quarters and saw increased action in all of them. He quickly showed even more of what he has to bring to the Warriors, for better or worse.
The 28-year-old showed his shooting touch — something his team clearly needed more of— with a three-pointer to open the Warriors’ scoring for the second quarter, but was also exploited defensively to the point that he fouled out early in the fourth quarter. As he left the game with six fouls, he received a strong ovation.
Cousins finished with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting (3-of-4 from deep), six rebounds and three assists. That’s a strong line for your first game back from a devastating injury, but Cousins addressed some shortcomings in a halftime interview with NBC Sports Bay Area.
“Felt good, it just feels good to be back on the floor,” Cousins said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “Not playing the right type of basketball right now, but outside of that, I’m having a blast.”
Cousins, who seemed winded at times while playing, is clearly not 100 percent yet, but he obviously doesn’t need to be to have the entire league buzzing.