Jrue Holiday

Jrue Holiday explodes in 2nd half of Pelicans' OT win over Bucks

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Jrue Holiday explodes in 2nd half of Pelicans' OT win over Bucks

MILWAUKEE — Jrue Holiday scored 28 of his season-high 36 points after halftime to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 123-121 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.

Holiday added nine rebounds and six assists for New Orleans, which held on for its season-high fifth win in a row when Jason Terry's 3-pointer was ruled after the buzzer.

Anthony Davis, who entered the game as the league's third-leading scorer (27.7 ppg), added 27 points and 13 rebounds.

The Pelicans trailed by 18 early in the second half but outscored Milwaukee 38-19 in the third quarter.

Khris Middleton scored 25 points for the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the No. 2 scorer in the NBA (27.8) and Eric Bledsoe each added 20, but the Bucks lost for only the fourth time in the last 14 games and fell to 9-26 all-time against New Orleans.

Rajon Rondo came up with the play of the game by draining a 3-pointer from the right wing as the 24-second clock was about to expire to give the Pelicans a 123-119 lead with 1:25 remaining in overtime (see full recap).

Harden scores 41 in Rockets' 12th straight victory
DENVER — James Harden had 41 points and eight rebounds, Chris Paul scored 23 points and the Houston Rockets beat the Denver Nuggets 119-114 on Sunday night for their 12th straight victory.

Harden had 27 in the first half and seven in the fourth quarter, when the Rockets held off a late Denver rally. Harden has scored 40 or more points nine times this season. He finished with seven assists.

Nikola Jokic had 21 points and 14 rebounds for Denver, which had its four-game winning streak snapped. Will Barton added 25 points.

The Rockets are 21-4 since Dec. 29 and own the best record (46-13) in the NBA. They are outscoring teams by an average of 12.5 points during the 12-game winning streak. The five-point win Sunday was their closest game during the streak.

Harden scored 14 points in the last 2:47 of the first quarter and assisted on Houston's other two baskets to end the period when the Rockets extended the lead from five to 13 (see full recap.) 

Spurs top Cavs to end losing streak
CLEVELAND — LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points, Danny Green added 22 and the San Antonio Spurs ended their annual "rodeo" road trip by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-94 on Sunday to snap a four-game losing streak.

Green, who missed Friday's loss at Denver with food poisoning, came off the bench for the first time in 49 games this season. He made five 3-pointers to provide a perfect outside complement to Aldridge's dynamic inside game. Dejounte Murray added 13 points and nine rebounds for San Antonio, a team not accustomed to any turmoil.

But the Spurs have not been themselves lately while playing without star Kawhi Leonard. They had dropped six of seven and four in a row on a trip (their arena hosts a rodeo every year) that coach Gregg Popovich's squad typically uses as a spring board into the playoffs.

LeBron James had 33 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists for the Cavs, who fell to 3-2 since overhauling their roster with three trades (see full recap).

Howard leads Hornets over Pistons 
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Something has changed for the Hornets' bench in the last three game. Cody Zeller calls it "rhythm." Frank Kaminsky calls it "flow."

No matter what name this newfound chemistry goes by, it has added up to the best play of the season from Charlotte reserves. And Sunday, it meant the difference as the Hornets beat the Detroit Pistons 114-98 for a season-best fourth straight win.

Dwight Howard led the Hornets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Kemba Walker also recorded 17 points for Charlotte. But it was the Hornets' bench outscoring Detroit's reserves 51-28 that gave Charlotte the biggest edge.

"This is maybe the best 3-4 games we've played all season just because we're starting to put it together, especially on the defensive end," Zeller said. "Everyone is tied together."

The Hornets improved to 27-33 while making a push toward the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs. The Pistons have 28 wins, and there are eight teams in the conference with at least 31 victories (see full recap).

Hinkie's old boss expected Giannis to be a Sixer

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Hinkie's old boss expected Giannis to be a Sixer

The 2013 NBA draft was one of the strangest in recent memory. There was no consensus first overall pick, which is how Anthony Bennett happens.

Nerlens Noel was viewed as a candidate to be the top pick before tearing his ACL late in his lone college season. The Sixers, then under Sam Hinkie, bought the upside on Noel and traded Jrue Holiday for the sixth overall pick to take him. 

Five picks later, the Sixers took another big, athletic, upside-based player in Michael Carter-Williams.

Four picks after that ... Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, Hinkie's boss before the protege left for Philly, said on The Bill Simmons Podcast this week that he was convinced the Sixers were set to take Giannis.

"I was actually really surprised Philly didn't take him," Morey said. "They ended up taking the Rookie of the Year (MCW) so they did fine. But [Giannis] was this super-high-upside guy. We had bet that [Hinkie] might take [Giannis] because we were like, 'Super-high upside, might as well go for it.'"

Could you even begin to imagine ...

Keep in mind, though, that these types of what-if conversations require more context. Had the Sixers taken Giannis then, they're probably not bad enough to pick high enough to get Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in two of the next three years. (Same concept to remember whenever someone says the Sixers should have taken Kristaps Porzingis over Jahlil Okafor. Of course they should have, but if you draft Porzingis, you probably don't get Simmons.)

Giannis was by far the best player in that draft, with Rudy Gobert (27th), C.J. McCollum (10th) and Victor Oladipo (2nd) the only other standouts. Otto Porter (3), Dennis Schroder (17) and Steven Adams (12) are good players, but that's pretty much it. Everyone else in that 2013 draft is either a fringe rotational player, a non-factor or out of the league. 

That was a rough draft for GMs to navigate, as opposed to the year before when Anthony Davis was the consensus No. 1 and Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard and Andre Drummond were all top-10 picks. The only surprise outside the top 10 that previous year was Draymond Green, a huge steal but one of the only steals of 2012.

The Giannis draft (2013) was Hinkie's first as the Sixers' GM. Though Hinkie was a swing-for-the-fences type, perhaps even he couldn't justify trading an established player in Holiday for the ultimate risk-reward player in Antetokounmpo. Not many execs had seen the Greek Freak more than a few times, and it was difficult to gauge how his work against inferior competition would translate to the best league on Earth.

Alas ...

Hinkie's final days
Morey clearly still rides for Hinkie, and he had an interesting take on how his former colleague's tenure with the Sixers ended.

Should Hinkie have been more front-facing?

"If you know it's gonna end how it's gonna end, I think he would say for sure," Morey said when Simmons referred to Hinkie as "Howard Hughes-ish." 

"He felt like he had ownership's support there to execute on the plan and part of the plan was to not be as out there, especially during the down times," Morey continued. "Sam can be more communicative, it's just he thinks it's better for the team, especially at that point when he was there, it didn't make sense to be that communicative.

"That said, if he knew he didn't have the support (from ownership) that he thought he had, I'm sure he would have been out there more.

"Hopefully, someone will give him a shot. I think he can obviously help a lot of teams."

Best of NBA: Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for 1st win

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Best of NBA: Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for 1st win

LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Davis scored 27 points, DeMarcus Cousins had 20 and the New Orleans Pelicans withstood a furious rally to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 119-112 on Sunday night for their first victory of the season.

The Pelicans led by 22 points in the second quarter and were still up by double figures heading into the final period, but the Lakers made a charge despite a poor shooting night from rookie Lonzo Ball.

Reserve Jordan Clarkson had 24 points for the Lakers, but Ball shot just 3 for 13 for eight points. He did have 13 assists and eight rebounds.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started and scored 20 points in his first appearance for the Lakers. Rookie Kyle Kuzma also had 20.

E'Twaun Moore, who went 0 for 5 in his last game, added 19 points for the Pelicans (1-2), while Jrue Holiday and Ian Clark each had 14 (see full recap).

Wiggins' heave banks in, leads Timberwolves past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Andrew Wiggins' 3-pointer from a few steps inside halfcourt banked in as time expired to give the Minnesota Timberwolves a 115-113 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.

Oklahoma City's Carmelo Anthony had hit a 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left to give the Thunder the lead before the Timberwolves inbounded to Wiggins, who rushed up the court and got free with help from a crushing pick by Karl-Anthony Towns before pulling up for the winner.

Wiggins scored 27 points and Towns had 27 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota (2-1).

Russell Westbrook scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter for the Thunder, who were coming off a loss at Utah on Saturday night. Anthony scored 23 points and Paul George scored 14 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Steven Adams had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Thunder (see full recap).

Allen Crabbe scored 20 points, Nets beat Hawks
NEW YORK -- Allen Crabbe scored 20 points, DeMarre Carroll had 17 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-104 on Sunday.

Caris LeVert and D'Angelo Russell each had 16 points to help the Nets improve to 2-1 with their second straight victory.

Marco Belinelli had 19 points for Atlanta. The Hawks have lost two in a row to drop to 1-2.

Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroeder went down with an apparent ankle injury with 3:37 left and had to be helped off the court.

Brooklyn found a way to win once again without Jeremy Lin, who was lost for the season on opening night with a knee injury, holding off the Hawks after leading by 16 points late in the third (see full recap).