Thursday gave us another brutal Knicks blowout loss, despite the temporary return of Carmelo Anthony, a win for the Rockets over the Thunder, and a much needed win for LeBron James and the Cavaliers, who got a freebie against the Lakers. Follow me on Twitter by clicking here.
Bucks 95, Knicks 79
The Bucks decimated the Knicks in London, just like every team does these days, behind 22 points and four 3-pointers from O.J. Mayo (off the bench), 20 points, six assists, a career-high six steals and two 3-pointers from Brandon Knight, 16 points, five rebounds and two steals from Giannis Antetokounmpo, 14 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and two 3-pointers from Kris Middleton, and 11 points and 14 rebounds from Zaza Pachulia. Ersan Ilyasova was finally back from a concussion, but played just 12 minutes and missed all six of his shots. Yuck. This game was akin to watching the Globetrotters waltzing over the Generals, and there is just no reason for Carmelo Anthony to keep putting himself through this misery. My guess is any pro team based in London would have also probably taken the Knicks in this one.
As usual, the Knicks were as much of a mess as ever, as three starters failed to score (Jason Smith, Amare Stoudemire, Shane Larkin) and Melo played for the first time in seven games to finish with 25 points and eight turnovers in an empty stat line for the losers of 16 straight games. I have been predicting that the Melo shutdown would happen by Jan. 15 since word first broke of his knee issues, and it’s still possible that last night was his final game of the season. I’m not saying it was his last game, but it is a possibility. Travis Wear had 13 points, four boards and a 3-pointer, Jose Calderon, who is next on the block to be traded, had 11 points, nine dimes and three 3-pointers, and Tim Hardaway Jr. rounded out the double-digit scoring with 10 points, two 3-pointers and six turnovers. Cole Aldrich moved to the bench and didn’t do much in his 15 minutes, but once Melo’s season is officially over, both Aldrich and Quincy Acy (just four minutes) should become relevant again. Cleanthony Early didn’t even get off the bench, supposedly because the Knicks wanted to look at their 10-day contract players. OK, then. I don’t know what London did to deserve this game, but the Knicks are basically unwatchable. Larkin left with an ankle injury, leaving him iffy for his next game, which thankfully isn’t until Monday against the Pelicans. The ship not only be sinkin,’ but it appears to have sunk for this season.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $225,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Friday's NBA games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Friday. Here's the FanDuel link.
Rockets 112, Thunder 101
The Rockets got a balanced attack last night, as all five starters scored at least 13 points, and James Harden went off for 31 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists, a steal and six 3-pointers. He’s been a little quiet lately, but finally broke out with a big game on national television. Dwight Howard’s problems continued as he had just 13 points, eight rebounds and one block, and the Rockets simply aren’t running enough plays for him. And it’s possible that his inactivity on the offensive end of things could be impacting his defense. Howard hasn’t blocked more than a single shot in 15 straight games, with five of those resulting in zero swats. He also hasn’t hit double figures in rebounds in four straight games and he’s just not that fun to own right now, despite the fact he’s actually been hitting his free throws. Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza played well in the win, and Josh Smith had 13 points and seven boards off the bench, but played just 19 minutes and turned it over three times, making him tough to use right now. Corey Brewer played 27 minutes, but hit just 2-of-7 shots for five points, and is another guy who is simply not a part of the offensive scheme in Houston. After falling into a 0-4 hole, the Rockets rattled off 16 straight points to take a 16-4 lead over the Thunder and never looked back.
The Thunder got typical big games from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (although he had eight turnovers to go along with his eight rebounds, eight assists, five steals and 16 points), and Reggie Jackson got loose off the bench for 16 points, six rebounds and six assists, but there wasn’t much to see here. Steven Adams’ disappearing act continued in just 15 minutes, Serge Ibaka was disappointing with 13 points, seven rebounds and one block, and Anthony Morrow missed all three of his shots for two points in 18 minutes. Dion Waiters came through with 16 points and two 3-pointers in 31 minutes, but hit just 6-of-16 shots. This was a big win for the Rockets, who were coming off an embarrassing loss to the Magic on Wednesday.
Cavaliers 109, Lakers 102
The Cavaliers got 36 points and a full stat line from LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving was solid with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting as the Cavaliers easily held off the Lakers. Yes, the Lakers made a late run, but were never really in a position to win the game. Kevin Love’s back tightened up once again and I was somewhat shocked to see him in the game in the second half. He took a hard fall on his back while taking a charge from Jeremy Lin and needed three teammates to help him off the floor, and if you own him, you’ll want to keep an eye on the news page for more information on how his back is feeling on Friday. He looked like he was running with a stiff board attached to his backside for much of the game and hit just 4-of-14 shots and 1-of-6 3-pointers (most of them wide open) for 17 points and seven rebounds. Timofey Mozgov bounced back with 10 rebounds and a block, but hit just 2-of-5 shots for four points in 23 minutes. He’s going to have to get his points from offensive rebounds, as the Cavs aren’t going to run plays for him. He could get it going at any time, but is not a must-own player as of right now. J.R. Smith started and hit 5-of-13 shots and three 3-pointers for 14 points in the win, but we’d probably be having a much different conversation if the Cavs had played a team other than the Lakers last night. Tristan Thompson had 11 rebounds and was a key for the Cavs, but still takes a big hit with Mozgov in town.
Kobe Bryant had 19 points and a career-high 17 assists, and even hit 7-of-14 shots and 3-of-6 shots on the night. If you’re wondering, this was just the fifth game in which Kobe hit at least half his shots this season. Additionally, Kobe has already been ruled out for Friday night against the Jazz, so plan accordingly. With Kobe out, look for Wes Johnson to be better that he was last night (eight points, two 3-pointers). Jordan Hill had 20 points, six rebounds, three steals and a block on 10-of-14 shooting, and he’s playing better, averaging 14.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks over his last five games. Nick Young was the only other Laker in double figures with 14 points, but he hit just 4-of-13 shots and 2-of-8 3-pointers, making Kobe think he was playing with a guy named ‘Smushy P’ instead of ‘Swaggy P,’ which is pretty much how things have been going all season for Young.
If you watched this game, you probably either loved or hated all the smiling and carrying on that Kobe and LeBron engaged in. It looked like a meaningless All-Star Game to me at times, and while that’s fine for the tanking Lakers, I doubt the Cavs wanted to come off with such a “cavalier” attitude about a game they had to have. But hey, they got the win and maybe it was what they needed to get going. Then again, they have to play the Clippers on the same court on Friday night, and something tells me things aren’t going to go quite as swimmingly tonight.
News & Notes
The trade winds were blowing hard on Thursday night with rumors that Brook Lopez might be sent from the Nets to the Thunder, Lance Stephenson would go from Charlotte to Brooklyn (possibly along with Kendrick Perkins), with Jarrett Jack and Jeremy Lamb landing in Charlotte. The Nets better hope that Deron Williams recovers quickly from his rib injury if they’re going to pull the trigger on this one.
If the deal goes down, Bro-Lo gets a boost as the starting center in OKC, Mason Plumlee stays hot in Brooklyn, Stephenson becomes the starting SG for the Nets (and could use a breath of fresh air), and Jack could start at shooting guard in Charlotte, ruining a hot run by Gerald Henderson. Then again, Jack could play behind Kemba Walker, which would ruin his potential value. Stay tuned.
The Celtics traded Austin Rivers to the Clippers, where he will play for his father (Doc Rivers), while Chris Douglas-Roberts was sent to the Celtics, along with Shavlik Randolph from the Suns. The Suns will get Reggie Bullock, Nate Robinson was waived by Boston, Jordan Farmar could be waived by the Clippers, and this trade is a fantasy black hole.
Anthony Davis is being listed as questionable for Friday due to a left toe sprain and it’s important to note the Pelicans are playing the Sixers. The Hawks just crushed them without three of their starters, so if there is a game for Davis to get a rest from, it’s this one. If he’s out, go ahead and dial up Ryan Anderson in daily leagues. Jrue Holiday is also iffy with his lingering ankle injury and Tyreke Evans would probably man the point if he can’t go.
Kawhi Leonard is listed as probable against the Blazers on Friday after missing 15 straight games with a hand injury. This is the news his owners have been waiting for, so get ready to unleash the big-handed monster.
Rudy Gay is doubtful against the Heat on Friday due to a sore knee. Derrick Williams would make for a cheap, interesting daily play if Gay is out. Omri Casspi (knee) and Carl Landry (wrist) are also iffy for the Kings.
Blazer Wesley Matthews went to the hospital on Wednesday night with rib pain, but was given a clean bill of health and is expected to play against the Spurs on Friday.
Grizzlies’ point guard Mike Conley is iffy for Friday’s game vs. Orlando due to a pair of sprained ankles. If he can’t go, Beno Udrih and Nick Calathes would share point guard duties. Tony Allen is listed as probable, despite a hamstring issue. Allen is currently starting over newcomer Jeff Green, but how long that will be the case is up for debate.
The Magic’s Tobias Harris has already been ruled out against the Grizzlies on Friday, and will miss his fourth straight game with a bum ankle. Channing Frye benefits, while owners have to hope this is the last miss for Harris.
Joakim Noah left the United Center in a walking boot on Wednesday night after injuring his right ankle, so it could be Taj Gibson time again, while Nikola Mirotic would also get some nice run for the Bulls.
George Hill (groin) is out for Friday and Saturday’s games, but might be able to play on Monday. As long as he’s out, the C.J.s (Watson and Miles) both benefit.
Marco Belinelli has been ruled out for the Spurs on Friday with a groin injury, which should mean more goodies for Manu Ginobili, who has been running hot. Of course, Gregg Popovich would have to play him against the Blazers for that to happen. Pop said he plans to play Manu and Tim Duncan in back-to-back sets for now, but that doesn’t mean he’ll actually do it.
Paul George dunked in Pacers practice on Thursday and while there’s a lot of talk about him playing at some point late in the season, I’ll believe it when I see it.