HOUSTON — After Austin Rivers scored just six points in the first half on Friday night against the Houston Rockets, his Los Angeles Clippers teammates had a message for him.
"Austin, you've got to be more aggressive," Rivers recalled them saying.
He certainly took their advice, scoring 30 of his career-high 36 points after halftime to allow the Clippers to withstand James Harden's second straight 51-point performance in a 128-118 victory.
"If we were going to win I had to start being in attack mode," Rivers said. "And right from the get-go my whole attention was to just be aggressive and take the fight to them."
The Rockets, who had a 14-game winning streak snapped by the Lakers on Wednesday, lost consecutive games for just the second time this season and the first since Oct. 28 and 30 (see full recap).
Westbrook's game-winning 3-pointer lifts Thunder past Hawks
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder like their chances with the ball in Russell Westbrook's hands at the end of a game.
Westbrook hit a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to cap a 30-point, 15-assist outing, and the Thunder held off the resilient Hawks 120-117 on Friday night. Carmelo Anthony added 24 points on 7-of-12 3-point shooting and Paul George scored 17 for the Thunder, who have won five of their last six after a 12-14 start.
"I think we know now how to close and where we're going to to close," George said. "Russ is our leader. ... We knew that we could kind of mess them up with the play that we had, cause some confusion. They backed off and Russ had an easy, open opportunity. Russ is as good as anybody when it's closing time."
Atlanta, in last place in the Southeast Division, made Oklahoma City work for this one, rallying after falling behind by 16 points in the first half, and again by seven in the final minutes. Marco Belinelli scored 30 points to lead Atlanta. Ersan Ilyasova added 22 points for the Hawks, who went 15 of 32 from 3-point range (see full recap).
Drummond's double-double leads Pistons over Knicks
DETROIT — For a few moments Friday, Stan Van Gundy thought his Detroit Pistons were going to fall back into the same bad habits that plagued them early in December.
After leading for most of the game, the Pistons found themselves trailing the New York Knicks by four with 1:48 to play. A loss would have dropped them to 3-9 in December and a game behind the Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings.
Instead, Detroit finished with a 9-2 run to post a 104-101 victory and a fourth win in five games.
"Down four in the last two minutes is a bad situation, but I was very happy with the way we closed out the game," Van Gundy said. "We made some big defensive plays and Reggie (Jackson) attacked on the offensive end." (see full recap).
Bucks close with 9-0 run to beat Hawks
MILWAUKEE — With Dwight Howard going out early, Kemba Walker did his best to give the Charlotte Hornets a chance to grab a road victory against the Milwaukee Bucks.
But when Walker went down with an apparent injury late in the fourth quarter, the Bucks capitalized, closing on a 9-0 run for a 109-104 victory Friday night.
"This was a tough game," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "There were a lot of emotions in the last game we played. Charlotte is playing extremely well and hard, especially with their coach out. ... They were right there and we found a way down the stretch to make plays on both ends."
After Walker gave Charlotte a 104-100 lead with 2:24 remaining, Milwaukee held the Hornets scoreless the rest of the way. The Bucks tied it on dunks by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton and took the lead on Eric Bledsoe's layup (see full recap).