Kyle Kuzma

Ben Simmons' Rookie of the Year odds take a turn

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Ben Simmons' Rookie of the Year odds take a turn

The race for NBA Rookie of the Year isn't as open-and-shut as it initially appeared.

Ben Simmons is still the heavy favorite but his odds have dropped substantially over the last month. On Dec. 1, Bovada listed Simmons at 1/20. As of Jan. 2, he is 2/13.

That's about a 67 percent drop for Simmons. It's related both to Simmons' slowing down a bit and the continued emergences of Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma.

When the odds came out last month, Simmons had played 20 games and was averaging 18.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 2.3 steals.

Simmons proceeded to have a few down games — Pistons, T-Wolves, Knicks, Nuggets (to be fair, all games the Sixers won) — and he's now averaging 16.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.9 steals.

Meanwhile, Mitchell and Kuzma continue to lead their teams on offense. Mitchell, who some have compared to a young Dwyane Wade, is averaging 18.2 points and making 2.2 threes per game. In the time between Bovada's Dec. 1 and Jan. 2 updates, Mitchell averaged 23.1 points, shooting 51 percent from the field and 88 percent from the line.

The ever-confident Kuzma has been much better for the Lakers than Lonzo Ball, who is currently sidelined by a shoulder injury. Kuzma is averaging 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, shooting 47 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from three.

Here are the full odds:

Ben Simmons: 2/13

Donovan Mitchell: 4/1

Kyle Kuzma: 20/1

Jayson Tatum: 25/1

Lonzo Ball, Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Smith: 40/1

De'Aaron Fox: 66/1

Bogdan Bogdanovic, Josh Jackson: 80/1

John Collins: 90/1

Malik Monk: 100/1

Kuzma's career night helps Lakers cool off Rockets

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Kuzma's career night helps Lakers cool off Rockets

HOUSTON -- Rookie Kyle Kuzma set career highs with 38 points and seven 3-pointers, and the Los Angeles Lakers overcame 51 points from James Harden to end the Houston Rockets' 14-game winning streak with a 122-116 victory Wednesday night.

It was Houston's first loss since Nov. 14 and snapped a three-game skid for the Lakers.

The game was tied before Los Angeles scored 10 straight points -- while Houston missed seven shots in a row -- to go up 110-100 with about four minutes left.

Houston ended an almost four-minute scoring drought when Harden made a free throw, and he added three more after being fouled on a 3-point attempt a few seconds later to cut it to 110-104. But former Rocket Corey Brewer made a 3-pointer before Lonzo Ball hit two free throws to make it 115-104.

Harden powered Houston on a night when Chris Paul had just eight points before leaving early in the fourth quarter with a sore left leg.

The Rockets made seven free throws down the stretch but hit just four field goals in the last eight minutes -- all in the final 1:05.

Kuzma was unstoppable in the first half, making all nine of his shots, including six 3-pointers. He cooled a bit after the break and finished 12 of 17 overall and 7 of 10 from deep (see full recap).

Olynyk goes off on former team as Heat top Celtics
BOSTON -- Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 32 points in his rousing return to Boston, and the undermanned Miami Heat hung on Wednesday for a 90-89 victory over the Celtics.

On a night when the Celtics honored their former forward in his first game back, the popular Olynyk received a standing ovation from Boston fans and led the Heat (16-15) to another win against the top team in the Eastern Conference. Josh Richardson had 19 points and six assists for Miami, which took two of three in the season series. The Heat ended Boston's 16-game winning streak earlier this season with a victory at home.

Olynyk signed with Miami as a free agent during the offseason. His previous high was 30 points on Dec. 15, 2014.

When this one was over, he took photos with fans.

Kyrie Irving paced the Celtics (26-8) with 33 points, but missed a jumper from the right wing that bounced off the rim at the buzzer. Jaylen Brown scored 16 and Marcus Smart had 15 (see full recap).

Bulls blast shorthanded Magic for 7th straight win
CHICAGO -- Denzel Valentine had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Nikola Mirotic had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and the Chicago Bulls beat the Orlando Magic 112-94 on Wednesday night for their seventh straight win.

The Bulls had lost 10 straight with Mirotic out of the lineup prior to his return Dec. 8, and they haven't lost since to improve to 10-20.

Nikola Vucevic scored 18 points for Orlando, which lost its sixth in a row.

Facing the league's fourth-worst scoring defense, the Bulls took a 43-27 lead with 9:05 left in the second quarter on Mirotic's layup, one of many easy baskets. Chicago's strong ball movement resulted in easy looks inside and out, and the team had assists on 10 of its first 15 shots.

Robin Lopez connected on his first four attempts for a club averaging 111.1 points per contest since Mirotic returned to the lineup -- up from 95.7 points in 23 games without the forward.

Injury-riddled Orlando, which played without leading scorers Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, struggled to keep pace. The Magic made only 3 of 15 first-half 3-point tries en route to their 17th loss in 20 games (see full recap).

Sixers-Lakers observations: Joel Embiid posts career-high 46 points

Sixers-Lakers observations: Joel Embiid posts career-high 46 points


LOS ANGELES — After a summer of hype and banter, it was all about Joel Embiid in the Sixers’ 115-109 win over the Lakers at the STAPLES Center on Wednesday night.

The Sixers’ first matchup of the season against the Lakers had nothing to do with LaVar Ball or swapping insults. Embiid put together a ridiculous 46-point performance, including 28 in the second half. He shot 14 for 20 from the field, 16 for 19 from the line and 2 for 3 from beyond the arc. Embiid added 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks (more on the history behind the numbers). Did I mention, he did all of that in 34 minutes?

Ball, on the other hand, disappeared on the court. He scored only two points off 1 for 9 shooting from the field and 0 for 6 from three. Ball grabbed five boards and dished two assists in 21 minutes. He did not play in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers improved to 8-6 overall with the win and capped off their five-game road trip with a 3-2 mark.

• It was just another day at work for Ben Simmons. He recorded his ninth double-double with 18 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists in 39 minutes (see highlights). He also added five steals.

Simmons continued to elevate. He had two dunks in the opening four minutes alone. The matchup between Simmons and Kyle Kuzma turned out to be more intriguing to watch than Simmons and Ball. Simmons and Kuzma are similarly matched in height. 

• The Sixers’ 13-point lead halfway through the first quarter was nearly erased by the end of the frame when the Lakers closed on a 9-3 run. Second quarter, repeat. The Sixers lost hold of a 10-point advantage with two minutes to go in the half and were up just four after two periods. 

• The third was bookended by ties. The Sixers went cold at the end of the quarter, scoring just three points in the final 4:51 as the Lakers took an 84-83 lead. The Sixers fed off Embiid in the fourth and outscored the Lakers 10-5 to end the game. 

• The three-point shooting was hard to watch. The Lakers went 3 for 26 (11.5 percent) from long range, which barely edged out by the Sixers’ 7-for-32 (21.9 percent) performance. JJ Redick uncharacteristically shot 0 for 8 from distance in 34 minutes and Dario Saric struggled (1 for 7). 

On the other side, an 0 for 5 Brook Lopez added to Ball’s 0-for-6 outing. 

• The young potential of each team was obvious as was the inexperience at times, from turnovers to runs to technical fouls. The Sixers gave up 15 points off 16 turnovers. 

• Before the game, Robert Covington’s teammates echoed the same sentiment around the locker room about his contract extension: well-deserved. The four-year deal is not finalized yet (see story)

• Kuzma didn’t just try to dunk on Embiid, he tried to demolish the basket. He ended up drawing the foul, but showed zero hesitation going up against the Sixers’ big man. 

• Injury update: Jerryd Bayless (left wrist), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) were sidelined on the Sixers’ bench. Larry Nance Jr. (left hand) was out for the Lakers.