NBA schedule and results: Clippers visit Wizards in search of 10th-straight win
Blazers-Bulls and Clippers-Wizards highlight the NBA’s 7 p.m. ET slate of games Friday. At 8 p.m. the Cavaliers will tip off against the Pelicans potentially with a hobbled Lebron James and Kyrie Irving.
It was the fifth game for Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both in the lineup, and they made it count in a 103-94 win against Cleveland. After losing Durant’s opener to Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, the Thunder had previously feasted with three straight wins against Eastern Conference teams under .500.
For those who felt the reigning MVP needed a ‘test,’ this game fit the bill — even if LeBron James sat with non-serious soreness in his right knee, giving the Cavaliers a taste of what Oklahoma City struggled through for the first quarter of the season. Durant deferred to Russell Westbrook early on, scoring six points on nine shots while spreading the ball around within the Thunder offensive system. To Westbrook’s credit, he was magnificent and scored 20 of his game-high 26 by the end of the third.
Oklahoma City looked to have surmounted any chance of a Cavaliers comeback midway through the final frame, but Cleveland is a pesky bunch that had won eight straight games coming into the night. Matthew Dellavadova hit a couple of important 3-pointers to cut the lead to four, but Durant would let the Cavaliers get no closer. He’d outscore Cleveland 8-3 by himself in the final two minutes.
Suddenly, the Thunder have won four straight and six of their last seven. They stand at 9-13, only 2.5 games out of Phoenix’s No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and have an opportunity to gain a game on the Suns when they play them on the road Sunday.
While Scott Brooks and his squad surely aren’t thrilled that they let a James-less Cavaliers squad back into the game, there were other moments where the Thunder looked every bit the team that has made deep playoff runs every year since 2011. Their roster is better than last year, replacing Derek Fisher with sharpshooting Anthony Morrow, who hit three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points.
It’s a matter of when, not if, the Thunder make up the small number of games that currently have them out of the playoffs. That’s what Durant and Westbrook reminded everyone of on Thursday.
3 other things we learned
Sometimes, James Harden is just impossible to stop. The Kings were finally in position for a win sans star DeMarcus Cousins, who has missed the last eight games with viral meningitis. They had an undermanned Houston on their heels nearly the entire game and led by five with 57 seconds left to play, but Rudy Gay missed a couple shots in the final minute to top a miserable night shooting (4-18 from the field) and James Harden nailed a game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime. With 10 straight points to open the extra period, Harden sealed the game and finished with 44 points on a Rockets team that somehow keeps finding ways to get it done despite several key pieces missing from the rotation.
The NBA would be less fun if Kyrie Irving was injured. For a brief moment, we all envisioned an NBA without him when he bumped knees with Westbrook right before the half, stayed down for a couple minutes and needed help to limp to the locker room. Fortunately, it was just a fleeting scare and Irving returned to start the third quarter. He scored 11 points on 5-13 shooting in a futile comeback attempt, but looked his normal self on the court, which is a relief to everyone.
Darren Collison is on the right team. Two years ago, Darren Collison was getting benched in favor of Mike James down the stretch of Mavericks games. He’s a transition and isolation player who never really fit Rick Carlisle’s pick-and-roll dominant offense, and Dallas never seriously considered bringing him back. As the Kings starting point guard surrounded by athletes, Collison is finally in a situation that takes advantage of his track-star speed and aggressive up-tempo pushing of the ball. Sometimes he was scoring the fastbreak layups, other times it was his passes that set up Gay or Ben McLemore. Regardless, Collison is making good things happen because the Kings are letting him do what he does best.
Play of the Night
I’ve been watching this play for five minutes trying to figure out what preposition to use in describing this dunk. He goes over Anderson Varejao, but also around, and in some ways, he goes through him. Between? At? Across? I’ll let you be the judge.
4 fun things
Russell Westbrook will tear off a rim one of these days. No mercy!
The Thunder have a fun play where Kendrick Perkins just holds his man like an offensive lineman.
(Don’t forget to keep checking Mike Prada’s Micro Pictures Stream!)
Kevin on Kevin violence: Love has a great bounce pass to Joe Harris that Durant ruins.