Wizards edge Rock­ets, take SE Di­vi­sion lead

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Wash­ing­ton sur­vived a fu­ri­ous fourth- quar­ter charge by Hous­ton to beat the Rock­ets 104- 103 on Mon­day, mov­ing into a share of the lead for the NBA South­east Di­vi­sion.

Else­where, Chicago nar­rowly de­feated In­di­ana to stretch its Cen­tral Di­vi­sion lead, and the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers beat Utah for the 12th straight time.

Wash­ing­ton’s Bradley Beal scored 33 points and Paul Pierce added 21 for the Wizards, who be­gan a five-game road trip in good style, notch­ing a third-straight win and mov­ing level with At­lanta in the di­vi­sion,

James Harden scored 33 points —— in­clud­ing a 3-pointer with un­der a sec­ond to go in reg­u­la­tion to get Hous­ton within a point.

The Rock­ets outscored the Wizards on sec­ond-chance points (18-9) and points in the paint (50-34) but were plagued by poor shoot­ing while Wash­ing­ton shot 93 per­cent from the free-throw line and 44.4 per­cent from beyond the arc.

Chicago ex­tended its win­ning streak to seven with a 92-90 win at In­di­ana.

Jimmy But­ler had 27 points and nine re­bounds while Pau Ga­sol had 20 points for the Bulls, who had lost on their pre­vi­ous four trips to In­di­anapo­lis.

Chris Copeland scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quar­ter for the Pac­ers, who fought back from 21 points down in the sec­ond half to take the lead with 6:15 left but could not hang on.

Los An­ge­les beat Utah 101-97 for its 12th straight vic­tory over the Jazz, break­ing the fran­chise record for con­sec­u­tive losses against one club.

Blake Grif­fin scored 24 points and Chris Paul fin­ished with 20 points and eight as­sists for the Clip­pers, who never trailed in the fourth quar­ter de­spite lead­ing by no more than five points.

Gor­don Hay­ward scored 22 points for the Jazz and Rudy Gobert added 13 re­bounds and 11 points off the bench. Shoot- ing guard Alec Burks missed his sec­ond straight game be­cause of chronic sore­ness in his left shoul­der. He also sat out two games early this month for the same rea­son.

Brook­lyn held on to beat Sacra­mento 107-99, with Ma­son Plum­lee con­tin­u­ing his im­pres­sive play with a team-high 22 points.

Or­lando won 102-101 at state ri­val Mi­ami, led by 26 points from Nikola Vuce­vic.

Mil­wau­kee pulled away to win 104-94 in over­time at Char­lotte, with Bran­don Knight scor­ing 18 points, in­clud­ing a layup to force over­time.

Cavs Fret over Blatt

The Cava­liers are 18-12 but lost 103-80 at home to Detroit, which has lost 23 of 30 games, and 127-98 to At­lanta two weeks ago.

Some things are clearly out of coach David Blatt’s con­trol. Cleve­land is with­out in­jured Aus­tralian guard Kyrie Irv­ing, ab­sent with a sore left knee, and Brazil­ian big man An­der­son Vare­jao, who is out for the re­main- der of the sea­son after surgery on a torn Achilles ten­don.

Asked Sun­day if he was con­cerned he might be los­ing con­trol of the team, Blatt replied: “I’m not con­cerned about that at all. I’m con­cerned with how we are play­ing.”

James, who turns 30 on Tues­day, has as­sumed a lead­er­ship role since his ar­rival and made his un­hap­pi­ness clear after Sun­day’s loss.

“We’re not a very good team,” he said. “As far as on the court, we’re still try­ing to find our way as well. We’ve won some good games. We’ve lost some games. But right now, we’re just not very good in ev­ery as­pect of the game that we need to be to com­pete ev­ery night.”

Player sub­sti­tu­tion pat­terns were ques­tioned early in the sea­son as Blatt tried to work with dif­fer­ent align­ments to find com­bi­na­tions that worked. The Cava­liers had to be­come ac­cus­tomed to each other after bring­ing in James and star big man Kevin Love from Min­nesota to join Irv­ing and the rest of the roster.

The lat­est strug­gles follow in­juries but still leave James and Love in search of an­swers.

“I can’t tell you what it was,” Love said. “We need to play bet­ter in front of our home crowd. It’s just un­ac­cept­able.”

Blatt says the team needs to ad­just to the in­juries.

“We lost some pretty im­por­tant play­ers,” Blatt said Sun­day. “You have to be more de­ter­mined and more com­pet­i­tive and fight your way through that or else this hap­pens. It’s not an ex­cuse. It’s just an ex­pla­na­tion.”

The ESPN re­port said var­i­ous play­ers have not paid at­ten­tion to Blatt dur­ing time­out hud­dles, in­stead pre­fer­ring to com­mu­ni­cate with for­mer NBA player Ty­ronn Lue, a Cava­liers as­sis­tant coach.

AP

Utah Jazz guard Pa­trick Christo­pher, left, bat­tles Los An­ge­les Clip­pers cen­ter DeAn­dre Jor­dan for a re­bound dur­ing the first half of an NBA bas­ket­ball game in Los An­ge­les on Mon­day, Dec. 29.

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