When DeMarcus Cousins returns to action on Jan. 18 for the Warriors, he’ll be doing so as the starting center, according to coach Steve Kerr
Steve Kerr said DeMarcus Cousins will definitely start in his first game pic.twitter.com/06F5EbOY45
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) January 10, 2019
Though Kerr said Cousins would start, how many minutes he’d play in his first game back has yet to be determined.
Steve Kerr says DeMarcus Cousins will start immediately at center. Haven’t mapped out early minutes restriction yet.
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 10, 2019
Cousins, who has been out all season while rehabbing from a torn Achilles, averaged 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds last season for the Pelicans.
Recapping Week 22 in NBA: Monster games and milestones abound
Take a look back at the week that was in the NBA with a collection of some of the best games, videos, photos, features and more from around the NBA world.
* * *
Games of the Week
Nets 103, Pistons 75 — Brooklyn and Detroit haven’t made the playoffs in a while, and this game on Monday had the feeling of that type of game for both teams. Unfortunately for the Pistons — who were the Eastern Conference’s hottest team heading into the game — the Nets were a little more ready for it all. Brooklyn ramped up its defense and used a balanced offense to make quick work of Detroit and, for the moment, move into No. 6 in the playoff chase.
Clippers 140, Celtics 115 — Behind a historic game from Lou Williams, the Clippers put an end to the good feelings the Celtics were having of late about themselves. Williams passed Dell Curry as the NBA’s all-time leading bench scorer on Monday night, all while also (momentarily) moving the Clippers into the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference.
Spurs 112, Mavericks 105 — Only in the Western Conference can a team (such as San Antonio) go on a win streak … and see little benefit in the standings from it. In toppling Dallas on Tuesday, San Antonio won its sixth straight game. However, by the end of the week and because of other teams’ success around them, they only moved from No. 8 to No. 7.
Thunder 108, Nets 96 — Sometimes, Russell Westbrook is just too much for any NBA defense to handle. Brooklyn got a first-hand look at that notion on Wednesday as Westbrook picked up career triple-double No. 130. He did so while ripping apart the Nets’ defense and outplaying their star backcourt of Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell.
Warriors 106, Rockets 104 — No Kevin Durant for this one, but despite that, this Wednesday showdown had the usual thrills we’ve come to expect from these two teams. Who knows if these teams will see each other again come playoff time. One thing we do know? DeMarcus Cousins (27 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) could end up as the X-factor player come the postseason.
Bucks 113, Heat 98 — In the NBA, getting a team down by 20 points at halftime is a good way to ensure a win. On Friday, that world view of games got turned on its head. The Heat led 62-42 at halftime, but watched as the Bucks outscored them 71-46 in the second half, becoming the first team to be down by 20 points at halftime and go on to win by at least 15 points.
Warriors 110, Thunder 88 — Durant missed this Saturday night reunion with his former team, but his Golden State teammates picked up the slack once again. Behind a monstrous game from Stephen Curry (33 points, 5-for-12 3-pointers), the Warriors ripped the Thunder in Oklahoma City to lock up what was once a big deal for Golden State: a playoff berth.
Suns 138, Pelicans 136 (OT) — This showdown from Saturday gets a nod simply because of the odd way it ended. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry called a timeout with 1.1 seconds left after the Suns tied the game in overtime. Problem was, Gentry had no timeouts left. That sent Devin Booker to the line to seal the win and add to an already trying season for New Orleans.
Bucks 130, Sixers 125 — Superstars often shine brightest when squaring off with an equally skilled rival. Such was the case on Sunday night, as Joel Embiid (40 points, 15 rebounds) put up a solid game, but was bested in that department by Giannis Antetokounmpo (career-high 52 points). However, it was Embiid’s crew that got the win as the Sixers weathered a late push by the Bucks at home.
Stat Lines of the Week
DeMarcus Cousins (27 points, 11-16 FG, 8 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl in 31 minutes) — In short, the Rockets had no way of stopping the former All-Star big man in a ballyhooed Wednesday night showdown in Texas. Cousins spent the night punishing smaller Rockets defenders or, when double-teamed or trapped, making the right pass to keep Golden State’s offense on track | Watch | Video box score
Kyrie Irving (31 points, 11-28 FG, 10 reb, 12 ast in 37 minutes) — It is hard to believe a player as accomplished as Irving is has so few career triple-doubles. Yet, entering Thursday’s game against the Kings, he had a grand total of one triple-double before running wild in a solid home win for the Celtics | Watch | Video box score
Lou Williams (34 points, 14-20 FG, 4 reb, 5 ast in 23 minutes) — This is sure to be a game that Williams will remember, as he passed Dell Curry for the all-time lead in points scored by a bench player. Aside from that, this was a huge win for the Clippers as they look to solidify their place in the West hierarchy as their surprising push for a playoff spot rolls along. | Watch | Video box score
Domantas Sabonis (26 points, 7-12 FG, 7 reb, 4 ast in 27 minutes) — Williams may be the odds-on favorite for the Kia NBA Sixth Man Award this season. However, this performance Sabonis delivered in Thursday’s thrilling comeback win vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder is a prime example of why not to sleep on him has one of the NBA’s best reserves. His energy and efficiency sparked a 19-point comeback in a thrilling home win for Indiana. | Watch | Video box score
Bradley Beal (40 points, 12-17 FG, 9-12 3-pt FG, 5 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl in 38 minutes) — One of the underrated storylines in these final few weeks of 2018-19 is how Beal has raised his game as a scorer. He’s averaging 31.2 ppg since Feb. 22 and this performance Saturday against the Hornets was a showcase of his shooting stroke and ability to take only the shots he needed to fuel a win vs. Charlotte. | Watch | Video box score
Giannis Antetokounmpo (52 points, 15-26 FG, 3-8 3-pt FG, 19-21 FT, 16 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl in 36 minutes) — Part One of our homage to Sunday’s superstar showdown in Milwaukee goes to “The Greek Freak.” How could we not when he amassed a career high in points and logged the first 50-point, 15-rebound game since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it eons ago? | Watch | Video box score
Joel Embiid (40 points, 15-31 FG, 4-13 3-pt FG, 15 reb, 6 ast, 3 stl in 35 minutes) — Part Two of the homage goes to Embiid, who did a fantastic job on offense, no doubt. But his impact in this game was felt on defense as well, as his size and the threat of his shot blocking threw off some aspects of the Bucks’ offense in their loss Sunday. | Watch | Video box score
Best plays from Week 22
Quotes of the Week
“I’m sure y’all have heard of it – ”As the World Turns.” She called it her stories. I used to watch it with her and every episode it was something. That’s what this has turned into – ”As the World Turns.’ “– Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, on the media scrutiny that often surrounds his team
“The snow is gone. We’re good. We’re ready to rock.” — Sixers guard Jimmy Butler
“One day (you’re) the pigeon, one day you’re the statue. And definitely today we were the statue.” — Pistons coach Dwane Casey, after Monday’s loss to the Nets
“Man, this team fights. That’s one of the big reasons why I chose to come here. We fight, we compete. No lead is too much.” — Pacers guard Wesley Matthews
“There’s got to be something done. There’s got to be some consequences for those type of people that come to the game just to say and do whatever they want to say. I don’t think it’s fair to the players.” — Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, after his in-game verbal confrontation with a Jazz fan on Monday night
“That shows what kind of kid he is and what kind of leader he’s becoming. It was really cool to me personally. Real emotional to me. With that being said, he will not pay my fine. I appreciate it, but I’ll pay my own fine.” — Bulls coach Jim Boylen, on Zach LaVine offering to pay his fine for his ejection from Friday’s game
“Breaking records is always fun. If it happens at home, it’s even more special for fans that have been riding with you for such a long time.” — Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is four points from passing Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list
“Pretty much every time I play here I look up at the rafters, look up at the jersey retired and then when the starting lineups come up, when I was a kid watching that starting lineup watching the Bulls run through the city and Jordan’s name and number getting called, I always have that feeling.” — Lakers forward LeBron James, on playing at United Center in Chicago
“I didn’t give them a chance (to answer). I said I’m tired of talking. All we do is talk, talk, talk – let’s start doing.” — Nuggets coach Mike Malone, after his recent heart-to-heart talk with his team about their goals
Hey, click on this stuff …
We’re all busy. But there’s lots of great content on NBA.com that you might have missed in the hubbub of your life. Take a moment, slow down and soak up some of our best stories, videos and more.
VIDEOS FROM WEEK 22
GameTime: Secret to a great alley-oop in today’s NBA
GameTime: Clippers’ Williams makes some sixth man history
GameTime: Cousins starting to find rhythm with Warriors
GameTime: Closer look at Embiid, Antetokoumpo as playoffs near
GameTime: Who is the favorite for Coach of the Year honors?
Inside The NBA: State of East playoff chase
Inside The NBA: State of West playoff chase
Inside The NBA: Throwing it back to 1995 …
Perfect Player: Who has best size, body in NBA today?
In Their Own Words: Rookies on NBA veteran’s game that surprised them most
Players Only: Are the Warriors bored with regular season?
* Shaqtin’ A Fool | Diesel’s Dunks of the Week | Smitty’s Top Plays
STORIES FROM WEEK 22
* Powell: Williams embodies spirit of every sixth man
* Aschburner: Missing playoffs not typical for NBA legends
* Schuhmann: Power Rankings, Week 22 edition
* Schuhmann: Taking stock of all the roster moves since trade deadline
* Kia MVP Ladder: LeBron’s run of greatness coming to an end
* Kia Rookie Ladder: The Young vs. Doncic debate continues
About Last Night: Clash of the unicorns
In a titanic collision of the league’s most uniquely overpowering talents, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid produced a teaser trailer of the next half-decade’s worth of Eastern Conference sequels. Philadelphia’s Process vs. Milwaukee’s Greek Freak. Get used to it.
By the time Sunday’s edition was cut, the pair of virally dubbed unicorns combined for 92 points, 31 rebounds, 13 assists and five steals in the Sixers’ 130-125 statement win.
The “unicorn” label might be misleading when referring to two of the league’s most unstoppable wrecking balls. They are north-to-south avalanches, disdaining the sides of the court because nothing can stop them in the middle:
Antetokounmpo shot chart
Embiid shot chart
Antetokounmpo’s career-high 52 points were ultimately not enough, but that had more to do with Milwaukee needing 18 more 3-point attempts (16-for-50) to make just one more from beyond the arc than Philadelphia (15-for-32). On the other end, the Bucks’ top-ranked defense struggled to corral the Sixers’ stable of stars.
That conundrum could be a problem this spring, but the new-look Sixers might undergo yet another makeover before autumn with Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler both hitting free agency. And with Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving both older and unclear as to their own immediate futures, Sunday provided a glimpse into what we do know: Embiid and Antetokounmpo are destined for many, many more box-score-busting and trash-talk-exchanging bouts in the years to come.
Lou Will wins it
There’s something about the elite and undersized scoring guards in the league. Call it hard-earned bravado, reps on the pickup court, whatever. They are among the most comfortable and deadly with time winding down and the game on the line.
Lou Williams is the bannerman for that group, and the two-time Kia Sixth Man of the Year showed why with a 3-point dagger as time expired to give the Clippers a 119-116 win over the visiting Nets.
As always, we rate game-winning buzzer-beaters on our Horry Scale.
Reminder: The Horry Scale breaks down a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety night in January?) and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, named for the patron saint of last-second answered prayers.
DIFFICULTY: The set play out of the timeout was basic but effective for someone who can get his shot off as quickly as Williams. A pass and immediate screen from Danilo Gallinari gave Williams the sliver of airspace he needed to launch a straightaway 3, albeit over an understandably desperate double-team. Despite the pressure and launching from no-man’s land between the arc and center court logo, the shot hit nothing by twine.
GAME SITUATION: There was little pressure on Williams or the Clippers in the moment with the game merely tied, but the standings tell another story. Lose in overtime, and the Clippers would have found themselves in eighth place, an entire game back of Utah and potentially facing the two-time defending champion Warriors in the first round. The Clippers, Jazz and Spurs are all actively trying to avoid that draw. Now LA finds itself in a virtual tie with Utah and only a half game back of San Antonio. In the season’s final leg, the Clippers are still running strong.
Another factor: the symbolic image of a Williams moment amid a particularly heated Kia Sixth Man of the Year race. Many voters will choose Williams, whose 20-plus points per game jump off the page. Others may prefer the blue collar work of teammate Montrzel Harrell or Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis. Yet when casting aside preference and gauging the candidates’ simple on-court effect, Williams should be the runaway favorite. Here’s how much better each team’s net rating is with their respective sixth man contender on the floor:
Lou Williams: +10.1
Domantas Sabonis: +3.5
Montrezl Harrell: +2.3
Spencer Dinwiddie: -1.1
CELEBRATION: Amid all the changes LA has made since the Lob City era, Williams’ two years with the Clippers seem an eternity. He has become their soul, the gritty spirit of the team’s nobody-should-ever-underestimate-us vibe that will carry them to the playoffs even after trading away Tobias Harris. That’s why Williams’ teammates didn’t hesitate to rush the veteran and hoist him on their shoulders, even as he gestured to a home fan base that has embraced him as readily as the team itself.
When the team owner gets two-stepping, you know you’re doing something right.
GRADE: With the Nets just as desperately immersed in their own playoff race out East, the outcome mattered enormously to both teams. Williams is the argument for why the Clippers could be dangerous in the first round. He’s been there, and he’s equipped to steal the win if it’s there for the taking. 4 Horrys.
Mario’s turbo jump
Those who have played know. In order to do the near impossible, hold the turbo button and jump. Maybe that’s what New York’s Mario Hezonja did in his game-winning block of LeBron James.
Or maybe Hezonja was simply the beneficiary of some two-player strategy?
We often allude to hustle or other intangibles as traits that aren’t rewarded nearly enough. Mike Scott had enough of that, apparently. After selling out to chase a loose ball out of bounds, the veteran forward treated himself to a drink, courtesy of the fan who cushioned his fall.
In fairness to Scott, he has seen his minutes nearly double (14.6 to 26.2 per game) since the All-Star break. The guy needed a little hydration.
Drummond stands alone
We’ll never know exactly how dominant Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were on defense. It’s a travesty of stat tracking, since blocks and steals were not recorded in that day and age. Since the league wised up, it’s been easier to catalog the all-around defensive terror of legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin Garnett and Hakeem Olajuwon.
In one sense, Detroit center Andre Drummond passed them all on Sunday. The big man’s 15 points, 17 rebounds and two steals in Detroit’s upset win over Toronto clinched his fourth season of at least 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 100 steals and 100 blocks. Previously, no other player in NBA history had more than three such seasons under his belt since blocks and steals became an official thing in 1973-74.
Here’s the very short list of players that produced 1,000×1,000x100x100 seasons:
Sixers make statement in win over Bucks, hope for carryover into playoffs
MILWAUKEE — It’s become reflexive at this point: You see a marquee matchup on the regular season schedule and even as your pulse starts to quicken, you talk yourself down.
Sure, you want to see the big-name teams with the brightest stars in the network games. But if the calendar says anything before the second weekend in April, you’ve learned to have your guard up. Injuries, “load management,” rotation tinkering and even occasional sandbagging can thwart a showdown in the regular season that would have NBA fans salivating in the postseason.
Fortunately for folks showing up and tuning in Sunday afternoon, neither the Philadelphia 76ers nor the Milwaukee Bucks were in position to play left-hand through their matinee at Fiserv Forum.
The Bucks were at home, defending a 27-5 mark in Milwaukee while coping with the loss of starting guard Malcolm Brogdon (right foot, plantar fascia tear). Brogdon is the only player in the league shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the arc and 90 percent from the foul line. His absence would show in a shaky shooting performance by his teammates.
The Sixers, meanwhile, were jazzed about starting their preferred lineup for only the seventh time all season. Tobias Harris’ arrival last month before the trade deadline, followed by injuries to Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler, had limited coach Brett Brown to just a half dozen games to all three with backcourt Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick. Continuity matters for contenders, as does familiarity, so Philadelphia had four weeks beginning Sunday to get fully acquainted.
“Sixers 3.0,” Redick said afterward of this latest incarnation.
Said Brown: “There is no right to have a fluid side and a chemistry and symmetry. [We] have no right to have that. It’s not anybody’s fault but the calendar’s. Growing and being excited about that and trying to polish that before the playoffs begin is our goal.”
The goal looked a little more in focus after the Sixers’ 130-125 victory. What it lacked in drama — after the early minutes of the second quarter, Philadelphia’s lead only slipped to within a single possession in the final seconds, with Milwaukee desperately fouling — it made up for in moments. And individual performances. And strategies and counters to file away should they see each other again in May (they also meet April 4 in Philadelphia).
Embiid was a monster for the Sixers with 40 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and three steals. His most promising stat might have been his 15-of-31 shooting. Twice this season, the Philadelphia center had been limited (by his team or the other guys) to single digits in field-goal attempts. Eight of the 11 games in which he shot the ball 15 times or fewer came before Christmas.
But he’s averaging about 22 shots in his four games back after missing eight (left knee soreness) after the All-Star break. That’s a career high level and a better number both for him and his team, made possible by the threats surrounding him now.
Butler, meanwhile, scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, taking command at his favorite time of the game and taking air out of the ball from Milwaukee’s late gasps.
As for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s monster performance — a career-high 52 points, with 16 rebounds, seven assists, a plus-12 rating, 19-of-21 from the foul line and three 3-pointer in eight tries — even that meant something positive for the Sixers. They stuck to their schemes, didn’t overreact to the Greek Freak’s enormity and got some video to bone up on, should they meet for four or more this spring.
You might think a defensive player’s shoulders would sag to see Antetokounmpo, so dangerous in most other ways, pulling up — and hitting — from the arc. But the Sixers had made up their mind to live or even die with that Sunday, simply filing it away.
“I think they feel the same way about me,” Embiid said, after making four of his 13 3-point shots. “They let me shoot, they left me wide open the whole night from three. If he’s going to go 10-for-15 from three, we can make some adjustment. But that’s something we’re going to live with.”
That would have been a postseason move, Brown said. Besides, Antetokounmpo’s teammates were cooperating, shooting 13-of-42 on 3-pointers, just 4-of-7 from the line and 28-of-69 (40.6 percent) overall. Even Milwaukee’s first 50-point, 15-rebound game since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played here couldn’t make up for those numbers.
“For this game we were probably going to ride it out,” the Sixers coach said. “The phrasing that most comes to my mind when you ask that question is ‘tolerance level.’ … There’s a point where you say, ‘Enough’s enough.’ Tonight wasn’t going to be one of those nights for me.
“In the event you do match up in the playoffs, what can you learn, especially how to beat ‘em in a four-game series? Maybe that philosophy would change in that type of environment. But tonight I feel like we were going to stay in our schemes and live with it.”
More than a few Sixers referred afterward to Milwaukee as the NBA’s best team “by record,” an asterisk implied. You’ll get arguments on both sides whether there truly are “statement games” that have legs into the playoffs. So let’s just say Philadelphia laid down a marker.
And its greatest challenge will come from within.
“The key thing is we’ve all got to stay healthy,” Embiid said of the next four weeks. “We go from there. We play together. We’re learning how to play with each other. We feel comfortable with each other. We know where all of us want the ball at when we’re all comfortable. We’ve got time to figure it all out. We’ve won four games in a row, so that’s a good start.”
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