Tagged in: defeat

Rockets rally past Spurs 109-105 in 1st game without Harden

Houston’s first game without James Harden went better than anyone could have expected.

Christian Wood had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and the Rockets rallied to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 109-105 on Thursday night in their first game since trading away the franchise cornerstone.

“It was fun. It was really cool stuff,” Houston’s first-year coach Stephen Silas said.

Sterling Brown, who took Harden’s spot in the starting lineup, had 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes. Jae’Sean Tate added 13 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.

San Antonio forward Keldon Johnson had a career-high 29 points and Lonnie Walker IV added 16 points while tying a career-high with four 3-pointers. Houston sent Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team blockbuster trade on Wednesday. 

Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs, who the Rockets acquired along with numerous draft picks and draft swaps for Harden, are not with the team yet.

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It was Houston’s first match without Harden since 2012, when Oklahoma City traded its young guard to the Rockets primarily due to salary cap constraints.

Harden remained publicly quiet through months of rumors about his unhappiness with the Rockets, but he broke that silence following a second blowout loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. He bluntly said the Rockets were “just not good enough” and that he did not believe the situation could be fixed.

Houston showed otherwise, at least in their first chance to do so.

“We had a team meeting after that last game against the Lakers and we drew the line there,” Tate said. “Everybody has so much to prove.”

The Rockets were also without John Wall and Eric Gordon due to injuries. The upheaval led to more minutes for the remaining roster, and they took advantage of it.

“Spirit is something I believe a lot in and talk a lot about,” Silas said. “We had spirit tonight.”

Seven players scored at least nine points, with Mason Jones scoring a career-high nine points.

The Rockets staged a 15-2 run to lead 105-101 with 1:46 left.

“It’s got nothing to do with defense (or) offense,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the late swoon. “It has to do with between the ears and being ready to play. And we had four or five guys who were out to lunch.”

Brown had a wild, overhead shot land on the top of the backboard for an out-of-bounds call with 9.5 seconds remaining. San Antonio veteran DeMar DeRozan missed a 15-footer with 0.4 seconds left, and the Spurs fouled P.J. Tucker, who made two free throws to seal it.

DeRozan had 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his return from a two-game absence due to personal reasons.

The teams meet again Saturday at the AT&T Center in the finale of a two-game set in San Antonio.

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Tatum lifts Celtics past Pistons for weekend split

Jayson Tatum hit a fallaway as Blake Griffin stumbled with 2.9 seconds left, then tied up the Detroit veteran on the other end to help the Boston Celtics defeat the Pistons 122-120 on Sunday for a weekend split.

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 31 points. He hit a late 3-pointer and was 13 of 16 from the field, two nights after his late miss sealed a loss in the opener in Detroit.

“We haven’t been good, especially down the stretch, executing-wise,” said Marcus Smart, who added 17 points and eight assists. “We got to our spots, we got the ball where we wanted it, and those two players made great shots and great reads. They won us the game.”

Tatum had 24 points and 12 assists for Boston. The Celtics shot a season-best 57%.

“It seems like they made every shot, especially Brown,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I want to see how many teams do a good job on Jaylen Brown and Tatum. They’re probably two of the most dynamic players I’ve seen in a while.”

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Jerami Grant scored 22 points for the Pistons, his career-best fifth consecutive game with at least 20. 

Svi Mykhailiuk had 15 points despite not entering the game until under four minutes left in the third quarter.

Semi Ojeleye hit three 3-pointers in less than five minutes to open the fourth quarter for Boston. Sekou Doumbouya and Mykhailiuk responded with back-to-back 3s to give Detroit a 108-106 lead with 6:01 left.

Mykhailiuk scored eight straight Detroit points, and the Pistons took a 118-117 lead on Mason Plumlee’s free throws with 42.2 seconds left. That set up Brown’s 3-pointer with 34.0 seconds to go, and Grant made two free throws 12 seconds later to tie it at 120.

On Friday night, Detroit defeated Boston 96-93 for its only win of the season, with the Celtics missing their final 10 shots and going scoreless for the final 4:15.

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Usman defeats Masvidal to retain belt

Kamaru Usman pushed Jorge Masvidal up against the cage. He struck Masvidal with his shoulder, stomped Masvidal’s feet and dug in with hard punches to the body.

With an opponent coming in on a week’s notice, Usman’s strategy was clear: grind and wear Masvidal out. And it worked entirely.

Usman overpowered Masvidal via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) in the main event of UFC 251 on Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. With the win, Usman retained his UFC welterweight title.

Usman vs. Masvidal came together only in the past eight days. Usman’s scheduled opponent, Gilbert Burns, tested positive for the coronavirus on July 3, just hours before the UFC charter was set to leave Las Vegas for Abu Dhabi.

Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the UFC was able to come to terms with Masvidal — who balked at the promotion’s initial offer for the fight six weeks ago — to fight for the 170-pound title as a late replacement.

“‘[Masvidal] is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman told UFC play-by-play announcer Jon Anik after the fight. “I had to switch gears and prepare for him on a week’s notice. … I had to make a mental shift. I trained for Gilbert. I had a completely different game plan.”

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The addition of Masvidal, one of the UFC’s biggest stars, actually made the fight more highly anticipated. Masvidal and Usman had been feuding since a verbal altercation on Super Bowl radio row back in February.

Usman’s 12 consecutive victories ties lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov for the longest active winning streak in the UFC. That figure also ties Georges St-Pierre for the longest winning streak in UFC welterweight history.

Usman (17-1) has never lost in the UFC.

The Nigerian-born Florida resident has not lost since his second pro bout, in 2013. Usman, 33, was coming off a fifth-round TKO over Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December, the latest UFC title-fight finish ever. This was Usman’s second title defense.

Masvidal (35-14) stopped Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz within an eight-month span last year, making him one of the hottest pugilists on the UFC roster. The 5-second KO of Askren was the quickest in UFC history.

Masvidal, a 35-year-old Miami native, had 48 career fights coming in, which was the second-highest total ever for a fighter competing in his or her first UFC title bout.

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Gabriel Flores defeats Josec Ruiz by unanimous decision

Blue-chip lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. continued his development with a one-sided unanimous decision triumph over Josec Ruiz on Thursday at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

All three judges scored it 100-89 for Flores (18-0, 6 KOs), who started quickly and outboxed Ruiz (21-3-3, 14 KOs) the rest of the way.

In the second round, Flores, 20, stunned Ruiz with a counter left hook and followed with a right cross that sent him down. It looked as though Flores might score an eye-opening knockout, but he eventually had to settle for a decision victory.

While Flores dominated every round, it was a solid learning experience for him. He got some quality rounds while facing a veteran who had never been knocked down coming into this contest.

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Flores, who recently relocated to Las Vegas from his hometown of Stockton, California, is a young fighter with a high boxing IQ and has a keen understanding of ring generalship.

Blessed with quick hands and great footwork, he is relying on his skills from the outside to win fights. Now he is waiting for some physical maturity so he can finish fights more emphatically.

After Thursday’s victory, Flores, coming off a 117-day layoff, exposed that he had suffered a lower back injury during a training session.

“It happened in my last sparring [session],” Flores said. “My lower back, it hurts severely. I feel probably 50 percent, with the punches I could’ve thrown tonight. I wasn’t tired, at all.”

Despite the victory, Flores wasn’t totally satisfied with his effort.

“Tonight was the night to show everybody what a great performance was, and I didn’t get to show them,” Flores said. “Fifty percent of me, that’s what I showed tonight.”

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Lakers fall in their heaviest defeat of the season

More than half of the fourth quarter remained when the Lakers started to admit defeat.

LeBron James sat, so did Anthony Davis, and the Boston Celtics started pulling their starters too. They led the Lakers by 31 points — the largest deficit the Lakers had faced all campaign.

On the parquet floor versus their hated rivals, there were few friendly faces, and much of the crowd at TD Garden kept the arena packed in garbage time to revel in the one-night derailing of one of the NBA’s hottest teams.

The Lakers came into the match having won 10 of their last 11 games, including four of five without Davis, and the Celtics came into the game on a three-game losing streak, having lost six of their last eight.

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But their recent history wasn’t predictive. The Celtics beat the Lakers, 139-107.

“It was just a good ol’ …” James said before pausing. Then he continued. “Good ol’ fashioned butt-whooping. That’s all. They beat us in all facets of the game. Outside, interior, points off turnovers, offensive rebounds, so it’s the main ingredients in the L.”

The loss dropped the Lakers to 34-9, still best in the West, while the Celtics improved to 28-14, good for fourth in the East.

Davis returned and finished with nine points, two assists and four rebounds in 23 minutes. James scored 15 points with 13 assists and seven rebounds. Boston was led by Jayson Tatum, who scored 27 points with five rebounds and three assists. Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker also notched 20 points each for the Celtics. It was the first time in his career, out of 29 tries, that Walker won a game versus James.

The Lakers have been remarkably consistent versus teams with poor records — they are 22-1 against them. But their games against the NBA’s better teams have had peaks and valleys. They are 10-4 against the top seven teams in the Western Conference, but have lost to four of the top five teams in the East — Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston and Indiana.

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