Updated: Jan 8, 2022
Embiid, Durant bring playoff intensity in late December meeting
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has the memory of an elephant.
A Thursday, Dec. 16 matchup against the Brooklyn Nets, saw the Sixers lose, 114-105, after falling on the wrong end of an 11-2 run to end the game.
Nets forward Kevin Durant flirted with a triple-double with 34 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the absence of teammates Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
Filled with emotion, Durant waved the Philadelphia team off of the Barclays Center floor while shouting something along the lines of “Get them out of here!”
Embiid didn’t forget that moment.
So when he posted 34 points, seven rebounds, three steals and a block in a 110-102 win over Brooklyn Friday, Dec. 31, he got his moment.
In the closing seconds, Embiid took his opportunity to return the favor to Durant and the Nets as he waved them off the same court he and his teammates had been waved off a little more than two weeks ago.
That wasn’t the only role reversal.
In mid-December, Philadelphia had fallen to 15-15 after losing three straight games while Brooklyn were amidst a four-game win streak to improve to 21-8.
Now, the Sixers have won four games-in-a-row and are now 20-16 overall.
In addition, they are three and a half games behind the Nets (23-12), who have lost three straight games, in the Atlantic division.
The win was the first of the year for Philly against its division foe in three attempts this year.
Thursday, March 10 will mark the final regular season meeting between these two teams.
DeMar’s Mamba momentsss
As a Compton, CA native, from the shoes to his listed position on the court to his play style oftentimes, DeMar DeRozan reeks of Kobe Bryant’s influence.
He chose to sign in the off-season with the Chicago Bulls, leaving the San Antonio Spurs, confirming the move from the Eastern conference cellar for the six-time championship winning franchise.
At the heart of that has been DeRozan’s play.
Early in the season, he emerged as the closer for Chicago and back-to-back wins to end December and start January proved it to be fact.
DeRozan earned unreal poise on a one-legged pull-up three-pointer at the buzzer of a 108-106 win over the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis Friday, Dec. 31.
He capped his 28-point performance with both arms straight up in the air, both fists clenched as his teammates mobbed him.
A night later, DeRozan hit a drifting three-pointer from the corner in front of the Chicago bench in a 120-119 win over the Washington Wizards in D.C.
Here are some interesting parallels to his game-winners to his childhood idol Bryant.
Bryant made his iconic buzzer-beating one-legged three-point game-winner over Dwayne Wade, beating the Miami Heat in December of 2009.
How did Bryant celebrate?
Both arms straight up in the air, both fists clenched as his teammates swarmed him.
New Year’s Day of that same season, Bryant hit a floating three-pointer from the corner at the buzzer in a win against the Sacramento Kings.
In his 13th season, DeRozan is campaigning for his first Most Valuable Player award.
He’s averaging 26.9 points per game (his most since 2016-17) on 49% from the field and a career-best 36% from three.
Bryant won his lone league MVP in his 12th year in the NBA.
If DeRozan wins, he would become the fourth-oldest league MVP at 32 years old, joining Hall-of-Famers Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
NBA reschedules 11 games postponed from December
Eighteen of the 30 NBA teams have had at least one game date changed by a recently announced flexed schedule.
The NBA has rescheduled 11 games that were postponed from December. As a result, 10 other games have had times or dates altered to house the new schedule.
Two key dates could prove to have significant playoff implications when Washington visits Brooklyn Monday, Feb. 7 and when Golden State heads to Denver Thursday, March 17.
Both games were originally scheduled for Dec. 21 and Dec. 30 respectively.
As presently constructed, seven teams have at least one stretch of four games in five nights.
Toronto leads the league with six schedule changes followed by five for Chicago and Brooklyn comes in third with four.
Houston’s Rockets are imploding
Hard to believe that things could get much worse in Houston following the departure of former franchise leader James Harden.
Sadly Houston, we have another problem.
As expected, the post-Harden era has presented a host of challenges for second-year head coach Stephen Silas.
January 14th marks one year since the blockbuster deal for the future Hall-of-Famer.
In exactly 100 games played since trading Harden, Houston is 23-77.
That record includes a 10-28 record this season that has created an entirely new set of problems with its newest stars.
Guard Kevin Porter Jr. and forward Christian Wood were at the heart of a whirlwind of drama surrounding the Rockets’ 124-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets Saturday, Jan. 1.
Porter Jr. had a dispute with assistant coach John Lucas causing him to leave at halftime with the team down, 77-55, to Denver.
Houston initially listed him as questionable to return due to a left thigh contusion.
Last year, the Rockets traded for Porter Jr. from the Cleveland Cavalier after a blow-up to team officials after moving his locker from the locker room to an auxiliary area in lieu of new teammates arriving via trade.
Wood didn’t start that same game after breaking a team rule. Later, it was learned that he did not show up for mandatory COVID-19 testing with the team.
In eight minutes in the first half, Wood went scoreless and did not play in the second half due to a “coach’s decision” according to Silas.
Wood has led the team in scoring and rebounding the past two seasons.
Both Porter Jr. and Wood were both suspended a game for poor behavior, missing the team’s 133-113 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Monday, Jan. 3.
Houston has now lost eight straight games, longest current streak in the NBA.