NBA on Sling: Cavs-Bulls Reunites LeBron and Wade; Rockets Riding High After Big Win Take On Nuggets
Cleveland Cavaliers (13-4) vs Chicago Bulls (10-7)
8pm ET on ESPN
The Cavs dropped their second straight for the first time this season, losing Thursday 113-94 to the Los Angeles Clippers, who had each member of its starting five score at least 15 points. The Clips took an 58-50 lead at halftime, and then opened the second half with an 8-0 run to take control. Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 28 points, but the Cavs brought little else to the table, as they shot 40.6% from the floor, got outrebounded 47-36, and managed just 12 assists – their lowest total since last Christmas. LeBron James’ shot was off, as he hit 5 of 14 for 16 points, though he did pass Bob Cousy on the all-time assists list, moving into 16th place with 6,960 in his career. Next up is Tim Hardaway at 7,095, which James should reach right around the new year, if he maintains his current pace of 9.1 apg. Incredibly, James isn’t even halfway to John Stockton’s all-time record of 15,806.
The Bulls have been outscoring opponents by an average of 5.6 points per game, while making 5.6 more free throws than their opponents – more than coincidence? You decide. But the Los Angeles Lakers flipped the script on the Bulls Wednesday, making 6 more freebies than the Bulls, en route to a 96-90 Lakers victory – eerie, isn’t it? Free throws weren’t the only factor, as the Bulls got outrebounded 60-46, and shot just 35.2% from the floor, including a wince-inducing 4-of-21 (19%) from 3, with Jimmy Butler scoring 22 points on 4-of-18 shooting. Butler’s ugly night aside, he’s been thriving with Derrick Rose’s absence making him the unchallenged first option, averaging 25.6-6.5-3.9, while Dwyane Wade – a man who knows a thing or two about riding shotgun – has blended in nicely with 18.8 ppg.
This will be the 28th matchup between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in their Hall-of-Fame careers, but the first time since Wade pulled up stakes and went to Chicago. James has the edge with a 15-12 record in the series, and edge that should widen tonight.
Houston Rockets (12-7) vs Denver Nuggets (7-11)
10:30pm ET on ESPN
James Harden recorded fourth triple-double of the season on Thursday, and it could not have come at a better time, as his 29-15-13 led the Houston Rockets to a 132-127 double-overtime win over the Golden State Warriors. Each team fired off 44 3-point attempts, for an NBA record total of 88, with the Rockets knocking down 14, the Warriors just 12. Kevin Durant had another huge game, scoring 39 points with 13 rebounds, but the Warriors were hampered by Klay Thompson ice-cold night, as the normally surefire shooter hit on just 4 of 20 for 15 points. Steph Curry dropped 28 points, but missed most of the first half with foul trouble, was 4-of-13 from downtown, and made 5 turnovers. Rockets forward Ryan Anderson had a big night, scoring 29, while Eric Gordon came off the bench for 39 minutes to deliver 23 huge points.
The Nuggets had four guys score exactly 17 points in their game Wednesday against the Heat, and still couldn’t win, falling 106-98, thanks largely to losing the turnover battle 19-6. Nikola Jokic had the best night for the Nugs, grabbing 14 boards to go along with his 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but the rest of the team was wide of the mark for much of the night, hitting on just 31 of 80 (38.8%). The Heat’s Hassan Whiteside was just too much for Denver, as he scored a game high 25 with a game high 16 rebounds and a game high 4 blocks. It’s been a tough start for Denver, who’ve been without Will Barton for much of the season with a bum ankle, and Gary Harris, who’ll be out a few more weeks with a sprained foot – maybe once they get back to full health, the Nuggets can get to work, but until then, Danilo Gallinari and the gang will just try to tread water.
If the Rockets can beat the Warriors, they should be able to handle the Nuggets, though they might be exhausted the day after playing 58 minutes of pedal-to-the-floor basketball, while Denver is coming off a day of rest.
Watch the Cavs vs Bulls at 8pm ET, followed by Rockets vs Nuggets at 10:30pm ET on ESPN by subscribing to Sling Orange