Warriors, Rockets roll on as Celtics crash
by Rob Woollard
The Golden State Warriors shrugged off the absence of Stephen Curry to edge past the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday as a depleted Boston Celtics crashed to defeat against the Chicago Bulls.
The injured Curry and Draymond Green were both missing from the Warriors line-up in Oakland but Kevin Durant stepped up with 28 points as the NBA champions claimed a 111-104 win at the Oracle Arena.
Klay Thompson also grabbed 24 points for the Warriors, who remain second in the Western Conference standings with a 22-6 record behind first place Houston.
The Warriors recorded their seventh straight victory after overcoming a virtuoso performance from Portland’s Damian Lillard, who finished with 39 points.
The Rockets head the standings in the Eastern Conference after vanquishing the New Orleans Pelicans 130-123 at the Toyota Center.
The Rockets had a late scoring spree from guards James Harden and Chris Paul to thank for the win, which saw them overturn a 13-point third quarter deficit to claim a 10th straight victory.
Harden scored 26 points — 12 of them in the fourth quarter — while also notching a career-high 17 assists.
Paul also left his scoring late, with 16 of 20 points in the fourth.
Harden later revealed he had urged Paul to raise the tempo in the fourth quarter.
“I told him to be aggressive. He was passive throughout the entire game,” Harden said of Paul.
“I told him, ‘Be aggressive, take your shots.’ He made some big threes, got to the basket a couple times, and gave us some momentum offensively. And then defensively we got stops.”
New Orleans were without talisman Anthony Davis, struggling with a left adductor strain. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was left impressed by Houston.
“You can see why they have the best record in the league,” Gentry said of the Rockets. “I thought we did everything we had to do to try and put ourselves in a position to try to win it.”
– Mirotic, Portis, double-act –
Elsewhere on Monday, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis provided further proof that their violent altercation in October had been forgotten after teaming up to inspire the Chicago Bulls’ victory over the Boston Celtics.
Mirotic and Portis came to blows before the season started in a clash that left Mirotic with multiple facial fractures and a concussion.
However the two Bulls players provided the bulk of the scoring — Mirotic with 24 and Portis with 23 — as the Bulls recorded a blowout 108-85 win over the Celtics, who were badly missing the injured Kyrie Irving and forward Marcus Morris.
The Bulls have not lost since Mirotic returned last Friday after recovering from the injuries sustained in his fight with Portis.
“Bobby and I, we are playing good, we are finding each other and we are bringing that energy that the team needs,” Mirotic said.
Boston fell to 23-6 with the defeat but remain secure on top of the Eastern Conference table with Toronto (17-8) their nearest rivals.
“Sometimes, you get your butt kicked — it’s as simple as that,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
“Chicago dictated the whole game, they played harder than we did, they played with more presence than we did, they played more competitive than we did, they played with more authority than we did.
Meanwhile the Toronto Raptors missed the chance to close the gap on Boston in the Eastern Conference after being pipped 96-91 by the Clippers in Los Angeles. (Agence France-Presse/AFP)