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The Skip Pass: James Harden hands Spurs another home loss

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs center Dewayne Dedmon (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay

The Skip Pass is your home on Today’s Fastbreak for insights and nuggets on each game played in the NBA. This is different from your regular game recap or box score. We want to take you inside the game and call out things you might have missed.

Focus Games: Celtics at Wizards, Rockets at Spurs

Other Games: Nets at Knicks, 76ers at Pacers, Jazz at Hornets, Timberwolves at Magic, Bulls at Hawks, Raptors at Thunder, Pistons at Suns, Trail Blazers at Clippers, Mavericks at Warriors

WIZARDS 118 – CELTICS 93

WIZARDS

  • Otto Porter had the game of his career with 34 points, 14 rebounds (seven offensive), four assists, three steals and three blocks. He shot 14-19 from the field and Boston had no answer for him all night long.
  • Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton added some punch off the bench by combining for 34 points.
  • Washington took advantage of the Celtics’ awful rebounding by crashing the boards all night long. They finished with 19 offensive rebounds and that helped translate into 92 shots from the floor.

CELTICS

  • Boston came out flat. They had little energy and the rebounding woes continued.
  • The only positive on the night for the Celtics was Marcus Smart putting together a big third quarter. It wasn’t enough, as Boston couldn’t string together stops, but it was encouraging to see nonetheless.

ROCKETS 101 – SPURS 99

ROCKETS

  • Not much more praise you can heap on James Harden at this point. He had 15 more assists, 24 points and 12 rebounds to complete the triple-double.
  • The Rockets’ much-maligned defense was the difference in this game. Trevor Ariza, with a little bit of help from Harden and Corey Brewer, hounded Kawhi Leonard into shooting 11-26 from the floor. Houston also did a good job of challenging shots in the paint, despite the lack of a true interior presence.
  • Eric Gordon came off the bench for the second straight night and had 15 points. He seems to be fine either starting or in a bench role, and he’ll see plenty of minutes either way.

SPURS

  • Kawhi Leonard had an off night to some extent, going just 11-26 from the floor. On nights like this, the Spurs can struggle to find easy offense because they don’t have players who can carve out their own points.
  • Overall, San Antonio was only at 39 percent from the floor. In a game against a team that has struggled on defense, the Spurs were expected to perform much better.

KNICKS 110 – NETS 96

KNICKS

  • Another Knicks win where Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis were the focal points of the offense rather than Derrick Rose. Not sure that is a coincidence.
  • After a poor first half, the Knicks really locked in defensively in the second half. They held Brooklyn to just 41 second-half points. This was mostly about contesting three-point jumpers with better, under control closeouts.

NETS

  • The Nets will shoot themselves in or out of games. Tonight Justin Hamilton was 5-7 from three, while the rest of the team combined to shoot just 6-26. When the shots stopped falling in the second half, Brooklyn had no answer. They need Jeremy Lin back badly to help create easy offense.

PACERS 122 – 76ERS 115 (OT)

PACERS

  • Jeff Teague finally had the breakout game we’ve been waiting for. He had 30 points on 10-16 shooting and nine assists. He was able to get into the paint regularly and create easy looks for himself or his teammates.
  • Al Jefferson also stepped up with 18 points in just 20 minutes. He feasted on second-unit bigs who were ill-equipped to deal with him.

76ERS

  • With Joel Embiid resting, the Sixers’ regularly porous defense was even more so, allowing Indiana to shoot over 53 percent for the game.
  • Robert Covington is showing signs of breaking out of his early season slump, as he had 23 points and shot 5-9 from distance.

HORNETS 104 – JAZZ 98

HORNETS

  • The Hornets’ bench gave them a great lift in this game. Marco Belinelli, Spencer Hawes and Frank Kaminsky combined for 37 points on 16-24 shooting. On a night when the starters were a bit off, this was great, unexpected production.

JAZZ

  • The Jazz led most of the game before struggling to close. Charlotte clamped down on Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood, and without George Hill (out with a thumb injury) the Jazz couldn’t find another offensive weapon.

TIMBERWOLVES 123 – MAGIC 107

TIMBERWOLVES

  • The Wolves raced out to a 39-17 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. The core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine combined for 86 points, including 37 from LaVine.

MAGIC

  • Considering the way the Magic can struggle to find easy offense, the defense has to be better. In this game, they were awful on the defensive end. They didn’t close out on shooters, allowed uncontested layups and gave up 10 offensive rebounds. Frank Vogel has spoken about switching up the starting five, and he may need to after this performance.

HAWKS 115 – BULLS 107

HAWKS

  • The Atlanta bench was the difference. They got 62 points from Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Muscala, Malcolm Delaney and Tim Hardaway Jr. In both the first and third quarters, the bench gave the Hawks great energy and helped build a lead.

BULLS

  • No one showed up to help Jimmy Butler (39 points) and Dwyane Wade (25 points). Rajon Rondo was just 2-10 from the field and took some ill-advised long jumpers.
  • The Chicago bench really struggled to defend. They couldn’t keep any of the Hawks in front of them, and that led to easy shots at the rim or uncontested jumpers.

RAPTORS 112 – THUNDER 102

RAPTORS

  • After an off night against the Kings, DeMar DeRozan got back at it with 37 points. On the year DeRozan has managed to average over 34 PPG while shooting just a total of 2-12 from behind the arc.
  • Lucas Nogueira had his best night as a pro with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. He was a ridiculous +30 in 29 minutes. With Jonas Valanciunas hurting, the Raptors need another big to step up, and Nogueira did that in this one.

THUNDER

  • As all too often might be the storyline, Russell Westbrook did a lot and no one else did very much. Westbrook and Victor Oladipo combined to shoot 15-42 from the field. The rest of the team was 16-32, but no one took more than seven shots. A little more balance would go a long way in Oklahoma City.

SUNS 107 – PISTONS 100

SUNS

  • Devin Booker had an off night, but his teammates picked him up big time. T.J. Warren and Alex Len were impressive in the starting unit with 34 points on 14-27 shooting. And Jared Dudley, in a bench role for a second straight game, scored 19, including 4-6 from three.

PISTONS

  • It was a night where the Pistons could have used Reggie Jackson, as they struggled to create easy offense for most of the game. Tobias Harris really struggled, going just 3-12, and the Pistons have a tough time when he can’t score.

CLIPPERS 111 – TRAIL BLAZERS 80

CLIPPERS

  • Dominating performance in all facets for Los Angeles against a quality opponent. Chris Paul continued his trend of big performances against superstar point guards. He was the primary defender on Damian Lillard and harassed him into shooting only 1-10 from the field.

TRAIL BLAZERS

  • The Blazers’ offense stayed in the Northwest, as they had only 50 points through the first three quarters. The lone positive was Jake Layman continuing to flash some scoring ability. He might be worth a look in non-garbage times minutes at some point.

WARRIORS 116 – MAVERICKS 95

WARRIORS

  • Business-like performance by the Warriors in dispatching the undermanned Mavericks. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green combined to shoot 16-28 from behind the arc. No one is beating Golden State on a night like that.

MAVERICKS

  • Without Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams due to injury, and then Andrew Bogut, J.J. Barea and Wesley Matthews resting, the Mavericks had no chance. Harrison Barnes had 25 points against his former team, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

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