Minnesota Wrecks Oklahoma City’s Big Win Streak; LeBron Crushes Dallas

Minnesota’s burliest player took over in the first half. Its smallest came through with a giant sleight-of-hand charge in the fourth quarter to ice the 99-93 win. Ding, dong, a pair of Thunder dozen-game winning streaks are dead — their overall streak, plus a 12-gamer just over the T-Wolves. The lesson: Good things happen when Nikola Pekovic scores 20 points — the Timberwolves were 5-0 when he hit that entering Thursday night, when Pekovic knocked down 8-of-12 shots in the first half alone for 18 points. He’d finish with 24 and 10. Conversely for OKC, bad things happen when a back-to-back sends you from Atlanta to Minnesota. Kevin Love (28 points, 11 boards) has ended his bizarre consecutive 3-for-17 nights, getting a much more efficient 9-of-20 from the field. … Kevin Durant (33 points) had a chance to get the game to two possessions with a couple minutes left in the fourth quarter when he caught J.J. Barea with a forearm, sending Barea (wearing KD IVs, even) flying. It walked that line where you knew it wasn’t a charge, but weren’t sure if it was a genuine flop (flopping is an art), but he had been in full pest mode all night — 18 points in 23 minutes. It just looked exaggerated because KD is about a foot taller than Barea. There still were two minutes left after the call, which was followed by a tech on KD, but the rally was neutered after the charge. Not that the Timberwolves didn’t try their hardest to give it back. It was like they were running at full speed all game, then someone tied their shoelaces together in a late fourth-quarter timeout. Alexey Shved passed to a baseline cutting Dante Cunningham, who lost control and they threw it out of bounds with 30 seconds left. Before that, Barea drove the lane only to run into the back of Love while shooting. Without scoring more than a point in 90 of the final 120 seconds, they somehow held off the league’s best team. All of which is a testament to how well they’d played to put themselves in that position. … We haven’t even mentioned Russell Westbrook‘s mind-bending line: 30 points, 11 boards, nine assists, eight turnovers, and 9-of-28 shooting … Also, PG Malcolm Lee is out for the year in Minny with microfracture surgery. … LeBron (24 points and nine boards) started Miami’s game against Dallas like he’d entered an invincibility cheat code, hitting his first six shots and setting up two more. He hit running jumpers sideways with a man on him; jumped for a full-court pass and brought it down for a layup with two guys covering him; found teammates on cutting assists; hit a high-arching three-pointer when Vince Carter didn’t close out fast enough. It was like watching a boxer go to the body with vicious jabs over and over at the start of a 110-95 win. The lead would only get bigger — 32-point Heat still in the third quarter — but a couple signs of life should make Dallas happy. One, Dirk Nowitzki has been practicing in the past few days and he said during the game in a Jumbotron interview that he expects to return between Christmas and New Year’s. If that doesn’t make you happy as a Mavs fan then, uh, you’re not a Mavs fan. Second, Mavs rookie forward Bernard James (finished with 12 points and nine boards) showed some very nice development well before garbage time kicked in. He had six points and four boards in about a four-minute stretch, bodying Chris Bosh (17 and seven) and Joel Anthony and showed nice help defense on LeBron, too. Other than that, though, this game was a certified mess for Dallas. … Hit the jump to hear about the insane record Denver set …

Portland shot 36 percent — and won, 101-93. That’s because Denver topped Portland at its own game and broke the Trail Blazers’ two-week old record of most three-point attempts without a make, going 0-for-22 from deep. They only hit their first bucket from outside the paint with 38 seconds left when Ty Lawson made an 18-foot jumper. We watched the game and are still not sure how that happens. Andre Iguodala got hurt for a stretch of the game when J.J. Hickson (18 points, 18 boards) hit his arm hard on a layup, and wasn’t quite the same since. Still, it was incredible to watch as the Nuggets took advantage of a LaMarcus Aldridge-less Portland interior for 74 points, but couldn’t make anything else. Andre Miller (12 points, nine assists, seven boards) outplayed Damian Lillard (12 points, 10 boards), but the reigning rookie of the month had Nic Batum (22 points) and Wes Matthews (20 points, still recovering from injury) by his side, with Luke Babbitt (14 points, four threes) knocking down triples when he was left open in the corners. … File this under, cautiously optimistic: Derrick Rose, according to Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, is hopeful about the former MVP returning in the second half of this season. Right now Chicago is fourth in the Eastern Conference, with division opponents Indiana and Milwaukee in the two spots behind it. If Rose is looking like he could be ready to play in the second half, should Chicago use him this season? Or, would a decision to use him be influenced by the Bulls’ playoff spot? Personally, Chicago doesn’t seem to have a whiff of a chance in the East in these playoffs, so bringing Rose back seems beside the point. … All-Star Saturday Night will look different this February in Houston. Now a captain will be assigned to each the East and West, with a “champion” of the night awarded after points are earned in the Shooting Stars, between NBA and WNBA players; the Taco Bell Skills Challenge; the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest; and the Sprite Slam Dunk contest. The winner will be called the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night Champion. … NBA commissioner David Stern will be surrounded by other similarly old things when he gives a lecture at the Smithsonian in D.C. on Jan. 10. Where’s Gregg Popovich‘s invitation? … By the way, don’t think Stern isn’t watching you on his private Twitter account. He hinted that he’s got one in an interview. … We’re out like the Thunder’s streaks.

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