About Last Night

About Last Night: Okafor comes up big

Former No. 3 pick finds his groove, Schroder sparks Thunder, and Gay saves 'pathetic' Spurs

Who needs Anthony Davis when you have … Jahlil Okafor?

OK, the Pelicans aren’t in any hurry to move on from Anthony Davis, who missed his fifth straight game with a sprained left index finger and more importantly made headlines this week by expressing his desire for a trade.

But Okafor’s play of late has been a revelation, and Tuesday was his biggest game yet. Okafor put up a season-high 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as New Orleans beat the Rockets 121-116 in Houston to snap a three-game skid.

Okafor was a beast inside, hitting 11 of 15 shots in 36 minutes of action to help the Pelicans weather 37 points from James Harden (his 24th straight of 30-plus points).

Okafor, who has struggled to live up to expectations since being drafted third overall by the 76ers in the 2015 draft, picked up the slack Tuesday night and doesn’t show signs of slowing.

“Everybody wants to go out there and show just how good they are,” Okafor said afterward. “When we play hard and play together, we give ourselves a chance to beat anybody.”

While Okafor has been an afterthought most of the season – averaging just 12 minutes on the season – this latest stretch could help revitalize his career and boost his confidence. Over the last five games, Okafor has averaged 21.2 points, 11 rebounds and 2.6 blocks while shooting 74.6 percent from the field. He has double-doubles in four of those five.

When asked about Okafor’s emergence, Jrue Holiday said he was happy for him and wasn’t surprised.

“There’s a reason why he was the No. 3 pick,” Holiday said. “There’s a reason why he won a championship his freshman year in college [at Duke]. Given the opportunity and confidence, he’s a load down there too [in the low post].”

Thunder roll on

The Thunder got a little bit out of everyone Tuesday night as they pulled out a 126-117 win in Orlando to extend their winning streak to six.

Paul George started the game on fire, scoring 31 in a dominant first-half performance. He’d finish with 37 on 14-for-24 shooting, including this insane floater after drawing the foul.

Russell Westbrook did his thing, notching his fourth straight triple-double with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists and this nifty Eurostep:

Nerlens Noel started in place of the injured Steven Adams, chipping in 12 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.

But no one stood out quite like Dennis Schroder, who took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 of his 21 down the stretch as OKC rallied to take control. At one point, Schroder hit seven straight including a pair of 3s and two three-point plays.

”I do the same every night,” Schroder said. ”I try to stay aggressive, look for my shot, look for open teammates and just make the right play. It’s not like I’m out there 48 minutes, but it’s working out so far.”

Horry Scale: Gay gets it to go

A reminder on The Horry Scale: It breaks down a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety night in January?) and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, named for the patron saint of last-second answered prayers.

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The Spurs nearly blew it late against the Suns, but Rudy Gay saved the day. With the game tied at 124, Gregg Popovich opted to not take a timeout and instead left the game in the hands of his veteran. Gay, who finished with 16 points on 7-for-17 shooting, had an isolation at the top of the key and calmly nailed a 21-foot jump shot over Kelly Oubre Jr. to give San Antonio the 126-124 win.

DIFFICULTY: The final play was a simple clear-out isolation with Gay initially being guarded by Suns forward Josh Jackson. After LaMarcus Aldridge came to set a screen, the Suns switched, leaving Oubre Jr. as the man tasked with stopping the 12-year veteran. Gay dribbled to his left from the top of the 3-point line, crossing over once before pulling up and taking the jumper while fading slightly to his left. Oubre Jr. played it as well as he could, getting a hand in Gay’s face, but Gay was able to get the shot off.

GAME SITUATION: The Suns came into Tuesday’s matchup on an eight-game losing streak, and nearly pulled off the upset. Devin Booker finished with 38 points, but it wasn’t enough. With 24.9 seconds left, the Spurs clung to a 124-122 lead. After receiving the inbounds pass, Marco Belinelli was stripped by Jackson, who flew in for the game-tying dunk. Instead of calling timeout, Popovich let his team play out the final seconds and Gay got the job done.

CELEBRATION: Gay’s been here before, and his reaction to knocking down the game-winner showed it. After seeing the shot drop, Gay turned around and calmly strutted toward the Spurs’ bench before his teammates mobbed him at midcourt. They continued jumping on the hero before Gay finally took a tumble to the ground.

GRADE: There wasn’t anything spectacular or overly difficult about the winner. It came down to a simple one-on-one play we’ve all done in our backyard courts. But Oubre Jr. is a solid defender and it was a nice between-the-legs dribble to set up the slightly fading jumper. Gay’s length and veteran presence won on this day. Two and a half Horrys.

Quote of the Night

“They outplayed and out-coached us, out-physicaled us, out-executed us. We had no respect for them or for the game. We didn’t play with each other and it was a pathetic performance. Phoenix got robbed.”

Gregg Popovich, after the Spurs’ 126-124 win over the Suns

Stat of the Night

Dunk of the Night

Brandon Ingram had a big night in the Lakers’ 121-105 loss to the Sixers, scoring 36 points, which featured this monster dunk and staredown over Corey Brewer:

Stat of the Night, II

James Harden became the fourth player in NBA history to tally 600 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists in a calendar month. And he did it in just 14 games.

Flat-Footed 3-Pointer

You know you’ve got it going when you’re hitting shots like this with one shoe dangling off your foot:

Shabazz Napier scored 24 points off the bench and matched a career-high with five 3-pointers, to help Brooklyn beat Chicago 122-117 for a ninth straight win at home. Don’t look now, but the Nets are 28-24 and became the first team this season to match their win total from last season.

Ready To Rise

In case you missed it, the rosters were released for the Mtn Dew Ice Rising Stars game to be held during All-Star Weekend.

Luka Doncic and Ben Simmons headline the Team World roster, while Donovan Mitchell and Trae Young will lead Team USA in what is usually one of the most entertaining events of All-Star Weekend.

And check out those slick jerseys:

The game will be held Friday, Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. ET.

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