About Last Night

About Last Night: LeBron flirts with triple-double in return

Porzingis hints there's more to the story, Sixers cool off Warriors, bats swarm San Antonio

LeBron James returned after missing the past 17 games, shook off some rust, and helped the Lakers beat the crosstown Clippers 123-120 in overtime.

James came up one assist shy of a triple-double, finishing with 24 points and 14 rebounds in his first game since Christmas Day when he strained his left groin.

With no minutes restriction, LeBron paced himself and lacked his usual explosiveness on drives to the rim. But he was clutch in overtime, hitting the go-ahead jumper with 1:15 left and the feeding Lance Stephenson for a fastbreak, and-1 layup that essentially sealed the game.

“Definitely ecstatic about being back out there with my guys,” James said after the Lakers’ victory, “but after being out five weeks, you know, I’m feeling it right now.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers couldn’t believe the call that sent Stephenson to the line. In fact, he thought Stephenson should have been hit with a flagrant foul for elbowing Boban Marjanovic.

I though it would be overturned,” Rivers said at his postgame news conference. “I don’t know how you can come to that judgement.”

Warriors no longer unbeatable

So maybe the Warriors are not invincible, even with DeMarcus Cousins back in business.

Joel Embiid had 26 points and 20 rebounds to spoil Cousins’ home debut with the Warriors, and the 76ers snapped Golden State’s 11-game winning streak with a 113-104 victory.

In his toughest test since returning from a left Achilles’ tendon injury, Cousins collected seven points on 3-for-10 shooting and six rebounds in 25 minutes. Embiid had a lot to do with that.

“Obviously, I’m still not where I want to be,” Cousins said after the game. “I’m working my tail off every day to get back to being that player or better. This process isn’t over for me.”

With Klay Thompson scratched due to illness, the Warriors struggled from deep. Not Stephen Curry, of course. He scored 41 points with 10 3-pointers. The rest of the team went 1-of-20 from 3-point range.

Steve Kerr was not pleased with his team’s effort. “It was a little bit of a pick-up game out there,” he said. “We’re just out there launching, not playing with any mindfulness at all out there. You can’t do that in this league.”

That escalated quickly

Kristaps Porzingis is headed to Dallas after a surprising trade the Knicks say the All-Star forward requested.

The deal came together after Porzingis met briefly with Knicks management Thursday and left franchise officials with the impression that he wanted to be traded, sources told ESPN.

Hours later, Porzingis’ wish was granted.

Porzingis posted a goodbye message to New York and the Knicks fans on Twitter and Instagram after the trade became official.

Later in the evening Porzingis hinted there may be more to the story when he posted a cryptic Instagram story that read: “The truth will come out :)”

All-Star reserves revealed

The NBA announced the 14 reserves for the 2019 All-Star Game, four of whom will be first-time All-Stars: Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic.

Jokic, who became the first Nuggets All-Star since Carmelo Anthony in 2011, revealed the pandemonium that resulted when he heard the news.

“My girlfriend started to cry and my brother started yelling and screaming,” Jokic said on TNT.

Among the potentially deserving players who did not make the cut were Luka Doncic, Andre Drummond, Rudy Gobert, Tobias Harris and Donovan Mitchell.

Doncic, who was among the leaders throughout the voting process, was bidding to become the first rookie selected since Blake Griffin in 2011. He learned of the bad news minutes before tipoff.

Bats swarm court in San Antonio

The Nets-Spurs game was delayed for 2 1/2 minutes early in the first quarter when three bats began hovering just above the court. Officials had players return to the bench as stadium staff, security and ballboys attempted to shoo the bats away with towels.

A stadium official eventually brought out a net, but the bats were scared up to the rafters. Some fans shouted “Manu! Manu!” in tribute to recently retired Manu Ginobili, who famously swatted a bat with his hands in 2009.

Budenholzer clinches All-Star spot

Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff are heading to the All-Star Game.

The Bucks’ 105-92 victory over the Toronto Raptors clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference through games played on Sunday, Feb. 3. As a result, Budenholzer will coach in the All-Star Game for the second time in five years. He also coached in 2015, when he was with the Atlanta Hawks.

“It’s a great honor,” Budenholzer said. “It says a lot about our team. The players are the ones who put the coaching staff in that position.”

Budenholzer is only the second Bucks coach to earn the All-Star nod — Larry Costello coached in the 1971 and 1974 All-Star Games.

Worth noting

Blake Griffin finished with 445 points in January, the highest-scoring month in team history. The previous record was held by Isiah Thomas, who had 442 points in March 1983.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are the first Bucks duo to be selected to an NBA All-Star game since Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson made it in 2001.

Andre Drummond posted his eighth 20-point, 20-rebound game of the season, the most such games by any player before the All-Star break since Kevin Willis in 1991-92.