Aussie NBA wrap: Giddey plays career-low minutes, Exum excellent again and a rare Patty Mills sighting
Defending NBA champions Denver have had their three-game winning streak ended, going down in a thriller 118-117 at home to Oklahoma City.
The clash between second and third going into Saturday’s (Sunday AEDT) Western Conference clash promised plenty and delivered.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (25 points) hit a turnaround jumper with one second left, and the Thunder rallied to go 16-8 for the season and leapfrog the Nuggets into second spot, and relegate them to fourth.
“I tried not to race the ball up the floor too fast, tried to take a little time off the clock and shoot at the last second,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of the last play.
“I just tried to get to something that I shot many times, something I was comfortable shooting.”
Nikola Jokic had a double-double (24 points, 12 assists) and Michael Porter Jr. scored 20 points, but it wasn’t enough for Denver (17-10) who lost for just the second time in 12 home games.
Jalen Williams contributed 24 points, rookie Chet Holmgren had 17 points, 11 rebounds and a career-best nine blocks for OKC, while Australia’s Josh Giddey had a quiet night adding just four points, two rebounds and four assists in his 15 minutes of action – a career low for the Australian.
Fellow Boomers star Dante Exum had another big night for Dallas (16-9), who went third, in their 131-120 victory at Portland.
Exum registered 18 points, two rebounds and three assists, while the Trail Blazers’ two Aussies, Duop Reath and Matisse Thybulle contributed 11 and five points.
Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic had a triple-double, his fifth this season and 61st in his career, with 40 points, 12 boards and 10 assists.
Minnesota, the top team in the West, were earlier too strong at home for Indiana. The Timberwolves ran out comfortable 127-109 winners.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored a season-high 40 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Anthony Edwards added 37 points as Minnesota, now 11-1 at home and tied with the Boston Celtics for the league’s best record at 19-5.
In Miami, Jimmy Butler (28 points) hit a step-back jumper as time expired to give the Heat a 118-116 victory over the Chicago Bulls, while Joel Embiid had 42 points and 15 rebounds and the Philadelphia 76ers handed the injury-depleted Charlotte Hornets their worst loss in franchise history, a 135-82 thrashing.
Things were closer in Cleveland with the Cavs taking down the Atlanta Hawks 127-119.
Hawks and Australian guard Patty Mills played his fourth game of the season which was really just his second, non-garbage-time appearance. Mills played 13 minutes, registering three points, two assists, and two rebounds.
Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard scored 33 points, Bobby Portis had a season-high 31 and Giannis Antetokounmpo 22 as the Bucks trounced Detroit 146-114 to deliver the Pistons their 23rd consecutive loss.
Detroit equalled the 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies, 1997-98 Denver Nuggets and 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats in losing 23 straight within the same season.
The record for the longest losing streak within a single season is shared by the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers, who both dropped 26 consecutive games.
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Sacramento, the Los Angeles Clippers, and Golden State were other winners.