Breakfast Special: The TNT Double Digit Comeback Spectacular

The Philadelphia 76ers blew a double-digit fourth-quarter lead, turning an 88-74 with 11:11 to go into a 93-88 deficit less than five minutes later.

The weirdest part of that 19-point run? It wasn’t even the biggest comeback in the NBA Thursday…on national television.

That’s right, because the Boston Celtics came back from 26 down in the second quarter to win a game in which the Houston Rockets did not trail in the first 47 minutes and 57 seconds of play.

James Harden committed two offensive fouls on Houston’s final two possessions, and Al Horford had the wildest finish an individual player can have in a game to give Boston the win.

We’ll start with the early game…

The Incredible Comeuppance of James Harden

Harden, a man who never met defensive contact he didn’t love to lean into to draw a ticky-tack foul, got called for it both times late.

Al Horford made the go-ahead basket with three seconds left, and after Harden’s second turnover via whistle, missed two free throws, leaving open the chance that the Rockets could gut the Celtics in front of their home crowd.

Then Eric Gordon missed a 28-footer, time expired, and that was the ballgame. Boston led for three seconds; the last three seconds.

The mirror image scores, 62-38 Houston in the first half and 61-36 Boston in the second, framed one of the most fun games to watch this year.

Harden finished with 34 points on 7-of-27 shooting; he was 15-of-15 from the line, which is what made those late offensive fouls so utterly glorious.

Marcus Smart played fantastic defense, selling the fouls with flops that would under any other circumstances put him on Shaqtin’ a Fool.

Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 26 on 9-of-18, at this point managing to make excellence ordinary in the way only great scorers can.

Rookie of the Year Apparent Jayson Tatum had 19 on 5-of-11, shooting 9-of-11 from the line.

While we’re on the subject, can we talk about how dreadful the Rockets’ interior offense is without Clint Capela? The Rockets shot 43.2 percent on two-point shots. They couldn’t get good looks for Harden or Gordon (who shot 9-of-23, bringing the gruesome twosome’s combined shooting percentage to 32 percent for the game along with 9-of-29 from three.)

It was a crazy game. Everything that went right in the first half for Houston went wrong in the second, and vice versa for Boston.

And then there’s this stat…

Enjoy Harden’s meltdown as Marcus Smart gets man of the match honors:

Game highlights:

Rip City Fun

Portland’s comeback came courtesy of a Triple 20 from C.J. McCollum (34), Jusuf Nurkic (21), and Shabazz Napier (20). Even without Damian Lillard (strained right hamstring), it’s looking increasingly evident that the Sixers just aren’t ready for prime time.

Philly is now mired at 15-19, three back of Miami for the 8 spot and as close to 13th place as they are to the playoffs; Chicago, Brooklyn, and Charlotte are all 12-22.

Meanwhile, Portland continues to post a winning record; they’re 18-16, helping the West to avoid a scenario where a team with a losing record makes the playoffs, something that hasn’t happened since the 36-46 Clippers made the playoffs in 1997.

Indeed, if the season ended today, every playoff team in both conferences would have a winning record, the first time that’s happened in a non-lockout year since 2004-05.

Dario Saric had 25 on 10-of-12 shooting for Philadelphia, knocking down 5-of-6 from the arc, while Joel Embiid added 29 points.

This game was gift-wrapped for Portland by the referees. The Blazers shot 36-of-47 from the free throw line. Philly shot 10-of-14. Both McCollum and Nurkic made more free throws by themselves (McCollum was 14-of-14; Nurkic was 11-of-16) than Philly made as a team.

Portland also won the rebounding and turnover battles, so even though Philly made half of their 32 three-point attempts, it didn’t matter when the whistles kept blowing.

The floor is yours for the highlights, Rip City.

Buck the Trend

Milwaukee continues to run it up at home; they’re 12-6 in beer and bratwurst country, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 102-96 in the best off-national-TV game of the night.

Despite 22 from Karl-Anthony Towns, 21 from Andrew Wiggins, and 20 from Jimmy Butler, the Wolves couldn’t pull the win out; allowing the Bucks to shoot 54.7 percent from the field saw to that.

And, as if to say this was National No Lead Is Safe Day, Milwaukee trailed at one point by 20 points before coming from behind to win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 22 points, Eric Bledsoe added 26, and Malcolm Brogdon made the most of his 26 minutes, scoring 13 points and posting a plus-20 plus/minus.

The moral of the story is if you catch your opponent on a SEGABABA the night after they played an overtime game, you might just have them where you can beat them.



Coach Gregg Popovich may have rested Kawhi Leonard, but Kawhi’s absence wasn’t enough to cost San Antonio the ballgame against a reeling Knicks team that saw a struggling Kristaps Porzingis continue to have trouble finding his shot.

Porzingis had 18 on 6-of-16 shooting, while Michael Beasley was the only Knick who showed up, scoring 23 on 9-of-13 off the bench along with 12 rebounds.

Frank Ntilikina had nine points and 11 assists off the bench as the Knicks got better production from the reserves.

The Spurs got 14 points or more from all five starters, including 25 points from LaMarcus Aldridge, who atoned for 8-of-19 shooting by knocking down 9-of-12 from the line.

Kyle Anderson was perfect with 4-of-4 from the field, 8-of-8 from the line (for an amazing 16 points on four shots!) and a plus-26 in his 29 minutes.

Add it all up and you get a Spurs 51.3 percent shooting night including 45 percent from three, and that’s how you get a 119-107 win.

The fans love this team, even the ones who are old enough to be Coach Pop’s mom:

The man of the match has his team behind him to try and get him into the All-Star Game:

Make Your Free Throws, Florida-Style

Orlando shot 17-of-17 from the line as a team. They beat the Detroit Pistons 102-89. And the Magic defense actually showed up, holding Detroit to 39.8 percent shooting. Put it all together and boom, you’ve got a win.

Aaron Gordon returned to action and notched 14 points and seven rebounds, Bismack Biyombo had 12 points and 13 boards, and Elfrid Payton flirted with a triple-double, scoring 19 points and getting eight each in the rebound and assist categories.

The Pistons bench lost this game for them. They shot 3-of-22 (13.6 percent) from the field, frittering away a 17-point, 18-rebound performance from Andre Drummond, a 21-point effort from Tobias Harris, and an actually-quite-good 48.5 percent shooting night from the starting five.

Orlando’s bench, meanwhile, went 11-of-25 (44 percent), backing up a starting five that shot 45.6 percent themselves. That’s teamwork, and that’s winning basketball.

Highlights from the man with an awning on his head:

And the returning hero, finding his range:

And Finally…

The best highlight show presented by a seven-foot retired center named Shaq:

Happy weekend, folks, and try not to do any Shaqtin’ in your everyday life this weekend. Unless you’re the Cleveland Browns, playing football at Pittsburgh when the Steelers still have an outside shot at the 1 seed in the AFC.

Meanwhile, back on the hardwood, we’re going to play Fun With Methodology this Sunday in the weekend Statistical Tests column, contrasting the way Basketball Reference and calculate Offensive Rating and putting a we-report-you-decide side-by-side out there to decide who’s got the better indicator of offensive excellence.

Stay tuned for that, and thanks for reading!