Monday, December 11, 2017
Sports

McHale fired as coach amid Rockets' bafflingly slow start

HOUSTON — Six months ago, Kevin McHale coached the Rockets to the Western Conference final for the first time in 18 years.

There are high expectations for the team again this season behind James Harden and Dwight Howard, but McHale won't be around to see where the Rockets end up. Houston fired McHale on Wednesday with the team off to a puzzling 4-7 start.

"The team was not responding to Kevin McHale, and we had to make the tough call," general manager Daryl Morey said. "And we had to make it soon. There is not time in the tough Western Conference to wait for a turnaround."

Before the game, several players mentioned guilt and said they felt partially to blame.

"I didn't see it coming, I'm not going to lie," former Gator Corey Brewer said. "We are responsible. The coach can't make us play hard. That's up to us. This has got to be a wake-up call. We've got to get better. Now, it's up to us to start winning."

Three of Houston's losses were by 20 points and two others were by 12 or more. Morey was asked what indications he saw that the team wasn't responding to McHale.

"I think you just watch our team play and it's not that difficult" to see, Morey said. "You're a team coming off a Western Conference final run and you're a team with mostly the same group, and it was not working. We will change until it's working. We win at the Rockets. (Owner Leslie Alexander) does not accept losing. I do not accept losing. No one accepts losing."

Assistant J.B. Bickerstaff took over as interim head coach.

"It's tough because the only reason I'm here is because of (McHale)," said Bickerstaff, who said he was told about the decision shortly after 9 a.m. when preparing for shootaround. "I'm so thankful to him. I'm hurt that he's not here, and I'm hurt that I won't get to see him every day."

McHale, 57, was in his fifth season with Houston and is coming off a 56-26 season in which the Rockets fell to the eventual champion Warriors in the conference championship. The Hall of Fame player went 193-130 with the Rockets.

"Bottom line is we believe in this team," Morey said.

Magic wins OT thriller

ORLANDO — Evan Fournier scored 26 and hit a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left in overtime to lift the Magic to a 104-101 victory over the Timberwolves.

Elfrid Payton had 24 points and had six assists for Orlando. Tobias Harris finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Andrew Wiggins led the Wolves with 28 points, and rookie Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Zach LaVine had 14 points and Kevin Martin 12.

Towns made two free throws with 40.6 seconds left in overtime to tie it at 101.

Wiggins banked in a driving layup with 2.1 seconds left in regulation to tie it at 93, and Towns blocked a layup by Harris at the buzzer to force overtime.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS: Nicolas Batum had 24 points and eight assists, and the host Hornets beat the Nets 116-111. … Paul George scored 34 to lead the visiting Pacers to a 112-85 rout of the 76ers, who dropped to 0-12 and set a season high with 31 turnovers.

AROUND THE LEAGUE: The Hawks were again shorthanded, going against the Kings without starters Jeff Teague and Kent Bazemore. Teague missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle. Bazemore was sidelined for the second game in a row with a right ankle sprain. … Spurs guard Manu Ginobili will miss the next two games with hip tightness. … Hornets forward Marvin Williams was fined $15,000 by the league for elbowing Knicks forward Louis Amundson in the head. … Mavericks forward Charlie Villanueva left the team for the birth of his second child.

Hornets 116, Nets 111

BROOKLYN (111): Johnson 6-13 1-2 16, Young 11-17 5-6 27, Lopez 8-19 7-8 23, Jack 6-12 2-2 16, Hollis-Jefferson 2-4 1-2 5, Robinson 2-3 0-0 4, Larkin 3-5 0-0 6, Bogdanovic 0-1 2-2 2, Bargnani 4-10 0-0 8, Ellington 2-5 0-0 4, Brown 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 44-91 18-22 111.

CHARLOTTE (116): Williams 4-9 4-4 14, Zeller 0-1 0-0 0, Jefferson 7-16 4-7 18, Walker 5-9 5-10 18, Batum 7-12 7-7 24, Kaminsky 4-6 2-2 11, Lamb 2-7 2-2 6, Hawes 5-7 0-0 12, Lin 5-13 3-4 13. Totals 39-80 27-36 116.

Brooklyn 32 24 30 25— 111

Charlotte 32 20 34 30— 116

3-Point GoalsBrooklyn 5-15 (Johnson 3-7, Jack 2-4, Young 0-1, Ellington 0-1, Bargnani 0-2), Charlotte 11-25 (Walker 3-4, Batum 3-6, Hawes 2-2, Williams 2-5, Kaminsky 1-2, Lamb 0-2, Lin 0-4). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsBrooklyn 43 (Young, Jack 8), Charlotte 58 (Williams, Lin 9). AssistsBrooklyn 25 (Jack 9), Charlotte 27 (Batum 8). Total FoulsBrooklyn 23, Charlotte 16. A14,040 (19,077).

Pacers 112, 76ers 85

INDIANA (112): George 13-24 3-4 34, Allen 3-5 1-2 7, Mahinmi 1-4 0-0 2, Ellis 3-7 0-0 7, Miles 7-12 2-2 20, Budinger 5-13 4-4 15, J.Hill 4-9 2-3 10, Young 1-8 2-2 4, Robinson III 3-5 2-3 9, S.Hill 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 42-92 16-20 112.

PHILADELPHIA (85): Grant 4-6 5-6 13, Noel 1-3 0-0 2, Okafor 6-11 2-4 14, McConnell 7-9 0-0 16, Stauskas 3-8 0-0 7, Covington 4-13 0-0 8, Thompson 1-9 1-2 3, Canaan 1-5 0-0 3, Pressey 4-6 0-0 9, Sampson 3-4 2-4 8, Wood 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 35-76 10-16 85.

Indiana 23 29 32 28— 112

Philadelphia 18 20 24 23— 85

3-Point GoalsIndiana 12-27 (George 5-10, Miles 4-7, Robinson III 1-1, Ellis 1-2, Budinger 1-4, S.Hill 0-1, Young 0-2), Philadelphia 5-25 (McConnell 2-3, Pressey 1-1, Stauskas 1-4, Canaan 1-5, Grant 0-1, Covington 0-5, Thompson 0-6). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsIndiana 51 (George 8), Philadelphia 50 (Thompson 9). AssistsIndiana 28 (Ellis 9), Philadelphia 14 (Pressey 5). Total FoulsIndiana 17, Philadelphia 17. A11,080 (20,318).

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