The Cleveland Cavaliers are at a point that even their victories aren't pretty. That fact includes Thursday night, as they led by as many as 23 but had to hang on down the stretch for a close 104-103 win over the struggling Orlando Magic at home. Isaiah Thomas made two free throws with 11 seconds left to seal the win, as the former Boston Celtic led the Cavs with 21 points on the night. The defending Eastern Conference Champs led by 20 at halftime, but was outscored by 19 in the second half, including 33-17 in the third quarter alone. Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon both missed shots in the final seconds following Thomas's free throws, ending the Magic's comeback hopes. Although a scary one, the victory for the Cavaliers does snap a four-game losing streak, as it was just their fourth win in the past 13 games. James struggled on the night with six turnovers, He finished the night with just 16 points, but did pull within 25 points of becoming the seventh player in NBA history to reach 30,000 points. Cleveland snapped their skid at the right time as they get set to host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday afternoon. The Magic will be in Boston on Sunday to battle the Celtics in a matinee matchup.
Rockets Top Timberwolves in Harden's Return
The Houston Rockets have fallen out of the top spot in the Western Conference, partly due to the absence of James Harden. The bearded star returned on Thursday night, but had just 10 points in what was a 116-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Eric Gordon led the charge on this night with 30 points, including a halfcourt buzzer beater to end the third quarter. Harden returned after missing seven games with a left hamstring strain, but shot just 3-of-15 from the floor and had seven assists, two steals, and two blocks in 26 minutes. Gordon on the other hand was 11-of-19, including 7-of-13 from three-point range, and was just short of his career-high of 33 points, which he reached on December 18th against the Utah Jazz. Chris Paul added 19 points, nine assists, and six rebounds for Houston, who has won 15 of 17 against the Timberwolves, including 10 in a row on their home floor. The Rockets finished the night with 17 three-pointers, helping overcome Jimmy Butler's 23 points. They move on to play host to the Golden State Warriors in a primetime showdown on Saturday night. The Timberwolves will play host to the Toronto Raptors that same night.
Golden Knights Top Lightning in Big Road Win
The Las Vegas Golden Knights continue to make history as an expansion team, and they did so again on Thursday in convincing fashion. The Golden Knights went on the road to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1, to become the quickest expansion team to reach 30 wins. They needed just 44 games to become the fifth team in NHL history to win 30 games in its inaugural season. The all-time record for wins by an expansion team is 33, set by the Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers, and that's a record that is sure to be broken this year. On Thursday, it was Marc-Andre Fleury that shut down Tampa Bay with 28 saves, improving his record against the Lightning to 19-11-4. David Perron had a goal and an assist, while James Neal, Nate Schmidt, and William Karlsson also scored for the Pacific Division leaders, who swept the two-game season series with Tampa Bay. The Lightning were coming off a bye week and got 26 saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has allowed 19 goals over the past four games. Ondrej Palat was the lone Lightning to find the back of the net on the night. Vegas will be right back at it Friday night when they visit the Florida Panthers. The Lightning move on to Minnesota to battle the Wild on Saturday night.