The Atlanta Falcons are doing their best to give the NFC South three teams of representation in the NFL Playoffs, They kept themselves in the second and final Wild Card spot on Monday night with a 24-21 road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Devonta Freeman ran for 126 yards and a touchdown, as they stayed a game ahead of the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks in the NFC playoff race. Freeman scored on a 32-yard run in the fourth, as he also caught five passes for a team-high 68 yards. He did fumble a ball in the end zone for a Bucs' touchdown early on, but his numbers helped him move past that. Matt Ryan did not turn the ball over and threw for 212 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons' ninth win of the year. Jameis Winston threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, as the Buccaneers dropped to 4-10 on the season. Winston found Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, and Adam Humphries in the end zone, but Tampa Bay lost for the ninth time in the past 11 games after a 2-1 start. The Falcons' race for a playoff spot gets intense in the final two games of the season as they will battle the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers to end the year.
Rockets Rout Jazz for 14th Straight Win
The Houston Rockets are doing a fantastic job of defending their home floor during their recent win streak, and did just that on Monday night in a 120-99 rout of the Utah Jazz. The Rockets won their 14th straight game, improved to 15-0 with Chris Paul in the lineup, and moved to 13-3 at the Toyota Center. Eric Gordon put up a season-high 33 points, 17 of which came in the fourth quarter, as Houston shot 51 percent from the floor in their NBA-leading 25th win. The Rockets used a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to put the nail in the coffin, and then added to that with an 11-0 run in the final minutes. James Harden had 26 points, while Clint Capela's 24 points and 20 rebounds powered the Rockets down low. That was much needed due to the Rockets making just nine of 31 three-pointers in the first three quarters. They did find their groove in the final 12 minutes, going eight-of-12 from beyond the arc. Gordon led that attack with a season-high seven three-pointers on the night. The Rockets have now won 20 of their past 21 games, and will put their win streak on the line on Wednesday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. The 14-17 Jazz got 26 points from Rodney Hood in the loss and will visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
Warriors Spoil Kobe's Night With Overtime Win
Kobe Bryant deservedly got both his No. 8 and No. 24 uniforms in the rafters of the Staples Center on Monday night for the Los Angeles Lakers, but the debate of which Kobe was better doesn't matter to the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant scored 36 as the Warriors won again without Steph Curry, 116-114, over the Lakers in overtime. Durant hit the game-winning shot with 7.3 seconds left in overtime, as Golden State remained in second place in the West with their ninth straight win. Klay Thompson added a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, but the Lakers stayed in the game due to the Warriors' poor shooting percentage. That was led by Durant and Thompson, who combined to miss 31 of their first 40 shots. KD found his groove in the extra period by going 4-for-4 from the floor in the final five minutes of the night. Curry missed his fifth straight game with an ankle injury, while Draymond Green also sat for a fourth time in five games with right shoulder soreness. Kyle Kuzma had 25 points to lead the Lakers, while Brandon Ingram added 19 in the Lakers' loss, as they have dropped three in a row and eight of their past 10. Always under the spotlight, Lonzo Ball scored 16 points with six assists and six rebounds in the loss. The Warriors look to get their win streak in double digits when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. The Lakers take their dismal 10-18 record to Houston to battle the red-hot Rockets that same night.