Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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LeBron_melo.jpgOur game recaps from Thursday, or what you missed while sleeping off your trade deadline hangover.

Denver 118, Cleveland 116 (OT) Damn, that was fun.  If you did miss it, I don’t know what to tell you, but sorry. It’s exactly what you want in a game to watch — close, back and forth, with the best players for each team matched up on each other. Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James mano-a-mano. As God intended.

LeBron could not be stopped, he had 43, with 15 assists and 13 rebounds and he was getting to the rim like the beast he is (he was only 3 of 15 from outside 10 feet). Carmelo Anthony had 40 — and the game winner with 1.9 seconds left in overtime. On a contested 21-footer. That’s a hard shot, but that’s the shot great players hit.

The Cavaliers were reminded why they did not want to trade JJ Hickson tonight, but speaking of trades they did miss Big Z tonight, especially since no Jamison in yet to take his place. Mo Williams was back but he looked rusty (however had a couple nice threes.

Boston 87, Los Angeles Lakers 86 This was the first game where the Lakers really missed Kobe. And we’re not talking about that ugly last shot by Derek Fisher… well, yes we are, Kobe can create his own shot in a way Fisher never could. Kobe hit the game winner in Boston.

Where the Lakers really missed Kobe was on defense — Ray Allen was a non-factor in the first meeting between these teams because of Kobe’s defense. The Lakers started with Fisher on Allen and he got hot just shooting over the top of him, and once Allen gets hot he’s hard to stop even now. He had 24 on 10 of 15 from the floor. Doc Rivers joked after the game they should threaten to trade him every week.

The other spot the Lakers missed Kobe was early, when Boston raced out to an 11-2 lead. Those kind of runs is when Kobe will take the ball and take some shots, get his team a few points and settle things down. The Lakers didn’t settle down fast early, and they did not settle down late.

For the Celtics, that is a very good road win. They reminded you that in a game called like a playoff game — the refs let them bang, especially in the second half — they are at home. This is still a team really built for the playoffs, not the regular season. Health remains the key issue, but they remind you that they are a contender for a reason.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.

Video Breakdown: Rockets launch Eric Gordon from 3-point range against Thunder in Game 4

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The Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 113-109, and now the series heads back to Texas with the Rockets in the lead, 3-1.

Houston and OKC played a weird game, with Nene scoring 28 points off the bench for the Rockets and serious mischief in the final moments. The end of the game included a purposely missed free throw by Steven Adams that allowed Russell Westbrook to grab a quick 3-pointer and a missed call when James Harden shoved Alex Abrines out of the way like an NFL tackle.

While the Rockets didn’t shoot a stellar percentage from 3-point range — just 31.5 percent — they still knocked down 11 buckets from deep. Part of that action was a play run for Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon that included a little semi-Pistol action, and a stagger screen that allowed Gordon to work his way free.

I picked this play to go over this week because it exemplifies just how committed to the 3-point shot the Rockets are. Plus, Gordon ran around three screens just to get this one bucket, which is always fun to see.

Watch the full video breakdown above.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.