Baseline to Baseline, where Portland persevered

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What happened Sunday night while you were formulating Tiger Woods jokes…

Blazers 91 Lakers 88: That was messed up. Seriously. Just messed up. The final two minutes of this game saw the Blazers with a five point lead only to see Derek Fisher get away with murder on an illegal moving screen as Kobe Bryant hit a shot from Long Beach, then a questionable offensive foul returned the ball to the Lakers. Kobe Bryant got an and-one, sank the free throw, and the Lakers led. Marcus Camby hit a huge putback to put the Blazers up one, then on the ensuing possession, Martell Webster apparently thought they had a foul to give. They did not. The result was Bryant at the line to hit game tying free throws like he’s done thousands of times.

Except he didn’t.

He missed both. Except Pau Gasol grabbed the rebound and dished it to Derek Fisher, who pump faked and drew another foul on Andre Miller. Okay, Derek Fisher will take care of busine…

CLANG.

Derek goes one of two, and the Lakers tie the game. Then, then, THEN, Derek Fisher, notably clutch human being makes a terrible foul on Webster who parlays it into three shots at the line. The final Lakers possession? A Pau Gasol three pointer. Which is great, since he’s a 22% three point shooter in his career.

It was a bizarre game for most of it, with the Lakers looking strong early, then fading, and Brandon Roy going down to injury.

Marcus Camby played like a guy that can make a difference in the next month. Kobe Bryant played yet another in a series of terrible games.

Magic 98 Cavs 92: The Magic went down 16 in this one, then realized “Oh, they don’t have LeBron.” What’s odd is they stopped trying to create penetration and instead just creating opportunities on the perimeter. The Cavs had little invested, but Antawn Jamison continues to look like he’s fitting in, which is bad news for the rest of the East.

Bulls104 Raptors 88: Like we told you, this was the prototypical Raptors loss and Bulls win.

Jannero Pargo is still not good. But the Raptors’ defense is worse.

Heat 111 Knicks 98: If the Heat are going to do anything at all in the playoffs, it will be QRich who will help them, behind Wade, of course. Richardson makes huge plays and is in sync with Wade often.

Imagine the Knicks with a point guard.

Hornets 114 Wolves 86: The Wolves were annihilated inside and couldn’t defend anyone. When Julian Wright gets his season high? You know you’re playing the Wolves.

The Hornets really do have some good pieces going forward.

Suns 116 Rockets 106: Rockets surged. Took the lead. Then Nash did his thing.

He probed, drifted, and curled around screens to find three shooter after three shooter, and the Suns connected. And the Rockets effort was wasted again.

Amar’e Stoudemire is not someone you want to see for the next month.

Thunder 120 Warriors 117: The Thunder couldn’t close the deal, and Stephen Curry was too good. He hit huge shot after huge shot, and made all the right passes. The Thunder still worked their way into a position to tie, but Durant’s three came up short. The Thunder look to face the Lakers in round one if they can’t defeat Portland next.

Warriors say Kevin Durant doing non-contact drills, could return before end of season

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Kevin Durant has been working out on the court before the last couple of Warriors road games, and people watching have taken note — he was moving well, shooting, and generally looking healthy for a guy coming off a grade 2 MCL sprain and a bone bruise.

Reports were out that Durant was on target to return before the end of the season.

Wednesday the Warriors confirmed that.

Teams are vague, realistically what is that timeline?

Durant likely would be on a minutes restriction for those game, but just getting to shake the rust off and work on his conditioning in a real game would help Golden State heading into the playoffs.

Not that they need much help, having won eight in a row. The Warriors have a 2.5 game lead over the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference heading into the game between the two Wednesday night.

Check out Lakers’ stretch of hitting 15 straight shots to end third quarter (VIDEO)

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The Lakers lost to the Wizards because they are young, inconsistent, and defend like traffic cones at times.

But that young Lakers core also has its moments.

Los Angeles strung together 15 straight made buckets to end the third quarter Tuesday night. Some of it was flukey, like Corey Brewer driving and finishing contested layups like he’s Kyrie Irving, but there were things Lakers fans should want to see such as D'Angelo Russell draining threes, Jordan Clarkson working hard off the ball and his teammates finding him, and Julius Randle just attacking.

After this run the Lakers led by 13 going into the fourth, but lost the game.

It’s official: Joakim Noah cleared to play, 20-game suspension starts tonight

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What this ultimately means is next season the Knicks should have Joakim Noah available just before Thanksgiving.

Noah has been suspended 20 games for testing positive for a banned substance, but because he was out due to knee surgery the suspension did not start until he was “physically able to play.” Noah said on Tuesday that he had been cleared, but that was just by the team doctors. He also had to be cleared by the NBA’s doctors (because if teams could cheat they would).

That happened Wednesday, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.

Noah’s first season in New York after signing a four-year, $72 million deal has been a disappointment. To put it kindly. He’s not been completely healthy, and any observer of him the past few years had to wonder if he would ever be fully healthy again. He had lost a step from the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year before the Knicks signed him. The Knicks don’t need him to necessarily be that dominant a force again (although it would be nice), but they need to get more out of him and see if he is a fit next to Kristaps Porzingis for now as the Knicks try to build a roster for next season that can play a little defense. And the triangle.

Report: Pacers bring back Lance Stephenson in time for playoffs; deal for three-years, $12 million

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The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).

Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.

Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.

It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.

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