Phoenix Suns v Miami Heat

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Heat are running and cruising

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What you missed while listening to Johnny Depp read Keith Richards autobiography…

Our game of the night is a reminder that the Spurs are still the Spurs, click for details.

Heat 123, Suns 96: The Heat came out and wanted to make sure Chris Bosh felt loved and wanted — he had the first eight points (on 4 of 4 shooting) and they went to him exclusively for a bit. They kept going there because it worked, he finished with 35 on 12-17 (plus he got to the line 11 times).

This was close for a quarter until the Heat settled in for a fast-paced game then really just took over at both ends — the Suns scored only two field goals in the first seven minutes of the second quarter. The Heat got up big and never looked back. There were 97 possessions in this game, six faster than a normal Heat contest, but with their athleticism and finishers they need to play up-tempo like this more. They are not, should not be a D’Antoni style team, but they should be playing a lot faster than they are (which was 22nd in the league before Thursday). This game was the proof of that.

Hornets 99, Mavericks 97: Mavs raced out to 12-2 lead but you knew the Hornets would battle back, that this one would be close and it would come down to execution at the end.

With the game on the line the Hornets ran the same play three times in a row — a wing pick-and-pop with Chris Paul and David West that the Mavericks had no answer for. Go read the NBA Playbook breakdown. The Hornets executed with the game on the line and they get

Raptors 94, Sixers 86: With 25 seconds left and down six, the Sixers missed a shot and the Raptors got the rebound. Instantly Philly coach Doug Collins started yelling “foul, foul” hoping to extend the game, but his team moved at half speed and seemed disinterested. At best. It took 12 seconds before someone committed the requested foul. And that tells you pretty much all you need to know about where the Sixers are right now.

Nice 2-2 road trip for the Raptors.

Lakers 103, Pistons 90: Kobe was hot, the Lakers jumped out to an early lead and cruised…yada, yada, yada. Best tweet of the night comes to us courtesy Dave McMenimen of of ESPNLA:

A 12-yr old girl sitting behind Lakers bench just screamed: “The triangle offense failed in ’04, Phil! You’ll always have to live w/ that!”

Thunder 116, Rockets 99: Oklahoma City’s most complete game start-to-finish in weeks — combined with a struggling opponent — made this one the easy win the Thunder have needed after some tough ones lately.

Celtics 114, Wizards 83: This was close for a while as the Wizards made contested shots and played with the energy that the Celtics are greeted with every night. But the Wizards play poor defense, and you’re not going to stay hot forever against the Celtics, they make you work too hard to get your shots. The blowout was inevitable, if a bit delayed in this one.

Timberwolves 113, Clippers 111: Michael Beasley had 33 points on 14-23 shooting, including the game winner with 2.3 left. Beasley has been big lately but count me among the still skeptical — he his 6 of 10 long twos in this game. He has been doing that for games now, don’t expect him to keep hitting from range like that.

Clippers have now lost to the Pistons, Nets and Wolves in a row.

Jazz 98, Nets 88: Turns out the Jazz can win a game they never trail in during the final 35 minutes.

Knicks 113, Kings 106: It was Glee night at ARCO arena. The Kings deserved to lose for karma reasons alone.

It’s all about having shooters on the floor in the Mike D’Antoni system. In the first quarter, the Knicks are 5-23 overall and 0-6 from three and they are down 27-14. Second quarter they start
9-12, 4-for-4 from three and they outscore Kings 40-22. The Suns were good when they had five shooters on the floor at a time, the Knicks are not there yet.

As for the Kings, you can tell Paul Westphal is looking different rotations (new starting lineup tonight) trying to find combos that work. But the formula is eluding him.

Kobe Bryant’s 25 points not enough to upset Spurs

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have watched helplessly as Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has tormented them for the better part of the past two decades.

Bryant did so again in his final appearance in San Antonio, but the Spurs were able to enjoy this one.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a throwback performance by Bryant to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 106-102 on Saturday night to remain unbeaten at home.

“I thought it was great,” San Antonio point guard Tony Parker said. “It was a great game, fans were into it. It felt a little bit like the old days in the playoffs, Spurs and the Lakers.”

Kawhi Leonard added 20 points and 13 rebounds to help the Spurs win their 28th straight home game to open the season. The Spurs’ 37th straight home victory dating back to last season was surprisingly difficult.

Bryant had 16 of his 25 points in the third quarter, going 3 for 6 on 3-pointers in guiding the Lakers to an 81-79 lead entering the fourth.

“I watched him growing up,” said Lakers guard and San Antonio native Jordan Clarkson, who finished with 21 points and four assists. “I watched him kill the Spurs.”

San Antonio has trailed for only two minutes in the fourth quarter at home this season, but the Lakers led for all but 23 seconds in the opening seven minutes of the period.

Bryant finished 9 for 28 from the field, but was 7 for 18 in a dynamic second half that electrified a pro-Bryant crowd.

“It’s like watching Michael (Jordan),” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “I was just watching. It was great. It was great. We made some mistakes. He took advantage of it. He’s fantastic.”

After rising to drain a 3-pointer with Leonard squarely in his face contesting the attempt, Bryant turned to an injured Tim Duncan on the bench and shrugged his shoulders.

“He was like, `No way,’ and I was like `Dude,’ ” Bryant said. “What could I do? I miss the easy ones and make some B.S. like that. I don’t even know what to tell you. It was Tim’s version of a yell, so it was a strong whisper.”

The Lakers trailed 101-99 lead after trading 3-pointers following Bryant’s improbable shot, but the Spurs’ were able to hold Los Angeles to just three points in the final 2 minutes.

“Missed defensive assignments,” said Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell, who had 12 points. “They executed their offense to perfection. We were young and that’s an excuse I could give you.”

Bryant had a sore right shoulder, but he was not about to miss one last game against his fiercest rivals. He has faced the Spurs 90 times in the regular season and postseason, his most against any opponent.

TIP-INS

Lakers: The Spurs honored Bryant with a 3-minute video. The Spurs’ Big Three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all paid tribute to Bryant’s competitiveness along with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. Bryant walked over to the Spurs’ bench prior to tipoff and hugged Popovich, sharing a few words with San Antonio’s longtime coach.

Spurs: San Antonio’s 12-game lead in the Southwest is the largest ever since the division was formed in 2004-2005. … In addition to Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs were also without Matt Bonner. The reserve forward suffered a left calf strain Friday against Dallas, which was just his 20th game of the season. … Pop star Selena Gomez sat courtside, wearing a Tony Parker jersey.

 

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

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For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.