Baseline to Baseline recaps: Chicago gives one up to Atlanta

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What you missed because you have tiger blood….

Atlanta 83, Chicago 80: Chicago was going to win ugly — this was not a pretty game as both teams struggled to score. However, the Bulls raced out to a 14-0 lead to start the game and held that lead for the first 47:31 of this game, at times by as much as 19 but they never trailed. Well, until an Al Horford jumper with 29 seconds left. The Hawks led those final seconds, they led when the final buzzer sounded. The Bulls were crushed by this one.

There’s been a lot of talk about how the Bulls are contenders now. And they are close. But this game was a reminder that they have an average offense —16th in the NBA in points per possession. They play great defense but they can be stopped, too. Can they score enough, even with Derrick Rose, to win deep in the playoffs?

Warriors 106, Wizards 102: The Warriors looked like they would run away with this, up 17 heading into the fourth, but the Wizards made an run and it was a three point game late. But the Wizards hit a dry patch and never closed it out.

Maybe the key play came with 40 seconds left, Washington down three and Golden State with the ball. The Warriors got a shot they loved, a wide-open three for Dorell Wright (39.4 percent for the season), but the shot rims out.  Then David Lee outworks two Wizards for the rebound, which out of bounds off a Wizard. They were forced to start fouling but a Kobe-esque crazy three by Nick Young gave Washington one last chance to tie (after two Stephen Curry free throws). A double screen freed Young up for a pretty good look but he missed and couple more Curry free throws and it was over.

Spurs 109, Cavaliers 99: Did you expect another Cavs upset? Really?

Stat of the night: This was the Spurs 50th win, making it 12 years in a row they reached that number. Think about that, 12 in a row. It ties the NBA all-time record (the Showtime era Lakers).

Knicks 107, Hornets 88: Chris Paul was outplayed by Toney Douglas. Not Chauncey Billups, Toney Douglas. Paul is really struggling of late — he is shooting 35 percent in the last 10 games, scoring 12.4 a game with 8.7 assists (both well off his season averages). And if he struggles, the Hornets struggle. Badly. Paul denies there is anything physically wrong, but it’s tough to believe that.

Celtics 115, Suns 103: This was a slightly faster pace (but not dramatically) than the Celtics normally at, but it turns out the old men can run. And if you play iffy defense they will put up a lot of points on you. Troy Murphy made his debut and looked quite rusty.

Timberwolves 116, Pistons 105: Fast pace, not a lot of defense being played and Minnesota shot 52.6 percent overall and 43.8 percent from three. Those are really the numbers that matter. Well than and Kevin Love had 20 and 20. Beast.

Thunder 113, Pacers 89: This was a laugher from the start for the Thunder, who were up 35 at one point. Well, laugher except nothing is funny when Kevin Durant gets hurt

Nuggets 120, Bobcats 80: Matt Carroll led the Bobcats with 19 points. If Matt Carroll is your leading scorer, you are in are in for a long night. Once again, great defense from these new Denver Nuggets. Except on Carroll, of course.

Trail Blazers 107, Kings 102: The Kings got 28 points and 11 boards from DeMarcus Cousins off the bench. The Kings got 26 points from Marcus Thornton off the bench. Too bad their starters couldn’t keep the Trail Blazers off the offensive glass, and those starters turned the ball over a little too much. Wes Mathews had 21 points on 12 shots for the Blazers.

Clippers 106, Rockets 103: The Clippers broke out their new backcourt for everyone to see Wednesday — Eric Gordon had 24 points and Mo Williams had 17 points and 11 dimes. Not bad, not bad at all. Chris Kaman had 21 points off the bench for the Clippers. Of course the scrappy Rockets mean no win is easy, but the Clippers got one back at home.

Nene’s 28 lead Rockets past Thunder for 3-1 series lead

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Nene made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. He helped the Rockets overcome an off night by James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza had 14.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Houston.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to claim three consecutive playoff triple-doubles.

Steven Adams scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo added 15 for the Thunder.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at the break. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter, and the Thunder led 58-54 at intermission. Meanwhile, Harden made just 2 of 9 shots and scored just six points in the first half.

The Thunder opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but Houston closed to 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.

Adams made the first of two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to four. He rebounded his missed second free throw and found Westbrook for a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead to one point. But the Thunder lost track of Nene on the other end, and he converted a three-point play. Gordon’s two free throws with 6.2 seconds made it a four-point game.

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Patrick Beverley was fined $25,000 by the NBA for confronting a fan after Game 3. The league announced the fine about two hours before Game 4 tipped off.

Thunder: Westbrook had just one turnover in the first half. … Adams went 6 for 6 from the field in the first half. … Westbrook missed all six of his shots in the third quarter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

Thunder convert missed FT to 3-pointer, refs miss James Harden push as Rockets win Game 4

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As if the end of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers Game 4 wasn’t wild enough, the finish to the matchup between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder was just as odd.

The final quarter of Sunday’s game was laden with poor play and heavy fouling, including a ploy by Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni to put Thunder forward Andre Roberson at the line as part of a hacking strategy.

But the final minute was what really caught everyone’s eye, as the Thunder converted a purposely-missed free-throw attempt by Steven Adams into a Russell Westbrook 3-pointer with just 21 seconds left.

Via Twitter:

The Thunder then broke down on the inbounds play a few seconds later, allowing Nene — who had a great game, scoring 28 points off the bench on 12-of-12 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds — to score an and-1 at the other end of the floor.

Oklahoma City then scored again on a tip.

That’s when it got REAL weird.

Houston inbounded the ball to James Harden, who got away with a gigantic, and frankly hilarious push off on Alex Abrines. OKC nearly stole the ball, but instead were called for a foul.

Via Twitter:

This game was wild, weird, terrible, and both sides have something to gripe about when it came to fouls.

Houston beat OKC, 113-109, and take a 3-1 lead back to Texas.

Russell Westbrook clinches triple-double in first half vs. Rockets

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder guard Russell Westbrook achieved a triple-double in the first half of Sunday’s playoff game against the Houston Rockets.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at halftime. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter. The Thunder led 58-54 at the break.

According to the Thunder, Westbrook became the second player to claim three consecutive triple-doubles in the playoffs. Wilt Chamberlain had three straight in 1967.

Westbrook entered the game averaging a triple-double in the series. He just set the record for triple-doubles in a regular season with 42.

Houston leads the series 2-1.

LeBron James helps Cavaliers hold off Pacers, earn sweep into 2nd round

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) LeBron James made a 3-pointer with 68 seconds left Sunday and the Cleveland Cavaliers hung on for a 106-102 series-clinching victory at Indiana.

James finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds as he became the first player under the current playoff format to win 21 straight first-round games. He also set a league record with his 10th career playoff sweep.

It sure wasn’t easy. After taking a 96-83 lead with 9:29 to go, the Cavs found themselves in a 102-100 deficit with 1:31 left.

But James answered with the go-ahead 3-pointer and Cleveland sealed the win on James’ free throw with 1 second left.

Lance Stephenson scored 22 points and Paul George added 15 but missed a 3-pointer that could have forced overtime in the closing seconds. It’s the first time the Pacers have lost a series 4-0 in their NBA history.

Kyrie Irving added 28 points for the Cavs, who await the winner of the Bucks-Raptors series.

Indiana got back into the game with a 7-0 spurt early in the in the fourth, then methodically continued chipping away at the lead until Thaddeus Young tied the score at 100 with a short jumper and broke the tie on a tip-in with 1:31 left.

But James, whose teams were 51-0 when starting the fourth quarter with double-digit leads in the postseason, made sure the perfect record remained intact.

Cleveland has won seven straight playoff games overall and 11 straight in the first round since James returned to his hometown team.

It was another milestone day for James, who moved past Michael Cooper, Magic Johnson and James Worthy on the league’s list of consecutive first-round wins, and past Tim Duncan for most career sweeps, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

James also went 13 off 25 from the field, tying Kobe Bryant for fourth on the career playoff list for field goals. Each have 2,014 baskets.

Indiana has lost five straight postseason games and six of its last eight.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Will make their 11th appearance in the conference semifinals. … Cleveland has swept all eight series in which it has taken a 3-0 lead. … Tristan Thompson grabbed 11 rebounds Sunday, giving him double digits in all four games. … Deron Williams scored 14 points and Kevin Love had 16 rebounds.

Pacers: George finished with a series-low point total Sunday and was 3 of 9 on 3s after entering the game with a league-high 15 3s in the playoffs. … Teague scored 15 points and was the catalyst in the final spurt, including blocking one of James’ shots. He can become a free agent this summer. …Myles Turner had 20 points and nine rebounds, while Young had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Cleveland gets some extra rest before finding out who it will play in the second round. Indiana embarks on a crucial offseason that could dictate the franchise’s future.

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball