Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs hold home court, Cleveland gets company on the bottom

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What you missed watching one wild bike race from Chile

Spurs 97, Hawks 90: Huge win for the Spurs because along with the Lakers loss this basically sews up home court for the Spurs in the West. As for why they won what was at times a sloppy game, they attacked inside and controlled the boards, as we have come to expect from San Antonio. They got to the line more, the grabbed more offensive rebounds. Josh Smith was out and he might have helped the Hawks. By the way, Joe Johnson plays terrible defense.

Cavaliers 99, Bobcats 89: And so much for Charlotte’s slim playoff hopes. Cleveland raced out to a double-digit lead from the start and was up 16 in the first quarter after shooting 59 percent while the Bobcats shot 29 percent. Charlotte continued to shoot terribly all night, hence the final score. A good third quarter almost made it interesting but a 12-2 Cavs run early in the fourth basically ended the drama.

Cleveland and Minnesota are now tied in the loss column this season for the worst record in the league with 61 losses. The Wolves have a half game lead because they have one more win.

Nets 107, Timberwolves 106: If Deron Williams has 21 assists and wins the game on a step-back jumper, but nobody sees it because the game is not televised, did it happen? (This game was not televised by either YES or Fox Sports, so we saw none of it.)

Magic 78, Bucks 72: This was the horror flick “Night of the Living Dead offenses). The winning team shot 38.8 percent. Orlando took control of this one early — their stout defense against the Bucks anemic offense meant 14 first quarter points for Milwaukee. The other key was Dwight Howard owned Andrew Bogut — Howard had 18 points and 17 rebounds, Bogut had 2 points and 6 boards.

Wizards 107, Pistons 105: Watch out, the Wizards have a three-game winning streak. It was close to the end but the difference was John Wall, who scored 16 of his 26 in the fourth quarter including the game-winning fast break dunk (thanks to some bad defense from the Pistons — nobody stays back to defend with 15 seconds on the clock?).

Celtics 99, 76ers 82: This may be a first round preview but the Sixers are a banged up squad (no Lou Williams, Elton Brand’s hand, Iggy) so don’t read too much into this. It was very close for a half then the Celtic defense clamped down and the Sixers shot 25 percent in the third and 32 percent in the fourth. If Jeff Green would play like that every game — especially on defense — he’s be a fan favorite. But consistency is the issue.

Knicks 131, Raptors 118: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. The tempo was up (97 possessions) but the real key was the Knicks hit 15-of-27 threes, while the Raptors took just 7.

Bulls 97, Suns 94: This looked like a Bulls blowout, they were up 22 early in the third. But the Suns fought back and had a chance, down 3 with the ball and 13 seconds left. The Suns ran a Steve Nash/Channing Frye pick-and-pop, but Derrick Rose did a good job switching to take Frye out. Nash couldn’t find room for a three over Joakim Noah and had to drive with 6 seconds left. But at that point the two was going to be meaningless.

Clippers 82, Grizzlies 81: This was an ugly affair, with the Clippers winning while shooting a weak 41 percent. Memphis led by as many as 13 in the third but a 10-0 run early in the fourth made it a game for the Clippers and Mo Williams took over late with 9 points in the final six minutes.

Kings 104, Rockets 101: This pretty much sunk the Rockets playoff chances — Memphis lost but the Rockets make up no ground. The Grizzlies magic number to eliminate the Rockets is 2 (combination of Rocket losses and Memphis wins). Six Kings in double figures, and they remain a team playing pretty well of late.

Thunder 101, Nuggets 94: This potential first round playoff matchup was close until Oklahoma City went on a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter fueled by Serge Ibaka’s defending the rim and taking away easy layups. Denver struggled to stop Kevin Durant, who finished with 32 points on 21 shots. This is going to be an entertaining playoff series.

Warriors 108, Trail Blazers 87: Portland is not a good three point shooting team and when they start settling for the outside shot (or you can force them to take it) you’ve got them. They settled and missed (3-for-21 from three). Long rebounds and a lot of early turnovers got the Warriors running early, and it just snowballed. Monta Ellis had 30 points, Stephen Curry dropped another 28 with 8 dimes and David Lee had 29 points and 20 boards.

Jazz 86, Lakers 85: This was an ugly game where the Lakers clearly didn’t care until the end and that didn’t clear up the sloppy from both sides. Gordon Hayward can play in this league (Kobe after the game compared him to Jeff Hornacek, which is overstating Hayward’s shooting but you get the idea) and he had the game winning drive, drew the foul and hit the free throw.

This is three sloppy games in a row for the Lakers, so we can call it a trend.

James Harden scores 34, Rockets hold off Timberwolves 129-120

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, and Houston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-120 on Sunday night for the Rockets’ 26th win in 28 games.

The West’s top team led by as many as 25 before the Timberwolves, holding on for dear life in a tightening playoff race, pulled within five in the fourth. The loss dropped the Wolves into the eighth playoff spot after they started the day in a three-way tie for fifth.

Harden had 11 points in the final 6:34, including a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that effectively secured the win.

Chris Paul and Clint Capela each had 16 points for the Rockets.

Jeff Teague led Minnesota with 23 points, Andrew Wiggins had 21, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Jamal Crawford each added 20.

The Wolves got a burst of energy after a fourth-quarter scuffle between Gorgui Dieng, Paul and Gerald Green. Green was ejected for coming to Paul’s defense after a frustrated Dieng pushed him down after a foul. With the pumped-up crowd chanting “Gor-Gui!,” Derek Rose had back-to-back layups to pull the Wolves to 109-102. But Paul hit a jumper with Crawford in his face, and Harden easily drove past Dieng for a layup to give the Rockets some breathing room.

Minnesota’s 19-6 run made it 115-110 with 3:58 to play before Trevor Ariza hit a 3, and the Rockets were able to answer every Wolves bucket to hold off the rally.

The game was seemingly over by halftime; Houston shot 63 percent, hit 11 3-pointers and led by as many as 24 in the first half while turning the ball over only three times. Harden had 10 assists in the first half, when the Wolves were as close as three before Houston reeled off a 12-0 run and didn’t allow Minnesota to recover.


Jimmy Butler targeting return to Timberwolves before end of season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Jimmy Butler could return to the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves before the end of the regular season, if he stays on track with his rehabilitation from knee surgery.

Butler spoke to reporters Sunday for the first time since the meniscus injury he suffered Feb. 23 at Houston . He confirmed an initial recovery estimate of four to six weeks. Even on the long end of that timetable, he’d likely have two games with the Timberwolves before the postseason.

Butler said he’s confident in both his ability to heal in time and the team’s ability to hang on to a spot in the playoffs. The Wolves entered their game against the Rockets in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference, but no room for a slump.

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Gerald Green ejected for pushing Gorgui Dieng into stands (VIDEO)

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I don’t know why everyone in the NBA is so geeked this weekend. Coaches are getting fined, referees are throwing dudes out left and right. Maybe it’s because most of us recently saw the sun for the first time in five months, although I couldn’t tell you for certain.

As the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets went head-to-head on Sunday, something had players on both sides itching. Early in the fourth quarter, Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng got into it with Houston’s Chris Paul and Gerald Green.

The incident came as Dieng was being defended by Paul in the low post. Paul was whistled for a foul while trying to get the ball away from Dieng, but even after the whistle blew the Rockets guard did not stop trying to get the ball. Dieng responded by pushing Paul, who fell to the ground as if someone cut the strings on him.

That prompted another whistle from the refs, and a crowd of players ensued. Green rushed to push Dieng, sending the Timberwolves center into the stands.

When the scene settled, Dieng was issued a technical foul and Green was ejected.

After the game, Dieng told reporters he thought Paul’s constant digging for the ball was a cheap shot, so he responded in kind.

Minnesota, energized, tried to make a late push on the top team in the Western Conference but came up just short. Houston beat the Timberwolves, 129-120.

Alvin Gentry, Stan Van Gundy fined $15,000 each for criticizing officials

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All is not right between NBA players, coaches, and the referees. What else is new?

After contentious games on Saturday night, both Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry expressed their opinions about what they felt was a poor officiating.

Van Gundy — whose team lost to the Portland Trail Blazers as they continued on to their 12th straight win — complained that his players were being “screwed” as they were knocked down, hammered, and hit. Gentry was especially infuriated after a late foul call went against his team as James Harden was hit on the hand while shooting a 3-pointer.

Now, the NBA has announced that both coaches have been fined $15,000 each for public criticism of officials.

Things were slated to get better between the NBRA and NBPA after the All-Star break. The two sides were supposed to have a meeting which discussed some of the more concerning trends that players and coaches have publicly complained about this year. That meeting got moved up to December, with more talks to come later. It’s not clear if they’ve done any good.

Right after All-Star Weekend guys like LeBron James were still making waves about how they are being officiated. Coaches like Doc Rivers continue to openly complain about the referees and draw fines. Van Gundy and Gentry are just the latest additions to the list, and it’s unlikely they’ll be the last before the season ends.

Hell, the end of the game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors was just about as bad as we’ve seen all year. In that game, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was ejected after a comment made by a fan sitting near the floor was incorrectly attributed to him.

The NBA lost a lot of veteran officials due to retirement in the changeover to this season, and the transition has been rough. They’re going to need to figure some things out over the summer. I expect bigger announcements about those efforts to come out after the NBA Finals as a means to restore public faith in the officiating crews.