Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Sixers are legit

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What you missed while rock climbing with your 2-year-old strapped to your back

Sixers 98, Bulls 82: The 76ers are legit. That fast start wasn’t the soft schedule, they are a quality squad.

Good ball movement will beat even the best defense, and that’s what the story was here. They have balance — five guys with 14 points or more, Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young each had 19 — and you can’t defend it. They have a versatility, which let’s them select the matchup they want then pick-and-roll it all night. They don’t turn the ball over (but Chicago did). Philly controlled this game most of the way and the Bulls rested their starters the fourth quarter (Chicago was without Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton). Derrick Rose had 18, C.J. Watson had 20 off the bench.

Bucks 105, Heat 97: Miami scored 40 points in the first quarter — LeBron James had 23 alone (he finished with 40) — and the team shot 82 percent. Miami was up 16 points after 12 minutes. And the rout was on.

Except nobody told the Bucks. The Heat played their worst ball of the season in the final 36 minutes, particularly on the defensive end (although the turnovers were almost as bad). The Bucks to their credit didn’t just roll over. Milwaukee started the second half on a 13-2 run to make it close, then they started the fourth quarter on a 22-3 run to take a 17-point lead. Brandon Jennings had 20 points in the second half and had a monster game.

The Bucks made that entire run with Stephen Jackson on the bench, he only played in the first quarter (and got worn out by a hot LeBron). The Bucks now have beaten Miami twice this season.

Magic, 109, Wizards 103: After four straight losses Magic will take the win, even if they let the team with the worst offense in the NBA put up 103 on them. The Magic’s defense was bad (except on John Wall who hit just 1-of-12 shots but did have 10 assists). Their offense was good enough to counter it — Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson each had 23, J.J. Redick had 21.

Celtics 100, Raptors 64: If you type “what does a rout look like?” into Google, videos of this game should come up. Boston took over with a 16-1 run in the first quarter, Kevin Garnett played just 5 minutes in the second half.

Nets 99, Pistons 96: The Nets had the best player on the floor by far in Deron Williams, he had 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. In a game like this — a bucket of slop — having the best player gets you the win.

Pacers 109, Timberwolves 99: The first half saw a display of what you can call good defense or bad shooting, depending on if you’re a glass half full guy or not. The second half was the Danny Granger show, as he had 27 of his 36 points after the break — plus a little dustup with Kevin love — to lead the Pacers to the win.

Thunder 95, Mavericks 86: The Thunder had their best defensive game of the season — Serge Ibaka le the way with 10 blocks and the OKC defense held the Mavericks to 35.7 percent shooting on the night. That was the story. Russell Westbrook had 12 of his 33 in the fourth quarter.

Suns 120, Hornets 103: Steve Nash returned after missing several games with a thigh injury and exploded for 30 points and 10 assists to lead Phoenix to a win.

Spurs 99, Rockets 91: Houston led by as many as 19 and seemed in control until an 11-0 run made it close midway through the third. San Antonio closed the game on a 12-2 run to get the win. Tim Duncan had 16 third quarter points to lead that charge and Tony Parker had 11 in the second half as well (they were the only Spurs in double figures for the game). The Spurs spread the floor with shooters in the second half and with them knocking down shots the Rockets could not keep up.

Trail Blazers 112, Bobcats 68: Man, the Bobcats are terrible. Just awful. It’s really hard to describe.

Clippers 107, Jazz 105: The Clippers have beaten Denver in Denver, Oklahoma City, and now Utah in Utah within a week. They are legit and getting better each game. The Clips executed better down the stretch, thanks in large part to Chris Paul, who had 12 of his 34 in the fourth quarter and was masterful. Blake Griffin had 31 points, 14 boards and three blocks. Al Jefferson had 27 for the Jazz, who got a good amount of points but could not stop the Clipper offense, which is a juggernaut.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.