Baseline to Baseline recaps: Rockets playoff hopes take punch to gut

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What you missed while reading the book “Cooking with Poo”….

Thunder 92, Bulls 78: The Oklahoma City Thunder have rolled over everybody lately (that’s going to be good for them in the power rankings Monday) and their athleticism overwhelmed the Chicago in our game of the day.

Celtics 91, Heat 72: Does Boston have one more title run in them? Are the Heat bored or are their flaws being exposed? Not sure the answers to that are black-and-white, but we had a lot of questions after our other game of the day.

Pacers 104, Rockets 102 (OT): This loss is a punch to the gut of a Rockets team trying to hold on to the last playoff spot in the West — GM Daryl Morey tweeted it was the most painful loss of the season for him. The Rockets were up 10 in the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold on and the end of the game itself was fun to watch with the teams trading jumpers. Danny Granger was on fire with 32 points including 6-of-8 from three.

Lakers 120, Warriors 112: This was an old-fashioned shootout right down to the two teams trading threes in the final minutes. It was entertaining. The Lakers got the win but they can’t walk away from this one feeling particularly good — like the Hornets they let a team they should throttle hang around and make it close late. This was a one-point game with seven minutes left until the Lakers went on a 9-0 run. On the bright side for the Lakers, they had efficient Kobe Bryant back and he dropped 40. That will get them some wins until they figure out how to play defense again. The Lakers also got a good performance out of Troy Murphy (not sure you want to depend on that nightly, Lakers fans). This is five straight losses for Golden State as they continue a quest to pick up more ping-pong balls.

Nuggets 104, Magic 101: No Dwight Howard for the Magic, who sat out with back spasms, and so this turned into the battle of the point guards — Ty Lawson had 25 and Jameer Nelson had 27. The big key for Orlando was that even without Howard they grabbed 18 offensive rebounds (Glen Davis had 9), but it was not enough as the Nuggets balanced attack was back.

Trail Blazers 119, Timberwolves 106: LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love went at it, toe-to-toe — and at one point literally chest-to-chest. We’ll give the win to Aldridge because he had 26 points and 8 rebounds — and because his team won in large part due to his 10 points in the final frame. (Love had 26 points, nine rebounds). He got a boost from Raymond Felton who had 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Raptors 99, Wizards 92: Toronto got 18 points from Andrea Bargnani and better bench play which together. Washington has the excuse that Nene and Trevor Booker were out again. But really, this game was about ping-pong balls.

Suns 92, Hornets 75: If the Suns are going to make the playoffs they need to win these games. Phoenix took control of this one with an 18-4 run in the third and never looked back. Steve Nash had just 4 points but dropped 14 dimes. Jared Dudley had 21 for Phoenix; Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith each had 14 for New Orleans.

Watch Russell Westbrook drop a triple-double in epic battle with James Harden (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) Lou Williams scored 31 points off the bench, James Harden finished with 22 points and 12 assists, and the Houston Rockets never trailed while cruising to a 137-125 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Russell Westbrook had 39 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists for his second straight triple-double and his 36th this season, but Harden led the Rockets to a 25-point lead through three quarters in the matchup between top MVP candidates.

Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon added 24 points apiece for the Rockets, whose lead was trimmed to eight on a 3-pointer by Westbrook with about 90 seconds left. The Rockets scored four quick points after that to secure the victory.

Harden left late in the game after crashing into the court and appearing to injure his left wrist but said in a TV interview he expected to be OK.

Houston jumped out to a 9-0 lead and was up by at least 20 for most of the game. It was a stark change from the first three games between these teams this season, which were decided by a combined seven points.

Williams made 11 of 15 shots, going 7 of 8 on 3-pointers. He didn’t miss a shot until his layup was blocked by Jerami Grant early in the fourth quarter.

Houston won its fourth straight overall and has won nine of their past 12 games against the Thunder.

The Rockets shot 71 percent in the first half, and Harden made a layup before grabbing a rebound and hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend Houston’s lead to 113-88 entering the fourth quarter.

The Thunder chipped away with a 12-4 run midway through the fourth quarter to get within 126-114 with 4 minutes left. Williams hit a 3-pointer after that to slow down the Thunder the team’s late run.

The Rockets had a 16-point lead in the third quarter before they used a 13-4 run to make it 108-83 with about 90 seconds left in the quarter. Williams had two 3-pointers in that stretch and a highlight came when Houston stripped the ball from Westbrook and Harden dished to Ariza, who finished with another 3. The run wrapped up with an alley-oop dunk from Harden to Clint Capela, but Capela received a technical on the play for hanging on the rim.

Mike D’Antoni received a technical seconds later for arguing that call.

Houston had built a 79-59 lead by halftime thanks in part to nearly perfect 3-point shooting by Trevor Ariza and Williams. Ariza made four of five attempts and had 16 points at the break, and Williams was a perfect 6 for 6 overall, with four 3-pointers to pile up 18 points in the first two quarters.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Victor Oladipo finished with 15 points. … Steven Adams and Alex Abrines scored 11 points apiece.

Rockets: Houston’s 79 points were the most the team has scored in a half this season. … Sunday was the 12th time this season where the Rockets had 100 points before the fourth quarter. … Williams had at least 20 points off the bench for the 29th time this season.

ANDERSON’S HEALTH

Houston’s Ryan Anderson will miss about two weeks after spraining his right ankle on Friday night against the Pelicans. D’Antoni hopes Anderson will recover in time to play the last couple of regular-season games and be at full strength for the start of the playoffs.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Visit Dallas on Monday.

Rockets: Host Golden State on Tuesday.

Watch every one of Jimmy Butler’s career-high 14 assists in win over Bucks (VIDEO)

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler seems to be thriving without backcourt teammate Dwyane Wade. On Sunday in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Butler dished out a career-high 14 assists to go along with 20 points, six rebounds, and three steals.

Butler, 27, helped Chicago to a 109-94 win over the Bucks. He looked good doing it, dropping dimes off of both the pick-and-roll and while coming off screens.

The NBA put together a handy little video to be able to check out all of Butler’s assists.

Clippers blow 18-point lead, lose in final 2 seconds on putback to Kings (VIDEO)

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The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough go of things against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Up by 18 with more than five minutes to go, LA blew their lead and were left to watch as the Kings sealed the game late.

The final possession for Sacramento came on a missed corner 3-pointer by Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. The Kings got the outlet pass out on the rebound, but Ben McLemore took it to the rack and missed. That’s when Willie Cauley-Stein stepped in, cleaned up the board, and put the game-winning shot home with less than two seconds left.

Los Angeles lost in spectacular fashion, and became the only team this season to lose given their game situation.

Here’s a compilation the NBA put together of Sacramento’s epic comeback:

Meanwhile, Chris Paul called it the worst regular season loss of his career.

The Clippers peaked too soon. Like, the first 20 games of the season too soon.

Russell Westbrook throws incredible halfcourt bounce pass vs. Rockets (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook had yet another triple-double on Sunday. The Oklahoma City Thunder star notched 13 assists in the loss to the Houston Rockets, 137-125, and one of them came on a nifty pass to teammate Victor Oladipo.

The play happened with the Thunder on the fastbreak early in the third quarter. Westbrook was moving from left-to-right across the middle of the floor with the ball while Oladipo streaked down the right wing.

With the Rockets defense collapsing, Westbrook reached halfcourt and fired a bounce pass that sliced through the opposition.

Oladipo finished with the clean dunk.

Still not sure it beats this one, but I think we’ll have to compare once the season comes to a close.