Baseline to Baseline recaps: Suns stay alive, Rockets don’t in playoff chase


What you missed while cracking up at the Californian’s skit from Saturday Night Live (seriously, we all talk about traffic like that)….

Heat 83, Bulls 72: It was a physical, low scoring playoff-style game — and the fact the Heat won should give them some confidence.

Suns 93, Clippers 90: Phoenix played desperate at the end — lose and they were likely toast in the playoff race, but with the win they tie the Jazz for the eighth spot in the West. Big win for them. On the other bench, this loss was a gut shot to the Clippers chances of winning the Pacific division — they are just one game back of the Lakers with three games to play, but the Lakers own the tiebreaker.

For a stretch near the end this was the Chris Paul and Steve Nash show, and the Suns closed the game out on a 10-4 run because Nash got better support. Nash was doing what he does, drawing defenders and finding the open guy and when forced to shoot he was hitting ridiculous high banks off the glass. Credit the Suns for some defense, too — Blake Griffin got 14 points in the first quarter but just two the rest of the way as Channing Frye and friends fronted the post and worked to keep the ball out of his hands. It wasn’t a smooth win for the Suns, but it was one they needed.

Hornets 105, Rockets 99 (OT): You can stick a fork in the Rockets — they are officially out of the playoff race, a game back of both the Jazz and Suns (and without either tiebreaker). In some ways this game felt like a synopsis of the season — the Rockets had nice double digit lead at points in the second then the Hornets doubled up Rockets 26 to 13 in the third. In the fourth the Rockets attacked and it was tight. Courtney Lee almost saved the Rockets playoff chances when he made a great steal and drew a foul, but when Lee only hit one of two free throws he tied the game and did not get the Rockets the lead, the result was overtime. In OT the Hornets went on a 12-1 run and it was over. Credit Carl Landry with a big night inside, 20 points and 10 boards.

Pacers 118, Bucks 109: This win cements the Pacers as the three seed in the East, and it leaves the Bucks on the outside looking in at the playoffs. This game was chippy and felt like two teams fighting for playoff spots, although Larry Sanders just lost it at one point and got tossed. David West was the best player on the floor — 21 points (on 14 shots), 13 rebounds and seven assists.

Timberwolves 91, Pistons 80: Detroit has a good young center in Greg Monroe but he was no match for Nikola Pekovic, who had 23 points and 9 boards on the night. Detroit tried in the last quarter — Will Bynum has been buried on the Pistons bench most of the season (they tried to move him at the deadline), and he didn’t play the first three quarters of this game then dropped 17 in the fourth. But with a double-double from Anthony Randolph (15 and 10) the Timberwolves cruised.

LeBron James’ triple-double lifts Cavaliers past Bucks

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 40 points as part of his third triple-double in four games and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 on Monday night as coach Tyronn Lue began his leave of absence to address health issues.

Lue said Monday in a statement he been dealing with chest pains and loss of sleep, and that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is. Associate head coach Larry Drew will run the team in Lue’s absence.

James scored 17 points in the third quarter and finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 16th triple-double this season and 71st of his career.

The four-time MVP took over in the third beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers. After not getting a foul called on a third attempt, he finished Cleveland’s next possession with a massive dunk. He was fouled attempting another dunk and made both free throws the following time down.

Milwaukee cut a 17-point lead to 117-109, but James drove the length of the floor for a dunk with just over a minute left.

Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love returned after missing six weeks because of a broken left hand and scored 18 points in 25 minutes. He sparked a 10-0 run in the second quarter with two 3-pointers

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points and went 11 for 11 at the foul line for Milwaukee, which is seventh in the Eastern Conference. Khris Middleton had 30 points, making 11 of 16 from the field.

Milwaukee guard Jason Terry was given a Flagrant-1 foul for hitting Ante Zizic in the face with an open hand while the rookie center was putting up a shot in the lane. Zizic made both free throws, helping spark a run that built a double-figure lead.

Lue, 40, led Cleveland to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season.

The Cavaliers (41-29) are third in the Eastern Conference and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to reach the NBA Finals for the fourth straight time.

No timetable has been given for when Lue will return. He missed the second half Saturday, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn’t feeling well. Lue also sat out a game against Chicago at home in December.


Pelicans rookie Frank Jackson has another surgery, will miss entire season now

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans say rookie guard Frank Jackson won’t make his NBA debut this season after having follow-up surgery to remove residual scar tissue from earlier right foot operations.

The Pelicans say Jackson also received an injection in his foot.

The club says a specialist in New York handled Jackson’s latest procedure.

The Pelicans acquired the 6-foot-4 Jackson through a draft-night trade with the Charlotte Hornets, who selected the former Duke player with the first pick of the second round last summer.

Following the draft, the Pelicans signed Jackson to a three-year contract at the NBA minimum with two years guaranteed, but Jackson needed a second foot surgery last summer to address a setback following his initial surgery last May.

Jackson spent one season at Duke, averaging 10.9 points.


Giannis Antetokounmpo turns bad pass into ridiculous alley-oop (VIDEO)

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That is just not fair.

Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe threw an alley-oop pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo that was off the mark — high and behind him — but it just doesn’t matter. The Greek Freak gets up and throws it down.

It’s early, but it’s going to be hard to beat that one for dunk of the night.

League’s Last Two Minute Report backs referees (mostly) in Raptors/Thunder game

Associated Press

Anyone who watched the Thunder’s win over the Raptors Sunday afternoon in Toronto — especially the final few minutes — thought it was not referee Marc Davis and crew’s finest hour. There were missed calls and three-straight ejections of Raptors players, which all seemed rather hair-trigger (especially coach Dwane Casey, who was tossed for something a fan behind him said).

The NBA’s Last Two Minute report doesn’t see it that way — it says the referees nailed it.

According to the report, there was only one missed call in the final two minutes: Carmelo Anthony held Pascal Siakam as a pass came to him with 11.7 seconds left, and that should have been called.

What about the play that set DeMar DeRozan off and ultimately got him ejected, the drive to the basket with 33 seconds left (and the Raptors down two) where DeRozan thought Corey Brewer fouled him? The report said that was a good no call:

DeRozan (TOR) starts his drive and Brewer (OKC) moves laterally in his path and there is contact. The contact is incidental as both players attempt to perform normal basketball moves….

RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.

(I didn’t see it that way, I think the contact was more than incidental, and to me looking at the replay Brewer catches some wrist and impedes the shot in a way that was not legal. Just my two cents.)

The report does not cover the ejections, which are reviewed by league operations but not part of this report.

Three thoughts out of all this:

1) Raptors fans/management/players have every right to feel the calls went against them in this game. As for calls always going against them — as DeRozan complained about after the game — 29 other teams and fan bases are convinced the officials have it out for them, too. I never bought that.

2) The Raptors didn’t lose this game solely because of the officiating. Russell Westbrook was clutch down the stretch, the Thunder were part of it, and the Raptors had other issues, too (Serge Ibaka had a rough game, for example).

3) This loss also does not say a thing about the Raptors in the postseason (even if they went a little too much isolation at the end) — this was their third game in four days, they looked tired and flat at the end. That will not be the case in the playoffs.