Baseline to Baseline recaps: Jazz, Bucks make it night of the comebacks

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while thinking there are some really screwed up people in Germany….

Nets 96, Knicks 89 (OT): It certainly wasn’t the best-played, prettiest game of the young season, but it was the most intense. The one with the most playoff feel, both in the stands and on the court. The Knicks had their chances but had key lapses on offense and defense, and I broke those down in our game of the night post.

Thunder 114, Bobcats 69: The game wasn’t really as close as the score indicates. No, seriously it wasn’t. This was a 40-point game at halftime – 64-24 OKC — and Scott Brooks called off the dogs and benched his starters five minutes into the second half. The Bobcats have the only bench that made the struggling Thunder bench look good. If you want to see the number on this ugliness, we broke it down right here.

Jazz 105, Nuggets 103: The only thing hotter than the Nuggets and their four-game winning streak was the Jazz at home, where they have yet to lose this season. The Nuggets were running and gunning through the first 20 minutes of this game and were up 16, shooting 73 percent and getting 48 points in the paint in the first half.

But in the second half the Jazz were able to use their physicality to slow the game down to a pace they were more comfortable at, which led to a 14-0 third quarter run that made it a game. Denver got frustrated. Andre Iguodala got ejected. Utah also closed the game out with key bench players — Derrick Favors had 7 of his 19 in the fourth quarter. Al Jefferson had 28 to lead Utah.

Bucks 93, Bulls 92: If the Bucks can stretch out their lead early in the season and hold on to win the Central division once Chicago and Indiana get healthy, this will be the game they look back on. The Bulls had a 27-point third quarter lead but a 31-4 Bucks run by their bench keyed he comeback win. Milwaukee bench players had 56 points, Bulls reserves 10. Ersan Ilyasova — just moved to the bench so rookie John Henson could get more run, had a game-high 18. Rip Hamilton did have 30 for the Bulls.

Pistons 108, Trail Blazers 91: It was a tale of two young point guard. The Pistons raced out to an early 9 point lead as the shots fell, then in the second quarter Brandon Knight took over with 11 points on his way to 26 for the night. On the other end, the Pistons did good job cutting off Portland’s Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, plus he was just off, and he started 0-11 from the floor. Greg Monroe had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit. LaMarcus Aldridge had a season-high 32 points for the Trail Blazers. Detroit has won three in a row on their hone court.

Spurs 118, Wizards 91: Seriously, how did you expect this to end? Nene and Trevor Booker were out for Washington and the Spurs are now a ridiculous 8-1 on the road. To the Wizards credit they came out with some desperate play early and kept it close for a quarter. Martell Webster had 13 first half points and played well. But the Spurs were the machine that is the Spurs. They wear you down with execution until they get open shots or have or Parker drawing fouls on drives. They went on a 17-6 run to take the lead in the second quarter, then a 10-0 run a few minutes later to stretch out that lead. And then it was over — seven Spurs scored in double figures, led by Boris Diaw with 16.

Grizzlies 84, Cavaliers 78: No Mike Conley for Grizzlies and if you look at the season-long numbers their offense takes a nose dive without him (it drops 10 points per 100 possessions when he sits). That proved true here. Meanwhile the Cavaliers got a fantastic effort from Anderson Varejao, who had 15 points and 22 rebounds, and Dion Waiters added 15 as well. Cleveland led most of the way but in the fourth quarter the Grizzlies defense woke up — Cleveland shot only 20 percent (4 of 20) and had one bucked in the final 5:30 of the game. That will do a team in pretty much every time.

Hornets 105, Clippers 98: It was bombs away — the to teams combined to take 33 three pointers, second most in NBA history (for a regulation game). Caron Butler had 9 threes (on 15 tries) and as a team the Clippers were 18-of-37 (48.6 percent). Impressive. But the Hornets were even better from deep —15-for-25 (60 percent), with Greivis Vasquez (5-for-8) and Ryan Anderson (5-for-9) leading the way.

The key moment was late in the third quarter, when the Clippers made and 8-0 run to tie things up and you expected the home team to pull away, instead they seemed to relax and the Hornets went on a 13-2 run to take a lead they would never relinquish. For the Clippers, the key things they need to do right this season went horribly wrong for a night. DeAndre Jordan was terrible (and played just 15 minutes). Their defense allowed the Hornets to score 117.8 points per 100 possessions and was terrible. I’d say chalk it up to an off night, but the Clippers are now 1-4 in their last five.

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

Associated Press
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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.

Tyronn Lue doesn’t hold back with retort to heckling Pacers’ fan

Associated Press
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It’s a part of the NBA experience that most fans don’t get to hear — some fans courtside heckling opposing players and coaches, and those guys occasionally firing back. We only tend to hear about it when things cross a line.

Sometimes the interactions are just funny, such as this one passed along by J. Michael of the Indy Star.

Well played, Lue.

Although is Cleveland really a city at the forefront of fashion? Well, I suppose if you went to college in Nebraska…

Report: Pelicans picked up Alvin Gentry’s option for next season before sweep

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Last summer the buzz was all over the league: Pelicans GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry were given a “playoffs or bust” mandate by management. If the Pelicans were not in the postseason — and just barely getting in and then blown out in the first round might be good enough — there was going to be a housecleaning.

The Pelicans made the playoffs as the six seed with 48 wins despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles midway through the season.

That alone was good enough to get Gentry another season in New Orleans, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As noted, this happened before the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers out of the first round and into a summer of re-evaluation. This option season is the last of Gentry’s original deal with the Pelicans.

Gentry has the Pelicans playing fast, using the elite defense of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to get stops, and right now Davis is leading an offense that is just getting it done, with guys such as Nikola Mirotic stepping up. Gentry has earned another year, and a shot to integrate Cousins into this style and level of play, to see where that could take New Orleans next season.

It will be interesting to see if Demps can add more shooting and versatility with a capped out roster.