Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nets beat Celtics with TKO

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while watching a guy do a backflip on a surfboard….

Thunder 120, Rockets 98: Welcome back to Oklahoma City James Harden. After a warm reception from the crowd Harden was 3-of-16 shooting and struggled to defend Kevin Durant (who doesn’t?). And despite that the Rockets biggest problem was team defense. Brett breaks the game down for you here.

Wizards 84, Trail Blazers 82: The Wizards win! The Wizards win! Theeeeee Wizards win! But man it was ugly. This was our other game of the night and we broke it down as well.

Nets 95, Celtics 83: The Nets with this one on a technical knock out.

Boston lost this game before the fight that sent Rajon Rondo, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace to the showers just before halftime.

Boston lost this early. Kevin Garnett played the first 5:19 of the game and it was 14-9 Boston when KG went out Doc Rivers subbed him out with Chris Wilcox. The Nets immediately went on a 19-6 run and even when Garnett returned he couldn’t stop it and it grew into a 38-12 run. This game was over before Rondo stepped in to protect KG.

What should worry Celtics fans right now is the 22nd ranked defense in the league. Well, that and the healthy suspension about to come down on Rondo for instigating that fight.

Pistons 117, Suns 77: How can a team lose by 40 to the Pistons? Good question. Brett Pollakoff tried his best to answer it for us.

Knicks 102, Bucks 88: My favorite fans of the night were in Milwaukee, where they chanted “Brooklyn’s better” when Carmelo Anthony was shooting free throws.

Unfortunately the Bucks were not playing anywhere near the Nets level. They had no good answer for stopping Carmelo Anthony, who had 29 points on just 18 shots. And it was a night of key Knicks being efficient shooters with Tyson Chandler getting 17 points on 4-of-4 shooting, and Steve Novak dropped 19 points on 10 shots. The Knicks took control with a 9-0 run right before the half then a 10-0 run early in the third quarter. And Wednesday the Bucks had no amazing comebacks in them.

Bulls 101, Mavericks 78: Tom Thibodeau finally trusted his bench and they rewarded him with 50 points and an easy win over Dallas. Nate Robinson led the way for the bench, getting 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. The Bulls also continued to play good defense, holding the Mavs to 34.6 percent shooting. Dallas really could use that Nowitzki guy back on offense.

Clippers 101, Timberwolves 95: Chauncey Billups was back and played nearly 20 minutes, and that was good to see. But the Clippers won this because they played good defense again in the second half — Minnesota shot just 25.6 percent as a team in the final 24. Kevin Love was off all night against the Clippers 3-of-12 shooting. DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and played well.

Jazz 96, Hornets 84: The Jazz pulled away in the third quarter and got the kind of comfortable win behind 19 points from Al Jefferson that should have the team smiling. But the Jazz may have lost Marvin Williams for a little while after his head hit the floor hard late in the third quarter, which led Utah to talk about a likely concussion after the game.

Grizzlies 103, Raptors 82: In the third quarter Utah shot 72.2 percent as a team with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combining for 15 points on 6-of7 shooting. Meanwhile Toronto shot 23.5 percent in the third quarter. Memphis won the third quarter by 18 points and made the fourth quarter basically meaningless. By the way, good on Mike Conley for out playing Kyle Lowry for the night — Lowry usually gets up for this matchup (remember it was Conley’s presence that had Memphis moving Lowry). Conley had 16 on the night.

Spurs 110, Magic 89: Manu Ginobili had 12 points in the first quarter, going 4-of-4 from three and sparking a 13-0 San Antonio run where they took a comfortable lead and the game was never really in doubt from there. San Antonio essentially did whatever they wanted, got whatever shots they wanted and met with little resistance. Did you expect otherwise? Ginobili had 20 points, Gary Neal 19.

Hawks 94, Bobcats 90: Ben Gordon almost won the Bobcats this game — he went off for 20 points in the fourth quarter and single handedly made this a game. The Hawks were up by 7 inside of 2:30 in the game but Gordon kept sinking contested threes. The Bobcats had a chance to win it with 5.2 seconds left, getting the ball down 1, and to tie it a few seconds later, but in both cases the Hawks — we’re looking at you Josh Smith — did a good job of denying a clean entry pass to Gordon. And that was enough. Smith, Al Horford and Lou Williams each had 17 for the Hawks.

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.

 

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

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The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

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MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”