Brooklyn Nets Joe Johnson celebrates with Brook Lopez after he shot three-point against New York Knicks in NBA game in New York

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Dramatic finishes all over on Monday

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while wondering what made Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia think that hat was a good choice at the inauguration….

Bulls 95, Lakers 83: Chicago is what Los Angeles is not — passionate, committed to the system, hustlers on every play and defenders. So, these are the results you get. Our man Brett Pollakoff broke this game down.

Nets 88, Knicks 85: Since P.J. Carlesimo took over the Nets they have been winning games with a killer offense (best in the NBA the past 10 games) — but not Monday. Their win over the Knicks was about defense and grinding it out.

The Nets ground it out when Deron Williams and Joe Johnson had to go to the bench in the first half with foul trouble. They ground it out by outworking the Knicks on the offensive glass. This was not a high scoring game but they defended and stayed close. And ultimately they did it because Joe Johnson had 10 points in the fourth quarter, the last one of those a game-winning pull-up jumper. The Nets win brings them within one game of the Knicks in the Atlantic Division.

Pacers 82, Grizzlies 81: When the two best defenses in the NBA clash you had to expect low scoring, but this game had plenty of drama. No team ever led by double digits. Memphis was behind the entire fourth quarter but went on a 7-0 run capped off by a Mike Conley three that gave them the lead 79-78. But then Paul George (who finished with 12) answered with a three of his own.

All that set up the final play. It was 82-81 Pacers and there were 1.4 seconds remaining as Memphis inbounded the ball. George was covering Rudy Gay and knows the scouting report he wants to go right. Memphis inbounds to Gay who is forced to dribble once because of the defense then lets fly a game winner — that left his hands too late. No bucket, Pacers win.

Warriors 106, Clippers 99: This was a fun one for fans. It felt like a budding rivalry game between two of the up-and-coming teams in the west and it featured plenty of scoring and stars making plays. The star that made the most plays when it mattered was Stephan Curry — he had 16 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, his six-of-8 from three for the game to spark the Warriors come-from-behind win. His three with 1:26 left, where he came off a screen to get a good look, turned out to be the dagger.

If the Clippers are looking for someone to blame, they can find the mirror and see their 12-of-22 from the free throw line. But late the Warriors just made plays, Jarrett Jack had 10 in the fourth. Blake Griffin had a huge 26 point, 13 rebound night.

Spurs 90, 76ers 85: Philly played well most of the game and led midway through the fourth quarter when the Spurs went on a 13-1 run to take a lead they would never give up. The run was just a matter of the Spurs being the Spurs and executing at a level the Sixers couldn’t match. Tim Duncan had 24 points and 17 rebounds and made some big plays down the stretch, Tony Parker added 20 for the victors. Evan Turner had 18 points and 12 boards for the Sixers.

Wizards 98 Trail Blazers 95: The visiting Wizards took the lead with a 13-2 run in the third quarter and looked like they might be able to hold on to that all the way to the end — until a late 5-0 Portland run capped off by a Wesley Matthews three. Damian Lillard took over in the fourth and had 12 of his 18.

Then Jordan Crawford happened — he had all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter topped off by the buzzer-beater game winner.

Hornets 114, Kings 105: New Orleans was in control of this game most of the way, having dominated the second quarter and leading 64-39 at the half. Sacramento tried to make a late push but never got closer than 7. Ryan Anderson had 27 to lead the Hornets. Whether it is the turmoil around the sale of the team or the 10 a.m. Pacific start time for the MLK Day matinee the Kings were just never into this one.

Rockets 100, Bobcats 94: The Bobcats led most of the way in this game but some Rockets runs in the final frame — 10-0 to start the fourth quarter and 7-0 to end the game — were the difference. James Harden was a big part of that, with 12 of his 29 points coming in the fourth quarter. Kemba Walker was on fire for the Bobcats finishing with 35 points.

Hawks 104, Timberwolves 96: Another tough loss for Minnesota as they led almost the entire game but in the fourth Atlanta woke from its slumber and scored 34 points on 80 percent shooting, took the lead on a 9-0 run and hung on to win. Jannero Pargo helped spark that run with 14 fourth quarter points, while Al Horford pitched in 7 of his 28 in the final frame.

Report: David Lee, Tyler Zeller in line to start for Celtics; Jared Sullinger, Jonas Jerebko out of rotation

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 08: David Lee of Boston Celtics attacks during the friendlies of the NBA Global Games 2015 basketball match between Real Madrid and Boston Celtics at Barclaycard Center on October 8, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Brad Stevens has a big challenge this year – sorting the Celtics’ deep roster of similarly able players.

It seems that process is shaking out at power forward and center.

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

it appears Boston’s first four bigs will be starters David Lee and Tyler Zeller, with Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk off the bench.

That leaves Jonas Jerebko and Jared Sullinger, potentially on the outside looking in as far as the regular rotation is concerned.

Lee is the best passer of the bunch, which could partially explain why he’s starting. Boston’s most likely starting point guard, Marcus Smart, is still growing into the role of the lead ball-handler at the NBA level. Lee and presumptive starting shooting guard Avery Bradley can take some pressure off him.

Olynyk can space the floor for Isaiah Thomas-Johnson pick-and-rolls with the reserves and run pick-and-pops with Thomas himself.

I’m a little surprised Zeller is starting over Johnson, though. The Celtics just signed Johnson to a $12 million salary, and I thought they’d rely on his defense to set a tone early. Like Johnson, Zeller is a quality pick-and-roll finisher who can thrive with Thomas.

This is particularly bad news for Sullinger, who – barring a surprising contract extension – is entering a contract year. It seems those reports of offseason conditioning haven’t yet paid off. Jerebko’s deal also isn’t guaranteed beyond this season, but at least he has already gotten his mid-sized payday. Sullinger is still on his rookie-scale contract.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.