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.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

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

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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.