Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: The Knicks are comeback kings

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while listening to a Trent Reznor/Carly Ray Jepson mash up

Knicks 102, Cavaliers 97: The Knicks had to really work for this win — they trailed by 22 in the second quarter and lost Carmelo Anthony for the game around the same time (he tweaked his knee and did not play the second half).

But around the time he went down the rest of the Knicks decided to bring a little more energy on defense. Meaning they decided to contest a shot. Which was a change. Then at the other end the Knicks started to move the ball on offense. And pretty soon they were climbing back with a 17-4 run in the second. Then early in the third the Knicks went on a 12-1 run and with a Steve Novak three in the third quarter they retook the lead.

Cleveland would not roll over and this was close at the end — the Knicks needed Novak and then Jason Kidd knocking down key threes. Still the Cavs got the lead down to two on some Wayne Ellington free throws. Next possession after that Amare Stoudemire — who had his best game of the season and finished with 22 points — drove the lane, missed but got his own rebound and hit the more difficult putback to make it a four-point game with 38 seconds left. Kyrie Irving, back after missing three games, quickly made it a two-point game with a layup (he finished with 22 points and 6 assists). Stoudemire tried to ice it next trip down but missed — only to have Tyson Chandler tip out the missed shot, Kidd chased it down, got fouled, hit one and it was a three point game. Then to really ice it, Chandler blocked a Irving three (could have been a foul, maybe should have been) and the Knicks get a hard fought win on the road.

Heat 97, Timberwolves 81: Miami took the lead with a 15-2 run in the first quarter and never lost it, although the game was closer than many expected most of the way.

Minnesota got the lead down the three early in the fourth quarter, which was until Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade took over — each had nine points in the final period. J.J. Barea tried to put a stop to Allen, but that didn’t work — he got ejected instead for knocking Allen to the ground. Wade had maybe his best game this season with 32 points plus 10 assists, and the Heat got the comfortable win. Derrick Williams led the Timberwolves with 25, and Minnesota put up a good fight considering they are only dressing nine.

Bucks 109, Jazz 108 (OT): For much of the game it was Monta Ellis doing the damage, he finished with 34 points. When it wasn’t him it was Brandon Jennings, who had 20 points and 17 assists. But in overtime it was J.J. Redick scoring 8 points in those five minutes to spark the Bucks win.

The Jazz felt Gordon Hayward should have gone to the line at the end of regulation on what the refs called a fair Larry Sanders block but certainly plenty of contact. But alas, no such lock for the Jazz. If Utah plans on holding off the charging Lakers, these are the kind of close games they need to win.

Nuggets 104, Hawks 88: Atlanta was saddled with the toughest back-to-back in the league — one night in Los Angeles followed by the next night at altitude in Denver. It looked like it, the Hawks went flat in the fourth quarter, turned the ball over seven times, and the Nuggets pulled away to win their 11th straight game at home. Corey Brewer had 22 points, Ty Lawson added 18 points and eight assists. Nuggets fans even got a couple monster putback dunks from JaVale McGee to entertain them.

Warriors 125, Raptors 118: Toronto led this by 7 entering the fourth quarter, but went ice cold for the quarter, shooting just 27.6 percent. On the other side Golden State had Stephen Curry, who had 15 points in the quarter (26 for the game, plus 12 assists) and that was enough. Curry had help: Klay Thompson had 10 of his 22 in the fourth quarter, and David Lee ha 29 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Rudy Gay returned the lineup and had 26 points but on 22 shots, and Andrea Bargnani had 26 points as well (18 shots, and he was 5-of-7 from three). They combined for 6 in the final quarter.

More good news for Warriors fans, Andrew Bogut returned and after missing 6 games and had 4 points and 8 rebounds.

Trail Blazers 122, Bobcats 105: The Blazers shot 59.8 percent as a team and had seven players in double figures as they cruised to a win over the sad and struggling Bobcats. Portland was 12-of-24 from three, the Bobcats 1-of-10. LaMarcus Aldridge had 23 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots to lead Portland. It was the kind of game where Portland’s Nicolas Batum threw a pass off the backboard to Meyers Leonard for a dunk — the Blazers are not usually a showtime team, but they could be in this one.

Magic 105, Hornets 102: Orlando went on a late 15-3 to earn this win. Part of that was their key players were at their best in the second half — Arron Afflalo had 17 of his 26 points after halftime, while Jameer Nelson scored all of his 15 points after the break. The Magic also got key plays like a three from Al Herrington, Mo Harkless throwing down a putback and more. It’s a good win because for the Magic any win is a good one. The Hornets are supposed to be a better defensive team than they showed.

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.”