San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets

Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Heat continue streaking, Harden hits the game-winner to beat the Spurs

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while watching FGCU celebrate their trip to the Sweet 16 a thousand times.

Nets 102, Suns 100: The Nets were without Joe Johnson in this one, but early in the third quarter, when Brooklyn had increased its lead to 16 points, it seemed like it wouldn’t matter.

The Nets lost focus, however, and the Suns got high-energy performances from Goran Dragic, Wesley Johnson, and P.J. Tucker the entire second half, and were able to lead at the end of three and battle throughout the fourth to ensure the game came down to the final possession.

Wes Johnson had a 17-point third quarter that included hitting four straight from three-point distance, and Dragic finished a point shy of his career-high and just one rebound short of a triple-double, with 31 points, nine rebounds, and 12 assists. The Suns had more offensive rebounds in the game than they had on the defensive end (25 against 23), which was 10 more than the Nets hauled down from the offensive glass.

But the energy and hustle only went so far. C.J. Watson scored 12 big points off the bench for Brooklyn in the fourth quarter, and Kris Humphries had an interesting night that included three air balls and a missed dunk, yet his 17 points and eight rebounds overall were important contributions to the Nets’ sluggish victory.

Heat 109, Bobcats 77: Dwyane Wade sat this one out to rest a sore knee, but even then — and even when Charlotte raced out to a 19-8 lead — this game never felt in doubt. In part because these kind of comebacks are becoming the norm for Miami, in part because LeBron James was playing (32 points, 10 assists, 8 rebound). We broke this game down in more detail, if you like to read about routs. — Kurt Helin

Rockets 96, Spurs 95: Coming into this game Houston was 1-7 against the top four teams in the West and they wanted to prove they could play with the big boys. For their own psyche heading into the playoffs. Maybe they got that.

The Rockets were running, James Harden was gunning — he finished the game with 29 points on just 16 shots — and the Rockets were up double digits in the fourth quarter. Then Tony Parker happened. He went on a personal 10-0 run and scored 12 Spurs points in a row to lead them to a 93-89 lead with 1:45 remaining. The Spurs looked like they could put it away with a steal and Danny Green heading in for a layup, but Patrick Beverly blocked the shot, Harden got the ball in transition, found Chandler Parsons for a three and it was a new game. Parsons finished with 20.

Parker and Harden traded some free throws. When the Rockets needed a final shot you knew Harden was going to get the look first, and he was able to get to just above the free throw line, try to sell the foul call he wasn’t going to get, then hit the game winning jumper. Tim Duncan had a final chance for San Antonio but missed an elbow jumper.  It’s a good win for Houston, a team that is building confidence right now. — Kurt Helin

Mavericks 113, Jazz 108: Utah is a team that is supposed to be making a playoff push, but with this game they have lost four in a row and 9-of-11. They are now two games back of the Lakers in the loss column and they are toast without a winning streak.

This game was close until near the end of the third quarter, when the Mavericks went on a 20-2 run that spanned the quarters. It looked like Dallas would coast in but Utah made a desperation run late that got the lead all the way down to three. But that’s as close as it got. Mike James had 19 points and led seven Mavericks in double figures. — Kurt Helin

Sixers 117, Kings 103: The outcome was secondary to Kings fans — this was another “Here We Buy Night” where the fans filled the building to show they still support the team (just not so much the old owners). As part of that, they booed Spencer Hawes plenty (the Seattle native and former University of Washington player said he hoped the Kings were moved back to his home town).

The Sixers got some big nights — Jrue Holiday had 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists; Dorell Wright added 22 points; and Lavoy Allen had 20 off the bench. The Kings were much better when DeMarcus Cousins was on the floor, but he struggled with foul trouble and when he sat midway through the third quarter the Sixers pulled away and never looked back. — Kurt Helin

Thunder 103, Trail Blazers 83: Oklahoma City has won eight straight over teams that would miss the playoffs if the season ended today and lost three straight to would-be playoff teams. The Thunder won’t get a chance to prove themselves against the league’s best quite yet – they host Washington on Wednesday and play at Minnesota on Friday – but in the meantime, they’re finding ways to motivate themselves. They went on a 10-2 run after Scott Brooks’ third-quarter technical foul Sunday, and Serge Ibaka (zero points, one block and three fouls in the first half; 16 points, four blocks and zero fouls in the second half) apparently challenged himself to make his halves as polarizing as possible.

The Trail Blazers were plagued by the same issue that has done them in all season – their lack of a bench. The starters played too much (36 minutes per starter), and the reserves did too little (a combined 21 points and two rebounds among six players). — Dan Feldman

Hawks 104, Bucks 99: Milwaukee is now two games behind No. 7 seed Boston with 13 games left and running out of time to escape the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup with the Heat. That’s because the Bucks allowed a game-ending 7-0 run by the Hawks, who are hanging onto the No. 5 seed.

Al Horford (24 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals) and Josh Smith (23 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) scored crucial points during the deciding run, but Anthony Tolliver made a key contribution by offensively rebounding a teammate’s missed free throw – a play Tolliver called before it happened. — Dan Feldman

Bulls 104, Timberwolves 97: With Derrick Rose and now Joakim Noah out, Chicago showed off its long-possessed and under-appreciated supporting cast. Credit Tom Thibodeau for putting players like Nate Robinson (22 points and 10 assists), Jimmy Butler (20 points, nine assists and three steals) and Nazr Mohammed (10 rebounds in 22 minutes) in positions to succeed. And it wasn’t just Mohammed cleaning the glass. Chicago nearly had as many offensive rebounds (20) as the Timberwolves had defensive rebounds (26), and the Bulls smoked Minnesota on the other end, 32-6.

Derrick Williams (28 points) was a bright spot for the Timberwolves, looking less like the player who had a combined 24 points on 9-of-30 shooting in his last three games and more like the guy who averaged 19 points per game in his previous dozen. — Dan Feldman

Kyle Korver regrets missing after fantastic LeBron James pass: ‘That would have been on his lifetime highlight reel’ (video)

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Kyle Korver feels mostly moved in. Off the floor, that is.

The newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers still has some adjusting to do before he feels completely at home with the NBA champions, who have struggled of late.

“Every day it gets better and better,” he said.

One of Korver’s biggest adjustments is learning to play with LeBron James, one of the game’s most gifted passers. Korver regretted missing a 3-pointer in Golden State after James nearly fell before feeding him in the corner.

“Oh my gosh,” Korver said. “I told him that was my bad missing that shot. That would have been on his lifetime highlight reel. That was an incredible pass.

“I thought the play was kinda broken, and he was trying to pick it up. He whipped it around behind his back right at my head, and I was like, ‘Wow, I have the ball and I’m open.’ I hesitated, and I missed the shot.

“That’s what he creates. He’s got an incredible feel for the game. It’s good to be on the other side of the ball with him.”

Acquired earlier this month in a trade with Atlanta, Korver practiced with the Cavs for the first time in Ohio on Wednesday as the team regrouped from the longest road trip of the season – a coast-to-coast odyssey – that ended with an embarrassing 126-91 blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors, who sent a message in January they hope resonates in June.

While Korver, one of the NBA’s most lethal 3-point shooters has felt welcomed by his new teammates, he’s still trying to fit in with them on the court. Cleveland is just 1-3 since Korver arrived and the team’s struggles are at least loosely linked to them trying to incorporate him into the offense.

Although it wasn’t intentional, the Cavs found themselves forcing passes to Korver, who went 2 for 10 from the field and missed his first five 3-pointers in his first two games. He found his range against Sacramento and Golden State, going 11 of 20 (7 of 14 on 3s) and providing a glimpse of Cleveland’s potential when they get back to full strength.

“The more time we spend together, the better chemistry we’re going to have,” Korver said. “A lot of what my game is, is based on chemistry. Getting a good feel for the guys, me getting a feel for them, them getting a feel for me and how I play. Every day gets a little better.”

Cleveland went just 3-3 on its trip, which began in Brooklyn and concluded in the Bay Area, where the Cavs were thumped by the rival Warriors in their first visit to Oracle Arena since winning Game 7 of last year’s finals there.

The game included another run-in between James and Golden State’s Draymond Green, who was called for a Flagrant 1 foul after he collided with Cleveland’s superstar. The two have scrapped before as Green was suspended from Game 5 in the finals for hitting James in the groin.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue felt Green was putting the champs on notice with his hard foul.

“Was it a statement? I think so,” Lue said. “He didn’t want to let LeBron get in the open court and get a dunk or layup and he took a hard foul. He wanted to try to send a message to our team.”

Following the lopsided loss, there was a typical overreaction by some Cleveland fans and media members, who were quick to question all the Cavs recent issues as if they had just dropped their 10th straight game and not just four of their past seven.

Lue said trying to integrate Korver, whose role will change again when J.R. Smith returns from a thumb injury later this season, was a challenge on the trip.

A few days of practice – and a home matchup on Saturday against San Antonio – will either help the Cavs find their rhythm or expose more flaws.

Lue was asked if his team has enough playmakers.

“You can’t make a trade every day,” he said. “We acquired Kyle Korver and we’ve got to be patient for other pieces we need, but, we’re still a good team, we’re still the champs and we got to play like that.”

 

The Cavs are just 1-3 since Korver joined them, but he’s confident better days are ahead.

“I see where we’re going,” he said. “I see how it’s all going to come together. No one around here is panicking.”

Kevin Durant: Playing Thunder ‘never going to be a regular game for me’

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 03: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors is guarded by Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at ORACLE Arena on November 3, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Kevin Durant‘s first game against the Thunder featured a clever Russell Westbrook costume, emotion-laden dunks and Enes Kanter trash talk.

Durant isn’t hiding from the meaningfulness of the sequel.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s never going to be a regular game for me,” Durant told ESPN in advance of his second go-around with OKC. “I’m just going to play. There’s nothing serious. We got the first one out the way, and we’re just going to play the next game.”

“I’m sure it will [be emotional],” Durant said. “It’s people I’ve been with for so long and to see them again, yeah, they’ll be some emotions. But I’ve still got a job to do.”

This game will always spark both nostalgia and competiveness. It’s a lot to process while playing elite basketball.

We’ll see whether Durant, who lit up the overmatched Thunder earlier this season, is up to the challenge.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the game’s location.

Report: Knicks grumbling about Jeff Hornacek’s lineups and rotations

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 17: Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the New York Knicks watches as his team plays the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on December 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. 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 Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek has seemingly steered clear of the Phil Jackson-Carmelo Anthony feud. Hornacek has even avoided Jackson, one of the greatest coaches of all time, overly interfering.

But Hornacek hasn’t sidestepped every fissure in New York.

Veteran Knicks are reportedly frustrated with the defensive scheme, though some of that resentment could be pinned on assistant coach Kurt Rambis. Derrick Rose has reportedly been increasingly frustrated with Hornacek. And apparently he’s not the only one.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

Privately, players have been grumbling about lineups and rotations during the recent losing skid, according to sources. Brandon Jennings hinted at this after Monday’s loss when he spoke with frustration about the inconsistent nature of the Knicks’ recent lineups.

“Every day is something new. So just got to be ready I guess. You never know when you’re going to play,” he said.

Jennings was asked if the inconsistent rotations make things difficult for players.

“Yeah, when you come in here you don’t really know what’s going to happen, so it’s kind of no consistency and it’s really tough right now,” he said. “Right now, you come in here you don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m struggling. It’s difficult for me, because I don’t really know what’s going on. Just take it one day at a time.”

Jennings isn’t the only player expressing dissatisfaction beyond anonymous leaks.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Rose and Hornacek yelled at each other after Rose – who called on Hornacek to coach defense harder – got beat by Dennis Schroder on this play:

Berman reports Kyle O'Quinn also glared at Hornacek after being subbed out during the Knicks’ loss to the Hawks.

After the game, Courtney Lee – whom Hornacek removed the starting lineup – posted and deleted photos of Dumb & Dumber on Instagram. Lee then followed with this caption:

I posted a pic of dumb n dumber cuz that was my mood, no jab at no1. It’s dumb that we have a talented team and we’re in position to win games n keep losing by 1 possession. We’ll figure it out collectively as a team but that was my mood after the game. Has nothing to with any change, rotation, system, players, coaches, so let that be clear.

Are we reading too much into vague social media postings and distant body language? That is a real risk.

But Hornacek still appears to have issues with these Knicks. The debate should be a matter of the depth of the problems, not whether they exist.

This is what happens when teams lose 11 of 13. Players get frustrated and grumble.

The coach also often adjusts the rotation, which Hornacek has done, including starting Ron Baker. Jennings and co. haven’t earned stability in their roles. When they had that, they were losing.

The question now: Can Hornacek reclaim the players’ trust, which would help the team break its skid? Or does the griping – and, partially as a result, the losing – continue in a season-destroying snowball?

PBT Extra: Carmelo Anthony/Phil Jackson rift just adds to Knicks stagnation

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Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson had a chilly talk, and Anthony told Jackson the star forward wants to stay in New York. Which, based on the mind games we’re seeing, is not what Jackson wants — although you get the feeling Jackson wants to move Anthony to bring in more stop-gap, win now pieces rather than try to build a future around Kristaps Porzingis.

Which all speaks to why the Knicks have made the playoffs just three times in 13 years. What is the Knicks long-term plan?

I discuss it all in this latest PBT Extra. Well, except the long-term plan because nobody knows what that is.