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

Chris Paul’s game-winning miss helps Rockets end Blazers’ 13-game streak

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Tuesday night at Moda Center was electric. It was a game of switches, both between opposing big men on the pick-and-roll and as the lead batted between the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers.

It was all we could have asked for between two of the best teams in the NBA.

The Blazers were aided by a hot start from Al-Farouq Aminu from beyond the arc. The defensive stalwart hit four threes in the first quarter alone for Portland as the Blazers took a four point lead into the second period. Houston, accustomed to playing in Rip City when their arena is at its loudest, wasn’t phased by the atmosphere.

James Harden went off — he finished with 42 points and seven assists — and looked unstoppable. At one point, after nailing a 3-pointer in the first half, Harden turned around and gave the Portland sideline a look. The leading MVP candidate was there to play, and the rain of boos that came down from the 300 level at the Moda only fueled his fire.

On the other side of the court, Portland’s star point guard seemed just off of center. Perhaps it was anticipating the soon-to-be birth of his child or just the stress that comes with upholding a 13-game winning streak, but Damian Lillard‘s aim was poor and he wasn’t as large a factor as he’s been all winter. In fact, both Lillard and C.J. McCollum were quiet on the night. McCollum, the other half of the second-highest scoring duo since the All-Star Break, had just eight points on a night where he shot 4-of-15 from the field.

But the story of these two teams, and why they remain top playoff contenders, is their defense. That showed all night, with the margin between the two staying razor thin until the final seconds. The Blazers’ strategy was to force switches, often getting Moe Harkless, Jusuf Nurkic, or Evan Turner on smaller Rockets players while hoping to either attack the basket or swing the ball after the Rockets’ excellent help defense reacted.

Houston countered brilliantly, often guarding Nurkic with either Luc Mbah a Moute or PJ Tucker as they forced the issue of small ball on Portland. Much of the game rode on the offensive decision-making from Blazers in the post or the ability of the Rockets guards to burn past the likes of Nurkic and Ed Davis off the switch.

Chris Paul was the other factor for Houston — no shock as he loves going against Lillard — especially from beyond the 3-point line. Five of Paul’s six made field goals were from beyond the arc, and he dismantled slower Portland defenders as he snaked, shaked, and flailed his way around pick-and-rolls.

Despite the close play, Houston appeared to have struck a defiant blow when Harden hit a step-back 3-pointer with 1:55 to go, giving the Rockets a nine-point lead. But Portland rallied, with Lillard quickly drawing a three-shot foul to push the Blazers closer. Portland scored twice more in quick succession, and they were once again within striking distance for the win.

The game came down to a final Houston possession with five seconds left as Paul missed long on a floater in the middle of the lane. Miraculously, the ball hit off the back of the iron, out of reach of any Blazers rebounder (although a crafty hold by Paul on Aminu certainly helped).

Houston recovered the rebound, and closed against a heated rival.

Meanwhile the story for both teams at the end of the game was clear: both are for real.

The Rockets, leaders of the West even before the Golden State Warriors were bitten by the injury bug, showed they could come into a hostile environment against a team that badly wanted to win in Portland. Houston’s resolve was clear; while the Blazers never looked unfocused, the Rockets did feel like the senior team and the leadership from Harden and Paul was a preview for what we should expect come playoff time. That’s big, especially when you consider Paul’s playoff demons and the hovering expectation that the Warriors are somehow going to come charging back and blow everyone out come spring.

For the Blazers, the sadness of the 13-game streak will linger but for a moment. Portland, who was essentially a .500 team until Christmas, looked like they were ready for the big moment. Many of the Blazers’ players, including Nurkic, Aminu, and Harkless, have struggled with inconsistency all season long. But as they took on the Rockets, all three were the ones keeping Portland in it when Lillard and McCollum struggled. I had my doubts about the Blazers perhaps longer than most, but even in defeat Portland’s showing against Houston makes them look like a solid favorite in any first round playoff series they draw, and not just because of seeding.

Houston beat the Blazers, 115-111.

Let’s do this again sometime soon. Say, in mid-May?

It’ll make sense when you watch it: Steven Adams uses Al Horford to scratch his head

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Look, Steven Adams is a weird guy. He’s always answering questions with weird, unrelated scientific terms or calling former teammates “dicks” with a smirk on his face. Adams has a subtle and fun personality.

This? This isn’t so subtle.

As the Boston Celtics took on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, it was time for a regular old free throw. The kind that happens all the time during NBA games. But Adams, apparently bored with how they usually go, wanted to mix up his routine on the lane line for this one.

That’s when he apparently decided to use Al Horford‘s right forearm as a means to scratch his own head.

Just … just watch the video:


I don’t know either.

Meanwhile, Marcus Morris beat the Thunder with 1.8 seconds to go. Oof.

Marcus Morris hits game-winning shot to send Celtics over Thunder (VIDEO)

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On a night without Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics still found a way to grind out a win.

As the rising Oklahoma City Thunder came to Massachusetts, a slow-scoring game evolved as a game of the NBA’s best defenses came together. Still, the Thunder were in the lead and looked to be on their way to their 44th win of the season.

But despite having a six-point lead with 24 seconds left, Oklahoma City choked an important game away late down the stretch.

It started with Jayson Tatum hitting a quick bucket with 17.6 seconds to go. Russell Westbrook was fouled, but missed one of his two free throws. That set the stage for Terry Rozier to hit a 3-pointer with 12.7 seconds left.

Then, astonishingly, Carmelo Anthony missed two straight free throws.

That’s when Marcus Morris stepped in:

Oof. You don’t expect Oklahoma City to come out flat like that against a depleted Celtics squad, and you certainly wouldn’t think they could clunk away the victory from the free-throw line.

It was a gutsy win for Boston and one of the worst losses of the season for the Thunder since the righted the ship around Christmas.

Royce White critical of how Rockets handled his mental health situation


Royce White had an NBA story that was up-and-down, and complex. White, drafted by the Houston Rockets 16th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, has a well-documented anxiety condition that disallowed him from flying with the team to games.

Things didn’t work out in Houston, and the last time White was in the NBA was during the 2013-14 season. He played a total of nine minutes in three games for the Sacramento Kings, and then White’s career was over.

Now, with the sudden influx of players making public their owns struggles with mental healthDeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love most recently — White has suddenly been thrust back into the conversation. While Ron Artest might be one of the first players of the modern era to openly speak about mental health, White is the go-to guy for comparative statements these days.

And, what White has to say isn’t all that great for the NBA or the Houston Rockets.

Speaking to Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Devine, White said recently that he doesn’t believe the NBA truly cares about mental health just yet. Even further, White said he felt the Rockets and GM Daryl Morey were trying to guard themselves from a liability standpoint when the player and the team negotiated a deal to try to make things work with the Rockets.

Via Yahoo! Sports:

White says that Rockets personnel told him in 2012 that establishing a comprehensive written plan for managing his anxiety disorder would be “impossible,” because doing so would set a precedent “for any league-wide issue regarding mental health.” He says that, after negotiating with the Rockets and the NBA over allowing White to take a bus to certain games to reduce the number of flights he’d have to take in a season — a compromise he was told the league initially rejected because it would constitute an illegal circumvention of the salary cap — Houston deactivated him for the first preseason game he took a bus to, as a punishment for pressing the issue.

White says that, in a later meeting in which he and a team of medical professionals planned to present a draft of a mental health policy to be added to his contract, Houston general manager Daryl Morey said he didn’t know that White suffered from generalized anxiety disorder before drafting him.

It also made him feel like the Rockets might be trying to set up a way to void his guaranteed contract if he didn’t comply with their requirements.

“[Morey] was in a mode where he thought that he could bully me,” White said.

According to Devine, White also says he doesn’t think the most recent stories of mental health awareness will be the triggering factor in a new wave for the league. “White expressed skepticism that revelations by DeRozan, Kevin Love, Kelly Oubre and others would really lead to a sea change in the way the NBA addresses issues of mental health,” wrote Devine.