Baseline-to-baseline recaps: Knicks wrap up two seed in the East, Lakers stay in playoff hunt with win over Spurs

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while planning for your digital afterlife

Heat 105, Bulls 93: The outcome of this game was no surprise, but the fact that the Bulls put up a fight after falling behind big in the second quarter showed why they’ll be a tough out in the postseason. We broke this one down in greater detail here.

Mavericks 107, Hornets 89: Dirk Nowitzki got to break out the razor. Same with O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and the rest of the Mavericks who were growing .500 beards and got to shave them when the Mavericks finally reached the threshold with this win. Well, Kaman may keep his because he is Chris Kaman.

Dallas led this one almost from the start behind 21 from Shawn Marion and 19 from Nowitzki. With one of his second quarter jump shots, Nowitzki became only the 17th player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points in his career. — Kurt Helin

Lakers 91, Spurs 86: It wasn’t pretty — the winning team shot 36.5 percent — but the Lakers played with a playoff desperation and the Spurs floated through the game and the result was a Lakers win. One Los Angeles needed — its magic number to make the playoffs is one (Utah has to beat Minnesota and Memphis on the road to force the Lakers to beat Houston on Wednesday).

The Lakers got an aggressive Dwight Howard early that demanded the ball in the post and finished with 26 points and 17 boards. They had other guys like Steve Blake (23 points) step up as well. We broke it all down in more detail here. — Kurt Helin

Rockets 121, Kings 100: We are now a step closer to the Denver/Houston first-round series I am pulling for (because not everybody should play slow-it-down, grind-it-out basketball in the postseason). Houston is now in the six seed spot, tied with Golden State but the Rockets have the tiebreaker. They control their own destiny with two games to play (beat the Suns and Lakers, both on the road, and they are the six seed). And they want the six seed — Denver is not easy but it’s no San Antonio.

Houston won this game going away, a 14-0 run late in the second (Kings didn’t score the final three minutes of the half) put them in control and the second half was a laugher.  — Kurt Helin

76ers 91, Cavaliers 77: Kyrie Irving scored a career-low four points, but as poorly as he played, he wasn’t that far behind Dorell Wright, who scored a game-high 15 points. Both teams – already eliminated from the playoff race – combined to shoot 40 percent from the field and 63 percent from the free-throw line. — Dan Feldman

Nuggets 118, Trail Blazers 109: Kenneth Faried left the game with an ankle injury, casting a dark light on Denver’s franchise-record 55th win. On the bright side, Andre Iguodala had an awesome game – 28 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks – and Evan Fournier comfortably bested his career high with 24 points. The Nuggets now have a full game lead for the No. 3 seed, which would mean avoiding the Clippers and Grizzlies in the first round.

Damian Lillard had 30 points and six assists, which should help seal his Rookie of the Year win, especially if voters overlook his eight turnovers. — Dan Feldman

Knicks 90, Pacers 80: Carmelo Anthony scored “just” 25 points – his fewest in eight games – but that was still enough for New York to secure the No. 2 seed and homecourt advantage through the second round. If seeds hold in the first round, the Knicks would then play the Pacers, who are now assured of the No. 3 seed.

The Knicks have won 14 of 15, and with a season-high 26 turnovers, the Pacers have lost four of five. — Dan Feldman

Raptors 93, Nets 87: Despite 30 points and seven assists from Deron Williams, Joe Johnson helped Brooklyn secure the No. 4 seed with his 4-of-16 shooting. The Nets will host either the Hawks or Bulls in a first-round series.

DeMar DeRozan (36) and Rudy Gay (26) each scored more than 20 points in the same game for the seventh time. — Dan Feldman

Sixers’ Robert Covington to miss at least one game after crashing into stands

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NBA fans love hustle from their players, but sometimes things go awry.

That’s what happened on Saturday night after Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington dove into the stands to try to save a loose ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The play came in the fourth quarter with under two minutes left and the Sixers down by just one point. Covington leapt into the far sideline just near the Cavaliers bench. He appeared to turn his ankle and land awkwardly on his back. The Cleveland floor has a small lip after the first row of seats that may have played a part in the injury.

Cleveland would go on to score on the play, and Covington had to be helped off the floor. The Cavaliers went on to win, 105-98.

Meanwhile, the 76ers will play Sunday in New Orleans against the Pelicans. According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, Covington will miss the game with a lower back contusion.

Via NBCSN Philadelphia:

X-rays and a CT scan came back negative. Covington is with the team in New Orleans and is doubtful for Tuesday’s game in Minnesota.

Covington tumbled out of bounds and over courtside seats while he tried to save a possession during a Sixers comeback attempt. There is an approximate four-to-five inch drop between the court and the area where Covington landed. Many of his teammates were unaware of Covington’s injury at first because it was out of their vision.

“It’s scary to see your teammate like that,” guard JJ Redick said. “They said he fell on his back. I wanted to make sure he’s walking and not in too much pain. But I just wish the best for him and hope he’s OK.”

Back injuries can be a complete hassle to recover from, especially when you’re deep in the middle of the season. Let’s hope the Sixers get Covington back soon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunked all over Rudy Gobert (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks a lot. The Milwaukee Bucks forward is big, strong, and aggressive when it comes to attacking the rim.

But he doesn’t typically dunk this hard or this emphatically over perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidates like Rudy Gobert.

That’s what made this one special.

As time was winding down in Milwaukee’s eventual 117-100 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, Antetokounmpo put the exclamation point at the end of the sentence for the Bucks.

Gobert took the brunt of it. Via Twitter:

Goodness.

Gordon Hayward on playing this season: “It’s definitely in the back of my mind”

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Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has been going through some grueling physical therapy to aid his recovery from a horrible leg injury he suffered during his first game with the team back in October. Hayward wound up breaking his ankle, likely putting him out for the season.

Meanwhile, whether Hayward plays or not during the 2017-18 campaign is still up for debate. Hayward is making progress in his recovery — he recently was able to take his walking boot off and go for a smaller ankle brace.

For his part, Hayward has said that he is still thinking about the possibility of returning this season to the Celtics, who have earned themselves the top spot in the Eastern Conference in his absence.

Speaking to Adam Himmelsbach over at the Boston Globe, Hayward detailed not only his recovery routine but his thinking when it came to planning his return.

Via The Boston Globe:

“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Hayward said. “I’m definitely pushing to get back as fast as I can, while making sure that I still have a lot of good years of basketball in me. And coming back early and hurting something else is not part of that plan. So I’m making sure that if I come back, I’m 1,000 percent confident in myself and my leg. I hope more than anything I can play this season. That would be awesome. But that’s not something I’m stressing about. I’m stressing about what I can do today to help myself get better.”

That’s smart thinking on Hayward’s part. Too often it seems like guys are jonesing to come back, and when they do it’s cause for concern that they’re damaging their long-term playing health.

Hayward is making some real progress — the Globe story details him doing tasks like picking up marbles with his toes and shooting baskets from a chair as part of his PT — but whether he’ll be ready this season is doubtful.

It doesn’t sound like Hayward wants to rush things, but you never know. His agent did say that his return this year is unlikely, but another report has said that his earliest return would be March. Just in time to make a run for an Eastern Conference Finals showdown against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers?

We’ll have to wait and see.

EDIT: Shortly after this story and the Boston Globe one was published on Sunday morning, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the team isn’t planning for Hayward to come back. The plot thickens!

Kobe Bryant’s advice to Lonzo Ball, young Lakers: “push, push, push, get better now”

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Kobe Bryant was never a patient man.

Veteran Lakers of that era tell stories of Kobe entering Lakers practices at age 18 and wanting to take on the older players in games of one-on-one after practice, and trying to dominate them. He wanted to establish his credentials early and never backed off. He pushed himself, his teammates, everyone around him, and that was part of his success.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that in an interview on the Lakers’ cable channel in Los Angeles, Spectrum SportsNet, Kobe’s advice to Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and the rest of the young Lakers was to push themselves. Hard. (Hat tip Bleacher Report.)

“We never thought, ‘OK, we’re gonna win four years from now.’ We really thought, ‘This is our year. We’re gonna get this done. We’re gonna push, push, push, push, push, get better now.’ And in the process of having that kind of impatience, you develop. If you’re just patiently going about it, you’ll never get there. For players, it’s a kind of patient impatience.”

Kobe entered the league in a very different situation, an NBA team that had Shaquille O’Neal at his peak in the post, quality veteran role players around him, a team that was nearly ready to contend. Still, it took them four years — and a lot of pushing and maturing from Kobe — to win a title.

However, Kobe would never look at it that way. He would want to push hard and push through. And that’s what he’s telling the young Lakers now.

The Lakers are taking little steps forward — Brandon Ingram’s confidence and game are turning a corner and he is impressing of late, Lonzo Ball’s decision making is getting better (the game seems to be slowing down for him a little), and Kyle Kuzma has been one of the league’s best rookies this season. But there is a long way to go. Kobe knows that, and is telling them to not let up. Which is what you’d expect him to say and what fans want.

But those fans need to be patient, too. This is a process in Los Angeles, and a long one.