MLK Day NBA: Live updates, highlights and recaps

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The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is one traditionally well-celebrated in the NBA. Today features a 10-game slate, and we’ll provide live updates, highlights and recaps here as the day goes on.

1:15 a.m. ET Tuesday: Pacers 102, Warriors 94 (FINAL): The second half of this game felt like a playoff game, down to the fired up crowd (got to love the people at Oracle) and the referees letting them play. The problem for Golden State was they were never able to dig out of the first quarter hole — behind Paul George’s 14 that quarter (23 for the game) the Pacers shot 64 percent for the quarter and led by 14 when it was done. Against a team that defends like the Pacers, that’s a huge hole. Indiana did a great job of chasing Stephen Curry off the three-point line — he was 3-of-11 from deep and that includes George Hill doing a great job on him late in the game. Indiana has won five in a row and looks every bit the team Miami should fear. Golden State got a taste of what it’s going to take to contend.

12:31 a.m. ET Tuesday: Pacers-Warriors: Golden State knocked down a few threes, Stephen Curry woke up the Bay Area crowd, combine that with a 9-of-23 shooting streak from the Pacers and we have a game. Golden State is just up by 8 entering the fourth quarter — this is going to be a ball game. The referees are letting them play, letting it get physical, and we will see how Golden State handles that.

\11:20 p.m. ET: Pacers-Warriors: Golden State is never out of a game with their ability to make a run with the three ball, but they are going to have to do it over the contested arms of Indiana Pacers’ defenders and it is not going well for them so far tonight. Indiana is up 16 and shooting 52 percent on the game. If you let Indiana shoot better than 5o percent and just try to outscore them against that defense, you lose. Stephen Curry started the game 2-of-7 from the floor.

10:52 p.m. ET: Bulls 102, Lakers 100 (OT FINAL): Two teams that have had their seasons derailed by injuries played an entertaining and competitive game that required overtime to be decided. The Bulls probably should have won in regulation, but thanks no doubt to the league publicly reprimanding officials after non-calls with games on the line, Joakim Noah was whistled for a foul on Nick Young with four seconds remaining that sent Young to the line for three free throw attempts to tie it. Near the end of the overtime session, Young once again came through with a baseline jumper that tied it, and the Lakers were just 0.9 seconds away from heading to a second overtime period. But they couldn’t defend a simple baseline out of bounds play, and Manny Harris (recently signed from the D-League) horribly misplayed Taj Gibson, who sealed Harris and was able to get free for the game-winning layup as time expired.

10:43 p.m. ET: Rockets 126, Trail Blazers 113 (FINAL): Portland’s leaky defense finally faced a flood not even its league-best offense could offset. Led by LaMarcus Aldridge (27 points and 20 rebounds), the Trail Blazers scored enough to win most nights. They just couldn’t stop the Rockets. Portland hasn’t allowed so many points in a game since 2007, and that’s why its win streak is over at five games. It’s no secret the Trail Blazers defense has been lacking. Of the NBA’s top eight teams – the group commonly accepted as true title contenders – only Portland (20th) ranks outside the top 11 in points allowed per possession. The Rockets, led tonight by Chandler Parsons (31 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists), boast one of the NBA’s top offenses. But if the Trail Blazers want to win a playoff series or two in this stacked Western Conference, they must defend better. That starts on the defensive glass, where no Portland player besides Aldridge grabbed more than two defensive rebounds. Better contesting shots on the perimeter – Houston made 16-of-33 3-pointers (48.5 percent) – would be a good second step. — Dan Feldman

9:21 p.m. ET: Rockets – Blazers: One of the day’s best matchups record-wise has turned into a laugher at halftime. The Rockets have hung 71 points on the Blazers through the game’s first 24 minutes and lead by 15 at the Break. Chandler Parsons leads all scorers with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, Dwight Howard has 15 points and seven rebounds, and Omri Casspi has 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 16 minutes off the bench. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the way for Portland with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but unless the Blazers can find a way to get some stops it’s not going to matter. It’s worth noting that Houston put together a similar first half performance against the Thunder the other night, before crashing to a record-low performance in the second.

9:12 p.m. ET: Lakers – Bulls: Thanks to 17 first half points from Nick Young, the Lakers lead 52-49 at intermission. Joakim Noah has 11 points and 10 rebounds at halftime for the Bulls, but everyone else on Chicago’s side is shooting an extremely low percentage, which led to L.A. erasing all of an early eight-point Bulls lead.

8:13 p.m. ET: Hawks 121, Heat 114 (FINAL): Though LeBron James had 30 points and six assists, Miami has lost four of six. Monday, defense was the main culprit. The Heat’s defense, still above average, has been at its worst since the Big Three came together. The 121 points allowed to Atlanta, which were led by Paul Millsap’s 26, weren’t even the most Miami has allowed this season. The Heat yielded 123 points to the Warriors earlier this month. I certainly expect Miami to get it together by the playoffs, but a chance at home-court advantage in the East is slipping away. The Heat now trail the Pacers by four games, and though that doesn’t seem insurmountable, Indiana is on pace to lose fewer than eight more games the rest of the season. – Dan Feldman

The Heat may have lost, but had at least one possession that was textbook as far as their defense leading to easy points in transition.

7:50 p.m. ET: Pelicans 95, Grizzlies 92 (FINAL): Anthony Davis had 27 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and four blocks – becoming the youngest player by nearly two years to hit those totals since at least 1985. He shot 2-for-11 in the first half, but he still made a noticeable defensive impact. In the second half, he got it going on offense, shooting 7-for-11, and his defense didn’t slip. He’s growing into a superstar right in front of our eyes, helping New Orleans end its nine-game losing streak and snap Memphis’ five-game winning streak. – Dan Feldman

6:19 p.m. ET: Nets 103, Knicks 80 (FINAL): The Nets improved to 7-1 in 2014 with an easy win over a Knicks team that didn’t look like it belonged on the same court for much of the afternoon. It was essentially over at halftime, when Joe Johnson had already scored 20 points and Brooklyn showcased what has become its signature  during this recent successful stretch — exceptional ball movement and solid team defense. It could have been a bigger margin, too, considering the Nets were just 3-of-10 shooting corner threes, and almost all of the attempts were wide-open looks.

Deron Williams returned after a five-game injury-forced absence, and finished with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting, to go along with three assists in 27 minutes of action off the bench. Williams said afterward that the reserve role was his idea, and that he didn’t want to disrupt the team’s solid starting lineup.

The last time these two teams met, New York crushed an injury-ravaged Nets team in Brooklyn back in early December. Today, it was the Nets’ turn to bring the destruction.

“Simple payback,” Andray Blatche said afterward. “They came into our place and embarrassed us, and we wanted to come back and return the favor.”

4:42 p.m. ET: Wizards 107, 76ers 99 (FINAL): This wasn’t Washington’s most-polished performance, but its centers – Marcin Gortat (19 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks) and Kevin Seraphin (16 points, seven rebounds and a block) – dominated in a combined 46 minutes. Sometimes, out-muscling an opponent is enough. Both teams will probably take this result. The Wizards boost their playoff position, and Philadelphia continues tanking. Plus, Michael Carter-Williams (31 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals) bolstered his Rookie of the Year case. — Dan Feldman

4:38 p.m. ET: Clippers 112, Pistons 103 (FINAL): DeAndre Jordan dunked four times in the game’s opening minutes, kick-starting a riveting matchup – between Jordan and Blake Griffin for who could dunk most. Jordan held onto his early lead, besting Griffin seven to five. Los Angeles led by 20 before the Pistons made a late comeback, but this one was all about the Clippers. Whether it was Griffin’s 25 points, Jordan’s 21 rebounds or Jamal Crawford’s 26 points on 13 shots off the bench, Los Angeles had all sorts of contributions that masked the absence of Chris Paul. — Dan Feldman

4:34 p.m. ET: Heat – Hawks: Dwyane Wade told reporters he will not play in today’s game in Atlanta, which isn’t really a surprise with Miami playing a back-to-back in Boston the very next night. The Heat have been cautious with Wade all season long in terms of back-to-back sets, and Erik Spoelstra has said more than once that Wade will be essentially a game-time decision for the remainder of the regular season.

4:26 p.m. ET: Bobcats 100, Raptors 95 (FINAL): This score would have been a bit of a surprise anyway, considering that the Raptors had largely been playing much better and the Bobcats even with the win are still seven games under .500 on the season. But it’s even more of a shock considering that Toronto no-showed for the early part of this one, and trailed by as many as 30 before staging a furious comeback that fell just short.

Kyle Lowry was the one who sparked the Raptors, scoring 14 fourth quarter points and having a chance to tie it at the free throw line with under 25 seconds remaining. He missed the chance to complete the three-point play, however, and the Bobcats finished the game by hitting seven free throws to seal it. Ramon Sessions finished with 23 points on just 10 shots for Charlotte, and Al Jefferson had a monster game with 22 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots.

4:18 p.m. ET: Wizards – Sixers: Here’s Jan Vesely with a violent rejection of a shot attempt from Michael Carter-Williams. Wizards cruising late, however, up 100-88 with 3:51 to play.

3:58 p.m. ET: Nets – Knicks: Brooklyn leads 52-38 at the half, behind 20 points from Joe Johnson, who has been killing teams early over his last several games. The key for the Nets has been ball movement, which has created wide open looks that the team has been able to convert at a clip of 51.2 percent. Carmelo Anthony is leading the way for New York with 15 points, but the Knicks as a team are shooting just 33.3 percent and have committed 11 first-half turnovers.

3:40 p.m. ET: Mavericks 102, Cavaliers 97 (FINAL): This was a game that Dallas led by as many as 24 points, but the Cavaliers managed to come all the way back to have a chance to tie with 2.8 seconds remaining. But Mike Brown isn’t exactly known for his ability to draw up anything remotely competent offensively, and the Cavs couldn’t even inbound the ball to get the tying shot off, and were whistled for the rare five-second call that sealed it.

Kyrie Irving finished with 26 points (albeit on 27 shots), and Anderson Varejao ended up with a game-high 21 rebounds in the losing effort. Monta Ellis had nine points in the final period for Dallas, but missed two critical free throws that gave Cleveland the final opportunity to tie, which was ultimately squandered.

3:14 p.m. ET: Clippers – Pistons: L.A. is firmly in control, leading 103-85 with 6:52 to play. We told you earlier about the dunking of DeAndre Jordan, and apparently the trend continued as the game went on. [Hat tip to our friends at Basketball Insiders]

3:06 p.m. ET: Wizards – Sixers: Michael Carter-Williams is feasting for Philly, even as the Wizards maintain a 57-47 lead with 1:45 to play in the first half.

3:01 p.m. ET: Knicks – Nets: Brooklyn got Deron Williams back after a five-game absence, but went with its same starting lineup and brought him off the bench. The Knicks started small (much to their fans’ delight) with Pablo Prigioni similarly returning today from injury. Joe Johnson has been lighting teams up in first quarters lately, and today has been no different — he has 10 points early, and the Nets lead the Knicks 21-12 with 3:24 remaining in the opening period.

Shaun Livingston had a nice block that led to a transition slam in the game’s opening minutes.

2:52 p.m. ET: Raptors – Bobcats: Toronto was coming off of a disappointing home loss to the Lakers on Sunday, and were looking to bounce back against a Bobcats team that just lost Kemba Walker for the next two weeks or so with a sprained ankle. So, naturally, Charlotte is up by 18 with 4:39 to play in the first half. Al Jefferson has 12 points early for the Bobcats.

Wizards – Sixers: Washington is up nine on the Sixers early in the second quarter, behind 10 points from John Wall, and seven apiece from trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat, and Bradley Beal.

2:04 p.m. ET: Here’s the league’s Dream Big spot to get us started, featuring Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat.

Jordan Brand has specially-designed kicks that their athletes (including Blake Griffin and Ray Allen) will be wearing to celebrate the holiday, as well as Black History Month which begins in February.

source:

Mavericks – Cavaliers: Dallas is all over Cleveland late in the second quarter, leading 51-33 with 2:27 to play in the first half. Shawn Marion has 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting to lead the way for the Mavs, while the Cavaliers are shooting just 34.3 percent.

Clippers – Pistons: The Clippers are also up double-digits midway through the second, thanks to shooting almost 68 percent as a team behind a combined 15-of-18 shooting from Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Jamal Crawford. It’s 51-41 L.A. with 4:16 remaining in the first half. It’s been a bit of a dunk-fest early, which included this reverse finish from Jordan on an alley-oop pass from beyond half-court.

Thunder star Russell Westbrook scores 45, leads 25-point comeback against Jazz

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The Thunder lost three straight games, fell behind by 25 in the second half at home and looked as if they had no interest in returning to Utah.

Then, Russell Westbrook reminded everyone why he’s a superstar.

Westbrook is a singular force who can take over a game and rally his teammates – not a liability who makes everyone around him worse. His confidence and determination in the face of calamity were invaluable tonight. He kept attacking, and as shots started to fall, he and his teammates massively increased their defensive intensity.

The result: A 107-99 Game 5 win over the Jazz that looked highly improbable 21 game minutes before it ended. But Westbrook (who finished with 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists) singlehandedly outscored Utah in that final stretch.

The Thunder are hardly out of the woods yet. They still trail 3-2 in the series with Game 6 Friday in Utah. Teams with home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6 win it just 37% of the time. Those teams win the series just 26% of the time.

But thanks to Westbrook, Paul George (34 points) and plain all-around defensive effort, Oklahoma City still has a shot. At minimum, the Thunder won’t send George into unrestricted free agency with four straight losses.

Not that Oklahoma City erased all concerns.

Rudy Gobert devoured the Thunder’s offense in the paint – at least while he could avoid the foul trouble. Utah was +7 in Gobert’s 30 minutes and -8 in the 18 minutes he sat.

The Thunder made most of their comeback with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. They continued to play well once he returned in the fourth quarter, but by then, the Jazz had lost all rhythm.

Utah – led by Jae Crowder‘s 27 points – looks deeper. Anthony was still Oklahoma City’s third-leading scorer with just seven points.

And the Thunder haven’t won in Salt Lake City this series.

But they’ll make another trip there. Considering where this game and series looked midway through the third quarter tonight, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Another massive third quarter lifts Rockets past Timberwolves into second round

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We saw this movie just a couple of nights before, but Rockets fans love the ending and would gladly pay to see it 12 more times this postseason.

Much like Game 4, the Rockets were down at the half in Game 5 Wednesday after having played disinterested defense and with cold shooting from their stars (James Harden and Chris Paul combined to go 3-of-16 from the floor). Minnesota was up 59-55 and had hope.

Then the third quarter the Rockets flipped the switch. Again.

Harden had 15 points in the third — matching the Timberwolves as a team. Minnesota started to double Harden and take the ball out of his hands (especially late in the shot clock), but he often moved the rock and it led to open threes — the Rockets were 6-of-10 from three in the quarter. Houston won the third 30-15, not as overwhelming as the 50-point quarter the game before but once again enough to comfortably pull away from Minnesota and cruise in for a 122-104 win.

With that, the Rockets win the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Utah vs. Oklahoma City series.

In that series, the Rockets will need to play with more consistent focus than they brought against the Timberwolves — they can’t just play a couple of good halves in the next series and expect that to be enough. Unlike Minnesota, those teams in the next round will make Houston pay a steep price for a lack of focus.

Houston got a massive night from Clint Capela, who led the Rockets with 26 points and 15 rebounds, running the rim hard in transition and making plays inside while the rest of the Rockets launched threes over the top.

Harden finished with 24 points and 12 assists, and Eric Gordon had 19 off the bench in the win.

Minnesota had 23 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and 17 from an energized Jeff Teague.

For the Timberwolves, a team with elite young talent, this was a glimpse of what it will take to reach the heights they envision. This was a good step — the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 2004 is not to be diminished. It matters. But there are higher levels this team can attain. Defensively they have to be better, offensively they need to feed Towns more and play to their strengths better. It’s a work in progress.

Houston just showed them where they want to be.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.