In LeBron James vs. Brooklyn, LeBron wins. Heat now lead series 3-1

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It’s good to have LeBron James on your team.

He is the ultimate trump card. He can cover so many mistakes.

With the rest of his team playing unevenly, LeBron went into what he called “attack mode” and made Paul Pierce regret asking for the defensive assignment. LeBron hit 11-of-12 shots at the rim, knocked down 3-of-6 threes, scored 49 points on 24 shots and carried the Heat against a Nets team that was playing with desperation.

Then at the end LeBron got a little help from his friends — threes from Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers, free throws from Ray Allen — and Miami won Game 4 in Brooklyn, 102-96.

Miami now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out Wednesday night back home.

LeBron’s 49 tied his career high (he would have had 50 if he hadn’t missed a free throw with one second remaining in the game. LeBron had the kind of night where you chat with Jay Z and Beyonce, then throw down a dunk.

(I bet he didn’t ask Beyonce about her sister. But he should have.)

Brooklyn put up a fight, as you should expect from a proud veteran squad. Also as should have been expected they couldn’t knock down threes at the pace they did in Game 3, going just 5-of-22 from beyond the arc in Game 4. Still, they fought back from being down nine in the third quarter to take the lead and make this a game down the stretch. Joe Johnson had 18 points (despite a hand injury in the third quarter, and Pierce had 16 points to lead the Heat.

Deron Williams had another “meh” game — 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting with seven assists and six rebounds. It wasn’t a bad game, but it wasn’t what they needed from him.

Miami’s supporting cast was pretty bland as well. Dwyane Wade was up and down but had 15 points. Chris Bosh stood around and watched LeBron work then finished with a dozen and hit a big three late. Ray Allen had 11.

But mostly, it’s good to have LeBron James on your team.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.

Video Breakdown: Rockets launch Eric Gordon from 3-point range against Thunder in Game 4

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The Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 113-109, and now the series heads back to Texas with the Rockets in the lead, 3-1.

Houston and OKC played a weird game, with Nene scoring 28 points off the bench for the Rockets and serious mischief in the final moments. The end of the game included a purposely missed free throw by Steven Adams that allowed Russell Westbrook to grab a quick 3-pointer and a missed call when James Harden shoved Alex Abrines out of the way like an NFL tackle.

While the Rockets didn’t shoot a stellar percentage from 3-point range — just 31.5 percent — they still knocked down 11 buckets from deep. Part of that action was a play run for Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon that included a little semi-Pistol action, and a stagger screen that allowed Gordon to work his way free.

I picked this play to go over this week because it exemplifies just how committed to the 3-point shot the Rockets are. Plus, Gordon ran around three screens just to get this one bucket, which is always fun to see.

Watch the full video breakdown above.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.