Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Spurs are legit

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What you missed while freaking out that there are flying snakes

The Clippers with the upset of the Hornets is our Game of the Night

Spurs 106, Magic 97: The Spurs are legit. Not sure they can beat the Lakers in the playoffs, but if that’s the standard then no other team in the NBA may be legit. But the Spurs — if they can stay healthy — look like the one team in the West that can push LA. San Antonio racked up an 11-1 record against one of the softer schedules in the league, but Monday they faced off against Orlando and knocked off the Magic. And looked good doing it.

The Spurs got fantastic guard play — Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 49 points on 53 percent shooting, 5-9 from three and they had 19 assists. It was a counter to the Magic, who early on tried to establish Dwight Howard inside — and if you think he has one move you need to watch him again. He has developed some shots. He’s not Hakeem, but there are some different shots and he used them on Tim Duncan. Howard finished with 26 points and 18 boards.

But in crunch time the Spurs were making the plays. —Parker, Ginobili and Richard Jefferson all had key late threes. And just before that, Matt Bonner hit a shot from roughly El Paso. Then at the game’s key moment Ginobili shocked the world by going to his right got the and-one. Meanwhile the Magic were turning it over. The Spurs are back, baby

Pacer 93, Heat 77: If the Miami Heat played with the pace and off-the-ball player movement in the halfcourt offense that the Indiana Pacers have, they would be far more dangerous.

The Heat looked terrible in this one. Dwyane Wade was a surprise starter returning from injuring his non- shooting hand but he did not look right — he was 1 of 13 from the field for three points. The Heat offense was all isolation and looked listless. The defensive rotations were, frankly, pathetic.

The Heat had 4 points off the bench — all from Jamaal Magloire, who could be cut tomorrow to make way for Erick Dampier. The Heat were 4-20 from three. Credit the Pacers for playing some good defense and taking advantage of all the miscues. But the Heat are making a lot of miscues.

Celtics 99, Hawks 76: The first quarter was as good as the Celtics can play. The Hawks were flat, but the Celtics intimidating intensity was part of that. The Celtics shot 72 percent, their defense pressured the ball on the strong side (as they long have done) and contested every shot, it overwhelmed the Hawks — 39-13 overwhelmed. The Hawks settled in and played better as the game went on, but this one was over early. Really solid game for Shaq, he was too much for the Hawks inside from the start.

After the game, the Hawks closed their locker room to the media. They needed a team meeting after that ugly performance.

Thunder 117, Timberwolves 107: Don’t tell anyone, but Darko Milicic played really well down the stretch in this one. And Kevin Love had 24-17. Still wasn’t enough because the Thunder are just the vastly better team.

Suns 123, Rockets 116: Steve Nash was back and the Suns looked like the Suns again — an offensive rating of 124.2 (points per 100 possessions).

The Rockets were 0-12 from three in the first half of this game. They didn’t stop shooting it and attack the rim more, they kept launching threes. On some level you should applaud their determination in the face of adversity. Then again, you could say the same thing about the Confederates at Gettysburg. They finished with 26 threes, recalling the Rudy T. era.

The Suns did what they wanted and went on a 11-0 second quarter run, pulled away and never looked back.

Jazz 94, Kings 83: What you expected out of this game is what you got. The Jazz are just the better squad.

Nuggets 106, Warriors 89: Denver was attacking, which means Carmelo Anthony is attacking. He was an impressively perfect 17-17 from the free throw line and finished with 39. Al Harington was 5-7 from three. Denver and the Warriors have similar records, but it was pretty clear who is the better team here.

Watch best of Klay Thompson’s nine threes, 35-point night

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Stephen Curry is a better shooter. Kevin Durant is a better scorer with a bigger toolbox.

But no Warrior can get as white-hot as Klay Thompson.

He did that on Saturday night helping the Warriors to a Game 6 win, getting his rhythm and becoming a scoring machine in the second half, finishing with 35 points including hitting 9-of-14 from three, and having six rebounds. He was just as important on the other end of the floor.

“I thought Klay was amazing tonight, not just for 35 points and the nine threes, but his defense,” Coach Steve Kerr said. “The guy’s a machine. He’s just so fit physically. He seems to thrive in these situations. But he was fantastic.”

Thompson will need to bring some of that Heat in Game 7 on the road if the Warriors are going to head back to the NBA Finals.

Backs against wall down 17, Warriors crank up defense, rain threes, force Game 7

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Warriors’ fans have been asking one question since the season tipped off in October:

What is it going to take to get Golden State to truly focus and play up to their potential?

Apparently, the answer is going down 17 to the Houston Rockets in a playoff elimination game.

Houston entered Oracle Saturday night playing smart and with energy, defending as they had the previous two games and then turning that into transition buckets and threes — eight of them in the first quarter. Houston was up 17 in the first and 10 at the half.

However, Golden State had started to defend better in the second quarter and they cranked up the intensity to the level fans had hoped to see in the second half — Houston scored 39 points in the first quarter and 47 combined in the final three. The Warriors were also forcing turnovers, 21.3 percent of Rockets possessions ended with a turnover (more than one in five trips down the court). Houston had 25 points in the second half and shot 2-of-9 from three in the third quarter.

At the same time, Klay Thompson led an onslaught of threes for Golden State (Thompson had 9 threes on the night). The Warriors defense turned into offense.

The result was a dramatic turnaround and a 115-86 Golden State win, tying the Western Conference Finals at 3-3.

Game 7 is in Houston Monday night. Winner advances to the NBA Finals.

“Effort. Intensity. Passion,” Thompson said of the Warriors’ second-half surge. “When we do that, and we rotate, and we help each other we’re the best defensive team in the league.”

While it was their defense that sparked everything, the Warriors also found an offense that worked against the Rockets’ switching defense — more Stephen Curry with the ball in his hands. There are a few ways to counter a switching defense and one is a creative ballhandler who can still make plays — not just isolation plays, but who can create a little space and find guys moving off the ball despite the pressure. Curry was that guy, he was the Warriors best all-around player on the night. He had a high IQ game and added 29 points. With the offense not running through Kevin Durant isolations, it just flowed better (the Warriors best lineup of the night was Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, and Nick Young, +13 in just more than eight minutes).

It just took a lot of pressure from a Rockets team to get Golden State into that mental frame of mind.

Houston opened this game with the same defensive energy they had the last two games, and once again it flustered the Golden State offense. Except, this time the Rockets did a much better job of turning those misses and turnovers into transition points (the Rockets averaged two points per possession on the break in the first half). Throw in some terrible defensive communication errors by the Warriors, and the Rockets were raining threes in the first half — 11-of-22, with Gordon going 4-of-4.

The Warriors had some success with an ultra-small lineup that unleashed Curry, but as soon as non-shooters were on the floor — Kevon Looney, Jordon Bell, and the Rockets were daring Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston to shoot — Houston shrunk the floor and took away passing lanes, plus contested every shot.

In the second half, the Warriors used that Curry energy and hit their threes to pull away. The Warriors were at their best with Bell as the fifth man with the four All-Stars, he brought an energy and athleticism that made things flow on both ends. Don’t be shocked if he starts Game 7 for Golden State.

If the Warriors pack up that second half energy with them and take it to Houston, there is not much the Rockets will be able to do. But do not expect these gritty, feisty Rockets to go quietly into that good night.

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

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The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

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Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.