Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where all good streaks must come to an end

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What you missed while… why weren’t you watching the Clippers beat the Heat? (That was our game of the night.)

Hornets 92, Magic 89 (OT): Orlando’s nine-game win streak ends because they shot just 39.1 percent in this one — not that they didn’t get good looks, they did. The shots just didn’t fall. That happens sometimes, you outplay the other team but can’t knock them down. The Magic have been hot shooting of late, so the off night shouldn’t come as a shock.

Pacers 102, Mavericks 89: Still no Dirk Nowitzki (that’s eight games missed), and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was desperate enough for an answer start Alexis Ajinca at the four. Turns out that wasn’t it (although it did move Shawn Marion to the three, where he will be starting for Caron Butler the rest of the season). The Mavs miss Dirk’s offense and ability to hit a contested two, but the real problem is they haven’t played well defensively lately. Paul George’s 16 off the bench were big for Indy.

Hawks 104, Raptors 101: The Hawks struggled the second half of this game with the Raptors zone defense. There are a couple basic ways to beat a zone – pound it inside or shoot over the top of it. With the game on the line, Mike Bibby went for the latter and hit the game-winning three. The Hawks were in it because Jamal Crawford hit 12-of-23 shots for 36 points.

In the irony file, Hawks center Etan Thomas didn’t travel with the Hawks to Toronto because he was snowed in at his Atlanta home.

Bobcats 96, Bulls 91: Charlotte’s starters raced out to a 17 point lead, but the second string came in and the depth of these two teams became clear. Well, that or the Bulls have developed a slow start pattern. Either way, this was tied up with six minutes to go and it looked like the Bulls had slowed the new, running Bobcats down (well, they did, just 89 possessions). But the Bobcats did a great job of hard doubles on Derrick Rose late, not letting him take over (same with Boozer). The Bobcats offense is unimpressive, but if Stephen Jackson is hitting hard, contested shots they will get points. Enough to win.

Celtics 119, Kings 95: Really fast pace in this one — 99 possessions — and it turns out the old guys can still run a little. Big difference in this one: Kings 2-13 from three, Celtics 12-20.

Grizzlies 107, Pistons 99: Detroit went with a new starting lineup tonight — Tracy McGrady, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Chris Wilcox and Greg Monroe — and it worked pretty well, the two starting lineups played each other about even. The Grizzlies bench destroyed the Pistons bench. That’s your ball game.

Spurs 91, Bucks 84: What a shock — the Bucks lost because their offense stinks. The Spurs played well and all, but you can stop the Bucks offense and that leads to wins. Not sure there is much else to say here.

Thunder 118, Rockets 112: This game was about what you’d expect — the Rockets make the Thunder really work for it, but in the end Houston had no answer for Kevin Durant (30 points) and Russell Westbrook (23).

Suns 118, Nets 109 (OT): Credit the Nets for playing hard despite all the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors, a lot of teams might have not brought the effort. Still, they had a 15-point lead early in the fourth and blew it. Steve Nash owned overtime, as he had 10 points and got most of those at the free throw line. Free throws in general were key for the Suns, who got to the line 20 more times than the Nets.

Lakers 115, Warriors 110: Along with Heat/Clippers, maybe the most entertaining game of the night. Monta Ellis had 38 points and was making plays that inspired Kobe Bryant to take over — and looking like vintage Kobe of five years ago — he hit shots and put up 39. It was quite a show those two put on, but Lamar Odom’s 16 fourth quarter points were key. The other key was the times — the spotty times, the Lakers were not consistent — they got the ball inside to whomever David Lee was guarding. The Lakers went right at him.

Jazz 131, Knicks 125: This is not the up-tempo game you normally expect the Jazz to play (96 possessions each team) but Utah shot 58.4 percent and hit 10 of 22 from three. They looked plenty comfortable as seven players got into double figures scoring.  For the Knicks, Shawne Williams hit seven threes in a half and finished with a game high 25 points.

Warriors-Rockets features one of biggest game-to-game swings in NBA playoff history

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In Game 2, the Rockets handed the Warriors their biggest playoff loss with Kevin Durant.

In Game 3, the Warriors earned their biggest playoff win and gave the Rockets their biggest playoff loss in each franchise’s history.

Quite the turnaround.

The 63-point swing from Houston’s 127-105 Game 2 win to Golden State’s 126-85 Game 3 win is one of the largest reversals in NBA playoff history.

It’s been a decade since the last larger game-to-game swing. The last series to have one as large as these Western Conference finals was the 2016 NBA Finals, when the Cavaliers began their comeback against the Warriors after getting blown out in Games 1 and 2.

Here are the biggest game-to-game swings ever in the NBA playoffs:

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That’s a lot of momentum moving against the Rockets. Can they recover?

Warriors post longest playoff home winning streak in NBA history

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You remember the Warriors’ last home playoff loss.

Golden State hasn’t lost a playoff game in Oakland since signing Kevin Durant. The Warriors went 9-0 at home last year and are 7-0 at home this year. Their Game 3 win over the Rockets last night gave Golden State a record-breaking postseason home winning streak.

The Bulls (1990-91) previously held the record. The leaderboard:

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Are the Warriors atypically good at home? The more accurate answer is they’re just atypically good.

They’re 10-4 on the road the last two postseasons, an incredible mark in its own right. Like most teams, they’re better at home.

That presents a tough challenge for Houston with Game 4 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday in Oakland.

Backed into must-win Game 4, here are three things Rockets must do to even series

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Three years ago, the Houston Rockets came back from 3-1 down in a playoff series to defeat a Los Angeles Clippers (and give that franchise a punch to the gut from which it has not recovered). It was one of the great Rockets’ moments of the last decade.

Houston is not going to be able to do that against these Golden State Warriors. Go down 3-1 after Game 4 Tuesday at Oracle and the series is all but over.

Which means after the Rockets’ blowout loss in Game 3 Sunday night, Houston finds itself in the same must-win spot it did after Game 1. And unlike Game 2, the Rockets will not get helped out by an arrogant Warriors team not playing at its peak — the Rockets are going to need a near perfect game to beat a full-force Warriors team on Tuesday.

Here are the three key areas the Rockets must improve to win Game 4:

1) Just shoot better — finish shots at the rim and hit some threes. It’s rather obvious and simplistic, but it’s the reality: Houston just has to shoot better in Game 4.

The Rockets took a full one-third of their shots at the rim in the restricted area in Game 3, but they struggled with those making just 13-of-27 (48.1 percent). The Rockets took 42 percent of their shot attempts from three but hit just 11-of-34, and they were 7-of-25 on above the break threes. That’s not good enough, the Rockets are going to need at least 15 made threes in a game to win.

“Those are double whammies,” Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said of the missed shots at the rim. “It’s like we missed layups first half especially and they go down and score. So in transition, you’ve got to keep them out of transition, you’ve got to make layups. We didn’t do that. When they did miss, we didn’t box out all the time, and then we turned it over 20 times. It’s a formula for losing, and for us to correct that, we can’t turn it over. Got to make layups for shots, and get back.”

To be fair, the Warriors contested shooters well all game, especially guys driving the basket, but still, the Rockets need to knock down more of their shots contested or not. It’s the most basic premise of basketball.

2) Houston has to play faster. D’Antoni said it above, the Rockets and their missed shots let the Warriors get out in transition and control the pace. It’s also a simple fact that the team that controls the pace — the team that gets transition opportunities and gets into its offense earlier in the shot clock — will win the games.

Golden State had 26 transition opportunities to 12 for the Rockets, according to the Synergy Sports stats breakdown.

Or, look at it this way (via Cleaning the Glass), in Game 3, Houston started just10.4 percent of their possessions in transition (and scored a dreadful 0.89 points per possession on those plays). For comparison, in their Game 2 win, the Rockets started 18.7 percent of their possessions in transition. On Sunday night in Game 3 Warriors started 19.8 percent of their plays in transition, nearly one in five trips down the court, and they scored 1.44 points per possession on those plays.

The Rockets need to make more shots and then, even when they miss, get back in transition and not let the Warriors get rolling early in the clock. Houston also needs to defend better and force more Warriors misses, which will allow them to run. It’s all tied together, the Warriors were making shots so the Rockets were taking the ball out of the basket and coming up against set defenses; the Rockets were missing shots that let the Warriors come up fast and forcing the Rockets to scramble on defense (Golden State tears apart teams in those situations). It’s a holistic thing, but the evidence it’s working is which team controls the pace, and the Rockets need to do that in Game 4.

3) Houston needs more out of Chris Paul. It’s easy to point to the Stephen Curry eruption in the third quarter as the time the Warriors ended the game, and there is truth to that. Golden State started the third on a 10-0 run (where Curry had five of those points) and the fire was lit, then Curry started hitting 30-foot threes and quickly the game was out of reach. Those Warriors runs are crushers.

However, to me the turning point in the game was when James Harden went to the bench for his usual rest with 2:46 left in the first quarter — the Warriors outscored the Rockets by nine before the quarter was up (part of an 11-0 run to end the quarter). By the time Harden returned with 9:16 left in the second quarter, the Rockets were down 10, a hole they never could get out of (they were down 11 at the half).

CP3 has to be better in that stretch. The Warriors threw bigger, switchable guards at him on defense — Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, and then Andre Iguodala — and Paul couldn’t get separation and make plays against them. Without Harden, the Rockets offense stalled out, and doing that led to the Warriors getting to push the pace and get their transition buckets. Paul looked slowed at points, reaching on defense and not as explosive as we’ve seen.

This isn’t the Utah Jazz. Harden was off in Game 5 against Utah, but Paul picked up the slack (his 41-point, 10 assist game) and Houston got the win. Against Golden State, both Paul and Harden must have good games for Houston to have a chance. The Warriors are too good, too deep, there is no margin for error anymore.

The Rockets have an elite game in them — we saw the blueprint of what they have to do in Game 2. Houston can do that again. The only question is can they do it in the face of Golden State’s pressure, because the sharks on the Warriors smell blood in the water and will be coming hard in Game 4.

Shaun Livingston crossed James Harden so hard it made Greg Anthony mispronounce “meme” (VIDEO)

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The Golden State Warriors embarrassed the Houston Rockets on Sunday night. Stephen Curry scored 35 points, didn’t miss a shot in the third quarter, and helped the Warriors win Game 3 and take a 2-1 series lead by a margin of 41 points.

Not too shabby.

But it wasn’t just Curry who turned the Rockets into shrinking violets. Shaun Livingston, who added 11 points off the bench while shooting 4-of-4, took his turn putting Houston to task.

During one play, Livingston crossed up James Harden on his way to a wide-open dunk. Livingston’s crafty dribble moves also shook commentator Greg Anthony’s brain up a little bit, so much so that Anthony forgot how to say the word “meme”.

Via Twitter:

Even during a 41-point decimation the NBA is still the funniest league on the planet.