Baseline to baseline recaps: Kevin Durant is an assassin

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What you missed while watching an octopus pick the BCS matchups….

Lakers 99, Knicks 82: We broke this down as our game of the night.

Thunder 104, Mavericks 102: This was easily the best game the Mavericks have played this season. The ball movement was back, the clever veteran plays were there. Delonte West said they looked different yesterday at practice and they did.

But they don’t have Kevin Durant, so they are 0-3.

The Thunder were sloppy all night — they had 26 turnovers — and Dallas for the first time this season was a team that could take advantage of it. They kept it close behind 29 points from Dirk Nowitzki and 16 from Jason Terry (although he needed 17 shots to do it). Down the stretch a rejuvenated Russell Westbrook was making plays for the Thunder. The close game set up the dramatic finish.

A Jason Terry three leaning to his right made it 101-99, which is how it stayed after Serge Ibaka missed two free throws. Next trip down, with 9.3 seconds remaining, Nowitzki drove to his spot at the left elbow (with Perkins on him), but Durant doubled Dirk off Vince Carter. Nowitzki kicked it out to Carter for an open straight away three, he drained it with 1.4 seconds left. 102-101 Mavs, and it looked like they would get a win. Then this happened.

If the Mavs play like this every game, they will get a lot of wins. But right now the undefeated Thunder look special and the Mavericks are 0-3.

Bulls 108, Kings 98: The Bulls were up 26-11 quickly in this one as not only was Derrick Rose doing his thing but Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng were attacking the rim. The Bulls asserted themselves early for the first time this season. It set a different tone, and the Bulls held on for a comfortable win. Rose finished with 19, Boozer and Richard Hamilton each had 16. Marcus Thornton had 20 to lead the Kings and Jimmer Fredette had 14 off the bench.

Magic 94, Nets 78: Dwight Howard has 16 points and 24 rebounds, showing the Nets would could be theirs if only….

The Magic took control of this game midway through the first quarter and never really looked to be in danger. Marshaun Brooks tried to lead a comeback for the Nets, but it was not enough. So they are left to dream and wonder.

Rockets 105, Spurs 85: This was the game where the Spurs looked tired. Third game in four nights, second night of a back-to-back after spanking the Clippers and that was it for the Spurs. Luis Scola had 10 in the first quarter to help the Rockets get a lead they would never give up, Kevin Martin finished with a game high 25. DeJuan Blair led the Spurs with 22 and was feisty in this one.

Trail Blazers 111, Nuggets 102: When was the last time a team won when it had 25 turnovers compared to its opponents 7?

This was maybe the most entertaining game of the night, a real back-and-forth in the fourth quarter between two genuinely good teams. And it was played at a fast pace (106 possessions). The difference was the second half the Blazers just shot the lights out — 61 percent as a team in the half, and it seemed like every three they took fell. It was the guards that led the Blazers as Wesley Mathews had 25, Raymond Felton 23 and Jamal Crawford 22.

The Blazers are 3-0. And that is no accident.

Chris Paul injures right hamstring, status unclear for Game 6 vs. Warriors

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Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul played the part of the hero for the home team on Thursday night as Houston beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals to take a 3-2 series lead.

Now, the question is whether Paul will be able to play in Game 6 on Saturday night.

After a game in which the Rockets were not particularly offensively impressive, Paul came up with some clutch baskets despite struggling overall. Paul got the better of the Golden State defense several times from beyond the arc, including one instance in which he gave a shoulder shimmy to Stephen Curry, allowing the Warriors guard a dose of his own medicine.

But Paul appeared to injure his right hamstring on a play with 51 seconds to go in fourth quarter as he was shooting a floater in the lane. After his shot, Paul remained on the ground and down at the Houston end of the floor as possession changed sides. Paul left the game some 30 seconds later, and was unable to finish the game.

The Rockets point guard had already been battling a right foot injury and had to get lots of treatment just to be able to play in Game 5. It’s not entirely surprising that Paul injured himself on his right side. A weakened link in the kinetic chain tends to force other muscles and joints to compensate for injured areas. When overused or improperly used, the chance for a new injury in another part of the kinetic chain — say, up the leg and into the hamstring — is entirely possible.

That seems like what happened to Paul on Thursday night, but we will have to wait for official word from the team before we know whether he will be playing on Saturday. Hamstring issues can the nagging and despite lots of treatment there is also the swelling that will occur when Paul has to fly to Oakland.

As expected, Chris Paul said he will be good to go (players are the worst at providing a timeline for their injuries).

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni says that Paul will be evaluated tomorrow and will be continuing to get treatment but he is not worried about someone being able to fill Paul’s shoes. That’s certainly the right thing to say for D’Antoni but we know how Game 6 might go if CP3 is unable to play.

Chris Paul plays the hero as Warriors devolve to iso ball in Game 5 loss

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I personally thought a Western Conference Finals game couldn’t get any uglier after I watched Game 4 between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.

Boy, was I wrong.

Thursday night’s Game 5 matchup between the Rockets and the Warriors two teams produced three heinous quarters of NBA playoff basketball, made even more unbearable by the fact that we know how good these two teams can be when they’re really humming.

Much as it was in Game 4 it was Houston’s defense that was on display, ironically forcing the Warriors to play much in the way the Rockets do when they lose. Golden State battled the shot clock with isolation ball much of the game, with Kevin Durant getting the ball at the top of the arc as some of the league’s top players — including a two-time MVP in Stephen Curry — widened the floor in a 1-4 flat set for the 7-foot wing.

To their credit, both Curry and Durant were in good shooting form through the first half but as the periods ground on they started to slow. Draymond Green was Draymond-y, scoring 12 points while grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds with four assists. Statistically, it’s hard to understand how the Warriors lost. Golden State shot better from the field, from the arc, and from the charity stripe. But their scoring was concentrated and their offense predictable at just the wrong moments.

Houston’s attack was nothing to shake a stick at, either. James Harden‘s scored just 19 points on 5-of-21 shooting, and as a unit the Rockets doled out 12 assists. Incessant switching and a tendency to hound the ball on defense allowed Houston to force a whopping 18 turnovers from Golden State. It was the most important statistic of the game for the Rockets, who scored 18 points on those turnovers despite being outpaced in 3-point shooting, points in the paint, and in fastbreak buckets.

Then, the fourth quarter happened. Everything changed, and as we are wont to do, the game felt much cleaner. Both teams had their energy up, they traded baskets, and the lead went back-and-forth.

Enter Chris Paul.

Houston’s point guard was the savior, scoring 20 points on a piddly 6-of-19 shooting performance. But Paul’s box score did not tell the tale of his impact on the game. Several times with the shot clock winding down, Paul came up with big beyond-the-arc buckets, at one point hitting one over Curry, giving him back a shoulder shimmy much the way the Warriors point guard did in Game 4.

Paul’s leadership pushed Houston forward, but his commitment during Game 5 might get overlooked after the Rockets point guard was forced to check out of the game after a play with 51 seconds remaining. On a floater in the lane, Paul appeared to hurt his right hamstring. Unable to play, Paul had to watch the final minute from the Houston bench, and his availability for Game 6 is currently up in the air.

It was ugly and it was gritty, but the Rockets beat Golden State on Thursday night, 98-94, to take Game 5 and a 3-2 series win as the Western Conference Finals heads back to Oakland.

Now, we look toward Game 6 in California on Saturday, May 26 at 6:00 PM PST.

Eric Gordon buckets, Draymond Green turnover seals game for Rockets

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For the second game in a row, the Houston Rockets were clutch in the fourth quarter and the defending champion Warriors clanked and fumbled their way to a loss.

Houston won Game 3 98-94 because down the stretch Eric Gordon made plays (and free throws) and Draymond Green fumbled away the Warriors chance.

It started with the Rockets up one with less than two minutes to go, when Eric Gordon — who led the Rockets with 24 points — drained a three that gave Houston some breathing room.

Six seconds later, Draymond Green answered with a three to keep it a one-point game.

With 10 seconds left in the game, a Trevor Ariza free throw made it a two-point game, giving the Warriors a chance to come down and tie or win. Then Green did this.

Gordon was fouled, hit two free throws, and it was ballgame.

The Rockets are now up 3-2 in the series and are one win away from the Finals.

Draymond Green thought Warriors might trade him after fight with Steve Kerr

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Draymond Green is the backbone of the Golden State Warriors, not just because he was the 2016-17 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Green sort of does it all, including passing, scoring, rebounding, and myriad other scrap work that doesn’t show up on regular box scores.

But there was some doubt in Green’s mind in 2016 that he would stay with the team. Green was involved in an argument during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and after things settled down the Warriors big man was concerned the team might trade him.

The thought of doing so is sort of ridiculous, but apparently that was something that flashed into Green’s mind given the tenseness of the situation between he and Kerr.

Via Bleacher Report:

But Green’s mood was still foul, and he left the arena that day believing his days as a Warrior were numbered. He feared the relationship had been fractured, that the Warriors would choose Kerr over him. That he’d be traded.

“One hundred percent,” Green tells B/R. “Especially with the success that he was having as a coach. Like, you just don’t get rid of that.”

The thing that makes Golden State great isn’t just the players, or the system, or Kerr. It’s the human resources management aspect of their organization that allows them to compete on the court in the way they do.

It’s not crazy to think that a player could be shipped out of town thanks to a disagreement with a coach, although the leverage players have these days likely has put a stop to that realistically happening. But that Kerr, Green, and management were able to get things back under control that season was to the benefit of everyone involved.