Baseline to Baseline recaps: No LeBron, no Wade, no problem

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What you missed while wondering what a crocodile would do with a lawn mower

Heat 116, Hawks 109 (3OT): No LeBron James or Dwyane Wade for Miami, yet the Heat were gritty (a little lucky) and get an unexpected win. This game was entertaining and dramatic, much more so than we expected going in. But can we be honest — the Hawks played terribly.

I like how Atlanta came out and stepped up the ball pressure to start, even in the back court. That was about the only thing I liked that they did. Jeff Teague should tear up the Heat point guards but he was unimpressive. Joe Johnson should have been the best wing player on the floor by a mile, but he was going half speed. Al Horford should have owned this game but he seemed a spectator. The Hawks best, most steady player was Ivan Johnson. Who, you ask? Exactly.

The game was dramatic, and once again Tracy McGrady was fantastic in the fourth quarter. But Chris Bosh sent the game to overtime with a three that is not really in his bag of tricks but it worked this time. Bosh finished with 33 points.

In the third overtime (and really much of the second half, it was Mario Chalmers who rode to the rescue for the Heat. This was a nice win for Miami. It’s the kind of game that makes you wonder if anything is different in Atlanta.

Trail Blazers 107, Lakers 97: The Portland Trail Blazers are the best team in the West right now.

They are atop the conference standings at 5-1 and this week have beaten both the Thunder and now Lakers. We’ve got questions about whether they can perform like this come playoff time, but as of early January they are playing better than anyone in the West.

In the first half the Lakers did what they wanted to on offense, getting the ball inside first as Andrew Bynum had 14 points on 7-7 shooting, plus Kobe Bryant had 17 points on 8-of-11. As a team, the Lakers shot 64 percent.

In the second half Portland stepped up their pressure — they played better defense and attacked the Lakers off missed shots. The Lakers started to settle for jump shots, hit just 32 percent of their shots for the half and Portland just ran. Gerald Wallace had 10 points in the third quarter alone while LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 28. Jamal Crawford created his own shots on the wing to the tune of 17 points and the Lakers wish they had somebody like that.

Spurs 93, Dallas 71: Sort of like the Heat, no Manu Ginobili and still no problem. This was the fourth game in five nights for an older Mavericks team and it showed, they looked old and tired. Dirk Nowitzki had just 6 points and got outplayed by Matt Boner (a team high 17 points), only two Mavs scored in double digits (Jason Terry and Delonte West) and as a team Dallas shot 1-of-19 from three. Both teams shot under 40 percent for the game, this one just wasn’t very pretty. But for a Spurs team without Manu Ginobili, this is a win they could use.

Kings 103, Bucks 100: Keith Smart is undefeated as Kings coach. The Bucks dominated the first half and were up 21 points in the third when things started to come apart. Marcus Thonton had 25 points in the second half for the Kings to lead the charge. Stephen Jackson had his chances for the Bucks, he wanted the ball and didn’t do much with it, finishing with 13. That includes a last a missed shot from the block to t The Bucks sure could have used Andrew Bogut back.

Paul George scores 28 as Thunder beat Raptors 116-109

Associated Press
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TORONTO (AP) — Paul George scored 28 points, Russell Westbrook had 18 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Toronto Raptors 116-109 on Friday night.

Dennis Schroder came off the bench to score 26 points and Jerami Grant had 19 as the Thunder snapped a four-game losing streak and avenged Wednesday’s 123-114 home defeat to Toronto.

The Thunder made 20 of 43 shots from 3-point range. Oklahoma City made a season-high 22 3-pointers against the Lakers on Jan. 17.

Kawhi Leonard scored 37 points and Pascal Siakam had 25 for the Raptors, who played without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry.

Lowry missed his second straight game because of a sprained right ankle. Coach Nick Nurse said there’s no structural damage to Lowry’s ankle, but soreness remains following a collision with New York’s Mitchell Robinson on Monday. Nurse said Lowry is expected to return next week.

Danny Green scored 19 points and Serge Ibaka had 11 but Toronto couldn’t hold a double-digit lead in the third quarter for the second straight game. The Raptors gave away a 20-point lead before recovering to win in overtime Wednesday, but weren’t able to match that on their home court.

Oklahoma City trailed by 10 points to start the second half, and was down 13 with 5:23 to go in the third before rallying. Westbrook gave the visitors the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter on a layup with 1:18 left in the period, putting them up 80-79. The Thunder closed the third with a 20-4 run to take an 83-80 lead into the fourth.

Leonard cut the gap to 93-91 on a free throw with 7:33 to play but George hit 3-pointers on either side of a fast-break layup by Grant, giving Oklahoma City a 101-91 edge with 6:21 left.

The Thunder missed eight of their first 10 shots of the game. Toronto was 5 of 6 from 3-point range in the first, with Green making all three of his attempts, and the Raptors led 29-22 after one.

Leonard scored nine points in the second and Green had six as Toronto led 58-48 at halftime.

 

James Harden ties career best with 61, Rockets beat Spurs 111-105

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden matched his career high with 61 points, including 27 in the first quarter, to lead the Houston Rockets to a 111-105 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.

Harden hit three straight 3-pointers to give the Rockets a 103-100 lead and scored all of Houston’s points in a 13-2 run late in the fourth quarter.

Harden topped the 50-point mark for the eighth time this season, compared with 10 such performances from the rest of the league combined. He matched his career-best total set earlier this season against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

The NBA’s leading scorer surpassed the 30-point mark in the second quarter and the 40-point mark with 9 minutes remaining in the third.

Before Harden’s late surge, the Spurs led by six points with 4 minutes left in the game. The Spurs had overcome a 15-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 81 entering the fourth quarter.

Harden was 7 of 10 from the field in the first quarter, including 3 of 4 from the 3-point line, and also went 10 for 12 from the free throw line. His 27 points in the period were the second-most in franchise history, trailing only Vernon Maxwell’s 30 in 1991.

Harden finished 9 of 13 from 3, 19 of 34 from the field and 14 of 17 from the free throw line.

Houston has won 13 of its last 15 games and eight of its last nine at home.

Bryn Forbes led San Antonio with 20 points, while Derrick White added 18 and DeMar DeRozan had 16.

Houston led 36-24 at the end of the first quarter and 62-47 at halftime.

 

LeBron James’ playoff streak ends at 13 years

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The last time LeBron James missed the playoffs, YouTube hadn’t yet launched to the public.

LeBron had reached the postseason every year since 2005, when his Cavaliers went 42-40 and finished ninth in the East – another good marker. The last time LeBron missed the playoffs, it was so long ago, an Eastern Conference team could be that good and not qualify.

But his Lakers were officially eliminated from the playoff race Friday with a loss to the Nets.

That ends LeBron’s postseason streak at 13 years – tied for the 13th-longest of all-time. Karl Malone and John Stockton hold the record, each playing in 19 straight postseasons.

Here are the longest playoff streaks of all-time:

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Obviously, LeBron joining the Western Conference put his playoff streak in greater jeopardy. And the Lakers’ fate has been known for a while.

Still, it’ll be a little jarring to watch a postseason that doesn’t include a player who ruled half the bracket for so long.

That said, LeBron might not have the longest playoff streak snapped this year. Tony Parker, who reached the playoffs in all 17 of his seasons with the Spurs, could fall short in his first season with the Hornets.

If Charlotte misses the playoffs, 76ers guard J.J. Redick is in line to hold the longest active streak at 13 years.

Here are the players with the longest active streaks that could continue this season.

Players are listed with the teams they made the postseason with during their streaks. If they haven’t reached the playoffs in their stint with their current team, that team is listed in brackets.

Players whose teams are currently in playoff position are in teal. Players whose teams are currently outside playoff position but not yet eliminated are in purple. Free agents who’d be eligible for the playoffs if they sign before the end of the regular season are in white:

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There’s no reason to believe Manu Ginobili will come out of retirement. But he has played in every postseason since missing the entire 2009 playoffs due to injury. It’s technically possible for him to play in the 2019 playoffs and keep his streak alive.

Which is more than LeBron can say.

Knicks’ fans chant “Free IT” as Isaiah Thomas sits on Nuggets bench

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Well played, Knicks fans.

Denver went into Madison Square Garden Friday night to be the latest team to defeat the Knicks. Isaiah Thomas, out of the rotation in Denver, was the only dressed player not to play for the Nuggets. That did not sit well with Knicks fans.

Denver has better on court options than IT — Monte Morris should get Most Improved Player votes — but I hope he gets fully healthy and lands somewhere next season where he gets a chance to show what he can still do.