Baseline to Baseline recaps: Five in a row for the Knicks

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What you missed while being thankful a rogue boulder didn’t destroy your home and car…

Knicks 82, Sixers 79: This was the ugliest win for the Knicks on their five-game winning streak, but it may also be the best. Not the best because it moves them within three games of the struggling Sixers in the Atlantic division (well, that does matter, too) but rather because they won it a grind it out game. This was one where both teams looked tired and neither could get a shot to fall (New York won shooting 36.7 percent overall and hit 2-of-13 from three) but good teams win ugly games. Mike Woodson made the adjustments — he went small and got a good game from Stoudemire (21 points) and good defense from Shumpert on Philly’s guards.

These teams are moving in opposite directions — Philly has lost 4 of 5 — and now the Sixers are just one game ahead of the Celtics and three ahead of the Knicks. The race to win the Atlantic and avoid the Bulls or Heat in the first round is now fully engaged for the next five weeks. Along those same lines, the Knicks are now four games and Boston two behind six-seed Atlanta.

Thunder 113, Clippers 91: This was close through the first quarter, when the Clippers shot 50 percent, hit 6-of-8 from three and trailed just 33-30 after one. But in the next three quarters the Clippers shot 32.2 percent and the Thunder pulled away for a relatively easy win. On the other end of the floor, the Thunder did a good job getting Kevin Durant isolated on Nick Young and Randy Foye and that led to him looking dominant getting 32 points on just 18 shots. Durant did a good job of recognizing his matchup advantages and taking Young down on the block when he could. The Clippers never really adjusted, which is another issue altogether. Russell Westbrook had 19.

Kendrick Perkins picked up an early technical when he gave a hard foul on Blake Griffin who was trying to go up and dunk over him. That’s a little payback for last time.

Lakers 109, Mavericks 93: What is it with this Lakers team winning the hard game s and losing to the bottom feeders? A night after dropping a game to a Rockets team without its starting backcourt, the Lakers go on a 20-4 run in the second quarter to take the lead and win relatively easily over Dallas.

One real key was the Lakers shot 58.4 percent on the night — Kobe Bryant was 11-of-18 (Dallas really missed Shawn Marion, who was out), Paul Gasol 13-of-16, and Ramon Sessions was 7-of-8 on his way to 17 points plus 9 assists. The Lakers offense looks so much better with the quickness that Sessions brings to the point — Mike Brown, stop the charade, start Sessions and say you are going to close with him, not Steve Blake. The Lakers ball movement all night was fantastic — the Mavericks doubled Andrew Bynum had and fast all night and while he had just 9 points he passed well out of the double team. Dirk Nowitzki had 26, Jason Terry ran the pick-and-roll well on his way to 23.

Nuggets 116, Pistons 115: On a night of entertaining games nothing beat this one. It didn’t look that way early when the Nuggets owned the first quarter and were up 22, but that’s when the Ben Gordon show started — he had 21 points in the second and 45 for the game. He was 9-of-9 from three. He was a force of nature and it looked like he was going to lead the Pistons to a rare road victory. But Denver closed the game out on an 8-0 run — and that doesn’t do it justice.

Denver was down three with 5.6 seconds left when Arron Afflalo drove and hit the spinning layup for with the foul. Hit the free throw and Denver ties the game. Afflalo misses — but the first game as a Nugget JaVale Mcgee makes the play getting around Greg Monroe for a putback slam that gave Denver the win. McGee had 15 points in the game. Gordon got a good look at his own game winner, but that seemed to be the only shot he missed all night.

Bulls 94, Raptors 82: You really cannot over-sell just how impressive all these Bulls wins this season are without Derrick Rose — they are now 12-4. Toronto led most of this game behind 23 points from DeMar DeRozan, but the Bulls went on a 20-0 fourth quarter run thanks to John Lucas III and Kyle Korver to get the win. Yes, Lucas and Korver were the heroes. Deal with it.

Magic 103, Suns 93: Dwight Howard got the better of a fun matchup with Marcin Gortat scoring 28 points, grabbing 16 rebounds, and adding a couple blocks for fun. But the real story was the Suns defense kept losing Ryan Anderson on pick-and-pops or just out by the arc and he made them pay with 7 three pointers on his way to 29 points. The Magic started to take control late in the first quarter and by the fourth this was garbage time.

Wizards 108, Nets 89: Nene had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Washington. Mix that in with Jordan Crawford having and efficient 21 points on 13 shots and you get a pretty comfortable Wizards win. Washington looked much more fundamentally sound and smart with Nene out there. We’ll see how long that carries over.

Hawks 103, Cavaliers 102 (OT): Josh Smith seemed to be everywhere and had 32 points and 17 rebounds. Early on it was Kyrie Irving (28 points) and Antawn Jamison (23) who had the Cavs up on the road, but the Hawks battled back and the fourth quarter was pretty tight. That’s when Joe Johnson, shooting 3-14 to start the night, hit a big three to send it to overtime. Then in overtime he hit the game winner. So I guess he really is worth all that money… nah. But he had a good night.

Warriors 101, Hornets 92: Klay Thompson (career high 27 points) and David Lee (25) fail to understand the concept of tanking and lead the Warriors to the win. The Hornets get tanking, they have been doing it all season

Spurs 116, Timberwolves 100: San Antonio was in control of this one from the start and used and 11-1 run late in the first quarter to really grab hold of a double-digit lead it would never relinquish. Tim Duncan had 21 and didn’t play the fourth quarter, Stephen Jackson had 16 for the Spurs off the bench. Kevin Love had 17 points and 12 boards because that is what he does. But the Spurs owned this one.

Tony Parker did leave in the second quarter with what was described as a tight hamstring. Something to watch.

Everything big and small goes right for DeMarcus Cousins in Warriors debut

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LOS ANGELES — It was the little things.

Not that DeMarcus Cousins’ overall line — he fouled out with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, 3-of-4 from three, six rebounds, three assists, one block, and he was +21, all in 15 minutes — was bad at all. In fact, it was pretty damn good. In his first game in nearly a year, Cousins looked like a slightly rusty version of himself. All the trademarks were there, from hitting threes to complaining about calls.

Cousins made the Warriors better from the moment he stepped on the court, and while the big things were obvious it was the little things should worry any challenger to the crown. For example:

• Cousins’ ability to not just score but to be a playmaker out of the midpost adds a new dimension to the Warriors offense.

• Cousins provides versatility to sets the Warriors already run regularly. For example, in the third quarter, he was the guy making the entry pass on the double-screen play the Warriors like, with Draymond Green in the post and Klay Thompson curing off the screens. Cousins set a hard screen that freed Thompson up for a clean look.

• He gives them another three-point shooter, one that creates matchup problems for defenses. The Clippers chose to chase Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson over picks and play on top of them, but that means the big has to drop back and protect against backcuts and drives. Do that with Cousins off the ball and he’s wide open for threes.

“I want to know what the scouting report is on me,” Cousins joked about how open he was from deep.

• Cousins is strong on the offensive glass and that’s going to lead to more kick-out threes for Golden State’s shooters.

• Cousins also gives the Warriors some defense. He’s a big body in the paint who knows how to get in the way. At one point on back-to-back plays Cousins drew a charge on Tobias Harris, then on the next trip down stripped Harris when he drove.

“Like a kid on Christmas,” Cousins said of how he felt on the night. “It’s been a long journey… this was probably one of the best days of my life, just being out on the floor again and playing the game that I love.”

Cousins was part of the Warriors picking up their seventh straight win, beating the Clippers 112-94. Curry led the way with 28 points.

Everything went Cousins’ way — he even got a standing ovation from the bench when he fouled out.

“Hopefully that’s the last time we give him a standing ovation when he fouls out, but it was great to see him out there,” Durant said.

“Probably all the fakest love I’ve received in my life,” Cousins joked.

The NBA world shook when Cousins signed with the Warriors last July. Everyone knew it was going to take him a long time to get healthy and right, but Golden State was a team that could be patient and wait for him, not rush him back, and when he did play it would be another weapon to punish switches or just use in their existing sets.

“I thought, good for him. It’s a good spot for him,” Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers said of his reaction when he read about the Cousins signing. “And then I thought, wow, that’s not right.”

Cousins started the game with Curry, Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green, which meant nobody could really double him.

“This is a first, like in my entire basketball career,” Cousins said of the lack of doubles thrown at him. “I definitely can get used to this.”

Cousins’ first bucket as a Warrior was a thunderous dunk, one created because his man had to focus on Durant (and Danilo Gallinari was late with the rotation).

“I’m just glad to know I can still dunk,” Cousins joked.

Cousins said he was nervous before the game but his girlfriend sent him a picture of himself in the hospital, sitting in a wheelchair the day after his surgery. That helped put the journey in perspective.

“It’s been a year since his injury, he’s gone through a long rehab process…” Kerr said before the game. “This is not the end of the story, this is sort of the middle of the story and it’s a milestone but there is a long way to go.”

Cousins is going to get better at things big and small as that journey continues.

Which should scare the rest of the NBA.

DeMarcus Cousins’ first bucket as a Warrior is a monster jam

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LOS ANGELES — DeMarcus Cousins sure looked his hops are back on this throw down.

Cousins started for the Warriors Friday night after missing almost a full year with a torn Achilles, and on the Warriors first possession they fed him the rock in the post. Cousins faced up on Marcin Gortat, drove baseline with a nice first step, but got caught under the basket and couldn’t power it up through the Clipper big, getting his shot blocked.

Nobody was blocking his next shot.

It was a side pick-and-roll where Gortat had to cut off Durant’s drive, but Danilo Gallinari didn’t tag into the middle to cut off Cousins’ roll (or, made the business decision not to). The result was an impressive first bucket for DeMarcus as a Warrior.

Cousins’ first shift was three minutes long. He’s on a minutes restriction for a while.

D’Angelo Russell drops 40 on Magic including shot that put Nets up for good

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D'Angelo Russell is playing like a guy in a contract year. And that’s just fine with Brooklyn.

Russell tied his career best with 40 points Friday night against the Magic, including hitting the shot that put the Nets up for good on the night with 27 seconds remaining. Russell was 16-of-25 shooting, including 8-of-12 from three, and he was an analytics dream — Russell took all but one of his shots either in the paint or from three.

The Nets — now 24-23 on the season and the sixth seed in the East — came from 21 back to get the win and that included their guards hitting the big shots at the end.

First up was Spencer Dinwiddie.

Then came Russell’s shot that proved to be the game winner.

With the Nets extending Dinwiddie during the season, it’s unlikely Russell returns to Brooklyn next season, but a number of teams are interested in him as a free agent (restricted, the Nets can match if the offer is low).

Report: Isaiah Thomas could return to Nuggets right before All-Star break

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The Denver Nuggets have shown off their depth this season. Three starters — Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap — have missed a chunk of time and yet until a few days ago the Nuggets were the top seed in the West, and they are still a clear second.

And all of that without Isaiah Thomas, their biggest name reserve. He has been recovering from hip surgery last March.

The Nuggets are hoping Thomas will make his debut next month, right before the All-Star Break, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Thomas has been gathering momentum in his rehabilitation process from hip surgery in March, and there’s hope among Thomas and the Nuggets organization he could return as soon as a Feb. 11-13 homestand against Miami and Sacramento, sources said.

There’s strong confidence that he will return no later than the first game after the All Star break on Feb. 22 in Dallas, league sources said….

The final hurdle for Thomas remains playing full 5-on-5 scrimmages. He is expected to start that process soon.

Thomas was playing well and playing through pain in Boston, becoming a fan favorite and pulling that team into the postseason, before his hip injury caught up with him. He tried to recover without surgery playing for the Cavaliers and Lakers last season, but that never really worked like he hoped. He had the surgery and signed a one-year deal with the Nuggets.

Thomas could provide a playmaking guard off the bench, although Monte Morris has filled that role for the Nuggets so well he gets mentioned as a most improved player candidate. Coach Mike Malone will need to finesse the minutes to get both of them touches and involved. How much Thomas can help the Nuggets in the playoffs depends on how he recovers (he has always been a defensive liability because of his size, which factors in as well).

If Thomas can show he would have value as a bench player he will have teams calling next July about a much bigger contract. He has motivation, and he’s popular around the league — people want to see him succeed. But is he fully healthy and does he still have the lateral explosiveness that made him so hard to stop on drives to the rim? We should find out the final couple months of the season.