Baseline to Baseline recaps: George comes up big for Pacers

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What you missed while being thankful you’re not allergic to water….

Hornets 97, Clippers 90: The New Orleans Arena felt especially warm, mostly because of the heat emanating from Vinny Del Negro’s seat. The Clippers lost their third in a row to a feisty Hornets team in our game of the night.

Celtics 100, Bucks 91: The Celtics played defense like their old selves for 24 minutes and that was enough to get a key win for playoff positioning, in another game we broke out Thursday.

Pacers 85, Wizards 83: It was a tale of two halves. Washington looked like a resurrected team at the start of this game — sharing the ball (8 assists on 12 made baskets early), moving with purpose off the ball, knocking down shots. Jordan Crawford had 14 first quarter points on 7 shots and the Wizards put up 34 in the first quarter and were up 16 after one, then 20 at the half. Then Danny Granger woke up, scored 11 of his 16 in the third and helped spark a comeback.

It set up a dramatic finish, with a clutch three by Paul George on a series where David West kept the ball alive for the Pacers multiple times on the offensive glass. The Wizards got one last chance with 9 seconds left and went with John Wall in isolation but George did a good job taking away his first drive, Wall tried to regroup and faked a drive again and pulled up for a 17-foot jumper that he nailed — but it was after the buzzer went off. Pacers win.

Rockets 109, Warriors 83: The Rockets pulled away in the second half to make this one a laugher mostly because they owned the paint. Luis Scola had 18, Samuel Dalembert had 11 of his 15 in the third quarter and that was pretty much all she wrote. The Warriors looked like a team who is tanking the season from here on out. Chandler Parsons led the Rockets with 20 while Goran Dragic had 17 points and 9 assists; Richard Jefferson had 14 off the bench for the Warriors.

Jazz 103, Kings 102: Sacramento is playing well at home again and it took an Al Jefferson tip in with 0.9 left to get the Jazz a win in this one. Devin Harris claims the tip in came on a pass intended for the open Jefferson, I say it was a missed shot. You can decide that one for yourself (video below). Credit the Kings, they were down 14 at the half but fought back with an 11-1 run in the third that made this a real contest down the stretch. Jefferson finished with 26 points, Gordon Hayward added 18 for the Jazz. Marcus Thornton had 22 points and 18 boards for the Kings, while Tyreke Evans had 11 in the fourth quarter and 25 overall.

Key win for the Jazz as this helps them keep pace with the Rockets — right now Houston is half a game ahead of Utah for the last playoff spot in the West.

Trail Blazers 97, Grizzlies 93: In a game of runs the Trail Blazers used a 15-3 spurt at the start of the fourth quarter to take a lead they would never surrender. Nicolas Batum had a good night, leading the Blazers with 24 points on just 15 shots — something the Blazers need because after the Gerald Wallace trade Batum is the No. 2 offensive option. Wesley Mathews had 11 points in the fourth quarter for Portland, Jamal Crawford had a good night with 17 points off the bench. As for Memphis, Tony Allen tried to take over late scoring 11 of his 17 in the fourth quarter. Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 22.

Gilbert Arenas did play in this one — he showed some flashes of quickness but clearly has to get used to playing at game speed again. He finished with 2 points and 3 assists in a dozen minutes.

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.