Baseline to Baseline recaps: Knicks, Heat win, can start thinking showdown

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What you missed while figuring out why ice cream causes brain freeze

Lakers 114, Thunder 106 (2OT): There was a game, too, not just an elbow. The Lakers got a win that can give them some confidence for a potential playoff meeting between these teams — but can they replicate this recipe for success? Our own Matt Moore discussed this game.

Knicks 113, Hawks 112: Very tight game, neither team had a double digit lead all game. Carmelo Anthony had 39 and took all the shots down the stretch. Amare Stoudemire was back and looking like his old self — 22 points, 12 rebounds and a key late block on Marvin Williams to save the game (actually, Williams did that himself trying to dunk a ball and not getting it out of his hands before the buzzer sounded).

The win locks the Hawks into a first round battle with the Celtics. Knicks have a 95 percent chance of having the Heat in the first round.

Heat 97, Rockets 88: Houston had a lead in the fourth quarter, but Miami owned the last seven minutes of this game, sparked by LeBron James dropping 11 of his 32 in the fourth quarter. The loss eliminated the already very slim chance the Rockets had of making the playoffs. The Heat can start dreaming of the Knicks, that’s not set in stone but it’s getting there.

Nuggets 101, Magic 74: Jameer Nelson played only two minutes in this one due to calf bruise he suffered. Because the Magic need another injury. This game was actually close until midway through the third quarter when the subs came in and Denver went on a 10-2 run, then the Nuggets blew the game open in the fourth. JaVale McGee had a good game for Denver with 17 points — if you throw him lobs he can dunk them.

The loss and other games this weekend has locked Orlando into a series against Indiana in the first round.

Spurs 114, Cavaliers 98: No Tim Duncan… but did you really think that would matter? Manu Ginobili dropped 20, DeJuan Blair 15 filling in as the guy setting the picks for Tony Parker. With the win the Spurs need just one more win in their last three games to secure the top seed in the West (or one more Thunder loss).

Clippers 107, Hornets 98: New Orleans took control of this game in the third quarter, them came the Chris Paul and Randy Foye show — CP3 had 13 points in the fourth, Foye 11 (he was knocking down outside shots all night). Chris Paul’s playmaking is something to behold, but will it be enough against a good team (like Memphis) in the playoffs?

Pistons 76, Raptors 73: With three seconds left and a final shot, the Raptors ran a simple set they have used a few times this year — Linas Kleiza inbounds the ball, runs off a pick near him, gets the ball back and… there isn’t a Piston within 10 feet of him. No switch off the pick, nothing. He has so much time he has a split second to gather himself and in doing so throws off his rhythm and misses. Pistons win. Brandon Knight and Ben Gordon each had 19 for the Pistons.

Kings 114, Bobcats 88: The Bobcats are so bad they are getting blown out be weak teams. DeMarcus Cousins had 29 and 10 for the Kings.

Warriors 93, Timberwolves 88: Golden State snaps its losing streak, thanks to a key three with a minute to go from Brandon Rush and a good game from Charles Jenkins (24 points, nine dimes).

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.