Baseline to Baseline recaps: That Kevin Durant guy is pretty good

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while being more than willing to do your part to fight breast cancer….

Knicks 100, Nets 86: Battle of New York? Not really. The Knick are an elite team that got Carmelo Anthony back and he dropped 31 (that makes it 110 points on the Nets in their three meetings). The Nets are 2-8 in their last 10 and struggling on defense. We break it all down in more detail here.

Thunder 100, Hawks 92: And the Thunder are up to an even dozen wins in a row after cruising to a win over the Hawks (don’t let the final score fool you, this simply was not that close). The Thunder started to pull away at the end of the first quarter and never lost that lead. Russell Westbrook owned the first half, scoring 21 of his 27.

The Hawks fought back and early in the fourth quarter got the lead down to 4, but then it was the Kevin Durant show, he had 18 in the fourth quarter on his way to 41 for the game. The Hawks would make runs in the fourth quarter, then Durant would happen. There was nothing anyone could do. Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 19 points, Josh Smith had 17 points and 12 boards.

Rockets 125, 76ers 103: Finally, James Harden and Jeremy Lin clicked on the same night — Harden finished with 33 (and got 17 at the free throw line as he was aggressive) and Lin 18 points on 12 shots. When they both score like that the Rockets are very difficult to beat. Of course, it helps to play the Sixers, who have been a defensive disaster for a couple weeks now. Mix those two and you Houston shooting 56 percent on the night and cruising for the win.

Celtics 103, Cavaliers 91: Paul Pierce can still take over a game — he dropped 40 and keyed the win that stopped the Celtics three game losing streak. But it wasn’t easy. Boston pulled away late in the second quarter and early in the third, eventually leading by 20. But then a 20-2 run sparked by Kyrie Irving (22 points on the night) cut that all the way down to two in the fourth. It took a key layup by Rajon Rondo and some Pierce fireworks to seal the win for Boston.

It’s a win for the Celtics, but this is a 5-22 Cavaliers team, losers of five straight, who were without Anderson Varejao, and the still were in it in the fourth quarter. The Celtics still have some issues to work out.

Grizzlies 90, Bucks 80: Good defensive teams win games because even on nights their offense goes cold they stay in the game and have a chance. That’s how Memphis won this — they can win ugly as well or better than any team in the league. The Grizzlies shot just 40.9 percent on the night, but that was better than the Bucks 35.3 percent.

The king of futility in this game goes to Monta Ellis, who started 0-for-13 shooting (he hit his last shot of the game to go 1-14). On the other end of the spectrum, Zach Randolph had 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Pacers 104, Jazz 84: This was a blowout of epic proportions for the Pacers. Indiana led by as many as 32 points on the night, and had this game wrapped up by halftime after a horrific offensive second quarter from the Jazz.

Utah managed just eight second-quarter points on 3-of-20 shooting, while missing all eight of its three-point attempts in the period. Indiana wasn’t that much better, scoring just 22 points on 42.9 percent. But it was enough to build a 22-point lead by halftime that was never in jeopardy the rest of the way.

The Pacers got balanced scoring, with five players in double figures and three — Paul George, George Hill, and Gerald Green — all getting 20-plus.

The Jazz were coming off of a nice win in Brooklyn the night before, but an effort like this tends to erase that memory pretty fast. “I don’t know if we can get past this quickly,” Utah guard Gordon Hayward said afterward, which is probably the appropriate response.
—Brett Pollakoff

Kings 131, Warriors 127: We had an old-fashioned shootout in Sacramento. There were 102 possessions (the league average is close to 94) and both teams shot 50 percent. The game was tied 118-118 with 2:13 left when the Kings when John Salmoms attacked off the dribble and Stephen Curry — who had 23 points in the second half and 32 for the game — picked up his sixth foul and went to the bench. That was followed by an Aaron Brooks three and a Marcus Thornton three (he had 19 points) to get the Kings the win. Sacramento was 11-of-19 from three and that was key in the game.

DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and Brooks had 23 — and both took just 12 shots a piece. David Lee put u 29 points and eight rebounds for Golden State, while Jarrett Jack added 28 points.

Clippers 93, Hornets 77: After the Clippers picked up their 11th win in a row, owner Donald Sterling went into the Clippers locker room and led a “hip-hip hooray” chant. Seriously.

As for the game, the Clippers are just way more talented and it showed. Lob City was in full effect, Los Angeles was having fun. They led by 10 at the half and when the Hornets made a run to get it close in the third quarter the Clippers went on a 13-3 run and that was it. Chris Paul ended up with 10 points and 12 assists.

Suns 121, Bobcats 104: Believe it or not, this game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate … which is to say, it wasn’t close at all.

A 22-6 run from Phoenix over the first six-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter ran the Suns lead to 17, and put this one out of reach. Charlotte clearly carried some feelings of disappointment from Tuesday night’s close loss to the Lakers into this one, and didn’t have the energy to fight back from a lead that reached 20 before the end of the first half.

The Suns smelled blood once the third quarter began, and Shannon Brown had 18 points in the period on 7-of-10 shooting, including hitting four of his five shots from three-point distance. It was a season-high 26-point performance for Brown, surpassing his previous season-high, which also came against the Bobcats.

The lead got as high as 30 before the fourth quarter began, and the Bobcats cut into it to get within 14 once the Suns had already checked out for the evening, but the game was never in doubt. The Suns rained down a season-best 17 three-pointers, and did so on just 28 attempts for a mark of 60.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Kemba Walker led all scorers with 27 points on just 14 shots. The Bobcats players are buying what head coach Mike Dunlap is selling to a certain extent, but it was clear in the locker room afterward that the losing streak, now at 13 games, is beginning to weigh on these guys.
—Brett Pollakoff

Raptors 97, Pistons 91: Is Toronto better without Andrea Bargnani? It’s looking that way. The Raptors won their fourth straight with Bargnani sidelined due to injury, this time over a dreadful Pistons team that is now just 2-13 on the road this season.

DeMar DeRozan and Alan Anderson did the heavy lifting offensively for Toronto with 23 points and 16 points respectively, while Jose Calderon continued his strong play at the point with 17 assists.

Greg Monroe had a career-high 35 points to go along with 10 rebounds, but Rodney Stuckey was the only other Piston player to finish in double figures with 13 points.
—Brett Pollakoff

Magic 90, Wizards 83: The one thing these two teams have in common is the fact that no one expected either to be very good at all this season. While Orlando has exceeded all expectations by somehow getting out to a more-than-respectable 12-13 start, Washington seems intent on making sure those preseason projections were as accurate as possible — and then some.

This one wasn’t pretty, with each team managing to score less than 15 points in one of the two final periods; the Magic outscored the Wizards 38-33 in a fairly brutal second half.

Nene and Jordan Crawford led Washington with 20 and 19 points respectively, while the Magic got big contributions in limited minutes from two of their reserves. J.J. Redick had 17 points in 26 minutes, and E’Twaun Moore chipped in 15 in 20 minutes.

Glen Davis left the game with under a minute to play, after appearing to suffer a shoulder injury following a hard foul from Emeka Okafor. His status will be worth watching in the days ahead.

The loss dropped the Wizards to 1-11 on the road, and just 3-20 on the season.
—Brett Pollakoff

Despite injury scare, LeBron James will be ready to go in Game 7

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It was the kind of injury that has felled many players — think of Rudy Gobert this season. Twice. A player falls into the side of another player’s leg, putting a strain on the ligaments.

That’s what happened in the fourth quarter of Game 6 in Cleveland Friday night, Larry Nance Jr. falls back and LeBron James‘ knee bent in a way it should not.

“After the game, I didn’t know who got me,” LeBron said. “But after the game, Larry asked me if I was I OK, so I’m guessing he was the culprit of it. I just felt someone fall into my leg and my leg kind of went in. I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg. I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I’ve seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one’s leg standing straight up. Luckily, I was able to finish the game.”

James scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting with a couple of dagger threes to secure the win after that scare, but he didn’t seem to have the same lift after that and was seen favoring his leg walking out of the building.

Of course, LeBron will be good to go for Game 7 in Boston Sunday. If Friday night was any indication, he’s not going to be slowed by it at all.

“As soon as I leave here, I’ll start to prepare (for Game 7),” LeBron said from the podium postgame. “I’m going to get in the car and head back to Akron. As soon as I get home, I’ll start my treatment. I’ll do the same all day tomorrow from before we leave to go to Boston, and then once we get into Boston I’ll do that as well. Try to get as much sleep as I can with tonight and with tomorrow and even on Sunday before the game. That’s the best recovery that you can possibly get, is when you’re sleeping. It’ll be around-the-clock treatment, and we’ll see what happens.”

What’s going to happen is a dramatic Game 7 in the Garden, and we know that for Cleveland to have any chance LeBron has to be superhuman. Again.

Warriors facing elimination but undaunted entering Game 6

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HOUSTON (AP) — If the Golden State Warriors are worried as they head into Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on the brink of elimination, they aren’t showing it.

“We have a chance to tie the series at home. That’s a pretty good position to be in,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ve got to win two basketball games and we’ve done that an awful lot, so we’re very confident.”

The defending champions trail Houston 3-2 in the best-of-seven series after consecutive wins by the Rockets, capped by Thursday night’s 98-94 victory. Now the series shifts to Oracle Arena, a place where the Warriors have lost just one time in their last 17 playoff games.

Stephen Curry said the Warriors are encouraged despite falling behind in the series because they believe both games could have gone their way and that a few simple corrections will get them back on track.

“We have an opportunity to re-establish ourselves at home, get a big win, keep ourselves alive, and then roll the dice into Game 7,” Curry said. “Not all is lost.”

Houston’s big win in Game 5 was tempered by a hamstring injury to star Chris Paul which will keep him out of Saturday’s game. It’s a major blow for a team which is looking to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in more than two decades.

The Rockets believe they can absorb this loss and don’t seem daunted by the setback, noting that they found ways to win in the regular season in many games where Paul sat out with injuries.

“I don’t have a doubt,” D’Antoni said. “They see the challenge … whether CP’s there or not, it’s a heck of a challenge, and they’re up to it. They’re looking forward to it.”

James Harden, who has struggled offensively in the last two games and went 0 for 11 on 3s in Game 5, rolled his eyes when asked if Paul’s injury puts more pressure on him.

“Pressure for what? It’s Game 6 of the Western Conference finals,” he said. “There is pressure on everybody.”

While that may be true, the onus is on Harden to step up and deliver an MVP-caliber performance if the Rockets hope to close out this series. Harden has had plenty of playoff disappointments in the last few years and embraces the chance to get Houston back into the finals.

“It’s an opportunity that a lot of people never had and probably won’t ever have,” he said. “It’s our job to go out there and have fun with it and do the same thing we’ve been doing. We want to take advantage of it.”

While the Rockets will be down a starter, the Warriors could get one back if Andre Iguodala can return on Saturday. The Warriors have missed the defensive presence of Iguodala who has missed the last two games with a bruised left knee.

Iguodala is listed on the injury report as questionable for Game 6 and Kerr said he didn’t have an update on his condition on Friday. But he did address what it would mean to Golden State if he’s healthy enough to go on Saturday.

“He’s a great player,” Kerr said. “He’s one of our keys, and we’ve missed him the last two games. But we can’t count on it. Injuries happen, and you’ve just got to play with whoever’s out there. So we’re hoping he’s back, and we’ll see what happens.”

Iguodala’s absence has been magnified in this series that has morphed into a defensive slugfest instead of the high-scoring shootout that most expected when it began. The Rockets take great pride in the fact that they’ve limited Golden State to less than 100 points in the last two games and think continuing to play great defense is the only way they’ll advance.

“It’s something we talked about building up all year,” Houston’s P.J. Tucker said. “To see our defense now be as good as it is, we still think it could be a lot better. We watched film, and honestly … we didn’t play great defense last night. Everybody will talk about how good a defense we played, but we really don’t feel like that. So just keep working and trying to get better.”

Kerr said the experience of his team, which is trying to reach the finals for the fourth straight year, will be valuable as the Warriors try and climb out of this hole and force Game 7. He referenced the conference finals in 2016 when they fell behind Oklahoma City 3-1 before winning the next three to take the series.

“We’ve been here before,” Kerr said. “We’ve faced elimination on the road before – this team has – a few years ago. We faced series deficits before. We’ve won all of those series. Our guys have the ultimate confidence that we can get it done this time, too.”

PBT Extra: Pressure falls on James Harden, Rockets’ bench with Chris Paul out

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Chris Paul is out for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals with a strained hamstring, and that almost certainly will sideline him for Game 7 as well.

That changes the feel of this series.

The Rockets still just have to win one of the next two games to advance to the NBA Finals, and one of those is at home. However, without CP3 a couple of things need to happen. James Harden needs to find his shooting stroke. Gerald Green and the Rockets’ bench needs to step up. And Houston has to keep defending the way they have the last two games.

It’s not going to be easy (especially on the road in Game 6), but the Rockets still have a real opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

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There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.