Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Kobe pushes Lakers to .500

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while watching the wildest ending to a high school state championship game you will ever see…

Lakers 99, Hawks 98: It took a phenomenal performance down the stretch from Kobe Bryant, after the Lakers gave back all of a 16-point third quarter lead and found themselves trailing by one with 26 seconds remaining. But L.A. got this win thanks to Bryant, who drove and converted a tough lay-in over Josh Smith with nine seconds remaining that turned out to be the game-winner, getting the Lakers back to .500 for the first time since December.

This game featured wild swings by both teams, but neither held a lead of more than three points in the final period — one that featured six ties and 10 lead changes.

In the end, Bryant was the difference. He had an emphatic one-handed driving dunk over Josh Smith with just over two minutes left, and scored 11 points in the final period, including his team’s last six.

It isn’t great that the Lakers blew such a large lead at home, and needed heroics on the game’s penultimate possession to end up pulling this one out. It’s also not ideal that when the game got tight, L.A. went into isolation mode with Kobe for multiple possessions down the stretch. It worked on this night, however, and next up for the Lakers is a date with the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
—Brett Pollakoff

Heat 99, Knicks 93: The Knicks were getting some stops and knocking down threes in the first half (Jason Kidd, who had been a mess for a couple weeks, started out 4-of-4 from deep) and the Knicks led by as many as 16. But the Heat cranked up the defense, were the aggressors on offense and came back for the win. Our own Brett Pollakoff broke this game down.

Thunder 108 Clippers 104: Oklahoma City led pretty much from the start here and it looked for a long time like this would be a blowout win. But the Clippers made a spirited comeback, Serge Ibaka punched Blake Griffin in the… groin (and somehow didn’t get ejected) and the Thunder won behind some strong play from Russell Westbrook late. Brett broke this game down, also.

Pacers 97, Bulls 92: This win gives the Pacers the season series over the Bulls and a likely Central Division win. Add this with the loss by the Knicks and the Pacers are the current second seed in the East. David West was an anchor in this game, scoring 31 against the always-scrappy Bulls defense. West had 10 in the final quarter, which is when George Hill had 11 of his 21. Roy Hibbert had 18 points and 10 rebounds on the night and as he starts to find his groove again the Pacers, which makes them an even more dangerous playoff team.

One thing of note — for the second straight game coach Frank Vogel sat Danny Granger the entire second half. He played 8 minutes total. That concerns me.

Rockets 136, Mavericks 103: That ends a nine-game losing streak for the Rockets to the Mavs about as convincingly as you can. After a tight first half the Rockets opened the third quarter on a 15-0 run, went on to win the third 44-17 and that was all she wrote. Chandler Parsons had a career-high 32 points on an impressive 12-for-13 shooting. Jeremy Lin and James Harden each had 21, but Lin won the assists battle between the two nine to seven. Dallas had dropped four of five.

Spurs 114, Pistons 75: No Tony Parker but the Spurs ball movement was still crisp all night and that just overwhelmed the Pistons defense. The Spurs did it with incredible balance — Manu Ginobili led them with 17 points, and he scored them all in the first half. Tim Duncan and Danny Green each had 16 points for San Antonio. The Pistons have lost five of their last six.

Memphis 108, Magic 82: This was a rout from the first quarter, from when the Grizzlies went on an 18-6 run and never looked back. Memphis did it with balance, having six players scoring in double digits led by Tayshaun Prince’s 14. Marc Gasol was dishing as he finished with 12 points and 11 assists. As for the Magic, they haven’t held a team under 53 percent shooting in three games now.

Wizards 90, Sixers 87: How about that John Wall — he had six points in the final 1:37 of this game and that was enough to get the Wizards a win. Washington had led most of the second half until an 11-0 Sixers run gave them the lead, setting up Wall’s heroics. Down three late Wall hit a jumper, then on the next possession drew a foul and got to the line, hitting both. Washington was up one and Wall blocked an Evan Turner shot. Then on the next possession Wall iced it with a 20 footer. As everyone has said about Wall, if he gets a steady outside shot.

Kings 119, Bobcats 83: Wow, the Bobcats are bad. Yes, give the Kings some credit for exorcizing the demons of a 1-4 road trip thanks to John Salmons and his 22 points, plus Jason Thompson finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. But mostly, the Bobcats are bad.

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

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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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.