Baseline-to-baseline recaps: Knicks wrap up two seed in the East, Lakers stay in playoff hunt with win over Spurs

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while planning for your digital afterlife

Heat 105, Bulls 93: The outcome of this game was no surprise, but the fact that the Bulls put up a fight after falling behind big in the second quarter showed why they’ll be a tough out in the postseason. We broke this one down in greater detail here.

Mavericks 107, Hornets 89: Dirk Nowitzki got to break out the razor. Same with O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and the rest of the Mavericks who were growing .500 beards and got to shave them when the Mavericks finally reached the threshold with this win. Well, Kaman may keep his because he is Chris Kaman.

Dallas led this one almost from the start behind 21 from Shawn Marion and 19 from Nowitzki. With one of his second quarter jump shots, Nowitzki became only the 17th player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points in his career. — Kurt Helin

Lakers 91, Spurs 86: It wasn’t pretty — the winning team shot 36.5 percent — but the Lakers played with a playoff desperation and the Spurs floated through the game and the result was a Lakers win. One Los Angeles needed — its magic number to make the playoffs is one (Utah has to beat Minnesota and Memphis on the road to force the Lakers to beat Houston on Wednesday).

The Lakers got an aggressive Dwight Howard early that demanded the ball in the post and finished with 26 points and 17 boards. They had other guys like Steve Blake (23 points) step up as well. We broke it all down in more detail here. — Kurt Helin

Rockets 121, Kings 100: We are now a step closer to the Denver/Houston first-round series I am pulling for (because not everybody should play slow-it-down, grind-it-out basketball in the postseason). Houston is now in the six seed spot, tied with Golden State but the Rockets have the tiebreaker. They control their own destiny with two games to play (beat the Suns and Lakers, both on the road, and they are the six seed). And they want the six seed — Denver is not easy but it’s no San Antonio.

Houston won this game going away, a 14-0 run late in the second (Kings didn’t score the final three minutes of the half) put them in control and the second half was a laugher.  — Kurt Helin

76ers 91, Cavaliers 77: Kyrie Irving scored a career-low four points, but as poorly as he played, he wasn’t that far behind Dorell Wright, who scored a game-high 15 points. Both teams – already eliminated from the playoff race – combined to shoot 40 percent from the field and 63 percent from the free-throw line. — Dan Feldman

Nuggets 118, Trail Blazers 109: Kenneth Faried left the game with an ankle injury, casting a dark light on Denver’s franchise-record 55th win. On the bright side, Andre Iguodala had an awesome game – 28 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks – and Evan Fournier comfortably bested his career high with 24 points. The Nuggets now have a full game lead for the No. 3 seed, which would mean avoiding the Clippers and Grizzlies in the first round.

Damian Lillard had 30 points and six assists, which should help seal his Rookie of the Year win, especially if voters overlook his eight turnovers. — Dan Feldman

Knicks 90, Pacers 80: Carmelo Anthony scored “just” 25 points – his fewest in eight games – but that was still enough for New York to secure the No. 2 seed and homecourt advantage through the second round. If seeds hold in the first round, the Knicks would then play the Pacers, who are now assured of the No. 3 seed.

The Knicks have won 14 of 15, and with a season-high 26 turnovers, the Pacers have lost four of five. — Dan Feldman

Raptors 93, Nets 87: Despite 30 points and seven assists from Deron Williams, Joe Johnson helped Brooklyn secure the No. 4 seed with his 4-of-16 shooting. The Nets will host either the Hawks or Bulls in a first-round series.

DeMar DeRozan (36) and Rudy Gay (26) each scored more than 20 points in the same game for the seventh time. — Dan Feldman

James Harden working on one-legged step-back three for next season

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As if James Harden wasn’t unstoppable enough.

Harden’s step-back three has become probably the most unstoppable shot in the NBA. Now video has gone viral in NBA circles of Harden working on a one-legged, step-back three. Think Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged jumper, but from three and with a little more side-to-side to it. (You can see the video above.) Harden talked to Tim MacMahon of ESPN about it.

“I’m not sure; it’s something that I work on,” Harden said when asked if he’ll use the one-legged, step-back 3 this season. “But you know how Mike [Jordan] has his fadeaway and Dirk [Nowitzki] has his one-leg and [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] had the sky hook, I want my step-back to be one of those moves that last forever. So when I travel around the world and I see little kids that [say], ‘Hey James, I got a step-back!’ — I love to see that.

“It’s me being a creator and me being an innovator and paving the way in basketball in my own way, doing it how I want to do it, and that’s what it’s all about. As a little kid playing in these parks, that’s what I imagined, that’s what I dreamed of. Now it’s coming to reality, so it’s pretty cool.”

Harden is going to score a lot of points… or, maybe the better way to say that is he’s going to score even more points if he gets to a point he unleashes that in a game.

The challenge this season for Harden will be balance — he’s got to share the court and the ball with Russell Westbrook. Both of them are at their best with the ball in their hands, creating in isolation, but they need to be more than that. While coach Mike D’Antoni can do some things to help with that balance (staggering their minutes as much as possible) for the Rockets to become the contenders they want to be Harden and Westbrook have to be more than “your turn, now it’s my turn” on offense.

But when it’s Harden’s turn, that one-legged step back will be fun to watch.

Derrick White didn’t lose teeth, passes concussion test after nasty fall in USA loss

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There were plenty of ugly things for Team USA in its loss to Australia on Saturday — most of them on the defensive end — but later in the day on Saturday there was some good news.

It sounds like point guard Derrick White will be fine after his nasty fall and face plant during the game, reports Tom Osborne of the San Antonio Express-News.

In the middle of the fourth quarter, White was pushing the ball upcourt after an Australia miss and either got clipped from behind — there was a foul called — or stumbled over his own feet. I lean clipped, but the video is not conclusive.

White fell and faceplanted, with his head bouncing off the court. If he got away with just stitches, that’s good news for Team USA. If White had a concussion it is possible he would have missed the start of the World Cup, and the USA is not deep at the point guard spot on this roster (Kemba Walker and White are the only true point guards, a couple of players such as Marcus Smart can play a few minutes there but aren’t really suited to the position).

Team USA has one more exhibition game against Canada, then opens World Cup play on Sept. 1 in China against the Czech Republic.

Grizzlies officially waive Dwight Howard, first step on his path to Lakers

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Lakers fans are uncomfortable with it, but the Lakers did a good job hedging their bet with a non-guaranteed contract: Dwight Howard is coming to the Lakers.

That process started on Saturday with the Grizzlies officially waiving Howard.

In theory, any team could claim Howard off waivers. In practice, no team is picking up his full $5.6 million salary.

Howard gave back $2.6 million in his buyout with the Grizzlies, which is exactly how much his veteran minimum contract with the Lakers will pay him.

Howard and JaVale McGee will have to tag team to play all the minutes at the five the Lakers need. Anthony Davis is their best center (and it’s not close, he’s arguably the best center in the NBA) but he wants to play the four most of the game, so for 30 minutes a night the Lakers need another big body at the five.

Howard has the potential to fill that role. For three seasons, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, Howard averaged 13+ points and 12 rebounds a night, was a big body on defense, and played at least 71 games in averaging 30 minutes a night. Exactly the kind of player the Lakers could use. The problem was Howard was never happy those years just playing that defense/set-a-pick-and-roll/rebound role. He wanted more touches and particularly in the post, which led to disruptions as he pushed for a larger role. It’s why he bounced around. Then last season he played just nine games due to more back and hamstring issues.

Howard is saying all the right things about accepting that role, and he convinced the Lakers to a degree, but that non-guaranteed contract shows the Lakers go into this eyes wide open. If Howard is up to his old antics, the Lakers can cut bait and move on.

It’s among the many things to watch in what should be an entertaining Lakers’ training camp this year.

On Mamba Day (8/24), former Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti talks about what made Kobe great

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Kobe Bryant’s work ethic is legend.

It takes talent to become an MVP, 15-time All-NBA, 18-time All-Star, and lock future Hall of Famer. However, it was how Kobe got the most out of his talent that separated him from his peers. Long-time Lakers trainer Gary Vitti retired a couple of years ago and will soon publish an autobiography, “32 Years of Titles and Tears from the Best Seat in the House: What I Learned about Happiness, Greatness, Leadership and the Evolution of Sports Science.”

Vitti joined Hall of Fame photographer Andrew D. Bernstein this week on an episode of Legends of Sport to discuss his upcoming book, and he talked about Kobe (hat tip to CNBC).

“He was talented, but what if I told you he wasn’t the most talented guy out there? I’m telling you, and I’ve had them all, there’s nothing really special about Kobe. I mean he’s a big guy, but he’s not that big. He was quick, but he’s not that quick. He’s fast, he wasn’t that fast. He was powerful, but he wasn’t that powerful. I mean, there were other players that had more talent than he did, so what was there about him that more talented players had zero rings and he ended up with five?…

“He was tough in the sense that he took ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ out of his lexicon and he just believed that he could do it. Kobe taught me that talent is the most overrated thing in life; it’s what you do with your talent.”

Nobody in NBA history did as much with the talent they had as Kobe.

On Mamba Day, enjoy his ultimate mixtape highlights above and remember what it took for Kobe to get there.