Courtney Lee hits big 3 to help Hornets pull out win over Heat


For Courtney Lee, massages apparently double as bible studies, and his dual session yesterday proved useful.

Lee scored the final points – a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left after looking limber while extending the possession with an offensive rebound – in the Hornets’ 90-88 Game 5 win over the Heat on Wednesday.

“She was explaining faith, and it was like just believe in something that you can’t see,” said Lee, who was who was 1-for-8 before his final attempt. “And like you said, it’s not my best shooting performance. I felt like I couldn’t make a shot. But the biggest one went in.”

You couldn’t see it when Miami started 4-for-4 with every basket coming at a rim protected by Al Jefferson and Frank Kaminsky. You couldn’t see it when Dwyane Wade (25 points) scored repeatedly against tough Lee defense down the stretch. You couldn’t see it when Lee missed a fastbreak layup – that Wade might have gotten away with goaltending – with just over a minute left.

Yet, Charlotte – which entered the league as an expansion franchise in 1988, moved to New Orleans in 2002, reemerged as the Bobcats in 2004 and changed its nickname back to the Hornets in 2014 – leads Miami 3-2 and is one win from its first-ever best-of-seven series victory. The Hornets, who hadn’t won a single playoff game until Saturday since reentering the NBA as the Bobcats, can close the series at home in Game 6 Friday.

The team leading a best-of-seven series 3-2 has won 85% of the time.

How Charlotte earn this advantageous position? Shooting below 40%, barely offensively rebounding (by design) and attempting a series-low (for either team) 15 free throws.

But the Hornets bombed away from outside, making 12-of-24 3-pointers, and made the key plays. Marvin Williams (17 points, eight rebounds, two assists and three steals) came up big, especially defensively. Nicolas Batum, who’s playing hurt and looked it, missed his first four shots then hit two big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. And Lee – as he did in Game 4 – grabbed a clutch offensive rebound.

With three straight wins, Charlotte has seized loose control of this series. The Hornets have faith.

One more win, and everyone will have no choice but to believe.

Watch James Harden score 55, including 10 threes, to beat Cleveland

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CLEVELAND (AP) — James Harden scored 55 points – 20 in the fourth quarter – and Russell Westbrook added 23 points as the Houston Rockets withstood an unexpected scare from Cleveland and held on for a 116-110 win Wednesday night over the free-falling Cavaliers, who have lost eight straight and 14 of 15.

Harden matched Kyrie Irving‘s arena record for points in a game, and his fourth with 50 or more this season bailed out the Rockets, who allowed the Cavs to score 24 straight points in the second half.

Cleveland was still up 108-107 when Harden, who came in leading the NBA in scoring at 38 points per game, dropped a floater in the lane. After a turnover by Cavs guard Jordan Clarkson, P.J. Tucker hit a 3-pointer from the corner and Clint Capela had a dunk following another Cleveland miscue.

The inexperienced Cavs crumbled in the final minute, making three turnovers.

Capela added 13 rebounds for Houston, which figured to have an easy time with the Cavs, who are struggling under first-year coach John Beilein.

Cleveland, though, came to play and was led by rookie Kevin Porter Jr.‘s season-high 24 points. Collin Sexton added 18 and Kevin Love had 17 points and 11 boards.

Harden connected on a pair of 3-pointers during a 16-2 run in the third quarter when the Rockets, who were sleepwalking through long stretches of the first half, appeared to take control.

But Houston relaxed, and Cleveland went on a jaw-dropping 24-0 run – all without Love, who was on the bench with a head laceration – over a 4:43 stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters to a take a 99-88 lead on Porter’s bucket.


Grizzlies’ Ja Morant absolutely destroyed Aron Baynes with dunk (VIDEO)

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We may have a new Dunk of the Year.

Memphis rookie Ja Morant is an athletic freak, one confident enough in his skills to go right at a big switched onto him. Say Phoenix’s Aron Baynes. On a critical fourth-quarter possession.

RIP Aron Baynes.

Memphis won the game 115-108.

Victor Oladipo not near return to Pacers rotation

Associated Press
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“But he’s still a ways away.”

Those are not the words Pacers fans want to hear about Victor Oladipo. Their team is playing well — 15-9 with a top-10 defense — but they are not a real postseason threat without their best player, who is recovering from a ruptured right quadriceps tendon. Before the season, Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said he was “hopeful” Oladipo would be back in December or January.

It looks like it’s going to be the back end of that timeline. At best. From J. Michael of the Indy Star, speaking to coach Nate McMillan.

Oladipo will have to be eased back in when he does return, he’s not going too hit the ground running at 40 minutes a night.

The Pacers look like a lock playoff team in the East even without Oladipo, they can afford to bring him along slowly. The hope would be to have the All-Star up to speed and integrated into the offense when the playoffs do start. If that happens, the Pacers become that team that the elite squads want to avoid early.

Lakers outscore Magic 26-9 in the first quarter. It got uglier after that.

Associated Press
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As has gotten a lot of publicity this season, the Lakers have one of the best defenses in the NBA, sixth in the league in defensive rating coming into Wednesday night. Their combination of length and activity has thrown teams off their games.

Less well publicized, the Orlando Magic have been bad on offense this season, fifth-worst in the NBA.

What happens when the immovable object met a very soft force on Wednesday night, well…

Orlando shot 4-of-21 in the first quarter, missing all six of their threes, plus turned the ball over four times just to make things a little worse. It’s not that the Lakers were exactly tearing it up, as a team they shot just 35.7 percent in the first quarter (Orlando is a good defensive squad), but Anthony Davis saved their bacon with seven points plus three assists (all for threes, so 16 points generated by him in the first).

The Lakers stretched that out to a 24-point lead in the second quarter before a combination of Orlando stepping up their play and the Lakers taking their foot off the gas a little led to an 18-3 Orlando run that cut the lead to 13 at the half. LeBron James had 16 points to lead the Lakers.

By the middle of the third, Orlando had made a game of it.