Baseline to Baseline

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Our game recaps from Sunday, the stuff you missed while watching four hours of Super Bowl previews. Did you really need to watch all of it?

Orlando 96, Boston 89.
Another game, another collapse from the Celtics. In the final seven minutes of the third quarter (after a Rajon Rondo three put the Celtics up by nine), the Celtics went 0-8 from the floor with five turnovers. Meanwhile, Orlando went 8-11, and 4 of 4 from three. Orlando did not collapse, they got the win.

Celtics fans should be worried. This is not a little slump anymore. Injuries are a part of it, but the Celtics don’t respond well to adversity, they don’t seem to believe in their offensive identity. They still get the penetration their offense needs but against Orlando when they kicked out they clanked it. They rarely drove and got the contact and got to the line. Orlando backed off and dared Rondo to shoot and it started to work, the Boston ball movement was inconsistent. Their defense can take lapses as well. Mike Breen beat this stat into the ground but it is a good one — the Celtics have blown nine double digit leads and lost since Christmas.

Of course, if you are an Orlando fan, this was not a collapse but a comeback. And they did earn this. Orlando could not seem to miss in the third. They stiffened up their defense. If they  got the kind of game out of Vince Carter consistently would scare the entire NBA — a very controlled 20 points on 7 of 13 from the floor. Their big run came after Dwight Howard got his fourth foul and Stan Van Gundy left him in the game. Credit Van Gundy for the move, and Howard for playing smart and not picking up another foul.

Orlando has not put it all together for a stretch yet and looked like a title contender, but it’s games like this — second halves like this really — where you think they could. You don’t get that feeling watching Boston right now.

Raptors 115, Kings 104. Here’s everything you really need to know about this game: The Kings entered the fourth quarter up three then went 2 of 11 in the paint the rest of the way. Bosh had one of the best blocks of the year on a Jason Thompson shot, while Spencer Hawes couldn’t hit his little running hook to save his life. The Kings scored just 15 in the final stanza because Toronto played some defense. Seriously.

The Kings have other things to think abut: Kevin Martin still can’t find his outside shot. He finished 4 of 13 from the midrange or deeper. To his credit, Martin attacked the rim, got to the free throw like 12 times and finished with a team-high 24. But with Tyreke Evans on the team, you don’t need the slashing as much as you do the outside threat. When Toronto actually played a little defense in the paint in the fourth quarter, Sacramento had no good counter punch (save Delonte Green). Dallas still wants to trade for Martin, if the Kings don’t think Martin can play along side Evans (they have just one win since Martin returned to the lineup) they have to consider decent offers.

For Toronto, Bosh was Bosh like, 36 points of 14 of 18 from the floor. Hedo Turkoglu is not going to be confused with Rip Hamilton anytime soon (the new mask clearly irritated him as he fidgeted with it all game). He didn’t wear it during warm-ups but had to for the game on team orders (a hit to the bridge of his nose right now could cost him his eyesight). Turkoglu went out and hit four of his first five and had nine first quarter points, but was 2 of 9 the rest of the way.

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.