Baseline to Baseline (last night's game recaps)

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I believe in yesterday. Which is why we’ve put together our thoughts on all the games of yesterday. All this without your troubles here to stay. Neat, huh? Quit smiling, Paul. You’re not as cute as you think you are.

Toronto 104 Philadelphia 96: Hedo Turkoglu was supposed to give the Raptors star power, but with him struggling, and out last night with injury, the Raptors are starting to discover that they have some pretty terrific depth. They may not have any firestarters off the pine, but they’ve got long, athletic defenders that can get buckets and finish plays. And that was a huge differential tonight for the raps. Well, that and the fact that Chris Bosh (23 points on 15 shots, 12 rebounds, 3 assists) was the best player on the floor. Philly got an impressive performance from Lou Williams (26 points on 13 shots) and made a huge run to tie this game repeatedly in the fourth. But the Raptors finished on an 11-0 run to say “Nighty night, Cheesesteaks.”

For as much as Bosh deserves credit for Toronto’s recovery and surge to a solid mid-seed in the East, Andrea Bargnani’s development is huge for that squad. His stat line wasn’t huge, but in the first quarter he was outright dominant, punishing the Sixers bigs and nailing a huge three down the stretch. Bargs also finished with seven boards in a game this close. With Amir Johnson and Reggie Evans who returned last night, Toronto may have a top three frontcourt in the East.

Marreese Speights played seven minutes tonight, scoring three points. I’m so glad Philadelphia understands the value of embracing its talented young players. Liberty Ballers thinks the issue is defense and rebounding, but Speights is still third on the team in rebounds per 40. His defense is spotty, but I have a hard time understanding so little time for him against an athletic club like Toronto

Miami 94 Atlanta 76: The Hawks I’ll give a pass. Last game before All-Star break, back to back after a burstfest against Memphis. Atlanta’s been solid enough that a loss to a hot Heat (forgive me) team isn’t something I”m going to complain about. Throw in Jamal Crawford out with a minor injury and this is a pretty normal loss.

The Heat? Man, I don’t know. I don’t think we’ve known all season. Blow the Rockets out and then turn around and beat Atlanta at home? Sure, sounds like their gig. Lose in humiliating fashion to a lottery team and get throttled by a Western power? Yeah, why not?

The Heat shot 51% from the field last night, and Dorell Wright and Udonis Haslem combined for 11 of 14 from the floor. Good luck. There are a lot of things about this win (and last night’s Rockets beatdown) that reek of teams coasting into the All-Star break and the Heat on a statistical anomaly wave. But Udonis Haslem is playing fantastic ball lately. He’s making smart decisions every time he has the ball and playing like an absolute bully. Between him and Jermaine O’Neal, with Dorell Wright rising from the grave, the Heat can be tough to beat inside. Of course, I fully expect for them to lay down in an epic fashion next week to someone they should beat 100 times out of 100 (probably won’t be the Nets, they’re even worse). Only 18 for Wade in the win, the Heat kept the pace down (82 possessions), and if the Hawks can’t run, they can’t fly, and if they can’t fly, they can’t win.

Milwaukee 97 New Jersey 77: This time, the crush was the late third quarter. That’s when it got away. Nets are hanging. Nets are hanging. And then, they lose it for just a moment, just a short stretch of play, and boom. Barn doors blown open by a twelve gauge, blood on the walls, and you should go ahead and call CSI. Game over, brah. Game over.

Brook Lopez took six shots tonight. Which is all I need to tell you for you to understand how good Andrew Bogut is at basketball. But if you need more, how about 22 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks, ZERO turnovers, AND he shut down the best center in the Atlantic division? The defense wasn’t the culprit tonight for the Nets. Their offense closed up, suffocated, and died. You score 77 points in a slow pace game and you’re in trouble, no matter how much of a bounce back performance Devin Harris drops.

New Orleans 93 Boston 85: Two teams that were in the final four teams two years ago combined for 178 points in a fast game (97 possessions) and 45 turnovers. Ye Gods. No Chris Paul, no Ray Allen, but still.  Boston can’t excuse this one even without Jesus Shuttlesworth. They needed a boost coming into the All-Star game and failed. Again. Rajon Rondo got Rajon Rondo’d by a young, athletic point, only scoring seven points with four assists versus Darren Collison’s 25 points and nine assists. If they had lost we’d be talking about his ten turnovers, but they didn’t, so we won’t.

Glen Davis at one point tried to run a fast break and dish a behind the back pass to Edie House, who of course dribbled it off his leg. . In the long list of acceptable results of being on  a fast break in a professional basketball game, not only is that on the list, it’s serving coffee at a 7-11 to options who can’t even get on that list. Danny Ainge says to chill out on the trade talk. We’d advise chilling on chilling on the trade talk.

Orlando 107 Chicago 87: Derrick Rose got hurt early on. The Magic came ready to play. I really don’t need to tell you much more. But if you’re curious, the Magic had seven players in double figures and had their “space you out, work you out, bleed you out” thing going. The Bulls cashed this one in pretty quickly and never recovered. Without Rose the offense that makes little boys and girls cry returned, only it was compounded by a defense where no one wanted to get back in transition. Tyrus Thomas had a nice game, which I’m sure a ton of teams are going over as we speak.

If we have an award for Most Improved Player, we should have one for Worst Depreciation Player and the award would go to John Salmons. 12 points on 11 shots, and his offensive night was the bright spot of his game.

Portland 108 Phoenix 101: Fast pace, both offenses humming, lot of fun to watch. The Suns had one of those nights. The same nights they’ve been having and will have. No way to stop anyone. When two combo points who aren’t terrific scorers throw up 40 combined? You have a problem. Goran Dragic had a great first half, and then faded into nothing. Same with Robin Lopez. The Blazers passes were sharp, accurate, ahead of the Suns’ predictions. Pretty much the opposite of last night’s game. Amare with 24 in his continued trade showcase.

Lakers 96 Jazz 81: So much for the Jazz and their big bad winning streak.

No one thinks the Lakers are better without Kobe. Nor that they can win a title without Kobe. Or Bynum, for that matter. But when faced with
out those two, the Lakers ar
e in a spot where they have no choice but to effort for 48 minutes. And that’s the only time they do. When they absolutely have to. This game? It wasn’t about the Lakers’ dominant offense and “beautiful” ball movement and blah blah blah. They took a Utah team that felt pretty good about itself and bent it over a 88 points per 100 possessions pace defense that just ruined any chance Utah may have had. This was over in the first quarter. The Lakers delivered the knockout punch, then for good measure, stalked the ring and occasionally delivered a haymaker whenever the Jazz tried to peel themselves off the floor. Andre Kirilenko was the only player with a halfway decent game, and his matchup of Lamar Odom did not end well.

Odom was brilliant. Odom had that game you always think of later when you’re screaming at the screen, trying to understand how one player could have his head that far up a taco. Odom ran point in transition several times. And it didn’t just work. It worked to deadly perfection. His hockey assist numbers would have been through the roof. Throw in a Pau-Gasol-like effort from Pau Gasol, and the Jazz should have skipped on down to Dallas and saved themselves the effort.

Carlos Boozer may be miffed about missing the All-Star Game, but he had his stuff returned to sender three times tonight by a team full of really All-Star-worthy players.

Golden State 132, Los Angeles Clippers 102 It was just one of those shooting nights for Golden State. They shot 62% overall, 59% from three. Hard for the Clippers to get their new running game going taking the ball out of the basket so much. Part of it was the Clippers defense in the second night of a back-to-back, their legs did not want to run with Golden State, they did not want to close out on shooters. It snowballed, and the Warriors, coming off a losing streak, were having too much fun winning again to take their foot off the gas. New Clippers coach Kim Hughes (now 0-3) has another problem with his “let Baron Davis be the decision maker on the floor” system — that means Baron Davis is making the decisions. Which means pull up threes with 17 seconds left on the shot clock some nights. This was one of those nights.

Charlotte 93, Minnesota 92 This was not what English Premiere League fans would call a “bad result” — the Bobcats were the better team for the majority of the game. They controlled the run of play, Stephen Jackson went off for 33 (don’t go under the screen!), Charlotte deserved the win. But oh, what a hard way to lose for the Timberwolves. Up a dozen early in the fourth quarter Charlotte tried to coast and Minnesota didn’t roll over. Good on them for that. A Ramon Sessions dunk at 1:30 left gave the Timberwolves the lead, then next trip down the Bobcats tried to single cover Al Jefferson in the low block with Nazr Mohammed and that was a mistake, Wolves up three, less than a minute to play.

Next Bobcat possession, Boris Diaw tips in a Mohammed miss and the lead is one. Then came the final Bobcat possession (still down one), where Charlotte forces Diaw into a 21-footer off-the-dribble sans screen — perfect defense — and it misses. Two Wolves battle each other for the board and the ball starts to go out of bounds. Corey Brewer jumps to save it and throws it right under the basket. To Mohammed. Dunk. Bobcats win. May have been the right outcome, didn’t feel that way for Minny.

Sacramento 103, Detroit 97: Sacramento dominated the backcourt — Kevin Martin had 26 on 9 of 15 shooting (but he can’t play with Evans, right?), Beno Udrih dropped 22 on just 10 shots, and Tyreke Evans continued his Rookie of the Year tour with 13 and six dimes. Meanwhile, Rip Hamilton was 5 of 18 from the field, Rodney Stuckey 4 of 13. Detroit led after three, largely due to Tayshaun Price going off for 23 on 15 shots, but in the end it was about the backcourt. That’s back-to-back road wins for Sacramento, by the way.


 

Report: Other NBA executives believe Pacers not seriously shopping Paul George

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers in action during the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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The Pacers are reportedly shopping Paul George, trying to line up a trade if they can’t get him help in another deal.

But it’s hard to find anyone who believes Indiana is genuinely looking to trade George before the upcoming trade deadline.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

If the Pacers are serious about trading George, they better convince other teams quickly. That’s the only way to draw out the best offers.

But it makes sense Indiana is only in the exploratory stage.

The Pacers — and only the Pacers — could offer George a designated-veteran-player contract extension (projected to be worth about $209 million over five years) this offseason if he makes an All-NBA team.

That’s probably a longshot. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are locks for three of the six forward spots. Anthony DavisJimmy ButlerDraymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo should also rank ahead of George. Gordon HaywardPaul MillsapKevin Love are firmly in the mix, too. That’s a lot of ground to make up and other contenders to fend off.

But it’s likely worth it for the Pacers to keep George past the deadline and let him try. The upside is so high.

If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Indiana could always trade him at any point before the next trade deadline. He could also qualify as a designated veteran player by making a 2017-18 All-NBA team and re-signing as a free agent in 2018, but by then, it’d be too late for the Pacers to trade him if they don’t have the major financial advantage.

At some point, Indiana could ask George to pledge to stay for his max, whatever that winds up being. That wouldn’t be binding, but his response could be telling.

For now, if I were the Pacers, I’d hope he makes All-NBA this year and dare him to reject the designated-veteran-player extension. If he qualifies and turns that down, that would absolutely be telling.

But I’d also be exploring the trade market now, hoping for an offer that knocks my socks off but more realistically gaining understanding for when dealing George becomes more logical.

Report: Clippers’ Chris Paul cleared, could play against Warriors on Thursday

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul shoots as Portland Trail Blazers' Al-Farouq Aminu watches during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb last month, and the Clippers announced he’d miss 6-8 weeks.

He could return just over five weeks after injury, when the Clippers face the Warriors on Thursday.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, via Andrew Han of ESPN:

“He looked great. He went through the whole practice [on Tuesday]. You know, so it was good. Really good,” Rivers said before practice on Wednesday. “He could play tomorrow. I mean, I can’t tell you if he will or not, but he’s been cleared medically. But we just want to make sure that he’s comfortable playing.”

The Clippers have slid to fourth in the West, leading the fifth-place Jazz by just half a game. It’s probably too late to catch the third-place Rockets, who are five games up. But maintaining home-court advantage in the first round is important.

Paul should help.

The Clippers remain dangerous when healthy. They’ve outscored teams by 15.1 points per 100 possessions when Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick share the court. With those four, they score and defend at rates that would lead the league if it weren’t for Golden State’s historic offensive rating.

DeMarcus Cousins on trade from Kings: “I’m not sour”

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DeMarcus Cousins met with the press for the first time in New Orleans, and they got a vision of the relaxed and happy side of the big man.

He was cracking jokes, saying he thought himself and Anthony Davis would blend perfectly, and being engaging.

One of the best parts was Cousins being asked how competitive he is, and Cousins replied “About 17 technicals worth.”

Cousins also talked a fair amount about how he and Davis would work together.

Cousins talked a good game, now he has to show it started Thursday on the court against the Rockets.

Report: Wizards trade first-round pick to get Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough, unload Andrew Nicholson

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards battles Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets for a loose ball during the first half at Verizon Center on December 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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John Wall has been so good, he made himself right.

The Wizards’ starters have been awesome, and their bench has been about equally bad. With Washington surging to third in the East, and the fourth-place Raptors making their move with Serge Ibaka, this was no time to idle.

So, as Wall predicted, the Wizards traded for bench helpBojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough from the Nets.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Andrew Nicholson, with three years and $19,911,007 remaining after this season, had negative value. He was part of the reason the Wizards’ bench stunk. Likewise, Marcus Thornton provided little in reserve. A 29-year-old on an expiring minimum contract, he was likely included only so Washington didn’t exceed the roster maximum of 15 players.

Essentially the Wizards traded a first-round pick for Bogdanovic, McCullough and shedding Nicholson.

Bogdanovic will provide wing scoring for a reserve unit badly in need of juice. He has been an ineffective defender, but his 6-foot-8 frame offers a path to improvement on that end.

The 27-year-old will be a restricted free agent next summer. Assuming re-signing Otto Porter is the priority, keeping Bogdanovic could push Washington into the luxury tax — likely a non-starter. This could win up just a rental, but there’s plenty of time to evaluate Bogdanovic’s (and everyone else’s) long-term fit.

The Nets drafted McCullough No. 29 in 2015 as a project, and he remains one. The 22-year-old has spent far more time in the D-League than the NBA this season. It’s unlikely he contributes this season, as lower as the bar is for the Wizards’ bench. He has two additional seasons left on his rookie-scale contract, time for Washington to figure out what it has.

Now, Brooklyn has a couple first-round picks this year — the Celtics’ and the Wizards’. That doesn’t amount to much, but the Nets are so far from relevance, getting even younger is a wise path forward.