Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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i.jpgOur game recaps from Thursday, or what you missed while driving around to find the Kogi truck.

Cleveland 115, Orlando 106 You would have thought early on that the big men — and the referees with their tight calls — would decide this one. As the game headed into the stretch, both Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard had five fouls. But neither of them fouled out.

In the final minutes, the game was decided primarily by the perimeter players. LeBron James stepped up like you expect a superstar to. Jameer Nelson continues to make my wonder what happened to the Jameer Nelson from before the injury last year. I miss him.

For most of the game the Nelson and the Orlando guards did a good job feeding the post, especially when there were mismatches. Nelson was not fantastic, but he was playing within the offense.

Until the game was on the line, then Nelson and the rest of Orlando became about the jumper. From the 5:30 mark in the fourth quarter (with the game timed 96-96) until a Vince Carter eight-footer with just over 1:00 left, the Magic went 0-6 from the floor. Five of the six shots were long jumpers (three from beyond the arc). Cleveland was part of the reason — in a game that was largely without good defense the Cavaliers picked up the intensity at that end of the floor — but Orlando’s guards settled. The inside-out ball movement was gone, the Magic went to the isolation plays.

What did Cleveland do in that same stretch? Two Shaq buckets right at the basket, a LeBron driving layup, a Delonte West three that was set up by more LeBron penetration, and a ridiculous LeBron step-back 23 footer with Mickael Pietrus in his face. Mostly, they got good looks (and hit the tough one). LeBron and the Cavaliers know how to close. They have the look of a champion.

San Antonio 111, Denver 92 This game was basically over in the second quarter. San Antonio was ready to play — they needed a big win, and seemed more focused as a team knowing they would have to do it without Tony Parker. Denver was as focused as a high school student on the Friday afternoon before Spring Break.

San Antonio not only shot well — including 47.4% from three — but they dominated the offensive glass, grabbing the rebound on 35.7% of their missed shots. Too good a team to give second chances too.

Denver on the other hand, 39% shooting, 3 of 19 from three. You’re in for a long night when Nene is your hot shooting hand (8 of 9). Can’t read much into this game long term, Denver’s players were clearly already thinking about Spring Break and the beach. Well, except for Carmelo and Billups, who were probably wondering how the heck they were going to get into snowed-out Dallas.

Are Bulls and Dwyane Wade moving toward a buyout?

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About a month ago, the Bulls said they hadn’t discussed a buyout with Dwyane Wade.

Have the two sides progressed since?

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Dwyane Wade isn’t long for the organization’s future and is expected to reach a buyout agreement at some point in the next few months.

Expected by whom?

People with direct knowledge of momentum toward a buyout?

Or everyone who can see that a 35-year-old earning $23.8 million fits poorly on a rebuilding team?

For the Bulls to now drop their biggest name and a large expiring contract that could prove useful in trades should require Wade surrendering a large portion of his salary. He doesn’t sound like someone inclined to do that yet.

A few months is a long time. As long as Wade gets bought out by March 1, he could join another team’s playoff roster. It’d surprise nobody if he gets bought out after the February trade deadline, which we already knew. I don’t see strong indication of something more imminent.

LeBron James’ camp already shooting down leaving-Cavaliers rumor

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LeBron James has done a terrible job shooting down rumors about him leaving the Cavaliers

Except this one from Chris Sheridan, who cited a source saying LeBron would “100 percent” leave Cleveland next summer due to a rift with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Sheridan’s source saying LeBron is leaving doesn’t make that true. But other anonymous sources denying it doesn’t make the denials true, either.

New Orleans Saints fire Pelicans’ team physician

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The Pelicans have been crushed by injuries the last few years.

Why? That’s an incredibly complex question.

But the New Orleans Saints – who share an owner (Tom Benson), a front-office leader (Mickey Loomis) and other staff with the Pelicans – have found culprits for their own injury woes.

Mike Triplett of ESPN:

The Saints have fired team orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri, per source, after it was discovered that CB Delvin Breaux has a fractured fibula and will require surgery expected to sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. Breaux was originally diagnosed with a contusion

Suri is a Pelicans team physician.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Fairly or not, Suri – after the Saints deemed him unacceptable – will be in the crosshairs if he keeps his job with the the Pelicans and their injury woes continue.

Rumor: LeBron James ‘100 percent’ leaving Cavaliers next summer

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Chris Sheridan was ahead of the crowd in 2014, reporting LeBron James would likely leave the Heat for the Cavaliers – which obviously happened.

But Sheridan called it a “90 percent chance,” a small – but large enough – hedge. He also said LeBron would announce the decision on LeBron’s personal website. Of course, LeBron revealed his choice in a Sports Illustrated essay.

So, maybe Sheridan knows what he’s talking about. Maybe he doesn’t.

But the longtime NBA writer just fanned the flames of the already hot LeBron-leaving-Cleveland rumors.

Sheridan:

Of course, the denials came quickly.

There have already been plenty of warning signs about LeBron’s relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, which didn’t restart in a great place.

It’s entirely believable LeBron would leave Cleveland, in large part due to Gilbert.

But it’s also fun to speculate about that salacious storyline.

Maybe Sheridan or his source got carried away for that very reason. Or maybe they know something.

Neither possibility should be discounted.