Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Friday while you were debating Tiger’s human touch:

Mavericks 95 Magic 85: And things were going so well for the Magic, too. Dwight Howard was beastin’-flat-out-beastin’ with 29 points, six rebounds, and five blocks. Those weren’t easy stats, either, as Brendan Haywood fits into this team like a glove. But Howard had the turnaround bank going, and that’s incredibly hard to stop. The Magic had ball movement, were rolling, everything looked good for a home win.

But two things helped sink the Magic. One, and stop me if you’ve heard this one, the Magic’s threes stopped falling, ending up just 4 for 25 (!). You’d think at some point they’d stop shooting them, but if the defense is able to deny penetration and tease them into taking 3’s, Orlando will bomb all day. And if they’re not hitting, they’re sunk.

Two, a 19-0 run between the 3rd and 4th periods. The Mavericks just absolutely blew the doors off the hinges during this stretch, and that was really the run. It was marked by contributions from everyone. Butler created off the cut, Haywood finished off of weakside draws, Shawn Marion controlled the boards, and Dirk and Terry rang up the points like a pinball machine.

I know Dirk is the obvious point here (23 points, 5 assists, 3 blocks), but you expect Dirk to do that kind of damage (and usually off fewer than 24 shots).  Throw in some defense and Dirk, and a huge road win for the Mavs.

J.J Redick, Jason Williams, and Ryan Anderson were 0-10 from the field. Now that’s a Whiteout.

Wizards 107 Nuggets 97: Hell hath no fury like scoring wings spurned. Josh Howard and Al Thornton, two scoring small forwards whose teams thought they were expendable and shipped them out before the trade deadline, went OFF. Try 15 of 23 shooting for 41 points and an inspiring win for the hard-luck Wizards.

The Wizards definitely benefited from the Nuggets being on the second game of a back to back (SEGABABA). Nuggets defenders were pretty much giving the “one-try, oh, he’s too far, nevermind”approach.And the Nuggets are built to attack super-long, big forwards in the West, like Amaré Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, etc. They’re less adept at shutting down athletic thin-wings like Horford and Howard, especially when they’re motivated.

James Singleton, largely considered a throw-away in the Butler trade, had 7 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks (including a weakside erasure of J.R. Smith at the rim early in the fourth) in 20 minutes. It’s had not to root for the Wizards, who are showing the most effort they have all year.

Bobcats 110 Cavaliers 93: We already covered the Jamison FAIL escapade, so what else fell into this little blip on the radar screen? LeBron James and Anderson Varejao had eight rebounds combined. Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson had eight rebounds each. Mo Williams got thoroughly outplayed by D.J. Augustine, who looked as if Flip Murray took whatever funk had been holding over Augustine with him.

Stephen Jackson’s ability to simply create shots is huge for this squad. It allows them to focus on the defensive end, where they are absolutely phenomenal. Charlotte kills itself to run off threes, disrupts passing lanes in whatever way it can, and and focuses on consistent, efficient offense. Big win for the Çats, who are looking more and more like the team you don’t want to run into in the playoffs, first round.

Tyrus Thomas with 9 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks in 25 minutes. Big up yourself, youngster.

Philadelphia 106, San Antonio 94: There was a time, not so many years ago, when in the fourth quarter the Spurs were always the aggressor. Those days have largely gone the way of the Dodo, especially on the road. San Antonio was up three going into the fourth but the Sixers stepped up the defensive pressure and forced five turnovers, then were rewarded with some easy transition hoops. The Sixers attacked the rim and got to the line 11 times in the final stanza. That was the ball game. In the NBA the aggressors get the calls and the wins.

Raptors 106 Nets 89: Seven Raptors were in double figures, three Nets were. This is a terrible matchup for the Nets, who don’t have many matchup advantages all season long to begin with. But a fast-paced offensively geared team with tall players? Doom.

Brook Lopez had 22 points on 12 shots, and a whole bunch of sadness.

Hornets 107 Pacers 106: The Pacers let a rookie point guard, a sensational point guard, but still, rack up 13 rebounds on his way to a triple-double. I don’t know what else to tell you about this one.

The Hornets’ focus was largely the difference in this one. The Pacers got some points, had some opportunities, but when they need a stop, when they absolutely must get a stop, they have neither the personnel nor the system to get them.

Darren Collison may not win rookie of the year, but he’s going to warrant a few votes.

Heat 100 Grizzlies 87: If the Grizzlies had not started the game in the refrigerator. or not ended the game melting in the oven, they would have beaten a Dwyane-Wade-less Heat team. But an abysmal first half that saw the Grizzlies score only 31 points total dug them a hole they spent the rest of the game crawling out of, unable to kick the Heat off towards the end of regulation thanks to Michael Beasley. Then in the second overtime, Udonis Haslem took over, and that was that.

At one point in the 2nd overtime, Mike Conley simply lost his dribble, right into a steal, then fouled the stealer, racking up his fifth foul. It is largely representative of his career.

Ronnie Brewer strained his hamstring, limiting the Grizzlies’ pathetic depth even more.

Michael Beasley’s jumper is as pure as mountain snow.

Bulls 100 Wolves 84: The Wolves actually hung around in this one, actually leading at the break. But Kirk Hinrich may be slowly finding his shot (7-12, 2-2 from the arc), and that makes the Bulls a lot tougher to beat when combined with that defense.

Vinny Del Negro takes a lot of flack for his coaching, but defense is tough to coach in the NBA, and the Bulls just go out and do it. Without Joakim Noah, with Derrick Rose only getting to the stripe four times, the Bulls just lock down and made a bad offensive team play badly.

Bucks 91 Pistons 84:

Dribble-dribble-dribble.

Dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble.

Dribble-dribble-miss-rebound-dribble-dribble.

And that was 48 minutes of life the fans wish
they had back. The winning t
eam shot 38% from the floor. The Pistons just are discombobulated, all the time, both sides of the floor. They know what they want to run, they just don’t know how to do it.

Ersan Ilyasova needs more attention for the Bucks. 6-6 for 16 points and his ability to have the offense run through him is notable for a rookie. He’s like the anti-Ben Gordon. Efficient, underpaid, and fluid.

Suns 88 Hawks 80: I would have expected that total at the half.

The Hawks just didn’t have it. Not their usual effort defensively, not their usual efficiency offensively. The Suns were able to get easy buckets inside when they wanted and able to deny Atlanta the same. When that happens, the Hawks become pedestrian, human, mortal. Amaré Stoudemire, who still plays for the Suns, had 22 points and 8 boards.

Celtics 96 Blazers 76: A focused, angry, veteran team came in and punched a young, injured, uncertain team in the face. They did not get up.

KG was in full-on bully mode, getting into it with Andre Miller among others. The Celtics set up shop in the paint, charged rent, with interest, and had this thing wrapped up by the end of the 1st.

Jazz 100, Warriors 89: Simplest game of the night to explain — the more talented, more disciplined team won. The Jazz ran their flex offense, exploited the mismatches with Boozer (30 points) and Kirilenko (22 points), plus played smart defense and jumped obvious passing lanes. That was more than enough. The game wasn’t as close as the final score. 

Hornets’ GM slips up, introduces Dwayne Bacon as Dwyane Wade

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It’s a slip that would have made Freud proud.

Charlotte had a good draft night. In the first round, Kentucky shooter Malik Monk fell to them at 11 and they grabbed him. In the second round, they took a smart risk with Florida State wing Dwayne Bacon.

Friday came the usual team press conference with the GM introducing his players and Charlotte GM Rich Cho made a mistake, introducing Bacon as “Dwyane Wade.”

I love Bacon’s reaction.

Cho instantly realized his mistake and laughed it off, then later said: “Actually, I think they have some similarities.” Hornets fans can only hope.

Kevin Durant trolls Westbrook, haters with cupcake hat — now topped with a ring

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Back when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were breaking into the NBA together and learning how to win together, one of their veteran mentors was tough guy Kendrick Perkins. When Perkins thought someone was acting soft, he called that player a “cupcake.”

When news broke on the Fourth of July last summer that Durant was leaving OKC for Golden State, the NBA world freaked out. Except for Westbrook. He just posted one Instagram photo that day — a tiered tray of red, white, and blue cupcakes. It was meant as a subtle jab at Durant, but when word got out (via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated) what it meant, Thunder fans embraced it and had cupcake signs and clothing made for Durant’s return to Oklahoma City.

Durant had the last laugh — he’s got a new hat with a cupcake on it, topped by a ring.

Well played Durant. Well played.

Another report Rockets “aggressively” trying to clear cap space to chase Chris Paul

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Daryl Morey is big game hunting. Again.

The Rockets, with James Harden running Mike D’Antoni’s offense, made a leap up to the NBA’s second tier last season — then landed with a playoff thud. The team should be better the second season in the same system, but to get past the Warriors, the Rockets need more talent.

Hence the Rockets are going to chase Chris Paul. That’s not new news to anyone paying attention, but Chris Haynes laid it out in more detail in on SportsCenter.

The Rockets need talent and Chris Paul is unquestionably that. He and James Harden could figure out how to play together.

The problem is money. Chris Paul is going to demand max or near-max money, so close to $30 million. The Rockets enter the summer with about $10 million. The Rockets need to clear cap space and are ready to deal so long as they don’t take contracts back. Lou Williams will make $7 million next season, so even moving him and Patrick Beverley is not enough to land a Chris Paul or Paul Millsap. Moving Ryan Anderson ($19.6 million) or Eric Gordon ($12.9 million) helps much more.

That Morey is being aggressive isn’t the news, the question is can he find a willing partner to lower some money off his cap and give him a sense of what is to come. CP3 is going to meet with a lot of teams, but the Clippers do have advantages and are the favorites to retain him.

Jimmy Butler trade sets the stage for looming free agency

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(AP) — As draft night approached, some of the heavy hitters in the NBA – Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston, Boston, the Clippers among them – were jockeying, making calls and looking for deals to try to position themselves to make a run at the Golden State juggernaut.

The Warriors’ greatness has forced the rest of the league to do deep self-examination and be aggressive in upgrading their rosters if they’re even going to have a chance to compete. The Celtics and Cavaliers were looking hard at Pacers star Paul George and Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, the Rockets and Spurs were looking at clearing cap space to make a run at some big-name free agents next week and the Knicks were, well, the Knicks.

Draft night always lays the groundwork for what will happen when the circus (officially known as free agency) begins on July 1. And with all of those contenders looking to make a splash, the biggest move was made by … the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Wolves reunited Tom Thibodeau with Butler, giving up two promising young players in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick to land one of the best two-way players in the game. The move should jumpstart Minnesota’s pursuit of its first playoff spot since 2004 and, the Wolves hope, pave the way for success in free agency.

“I think it will (help) a lot,” Thibodeau said. “With players, they look around the league, they see the makeup of the team, they see how they play, play together. That’s the main thing. Both offensively and defensively.”

The Timberwolves have long had difficulty attracting free agents to a relatively small market that spends four months of the year covered in ice and snow. Landing a top-15 player like Butler to team with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins sends a sign of how aggressive the teams could be.

The Bulls plunged head-first into a rebuild with the decision, and now it’s up to the Pacers to decide if they want to do the same.

Much to the dismay of Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard, George let it be known last week that he did not plan to re-sign in Indiana when he becomes a free agent next summer. Most of the league assumes that he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, who appear to be in a tug-of-war with the rival Celtics for George’s attention.

“I’m confident we’ll get something,” Pritchard told reporters in Indianapolis on Friday.

One of the big markets affected on Thursday night was at point guard, the deepest position in the league. Philadelphia, the Lakers, Sacramento, New York and Dallas all drafted point guards in the top 10, which could diminish the options for veterans like Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Jeff Teague and Patty Mills.

The elite point guards available – Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry – should have no trouble finding significant contracts. With Tony Parker suffering a serious injury in the playoffs, the Spurs were reportedly trying to clear space to make a run at Paul, who is widely considered the best point guard in the league. Paul has spent the last six seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, but has yet to advance to the Western Conference finals.

The Clippers are trying to make a decision about retooling around the core of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but really it’s a decision that depends largely on Paul’s thinking. He has long struggled to win big in the postseason, and heading to San Antonio to join with Kawhi Leonard or Houston to team up with James Harden could prove to be more attractive.

Lowry figures to remain in Toronto with a Raptors franchise that he has helped put back on the map, but after that there will be few teams in the market for a high-priced starting point guard. Denver, Utah, New York and Indiana could wade into those waters. But if they look at themselves as still being a couple of year away, they might be hesitant to spend big bucks on a veteran.

Other big names available include Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Andre Iguodala. And while some of the very biggest names like Kevin Durant and Steph Curry figure to stay put, it only ramps up the sense of urgency for teams that have big holes to fill.

The clock is ticking and Thursday night provided the first steps toward making big improvements to the roster.

The Timberwolves rocked the boat with Butler, but the waters were calm after that, which should only mean one thing: It’s about to get real choppy when the clock strikes midnight on July 1.