Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Thumbnail image for marion_game.jpgWhat happened Wednesday night, while falling flat on your face in a gigantic dinosaur suit

Mavericks 101 Lakers 96: So many Mavericks played well. Jason Kidd constantly pushed the tempo, but knew not to press the Lakers’ transition defense. Brendan Haywood provides the kind of toughness critics have said they have lacked for years. Jason Terry was en fuego, and Dirk was his usual, brilliant self. And yet the Mavericks only won by five, at home with the Lakers on a back-to-back.

Why was it this close? Lamar Odom was everywhere, with rebounds, key plays, and, get this, smart plays. Odom was the one Laker that was dialed in. Even Kobe (9-23, inconsistent defense) wasn’t in till the last four possessions, but Odom was a huge reason they got there.

But when the Lakers went into the penalty with over 7 minutes to go, they were sunk. You give Dirk Nowtizki one-on-one coverage (killed Odom once, Bryant once down the stretch), and the ability to shoot free throws on touch fouls? You’re dead before the ship even sinks. Big win for the Mavs, who were without Caron Butler.

Spurs 95 Thunder 87: Manu Ginobili.

Manu freaking Ginobili.

Look, I made a bet this year with a friend that Ginobili would not score 30+ points this season (he did it within the first month of the season), so if anyone’s going to doubt the man at his age, it’s going to be me. Ginobili won this game nearly by himself.

Ginobili hit huge bucket after huge bucket, came up with a series of key offensive rebounds, and blocked Kevin Durant on a breakaway layup. He was everything he used to be. Best game of the season for Manu.

The Thunder just couldn’t get good looks to go down. It’s fitting that the Spurs were the ones to end the streak. Always the villain, SA, even when no one’s scared of the boogeyman anymore.

Grizzlies 99 Wizards 94: Novel effort from the Wizards in their first without Josh Howard, but too much Marc Gasol in this one. Gasol went 10-10 until missing everything but backboard inside two minutes once the game was out of reach.

Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Hamed Haddadi combined for 50 points. If you let the Grizzlies control the rebounds like that, you’re doomed. And the Wizards were.

Mike Conley is the worst starting point guard in professional basketball.

Blazers 101 Raptors 87: Portland was desperate, the Raptors didn’t have Bosh. One of the best offenses in the league only scored 40 in the second half. You do the math.

Brandon Roy had 20 points tonight, even if it was on 17 shots. Maybe McMillan is right and he just needs to play himself into shape.

Magic 110 Rockets 92 Call me crazy, but I think Dwight Howard may be putting it together for this season. 11-11, 30 points, 16 rebounds. That’s just ridiculous. Even against a light and small Rockets team, the way Howard has been dominating teams in the last two weeks is
astounding. Fear Big Baby Jesus.

The Rockets are in trouble. Big trouble. There’s nothing clicking right now. The effort’s waning as the season drags on, and the talent differential is killing them. Aaron Brooks’ ineffiicient scoring is at once necessary and damaging. Kevin Martin’s still not in rhythm. No on on the team seems to know where the others are, and they just seem battered. They need a break. Which they got. Two weeks ago.

Bucks 115 Hornets 95: Andrew Bogut played some of the best basketball you’re going to see out of a big man in the NBA last night. Positively brilliant. Weakside blocks, front-side blocks. Man denial. Baseline cut-off. Offensive boards, and that sweet little baby hook he’s got that when it’s working, is unstoppable.

This is probably a truer representation of this Hornets roster, but they’re made to overachieve. Just know that they have this kind of effort in them, despite Collison (22 and 9) and Thornton (25 points). This team has some older pieces that are going to get tired and throw up clunkers. Especially against a stout defensive squad like the Bucks.

Jazz 102 Bobcats 93: Carlos Boozer was unstoppable. 33 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block. The Cats were without three of their centers (Diop, Chandler, Mohammed), but even if they had Kareem down there it wouldn’t have mattered. The Jazz believe it right now.

The quiet way Deron Williams is running the offense is incredible right now. He’s got such great awareness of what the offense needs to do. He will readily reset the offense when he needs to in order to create opportunities.

Wallace tried to do it all for the Cats, as he has for years.

Bulls 120, Pacers 110: The Pacers have packed it in for the season. The only games they are winning from here on out are the ones where they are motivated by something unique or where the other team decides to let them have open three pointers. The Pacers love them some three pointers. The Bulls gave them those threes in the second quarter, so this game stayed closer than it should have been, but in the end it was never really in doubt. The Bulls are still playing to win this season.

Suns 106, Sixers 95: Steve Nash had the extra day off, not playing the front end of the back-to-back, and the result was he had energy nobody else on the court did. Nash came out with14 points in the first quarter. He finished with 20 points, 13 assists. He controlled the game and Jason Richardson was still on the shooting high from the night before. It was all far, far to much for the Sixers.

Nash is not young, the nights off are good for him (which means watch out in the first round of the playoffs). Look for the Suns to do more resting of Nash this season, as Gregg Popovich has done with Tim Duncan and the Suns did last year with Shaq.

Hawks 98 Wolves 92: On the one hand, the Hawks got the win, but on the other, the Wolves largely just could not figure out what to do with all the opportunities they were given. On the one hand, the Hawks were lost and discombobulated on offense, but on the other, they shut down Al Jefferson and owned the glass.

Josh Smith was everywhere in this game down the stretch. When he’s integrated and motivated, he’s capable of crushing teams under his boot. And he did that late with assists and what felt like a million o
ffensive boards.

Clippers 97, Pistons 91:  Down the stretch, Rasual Butler out dueled Rip Hamilton. Didn’t think that was a sentence that I would ever type, but it’s the truth. Butler had 12 points in the fourth quarter, knocked down three threes (as did Hamilton), and had a key block late on Rodney Stuckey.

Entertaining finish not withstanding, this was not pretty basketball by any stretch — slow pace and the winning team shot 40.5 percent. Detroit had the chance to pull away in the first half but the Clippers dominated on the offensive glass, grabbing 44% of their missed shots for the game. That’s too many second chances, do that in the NBA and you’re done.

Malcolm Brogdon: Charlottesville was white supremacism and terrorism

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Rookie of the Year and Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon – who played four years at the University of Virginia, which became the epicenter of white-nationalist protests – was asked about the events in Charlottesville and his thoughts on the statue of Robert E. Lee.

Brogdon, via Sports Illustrated:

It was pretty shocking. To see this happen at a place that I call home is sort of jarring for me.

But, if I were to be honest, the level of hate and blatant racism that still dominates the minds of so many Americans today, it’s not shocking to me. I think at the end of the day, you have to call it what it is. I think this is white supremacy, and I think it’s domestic terrorism. I think we live in a country where we go overseas, and we fight other people’s wars, and we fight terrorism overseas internationally. But we don’t want to fully acknowledge the terrorism that goes home domestically.

So, I think it’s a shocking event. But it’s not surprising sort of the hate that is still around.

My thoughts about it have never changed. I’m a person that thinks things should not be glorified that did not do the country any justice. For example, these statues stand still, but all they do is divide people. At this point in time, I think that America needs to be unified. And the statues are clearly something that’s not unifying people. It’s going to continue to create a divide within our communities. And I think they have no place in our society right now.

Kudos to Brogdon for calling spades spades.

Racism is still a problem – not one we’re comfortable discussing, which only exacerbates the problem. It must be acknowledged to be solved.

“Terrorism” is too often a term we reserve for only crimes committed by Muslims. A white supremacist driving his car into a group of counter-protestors – killing one – is almost certainly designed to terrorize them.

But I disagree with Brogdon that the statue should be removed because it’s divisive. It should be removed because it glorifies someone who led a war against the United States to protect the racist institution of slavery.

Unity is nice, but unifying around what? Brogdon might find that the people who agree with his call for unity have a different vision than he does.

Jazz mitigate loss of Gordon Hayward well, but that’s still a devastating departure

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Jazz traded up to draft a player who is already exceeding expectations.

But they lost Gordon Hayward.

The Jazz made a savvy trade to land a starter before free agency even began.

But they lost Gordon Hayward.

The Jazz executed several nice value signings.

But they lost Gordon Hayward.

In what was otherwise a smart offseason, there’s just no way around Utah losing Hayward – a 27-year-old star at the critical wing position. Hayward’s importance to the Jazz is self-evident in the effort to re-sign him – a max offer, a billboard, multiple players flying to San Diego for a final meeting. His departure to the Celtics derails what had been a promising ascension.

Two years ago, the Jazz were the only team with four 25-and-under players – Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood – who posted at least six win shares.

Last year, the Jazz were the only team a pair of 26-and-under players – Hayward and Gobert – who posted at least 10 win shares.

Though Favors’ and Hood’s progress was sidetracked by injury, Utah still made another step forward with Hayward and Gobert becoming All-Star caliber. If Favors and Hood got healthy, they could have joined Hayward and Gobert – and Donovan Mitchel (who was drafted No. 13 this year then impressed in summer league) and Ricky Rubio (who was acquired for just a likely low first-round pick thanks to the Jazz’s excess cap space to close the 2016-17 fiscal year) – in a core that was growing into a legitimate Western Conference power.

Alas, Hayward bolted for Boston, which threatens even more in the Eastern Conference.

The Jazz rebounded as well as can be expected. They preemptively got Rubio for just a lottery-protected Thunder pick, allowing them not to re-sign George Hill and deal with the 31-year-olds frequent injury troubles. Mitchell has quickly drawn rave reviews. Thabo Sefolosha ($5.25 million), Jonas Jerebko ($4 million) and Ekpe Udoh ($3.2 million) are all on favorable salaries – and each have unguaranteed seasons tacked on for next year, making their deals even more team-friendly.

Those players could join a deep rotation that already includes Gobert, Favors, Hood, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson and Dante Exum. And here’s a little secret: Gobert – not Hayward, the team’s lone All-Star – was Utah’s best player last year. The Jazz aren’t falling off the map just yet.

Their defense might be even better. They could win even more than the 51 games they won last year if healthier.

But their offense will suffer without Hayward’s creation (which could hurt their defensive rating, if they’re defending after makes less often), and their ceiling is far lower. Guaranteeing Ingles $50 million during his 30s is probably an overpay that will also limit flexibility, though at least his salary declines annually.

The Jazz did a good job of handling losing a star. But losing a star isn’t good, and I’m grading results.

Offseason grade: D+

Kyrie Irving-LeBron James saga featured in hilarious parody of Eminem’s ‘Stan’ (video)

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What’s going on between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James?

I’ve seen better explanations.

But I haven’t seen more entertaining explanations.

Houston billionaire Dan Friedkin expresses interest in buying Rockets

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We’ve seen the flashy names – Beyonce and Hakeem Olajuwon – interested in buying the Rockets.

But what about someone who can actually afford a majority stake?

Mark Berman of Fox 26:

Houston billionaire Dan Friedkin, owner and CEO of Gulf States Toyota and the president and CEO of the Friedkin Group, acknowledged in a statement released to FOX 26 Sports that he is interested in buying the Houston Rockets franchise.

“I’ve expressed interest in exploring the purchase of the Houston Rockets,” Friedkin said in a statement released by his company.

Forbes pegs Friedkin’s net worth worth at $3.1 billion and the Rockets’ value $1.65 billion. So, while he might be able to buy the team outright, it’d likely be a stretch of his assets.

More likely, if Friedkin is serious about purchasing the team, he’ll do so as part of a group. Whether he’d spend enough to be the controlling owner is an open question.