Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Friday, or The Night of the Living Overtime…

Mavericks 111, Hawks 103 (OT): We’ve already talked about The Play.

Personally, I give this win to Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. For the fourth quarter, down 15 with 8 minutes to go, he broke out the zone defense, and the Hawks turned into the UCLA Bruins. This year’s UCLA Bruins. They seemed confused and couldn’t hit the outside shot. It got the Mavericks into overtime on the road, where they picked up the win. Brenden Haywood continues to just do the things Eric Dampier never could, and was a team best +14 on the night. Triple double from Kidd — 19 points, 16 rebounds, 17 assists.

Cavaliers 126, Raptors 118 (OT): You want to know why Chris Bosh might leave Toronto? LeBron James is in town, your team has taken the best team in the NBA this season to overtime, and people in the crowd start leaving before the extra period starts. Why? The hockey game is starting. Toronto has some great fans, but the Raptors and basketball will always be second best in that town.

As for the game, you don’t really expect defense from the Raptors, and tonight the Cavs decided to play along. That made it fun to watch, if you’re not a purist. With the game on the line, LeBron just drove to the rim for layups right through what the Raptors call “defense.” But in overtime the Cavs got their focus back, held Toronto to 1 of 8 and get the win. Good fight from Toronto, playing without Bosh. Cleveland gets the win on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. You never question those.

Knicks 118, Wizards 116 (OT): Andray Blatche is the mad baller since the trade — 26 points and 18 boards tonight (ignore those 8 turnovers). Wasn’t enough this time because it was the Al Harrington show — 37 points including draining 5 of 8 three pointers. David Lee with the game winner in OT.

Bulls 115, Trail Blazers 111 (OT): The Blazers plan was not to let Derrick Rose beat them, early on their defensive strategy seemed to be collapse five guys on Rose and leave everybody else open. Everyone else nailed shots from the midrange and the Bulls put up 31 in the first. So Portland got more active in creating turnovers, jumping passing lanes. and that worked. The Bulls started coughing it up and the Blazers have the athletes to turn that into easy baskets. So the hot shooting vs. turnovers continued all game until overtime, when the Bulls stopped turning the ball over and won. And by the way, despite the best laid plans of the Blazers, Rose scored 33 on 15 of 25 from the floor. He is back.

Bobcats 93, Grizzlies 89: The Bobcats are 1-0 in the Michael Jordan era.

We had a Stephen Jackson sighting — 32 points and 11 boards. He was the best player on the floor. The other thing of note is that Tyrus Thomas had 13 points off the bench on 6 of 7, and he posterized Zach Randolph. He’s played pretty well the last few games.

Hornets 100, Magic 93: Not wanting to be outdone by the Hawks giving away a 14 point lead and losing, the Magic blew and 18 point cushion. Take that, Atlanta! David West found the David West from three years ago and dropped 40, while Orlando just went ice cold down the stretch.

Thunder 109, Timberwolves 92: Kevin Durant is back to scoring 25 points a game, and Oklahoma City is back to blowing out lesser teams. The Thunder get inside all night, scoring 60 in the paint. A blowout, so we didn’t dwell on this one.

Rockets 109, Spurs 104: Kevin Martin has found a home. He had 33 on 24 shots – and he was rusty. He got to the line 14 times, hit all 14, a good sign. But he and Aaron Brooks might have something. You add Yao Ming to that next year and Houston is suddenly very, very good. Brooks had 31, Luis Scola had 33. Want to know about the Spurs? When was the last time they let three guys go off for 30+ points and beat them? Or had three starters go scoreless? On the same night? The decline is happening before our eyes.

Lakers 99, 76ers 90: How can a game that had that many ally-oops and dunks be that boring? It was a workmanlike, middle-of-a-long-season win for the Lakers, on a night when all anybody wanted to talk about was the big game with Denver on Sunday.

Nuggets 107, Pistons 102: Read the entry above and insert the word “Nuggets” for “Lakers.”

Kings 103, Jazz 99: Tyreke Evans is more of a man than you. More of a man than me. More of a man than that annoying guy in the Old Spice commercials. He was man enough to take over the end of this game and get the Kings an win over a hot Jazz team. He is your rookie of the year, bow down and worship at his feet.

Suns 125, Clippers 112: Chris Kaman went off… on the ref. He got slapped in the face early in the third quarter, no call, and complained to the ref, got T’d up, then kept going. And going. And that will get you a second technical every time. Coach Kim Hughes said he told Kaman he let the team down after the game. Actually it was the Clippers defense that let them down — Suns shot 57% on the night, 47% from three. Sure, the Suns offense is very good, but if you let Robin Lopez score 30, you’re not trying all that hard on defense.

Suns remain hot — 6-1 this month — but nobody is talking about them as a team to fear in the first round of the playoffs.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.