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.

Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely with return of quad injury

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This is just not Kawhi Leonard’s year.

Leonard didn’t play his first game this season until Dec. 12 due to right quadriceps tendinopathy — a sore tendon in the quad. He only played in nine games before injuring his shoulder and having to sit out due to that, but he was expected to return the court in the next few days.

Wednesday the Spurs announced that the quad injury is back and Leonard is again out indefinitely.

“Kawhi has made significant progress and continues to move forward in his rehabilitation,” Spurs General Manager RC Buford said in a statement. “This is the best approach for the next steps in his return to play.”

 

Of course, the Spurs will be fine in the regular season. They always are. With LaMarcus Aldridge as the fulcrum on offense and playing like an All-Star again, along with the second-best defense in the NBA, the Spurs are 29-16 and on pace to win 50 games again.
However, come the postseason the Spurs will need Leonard, maybe to get out of the first round and certainly to do any damage in the second round. But we are months away from that, so the Spurs are giving him time to heal.

NBA Power Rankings: Minnesota into top 3, Miami into top 10

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It should be a shock to nobody that Golden State and Boston remain locked in the top two slots, but after that things get interesting. Minnesota is finally defending and is up to No. 3, Miami has pushed its way into the top 10, and a disinterested Cavaliers team (which has some real flaws, too) has fallen to 12th.

Warriors small icon 1. Warriors (36-9 Last Week No. 1). The Warriors have now won 13 in a row with Stephen Curry in the lineup, and 13 in a row on the road. That includes wins this past week in Toronto (up by 27 at one point) and in Cleveland showed the gap between the best in the East and the top of the West. If you’re looking for something to point to as a flaw, the famed “death” lineup hasn’t played much or terribly well. Not that it’s mattered.

Celtics small icon 2. Celtics (34-11, LW 2). Boston is now 1-0 in London and on a 7-game winning streak — a run that includes wins over the Rockets, Cavaliers, and the Timberwolves. The amazing thing during this win streak is the offense has been an unimpressive 27th in the NBA, it’s just that their defense has been so dominant it has not mattered. That may raise questions come the playoffs, but in the regular season the Celtics keep on rolling.

3. Timberwolves (29-17, LW 4). Jimmy Butler has moved into the broad MVP conversation, averaging 21 points a game on 53.1% shooting in the last five Timberwolves wins, and he’s hitting 64.3% from three in those contests, with 6.2 assists and rebounds per game. Tuesday night’s unimpressive loss in Orlando was the first of 7-of-9 on the road, a test for the improving Timberwolves. One of those tests is Thursday’s game against the Rockets, which becomes far more fun to watch if Harden returns.

Raptors small icon 4. Raptors (29-13, LW 3). The comeback against the Warriors — from 27 down to make it a game late — without Kyle Lowry was impressive. However, a blowout win over the Cavaliers was the bigger deal, giving the Raptors some confidence as they look ahead to potential postseason matchups (and they did it without Lowry or Serge Ibaka). More than the improved offense, having rookie OG Anunoby doing a credible job defending LeBron James is crucial, allowing other guys to stay home on shooters. Toronto should have hope.

Rockets small icon 5. Rockets (30-12, LW 5). As good as Chris Paul is at knowing back tunnels and instigating trouble in the Clippers locker room, on the court the Rockets need James Harden — they have gone 4-3 without him (hamstring issue). Harden could return as early as Thursday night in a big televised game against Minnesota. Saturday night comes a nationally televised showdown with the Warriors and you know The Beard wants to suit up for that.

Spurs small icon 6. Spurs (29-16, LW 6). Just when you thought the Spurs would get healthy, Kawhi Leonard is out again with his quad issue. At least Rudy Gay should be back soon. The Spurs are where they are because of the second best defense in the NBA this season, then getting enough offense when they need it (13th in the league), mostly in the half court (Spurs are 28th in NBA in percentage of points in transition). If they can get healthy the offense should improve.

Wizards small icon 7. Wizards (25-19, LW 7). Washington’s offense has been good this season — 11th in the NBA overall, seventh in the league in percentage of their points in transition — but they have struggled to get to the rim. Only 31% of the Wizards shots are at the rim, 26th in the NBA (for comparison, the Lakers and Grizzlies get more than 40% of their shots there). Washington finishes well when it does get to the rim, shooting 65.5% (7th in the league) but instead they take more midrange shots (41% of shot attempts) which is less efficient. The Wizards could use to get to the rim for shots and to draw fouls more often.

Thunder small icon 8. Thunder (24-20 LW 8).. The Thunder starting five when healthy — Steven Adams, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Andre Roberson (out right now), and Russell Westbrook — have outscored teams by 11.3 points per 100 possessions. Start to dip into that bench and things get worse — sub Terrence Ferguson in for Roberson and the lineup is -9.1 per 100. Coach Billy Donovan is throwing a lot of different bench lineups against the wall trying to find something that sticks right now.

Heat small icon 9. Heat (25-18, LW 12). Miami’s loss to Chicago Monday was the first game of 9-of-11 on the road — a real test for the Heat, who had won 7 in a row before that (but only the last one by double digits). A test because the Heat have a negative point differential (outscored by 32 points this season), and that tends to catch up with teams. Part of the recent rise of Miami is that rookie Bam Adebayo is making a real contribution to the team nightly, he was a real find in the draft.

Bucks small icon 10. Bucks (23-20 LW 11). Just how big a threat is Milwaukee come the playoffs? We don’t know. Not just because it’s early, but we don’t yet know: 1) What this team looks like with Jabari Parker in the lineup (that’s a month away); 2) What moves the Bucks may make at the trade deadline. They have been one of the more aggressive teams in talks, but to land someone like DeAndre Jordan would require sending Parker out, and that doesn’t seem likely. This is a good team, but how dangerous remains to be seen.

Pacers small icon 11. Pacers (24-20, LW 17). If there’s one end-of-season award that seems a lock, it’s Victor Oladipo winning Most Improved Player. He played a major role in the 22-point comeback the Pacers had to beat the Cavaliers this past week as the Pacers went 3-1 on a homestand. Now they head out on the road with tough games at Portland and San Antonio this week.

Cavaliers small icon 12. Cavaliers (26-17 LW 7). Losers of four in a row (all against good teams), including the one game they really got up and focused on in Golden State. The Cavaliers need to do something at the trade deadline up upgrade (both for Warriors and ensure getting out of the East) but the options are not great in a tight trade market: DeAndre Jordan would help, as would Nikola Mitotic in a different way. The shooting of Evan Fournier could help. But if the Cavs will not give up the Nets pick (I hear they will not) then how good a player can they really land?

Pelicans small icon 13. Pelicans (23-20, LW 15). Anthony Davis, already a name floating around the second tier of the MVP race, has been flat out dominant the past week, dropping 48 in Madison Square Garden on Sunday, then turning around and putting up 45 in the Boston Garden Tuesday. However, under the radar in those games Jrue Holiday has been fantastic with his defense and knocking down midrange shots. The Pelicans enter a soft week in the schedule, they need to add wins to pad their playoff slot.

Clippers small icon 14. Clippers (22-21 LW 18). The Clippers — despite no Chris Paul and a rash of injuries to key players such as Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley, and Danilo Gallinari — are just half a game out of the playoffs as of today in the crowded back end of the West. Insane. Doc Rivers deserves some Coach of the Year consideration. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton had a stat that shows just how much health matters to this team: The Clippers are 12-4 and plus-9.2 per 100 possessions when Milos Teodosic plays and 10-17 with a minus-4.3 differential when he is out.

Sixers small icon 15. 76ers (20-20, LW 14). J.J. Redick is out for a couple of weeks with a leg injury and that’s a concern because the Sixers offense is 7.8 points per 100 possessions worse when the sharpshooter is not on the court. Tough stretch for Philly coming up without Redick, with a game at Boston Thursday starting 7-of-10 on the road — Philly is a game out of the playoffs as that stretch starts, they have to stay in touch with Detroit and Milwaukee to keep the dream of the postseason alive.

Pistons small icon 16. Pistons (22-20, LW 16). The Pistons have been one of the more active teams seeking a trade as the deadline approaches — Stan Van Gunny wants to win now (or at least win more). With Andre Drummond in the fold they won’t want DeAndre Jordan, but wing depth and scoring — Tyreke Evans, Lou Williams — would be a priority, the question is will Van Gundy pay the price to get those guys? After a tough game vs. Toronto Wednesday, the Pistons have 13-of-15 at home.

Blazers small icon 17. Trail Blazers (23-21, LW 13). The good news, Portland has finally found its missing offense — they have averaged 110.1 points per 100 possessions over their last 10 games. The bad news, their stout defense for most of the season went away in that same stretch, giving up 111.8 per 100 (so the Blazers are 5-5 in that stretch). Starting next Monday in Denver (a key game in a tight playoff race) Portland has 7-of-10 on the road.

Nuggets small icon 18. Nuggets (23-21, LW 10). Nikola Jokic snapped out of his recent scoring slump to drop 29 points (with 18 boards and 7 assists) on the Mavericks Tuesday. Denver needs more of that, as it is in the middle of the brutally tight back end of the Western Conference (1.5 games separates the 5 seed Thunder and the 9 seed Clippers). Along those lines, the Nuggets game at the Clippers’ Wednesday feels important.

Knicks small icon 19. Knicks (20-24, LW 19). Tim Hardaway Jr. is back healthy and in the rotation, and they needed him. The Knicks are 5-15 away from home and Monday’s win at Brooklyn was the first of 7 in a row and 9-of-10 away from Madison Square Garden. The Knicks are currently three games out of the playoffs and if they don’t do well on this upcoming road test they could be out of the race by the time Justin Timberlake is dancing on the halftime stage at the Super Bowl.

Bulls small icon 20. Bulls (17-27 LW 22).. Zach LaVine is finally healthy and made his debut as a member of the Bulls over the weekend — and he has looked good. He has 32 points in two games, but more importantly looks comfortable and quick attacking the basket — his athleticism has always been the key to his game and he seems to have a lot of that back. The Bulls face the Warriors Wednesday then head out for three on the road — it’s a tough week.

Hornets small icon 21. Hornets (17-25, LW 20). Steve Clifford is back on the sidelines, and that’s a very good thing. But over the next few weeks the Hornets have some big-picture decisions to make about this team (which is 5 games out of the playoffs) — is it time to trade Kemba Walker and start a rebuild? This team simply isn’t as good as ownership imagined, and there’s no clear path to being more than just a 7/8 seed if things go right in future years. Blowing it up in a small market where the team has struggled is no easy call, but the Hornets need to at least consider it from a basketball perspective.

Jazz small icon 22. Jazz (17-26, LW 23). Thabo Sefolosha is now out for the rest of the season with knee surgery, and Rudy Gobert will be out at least another week. Utah is one of the leading suitors for Nicola Mirotic and they also are shopping around Derrick Favors (Cleveland may be interested), a Mirotic/Favors trade will work but the Bulls want a first-round pick in the deal. Is Utah willing to throw that in? Expect some Utah movement at the trade deadline.

Mavericks small icon 23. Mavericks (15-30 LW 25). Dennis Smith Jr. has shown promise at the point and has taken over at the end of the last two big Dallas comebacks (they fell short in those games, but you have to like what you see in Smith). There is some buzz that Dallas will go hard at DeMarcus Cousins in the off-season, and that sounds like a very Mark Cuban move. If New Orleans comes in big it may be hard to pry Boogie out of the Big Easy, but him and another high draft pick (Dallas would enter the lottery fifth right now) likely has the Mavs back in the playoffs in a year.

Nets small icon 24. Nets (16-28, LW 21). We could see the return of D’Angelo Russell this week, which is good for the Nets evaluation process, but what will it do to the minutes of Spencer Dinwiddie, who has become a really fun player to watch. So have the Nets as a whole — they are scrappy, and they keep games close with their effort. Then at the end of games Dinwiddie tries to take over and… he’s not exactly efficient, but he’ll hit the occasional game winner (ask the Hawks).

Grizzlies small icon 25. Grizzlies (14-28, LW 26). Marc Gasol isn’t going anywhere at the trade deadline, but Tyreke Evans may very well be on the move. He has established himself as a quality bucket getter again averaging 19.6 points per game and shooting 40.6% from three. (He’d be in the Sixth Man of the Year running except he’s started more than half the team’s games.) Evans is on a steal of a contract (one-year, $3.3 million) and the Grizzlies will not have the cap space to re-sign him next summer, so they should get some value for him while they can.

Lakers small icon 26. Lakers (15-28 LW 27). Lonzo Ball is incredibly good at tuning out the noise of his father, if only everyone else around the Lakers could do that. I will add people outside that locker room care a lot more about what LaVar does and says than people inside it. The Lakers had a four-game win streak (including over the Spurs) and Brandon Ingram continues to make strides as a guy who can just score the rock.

Suns small icon 27. Suns (16-29, LW 24). I like the job Jay Triano has done as coach, but is it enough to keep his job next summer? The Suns play fast — they get the fifth highest percentage of their offensive chances out of transition in the league (16.6%). The problem is they are one of the worst teams in the league at scoring in transition. Part of that is they don’t finish well at the rim — Phoenix is shooting 58.7% inside four feet this season, second worst in the NBA.

Hawks small icon 28. Hawks (12-31, LW 29). Dewayne Dedmon returned to the rotation last week, but at this point in the season isn’t it time to just turn John Collins loose? He has the highest PER of any rookie in the league, but Mike Budenholzer is bringing him along slowly off the bench at 22 minutes a night. Collins has been fantastic, time to unleash him on the NBA and let him learn a couple hard lessons along the way.

Kings small icon 29. Kings (13-30, LW 28). Coach Dave Joerger made it official, the Kings are going to play their youth heavily and keep veterans such as Zach Randolph, George Hill, and Vince Carter in smaller roles. This is the smart thing to do for player development, it’s also the smart thing to do because the Kings have their first-round pick this season (not next season) and this draft has some big talent at the top. Call it tanking if you want, the Kings weren’t winning with their vets, might as well get the young guys more rune.

Magic small icon 30. Magic (13-31, LW 30). It feels like a major roster shakeup is coming to Orlando, and that could start at the trade deadline as just about everyone on the roster is available. Evan Fournier is the kind of shooter and all around player a lot of teams could use, but the combination of his contract (three-years, $51 million after this season still) and what the Magic will want back means a deal may could be hard to put together in a tight market. Teams are hesitant to take on salary.

Report: “No truth” to rumors of Anthony Davis to Boston links

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Think about it this way: If you are Dell Demps, the GM of the New Orleans Pelicans (one of the smallest market teams in the NBA), and you have a top-five player in Anthony Davis who can be a franchise cornerstone to build a contender around, would you even consider trading him? No. Especially since he has two full seasons (then a player option) on his contract after this season. Move Davis and you’re not going to get someone as good to replace him.

However, logic has not slowed the rumors out of Boston because… well, Celtics fans. They are drooling at the thought of Davis in Green, especially after he dropped 45 on them Tuesday night and the Pels upset the Celtics. The Boston media keeps the rumors alive because it’s good for clicks.

It’s not happening. At least not for years. Everyone credible has said this, on and off the record. For confirmation, here’s ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski while on The Dan Le Batard Show on ESPN radio, via Jake Madison of lockedonpelicans.com.

That is how this is going to go down. This summer the Mavericks (and maybe Lakers) will come calling, but the Pelicans will offer DeMarcus Cousins big money to stay with AD. He’ll sign it, then they will try to put the pieces around those two — my kingdom for a shooter — who can help them win games and be a respectable and dangerous playoff team.

In the summer of 2019, if Davis lets New Orleans management know he’s likely to leave as a free agent in 2020, they will have to look at trade requests – and 29 teams will line up with offers. Davis doing that doesn’t feel likely, he is not the kind of personality to force his hand like that. (Even if he did, Boston fans, you better be willing to throw together a package that looks like Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and more to get it done — Terry Rozier isn’t going to cut it.)

By all accounts, Davis likes New Orleans, wants it to work there — and by the way, in 2020 the Pelicans can offer a super-max contract to Davis that is worth far more money than anyone else can put on the table. If you’re New Orleans, you only trade Davis because you have to, because he’s demanding a move or because he says he’s not re-signing. New Orleans can’t afford to lose him, it makes no sense for them to trade him without coercion.

Davis to Boston is not happening anytime soon, and is frankly not likely to happen ever. But Celtics fans gonna Celtic.

Rajon Rondo rips idea of Isaiah Thomas tribute video: “What has he done?”

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There is not going to be a tribute video for Isaiah Thomas shown the next time the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Boston Garden at the request of Thomas himself. Never has there been this much controversy around a tribute video: Thomas didn’t want it the first time the Cavaliers came to Boston because he would not be playing, so the Celtics said they would run it the next time Cleveland came to town, which turns out to be the night of Paul Pierce getting his jersey retired, and he didn’t want to share the spotlight. Thomas said this week not to run it.

Now enter Rajon Rondo, the former Celtic who wonders why Thomas gets one at all.

Relax Rondo (who now plays for the Pelicans, a team that upset the Celtics Tuesday night). This isn’t a jersey retirement, it’s a tribute video. It lasts about a minute and thanks a player for his efforts, it’s not a statue in front of the building. You don’t need a ring to get a video.

What should be the bar for getting a video? It’s not that high. Thomas was an All-NBA player in Boston who did take the team farther than many expected, and he was beloved by fans because he brought everything he had every night. Thomas, at 5’9″, played with a chip on his shoulder and found his way among the forest of tall trees in the NBA — something fans could relate to more than a 6’8″ guy with insane physical gifts.

That sounds like it’s tribute video worthy to me. Even in Boston.