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.

LeBron James says he can still win MVP with reduced workload, cites Stephen Curry

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 02:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers with the ball against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 2, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The door is open for LeBron James to win a legacy-altering fifth MVP.

But his Cavaliers could also win another championship, leaving Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue planning to limit LeBron’s minutes in preparation of a long playoff run.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN

“No,” James said Saturday when asked if he was concerned that planned rest could affect his MVP case. “Because Steph played 31 minutes a game and he won the MVP.”

“Well, I’ve never set into a season saying I want to win MVP,” he said. “I’ve always thought of the season saying I want to be MVP for my team and it’s resulted in me getting four of them. So I’ve been available, for the most part, every night and I’ve been available on both sides of the floor. I’ve been healthy.

Curry won 2015 MVP while playing 32.7 minutes per game, the fewest by any MVP. He played 34.2 minutes per game last season, third-fewest by an MVP – ahead of just himself and 1978 Bill Walton, who played 33.3 minutes per game.

To contrast, LeBron has set career lows the last two seasons with 36.1 and 35.6 minutes per game. So, LeBron could get a reduced workload and still play more than Curry did.

But Curry, to some degree is an anomaly. He often sat late in games with his Warriors on the right side of blowouts. The Cavs aren’t good enough regularly rest LeBron as much in those situations.

It’s not that voters care directly about minutes. But the less LeBron plays, the lower his per-game averages will be and the less Cleveland will win. Those factors matter significantly.

LeBron can overcome that. He’s darned good, and there could be a push to reward him after the last two Finals have shown he’s still better than Curry when it matters most.

Playing fewer minutes per game won’t eliminate LeBron from the MVP race, not even close. But it will – and should – hurt his case. After all, MVP should reward the player who does the most to help his team win. MVP-caliber players don’t significantly help while sitting on the bench.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder prepare for life without Kevin Durant

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a preseason game at American Airlines Center on October 11, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Maybe life after Kevin Durant won’t be so bad for the Thunder.

After the longtime face of the franchise left for Golden State, crestfallen Oklahoma City fans were worried it was just a matter of time before the team’s co-star, Russell Westbrook, would follow suit. In a move that shocked many, Westbrook re-signed with Oklahoma City. The former scoring champion and two-time All-Star MVP’s return gives the team hope.

New faces such as shooting guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domantas Sabonis, both acquired in the deal that sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando, might take some time to fit in. Westbrook believes the team is talented enough to succeed if it is focused and the new pieces blend with the old ones who helped the Thunder reach the Western Conference Finals last season.

“Just play hard, man,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know, win or lose. The only thing I know is that as long as we play hard, we give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

Westbrook could post historic numbers. He averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds last season and had 18 triple-doubles, the most since Magic Johnson had 18 during the 1981-82 season. Without Durant, more of that could be on the way.

Sabonis, a rookie out of Gonzaga who played for Lithuania’s Olympic team, played with the starters throughout the preseason. Oladipo averaged 15.9 points and 4.0 assists in three years with Orlando. He joins Westbrook to form arguably the most athletic backcourt tandem in the NBA.

“Defensively, I think we can be the best defensive backcourt in the league because we can do different things with our size and using our length and our speed,” Westbrook said.

Here are some things to watch for the Thunder:

Steven Adams

The 7-footer from New Zealand was already a top-notch defender and rebounder before stepping up his offense and averaging 10.1 points during the playoffs last season. In his final two preseason games, he scored 20 points against Minnesota and 17 points against Denver. He could be a breakout star.

“I think we’ve had an opportunity these last two nights (against Minnesota and Denver) how good he is around the basket, how smart he has become and how much of a presence he is in the middle,” Westbrook said.

Enes Kanter

The natural expectation was that Ibaka’s departure would prompt coach Billy Donovan to move Kanter, who finished third in balloting for the league’s sixth-man award last season, into the starting lineup. Instead, Donovan started Sabonis throughout the preseason. Perhaps Donovan knows best – Sabonis showed he can hang with the starters, and Kanter averaged 17.8 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 61.7 percent in the preseason.


Oklahoma City’s defense could slip with Ibaka in Orlando. Sabonis has great potential, but he’s young, and NBA defense takes some time to learn. Donovan said Sabonis has caught on quickly, but there still could be a dip early because Ibaka’s level of play is difficult to replace – he was a three-time first-team All-NBA defender and a two-time blocks leader.


The Thunder added several foreign players to the roster who will add depth – Spain’s Alex Abrines, France’s Joffrey Lauvergne and Turkey’s Ersan Ilyasova. Donovan said he likes the maturity foreign players add to a team. Abrines played for Spain’s national team that earned bronze medals at the Olympics. Lauvergne played for France in Rio.


Andre Roberson has shifted from the starting shooting guard to starting small forward. That means the Thunder still have Roberson’s dynamic athletic ability, defensive prowess and nose for the ball on the boards in the lineup. He was a liability on offense in the past, but he started becoming more of a factor on offense during the playoffs last season.

“I think he feels more comfortable and confident offensively,” Donovan said. “He’s put forth effort in that area. It’s just him continuing to grow offensively and trying to put him in situations where he slashes to the basket and he can cut and he can get out in transition and he can take his open corner threes.”

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP

Raptors’ Jared Sullinger to have foot surgery, miss “extended time”

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 19:  Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics looks on from the bench against the Atlanta Hawks in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 19, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Raptors are counting on Jared Sullinger to cover for the loss of Bismack Biyombo by crashing the boards, helping them space the floor on offense, and just being solid.

But they are going to have to get by without him for a while, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports, and confirmed by the team.

There is no timeline for Sullinger’s return, but it’s going to be a while. Sullinger had battled a stress reaction in his foot a year ago, this is likely an extension of that problem.

This certainly hurts the Raptors’ depth up front, but it’s also not a massive setback for a team with lofty aspirations this season. Patrick Patterson will get more minutes, which is a good thing, plus the Raptors need to play DeMarre Carroll more at the four. They can wait for Sullinger (who they signed this summer after Boston let him walk in the wake of signing Al Horford.

Heat waive Beno Udrih, Briante Webber, two others to keep Rodney McGruder

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  Beno Udrih #19 of the Miami Heat drives on Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs during a game  at American Airlines Arena on February 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice:  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Beno Udrih sacrificed $90,000 last season to get the Heat an additional $2.7 million last season.

They repaid him with more than $1.5 million this season (though less than $1 million of it from their own pockets).

And that’s all they gave him.

Miami won’t even give Udrih a regular-season roster spot, waiving him to allow Rodney McGruder to make the team.

Heat release:

The Miami HEAT announced today that they have waived Vashil Fernandez, Luis Montero, Beno Udrih, Brianté Weber and Okaro White.

To recap: Out for the rest of the final season of his guaranteed contract due to injury, Udrih took a buyout that lowered his compensation by $90,000 last season. That brought the Heat under the luxury-tax line, preventing them from paying the repeater rate and allowing them to receive about $2.5 million given to non-tax-paying teams. Miami then re-signed Udrih this offseason, giving him a one-year, $1,551,659 fully guaranteed contract. Most players with guaranteed salaries stick into the regular season, but it seems the Heat paid Udrih for a reason other than their faith in him as a backup point guard.

Here’s the kicker: Because Udrih was a 12-year veteran on a one-year minimum contract, the league – funded by the very teams that rightfully protested Miami’s arrangement – has to fund $571,228 of his salary.

The Heat seemed high on Briante Weber, but he’s young and needs polish. McGruder, who went undrafted out of Kansas State in 2013, is probably more capable of helping now.

This leaves Miami without a clear backup point guard behind Goran Dragic, but combo guards Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson can handle the role.