Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Wednesday night, while you were saving up for your jetpack

Bobcats102 Sixers 87: Some defenses execute well at a systemic level. Others, at an individual level. But the best defenses operate at both. And that takes talent and effort in symphony. The Bobcats have got the horns and woodwinds in perfect harmony, so to speak.

With the Bobcats up 17, with less than two minutes to go in the game, Gerald Wallace was still sprinting sideline to sideline to recover defensively. This against one of the worst teams in the league. You have to be a great offensive team to create opportunities against the Bobcats, and the Sixers are not. Their leading scorer? Rodney Carney with 14 points.

Gerald Wallace is a robot ninja.

Memphis 111 Celtics 91:
The scoreboard doesn’t even begin to describe how lopsided this was. The Celtics scored 12 points in the 1st quarter. A dozen. This against one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Ye Gods.

The Grizzlies created high percentage open transition buckets, almost without dribbling. They just sped the ball with quick, precise passes. When that wasn’t happening, they were launching unguarded threes from the perimeter and raining.

There was no effort from the C’s, no ability from the C’s, no legs, no spirit, no soul. They might as well have been ghosts. The Celtics were the past, fading into sepia, and the Grizzlies were youth, looking like Pleasantville.

Thunder 98 Hornets 83: This was a tense, up and down, competitive romp for about 12 minutes. Then the Thunder did their thing.

One of the staples of a young team is an indecisiveness. You learn to know what you’re doing through repetition, rote and unfettered, and that takes time. But Russell Westbrook? He just gets it. He pushes the ball into the halfcourt, makes the decision, and then executes.Nine assists for the Thunder maestro tonight, and with Darren Collison having an off night, that was pretty much the shebang.

David West’s mid-range game is devastating, but in all honesty, the rest of this team is revealing itself as the season goes on, and that reveal is to something not good.

Nuggets 110, Wolves 102:
Am I the only one that laughs a little bit when David Kahn’s team gets thoroughly kept at arm’s length primarily by point guard play? Chauncey Billups had 25 points and needed just three assists.

Corey Brewer will not win most improved, but he needs to get a second look by the voters. That Florida crew, man. What talent in that class.

Ricky Rubio did not play.

Mavs 96 Nets 92: Caron Butler was the difference. No joke. He, specifically, was the difference between the end of the Mavs streak and the Nets’ bajillionth loss this year. Butler got a huge putback down the stretch, then nailed a step-back jumper from the wing after creating space with a veteran shoulder shrug. The Nets competed, as they still do, and that needs to be pointed out.

Paid professionals or not, the Nets have every reason to bail on the season, not try, not work, and slough through it. But they’re working. They don’t know how to execute. It’s not that they can’t, they just haven’t learned how yet. Terrence Williams showed flashes (18 points, 13 rebounds), including a nifty behind-the-back dribble and finish late.

Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood.  Man. Even with this team’s not good, it’s still pretty good. They’re the pizza of the NBA.

Spurs 97 Knicks 87: Greg Popovich could beat Mike D’Antoni (who is a great coach) with a can of sardines and a box of twinkies. The Knicks gave up looks downlow.

The Spurs obliged them. And the Spurs’ defense was there tonight. You know, the one that’s been missing so much. Running off threes, pre-empting posts. Dogging, dogging, dogging. Double, rotate, rotate.

Manu Ginobili is doin’ work right now.

Kings 113 Raps 90: Tyreke Evans is 20 years old.

Tyreke Evans had 19 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds.

Tyreke Evans is incredible.

The Raptors don’t play defense.

That’s my story.

Heat 107, Clippers 98: Fact of NBA life #27: The aggressor gets the calls. People complain that the refs give superstars like Dwyane Wade the calls, but they attack (and, frankly, get fouled a lot).

Miami as a team — with Wade leading the way — attacked the rim hard in this one, particularly off the high pick-and-roll They were rewarded for that by the refs with 35 free throws (making 29). The Clippers, on the second night of a back-to-back, settled for jumpers. The result was just 13 free throw attempts. Wade had 17 by himself. And while the Clippers had a pretty good offensive night, the aggressors had the better one and get the win.

Jazz 115, Pistons 104: The Jazz are capable of stretches of beautiful basketball, with crisp player movement and making the extra pass leading to layups and open looks. The game as god and Naismith intended. Utah had one of those during the second quarter Wednesday. Detroit is neither capable of stopping it nor hanging close to that. They didn’t, it was a 35-14 second quarter for the Jazz. And that was your ballgame. But you knew it was coming — that’s 10 in a row for the Jazz over the Pistons.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.