Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Friday while you were installing  your cat elevator

Bucks 95 Jazz 87: Terrific game start to finish. Milwaukee crowd (one of the best in the league) was into it, players were buckled in, tight finish.

Brandon Jennings was terrific for three quarters, then got a little too into it. He first had a bad foul on a reach in against Deron Williams, then rushed a layup he had blocked with time left on the clock which would have ended up giving the Jazz final shot, it was so early in the clock.

Luckily, as shakey as Jennings was late, Ersan Ilyasova was brilliant. On top of the game winning putback, he had 14 points and 8 rebounds, and a series of defensively brilliant plays.

Carlos Boozer was blocked on the last attempt, then got ejected due to no foul call. Because that’s his bag, baby.

Andrei Kirilenko strained a calf, which was huge. Carlos Delfino was being absolutely dominated by AK before the injury, and it was a game changer.

John Salmons has this Bucks team at another level. I realize how bizarre that sounds.

Lakers 102 Suns 96: The Lakers’ defense is freaking long. And against some teams, it’s a problem. Against some other teams, it’s a serious problem. Against the Suns, it’s a huge problem.

Pau Gasol got worked over for about 45 minutes of the game, then facescraped Lou Amundson, didn’t get a flagrant called, then drained a turnaround jumper.

Kobe Bryant had 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists, which is brilliant. But he also had 7 turnovers. The turnovers have been weird since he got back from injury. He’s having trouble passing out of double-teams he usually annihilates. Weird. Of course, he still hit several huge shots, because, well, he’s Kobe Bryant.

Grant Hill is insanely fast for as old as he is.

Ron Artest nailed a pull-up jumper off a crossover. That actually happened.

Bobcats 106 Clippers 98: Gerald Wallace sprained his ankle in the first half, which is the only relevant news from this game. The Clippers were without Eric Gordon, and any real reason to try. Yes, that’s right, we’ve entered that magical time of the year. The temperatures rise, the bluebirds begin to do it, your allergies go bezerk, and the Clips start mailing it in worse than usual.

In the approximate seven minute stretch it took Charlotte to break this one open, D.J. Augustin was quite good. Only 3-7 in 12 minutes, but there were some signs of life there, for a guy having a terrible season. Too bad he’s about to have Larry Hughes supplant him on the depth chart.

Cavs 100 Sixers 95: The Sixers were really competitive in this game, in part because Antawn Jamison sat it out, even with LeBron coming back. They owned the glass, which is an Achilles heel for the Cavs, an area they’re strong in but if you best them it causes big problems.

The big highlight of this game? James drops an alley-oop after catching the ball nearly behind the basket. You had to be there.

Boston 122 Pacers 103:
This was competitive for about seven minutes. Then the Celtics bench came in, and in a move that may signal the end of the world, ran the show, and the Pacers out of the building.

The Celtics bench outscored Indiana’s 54-38. Nate Robinson was especially dy-no-mite, slicing up the Pacers’ lazy perimeter defense. The big play of this game was Glen Davis’ man-up block on Josh McRoberts’ dunk attempt. It was one where you felt so bad for Josh, you couldn’t look at it. But you also couldn’t stop looking at it. Painful.

Rondo’s right to left floater might as well be his finishing move. It’s unstoppable at this point.

Heat 108 Bulls 95: Okay, so there are two things evident from one simple fact. Jannero Pargo was a huge part of this game for the Bulls. He started, was forcing the issue in his Pargo-way, and he racked up 20 points on 17 shots. Which is not awesome.

Fact one: Without Derrick Rose out and with Jannero Pargo being a big part of the Bulls’ offense, there was almost no chance for them to win.

Fact two: With Derrick Rose out and with Jannero Pargo being a big part of the Bulls’ offense, there was no reason this game should have been as close as it was. Chicago had an 18 point third quarter, and that was it, but otherwise, the Bulls kind of hung.

Jermaine O’Neal was the difference maker, and he made life miserable for Kirk Hinrich, blowing him up twice when he went to the hole.

Can we throw out the Heat and the Bulls from the playoffs and put the Grizzlies in? Much more entertaining.

San Antonio 103 Timberwolves 85: The Nets are not tanking. The Kings are not tanking. The Sixer are not tanking. The Wolves? The Wolves may be tanking. Love didn’t play with a legit injury, but this team has turned into the post office. Manu Ginobili had a fantastic game despite not scoring with 7 assists that I couldn’t really notice because of the gigantic bald spot on his head.

Matt Bonner outscored Jonny Flynn. Renew your season tickets now, Wolves fans!

Pistons 101 Wizards 87: Will Bynum is the Pistons’ MVP this season. That’s not saying much, but he was incredible tonight with 20 assists. He ran the Wizards ragged. Let me put it in context. Will Bynum had 20 assists. The Wizards, as a team, had 23. Yeesh.

Ben Gordon had a nice bounceback game with 17 points. He only needs to score another 7,000 points to make up the rest of the worth of his contract this season.

Nuggets 102 Hornets 95: In fourth grade I did a magic show for show and tell with some stuff I got from a magic shop in Memphis. In the middle of the disappearing egg in the hat trick, I put the hat down for the finish, and you could hear the egg inside the hat clack against the desk. It was really embarrassing and ruined the appeal of magic to me forever.

The Hornets are hearing the plastic egg clack against the desk.

Chauncey Billups had 21 points on 14 shots, with 17 assists and four steals in the win. Three Nuggets had double doubles.

Grizzlies 119 Knicks 112: The Grizzlies barely tried for the entire second half and still won comfortably. That’s how much they killed the Knicks in the first half.

Mike Conley shot 50% from the field and had six assist. He’s playing the best ball of the season. If he’d played like this the first four months of the season, maybe Grizzlies fans like myself wouldn’t spontaneously have crying fits whenever a Tyreke Evans highlight package came on. Maybe.

DeMarre Carroll’s haircut is weird. The Knicks are not good. The end.

Thunder 104 Nets 102:
Looks closer than it was. The Thunder led by 12 at the break, and turned the jets off. Durant scored 30. Again. Most times in one season by one player in franchise history. Yes, the whole Sonics history. He’s kind of a big deal.

Devin Harris is back from the dead, which is kind of nice. 19 points and 8 assists for the point guard. He sliced and diced against a pretty good Thunder defense.

Trail Blazers 110, Kings 94: Cut off the head and the body will die. Words of wisdom. That’s what the Trail Blazers did — they focused on taking Tyreke Evans out of the game with their defense. When Evans gets into the lane, nobody is stopping him, but long defenders like Nicholas Batum can keep Evans on the perimeter more than he likes. It worked, the soon-to-be rookie of the year had just 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting.

Meanwhile, the head of the Blazers offense — Brandon Roy — thrived: 28 points on 10 of 13 shooting. Pretty much every Blazer had a good night. This one was over early and people who switched out to watch some college hoops are forgiven. Unless it was Pac-10 hoops, which is even more unwatchable.

LeBron James on surpassing Michael Jordan: “It’s a personal goal”

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Since he was a teenager, LeBron James has been compared to Michael Jordan. That comparison has usually been used as a way to cut him down or explain why he’s not in the same class, but that’s changed since he won his third championship, and first in Cleveland, in June. Now, LeBron has started to be a lot more open about his desire to eventually surpass Jordan. He said so in an interview with the AP’s Tom Withers after practice on Tuesday:

Now that LeBron James has won a championship for the ages, he’s set a loftier goal:

Catching Michael Jordan.

Long flattered to be mentioned in the same company with Jordan and other NBA legends, James has been hesitant to publicly acknowledge that he wants to be remembered as the greatest in league history.

It’s time now.

“It’s a personal goal,” James told The Associated Press on Monday. “I just never brought it up. It’s my own personal goal to be able to be greater than great. I think that should be everybody’s personal goal.”

Now that James has indisputably cemented his legacy as one of the handful of greatest players ever to play the game, he has a lot less to lose by openly talking about these things. Five years ago, he would have gotten killed for bringing it up. Now? It just seems plausible more than anything else.

Kevin Durant says Nike didn’t influence his free-agency decision

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors poses for NBA team photographer Noah Graham during the Golden State Warriors Media Day at the Warriors Practice Facility on September 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Many different factors went into Kevin Durant‘s decision this summer to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors — basketball fit, location, his friendships with Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, and more. But one thing he wants to make sure you know didn’t influence him is Nike. Durant told reporters this week that the shoe company, which he endorses, didn’t steer him one way or another in free agency, and they didn’t even know his plans beforehand.

It’s a little hard to believe that Nike had zero advance knowledge of Durant’s plans — if not a hard answer, at least a strong indication of which way he was leaning. Durant was one of the most popular players in the league in Oklahoma City, so Nike would have been fine either way. But his presence in Golden State, a much bigger market and the dominant story in the NBA this season, will only help them. It doesn’t hurt, either, that they now have one of their biggest athletes in the same market as Stephen Curry, who had been taking advantage of all the attention on the Warriors to raise Under Armour’s profile. Now, Nike can get some of that spotlight back in the Bay Area.

Barnes, Bogut highlight latest round of changes for Mavs

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 08:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors reacts in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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DALLAS (AP) Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut are in, Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia are out and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle has a retooled roster for the sixth consecutive time since winning a championship.

“Well, we love it,” Carlisle said at media day this week as someone chuckled. “What’s more exciting than getting seven new guys? New blood. It’s fresh every year.

“Really, that wasn’t meant to be a joke,” he added. “If you view it as a negative, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be a negative. I don’t look at it that way.”

The Mavericks have made the playoffs all but one season since the constant turnover started after owner Mark Cuban chose salary cap flexibility over keeping a few key players when a new labor agreement was reached six months after his team won the title in 2011.

But Dallas still hasn’t won a postseason series since beating Miami in six games in those NBA Finals.

Repeated efforts to land big names in free agency failed, which this year led to the additions of Barnes and Bogut from 2015 champion Golden State after the Warriors lured Kevin Durant from Oklahoma City and had to unload both starters to make cap room for the four-time NBA scoring champion.

Barnes headlines the group of newcomers because he’ll be a top option on offense after signing a four-year, $94 million max contract. Over his four seasons with the Warriors, he was always a role player behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

“It’s going to be bigger expectations and I’m going to have a larger role on this team,” Barnes said. “I feel like we have a lot of pieces this year, either coming back off injury, guys who are motivated, have a lot to prove. So hopefully we can all come together and do something special.”

There’s actually some stability in the starting five because point guard Deron Williams is back for a second season with his hometown team.

Nowitzki, going into his 19th season at age 38, says Williams was the best player on the team at times last season, and the Mavericks missed him in their five-game loss to Oklahoma City. He was limited by a sports hernia injury that required offseason surgery.

Parsons signed a max deal with Memphis, and Pachulia went to the Warriors after the trade that landed Dallas the 7-footer Bogut, who should be a much stronger shot-blocking presence than his predecessor.

The changes fit the formula of at least two new starters each season going back to the title year.

“There are similarities to other years,” Carlisle said. “The ability to add Bogut and Barnes was huge for us. We caught some good luck on that.”

The other notable newcomer is Curry’s younger brother, Seth Curry, who is on his fifth team in his fourth season but finally had a more prominent role last season in Sacramento. Former Baylor standout Quincy Acy is in Dallas after bouncing around his first four years.

The Mavericks are deep at guard with holders J.J. Barea and Devin Harris behind Williams and Wes Matthews, in his second season as the shooting guard and now more than a year removed from tearing an Achilles tendon his final season in Portland.

Also returning are athletic young forwards Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell along with 7-2 Tunisian center Salah Mejri, a surprising shot-blocking presence last season as a 30-year-old rookie.

“They’re definitely athletes and we should be able to have a great defensive lineup once I’m out,” said Nowitzki, poking fun at his defensive skills. “I think we have a (backup) lineup out there that could be really, really good, and obviously youth and athleticism is a big part.”

Barnes wanted to be a part of it even though the Mavericks appear further from championship contention than other Western Conference teams.

“I think when you look at what this franchise has done year in, year out, stable on their ship,” Barnes said. “And be able to learn from a guy named Dirk who’s done it year in, year out. He’s pretty much built this place through his work ethic.”

And now Nowitzki is getting used to another new collection of teammates.

Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler

Jazz’s Dante Exum says his knee is completely healed from 2015 ACL tear

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 17:  Dante Exum #11 of the Utah Jazz drives to the lane during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 17, 2014 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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After a promising rookie season, Dante Exum missed all of 2015-16 rehabbing a torn left ACL he suffered during an exhibition game with the Australian national team in summer 2015. As the Jazz kick off training camp, Exum says he’s fully recovered after his year off and he’s ready to go.

Via Jody Gennessy of the Deseret News:

“I was just excited to get back out there,” Exum said after the first of two practices Tuesday. “I was feeling good. … I was just ready to come out there, talk when I can and run between every drill.”

Both his attitude and his body were at 100 percent as he returned from a yearlong rehab that followed his September 2015 surgery on his left knee that had been injured in a friendly international game with the Australian team.

With the Jazz’s trade for George Hill over the summer, Exum won’t have to be the starting point guard, which will take some pressure off of him to get back to full strength right away. A torn ACL is something that usually takes time to return from, and having guard depth to ease his workload will help with the transition. If the Jazz get good production out of Exum, it will be a bonus for what looks to be one of the most exciting young teams in the Western Conference.