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.

LaVar Ball rebuffs LeBron James’ warning: ‘They’re not going to stop me from doing what I’m doing’

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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LaVar Ball, father of highly touted UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, continued his media tour by discussing the difficulties LeBron James‘ sons will face due to the high expectations implicit with their dad.

LeBron didn’t like that one bit, saying: “Keep my kids’ name out of your mouth. Keep my family out of your mouth.”

LaVar Ball on Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t have a problem with LeBron.

It’s just how people, they asked me a question about, do I think superstar players’ kids are good? And just my opinion that I’ve never seen one that was really good. LeBron is going to make his kids probably one of the best players ever, according to him. Now, there’s going to be some outside opinions. I’ve just never seen superstars that have kids, because they have to live up to that – they don’t have to live up to it – but I’ve never seen none really live up to what their dad has done.

So, he could be the first or not or the last. So, like I said, it’s not about me having his kids’ mouth. I’m not worried about his family. I’m not worried about his kids. If somebody asks me a question I’ll answer it the way I feel like answering it. But I have nothing against LeBron or his kids.

So, they can go ahead and make them the best or make them the worst. It ain’t got nothing to do with me.

People just asking me questions. I’ve been talking all my life. It’s just now the cameras and the things are in front of me. So, I’m just saying, if people ask me something, I’m going to give you an answer, because I can have freedom of speech to say whatever I want. And it’s either going to be good or bad, and it’s just for conversation for the next day.

I don’t have nobody telling me nothing. I don’t have nobody telling me nothing. It’s just like people saying, “Keep my family’s mouth” – whatever they’re saying, I don’t care. They’re not going to stop me from doing what I’m doing. If they take a little edgy edge on it and they get a little touchy because I answered something a certain way, who cares? They’re not going to do nothing to me. I’m not going to do nothing to them. So, it ain’t no big deal.

LaVar Ball’s inability to say the phrase “Keep my name out of your mouth” or any variation of it is poetic.

Some advice to LeBron: Don’t respond. You’ll get nowhere with someone who can say so much publicly about something he admits “ain’t got nothing to do with me.” The elder Ball is too attention-hungry to back down, and engaging him further will only serve his agenda.

Russell Westbrook assists Andre Roberson transition dunk with sweet behind-the-back pass (video)

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Russell Westbrook produced a historic triple-double in the Thunder’s win over the 76ers last night, but merely counting his misses — zero — doesn’t do him justice.

Dunk-assisting behind-the-back passes are nice in any context. Considering how quickly Westbrook pushes the ball up the floor, the degree of difficulty here makes this one even more impressive.

Probably fake Cavaliers fan wears burnt LeBron James jersey (video)

AP Photo/Brett Davis
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Update: As pointed out by several, the Cavs didn’t introduce this jersey until after LeBron left. So, this was probably staged by the Nuggets. Still funny (and still searching for more evidence of Cleveland fans reconciling their about-face on LeBron).

 

Cavaliers fans went overboard when they burned LeBron James jerseys in the street when he left for the Heat in 2010.

Many of those same fans instantly forgot the terrible things they said about LeBron once he returned to Cleveland in 2014.

And then there’s this guy…

Ananth Pandian:

I’d like to believe this guy is publicly repenting for going too far in 2010.

Three Things We Learned Wednesday: LeBron says Cavs lack toughness, or are they bored?

Associated Press
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The NCAA Tournament gets back underway Thursday, but the NBA ball just keeps rolling along. Here are the big takeaways from Wednesday.

1) LeBron James says Cavaliers lack toughness. Is there trouble or are they just bored with the regular season?
Here is the unquestioned fact: The Denver Nuggets trounced the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night, 126-113. There are a number of factors in this, starting with Denver is playing better than people think — the Nuggets are the fifth best team in the NBA since the All-Star break, outscoring teams by 5.6 points per 100 possessions. Jamal Murray is emerging as the ball handling guard of the future for this team, Gary Harris is a sniper, and they have solid veterans such as Jameer Nelson and Wilson Chandler. But at the heart of it all is Nikola Jokic, who is for real. Watch what he does to LeBron James here.

Yes, Cleveland had to go play at altitude in the middle of a long road trip. Still…

What is going on with the Cavaliers?

Opponents have outscored them by 0.9 points per 100 since the All-Star break, and the Cavs are playing terrible defense (second worst in the NBA since the break). Asked in Denver after the loss what is wrong with the Cavs, LeBron said the team lacked toughness, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“It ain’t about a group. It’s about individuals,” James said… “We’ve got to be more, just do more. It ain’t about no group. You can’t preach toughness. You’ve got to have it.”

“Personally? I had opportunities where I could have been better,” James said before firing back with a rebuttal. “Um, one thing about it: I always bring toughness to the game. I know that. That’s for sure.”

LeBron is clearly challenging his team to get serious on both ends and to start getting in playoff mode.

To me, the Cavaliers look bored. As in the real season starts in a couple of weeks with the playoffs, and they feel they can flip the switch then, but right now the regular season feels like a tedious slog. That’s what it looked like in Denver. Before that, I watched the Cavaliers in person against the Lakers Sunday, and LeBron James played well enough all game, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were getting theirs, but the team lacked any urgency, and it showed on defense. The tanking Lakers hung around. Then, LeBron seemed to say “screw this” and for a five-minute span took charge of the game, looking every bit the best player on the planet, the rest of the Cavaliers quickly fell in line, Cleveland took control of the game, and they coasted from there to the win.

That was against the Lakers, the worst team in the NBA since the All-Star break and a team playing youth everywhere. Denver is legit right now, they are playing well, and the Cavs couldn’t just flip the switch on Wednesday. Jokic and Mason Plumlee led the way as the Nuggets scored 70 points in the paint.

It’s still hard to picture any team in the East beating Cleveland. However, they have not spent the regular season building good habits to fall back on when the eventual challenge comes in the playoffs. There’s been a lot of comparisons to the 2000-01 Lakers, a defending championship team that battled injuries and didn’t impress in the regular season, looked bored on defense, then flipped the switch in the playoffs and went 16-1 on the way to the title. Maybe. But teams that flip the switch are the exception, not the rule.

The bored Cavaliers are playing a dangerous game, but will it haunt them before June? Can any team in the East make them pay?

2) The Knicks have no answer for Rudy Gobert, Jazz thump Knicks. Rudy Gobert is a defensive powerhouse of a big man, the best rim protector in the game and a man on his way to winning Defensive Player of the Year. That was a problem for the Knicks on Wednesday night. A bigger problem — they couldn’t stop him on offense around the rim. Gobert at 35 points on 13-of-14 shooting, with 11 offensive rebounds. The Knicks went small for stretches (with Kristaps Porzingis, but he isn’t strong enough to handle Gobert), other times Willy Hernangomez tried but could not slow Gobert, and the French big man feasted. Check out Gobert’s shot chart.

Or, just watch what he did to the Knicks.

The Knicks started hot in this game behind vintage Derrick Rose for a quarter, but they can’t sustain that kind of play against a quality team. Utah is a quality team (I think they can beat the Clippers in the first round), and the foundation of that is in the middle.

3) Russell Westbrook notches 35th triple-double with perfect shooting, Thunder attack the rim and get the win. Let us formally acknowledge that Russell Westbrook is very, very good at basketball. He had 18 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds, and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field. That would be the first perfect shooting triple-double in NBA history. How’s that for adding to the MVP resume.

As for the game, the Thunder attacked the paint and the Sixers had no answers. OKC won 122–97, scoring 76 points while knocking down just four 3-pointers.