Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened to Sunday while you were filling out your brackets completely for fun with absolutely no wagers involved…

Cavs 104 Celtics 93: We already told you about the Celtics getting run around a bit, but I wanted to follow up with Antawn Jamison. Jamison finished with 15 points on 6 of 17 shooting which is terrible. But the number of looks he got at the rim which touched inside-iron and then rimmed or clanged out was pretty high. Those are shots he’s going to make in April and May, along with at least half of those six missed free throws.

Jamison tossed in 12 rebounds to boot part of a 51-43 advantage for the Cavs. He may not be showcasing the highlights, but he’s filling in the holes quite nicely.

Bucks 98 Pacers 94: Not televised, which is a shame since it sounds like it was fun. Plus, it was the one game a year where Solomon Jones is an actual storyline. Luke Ridnour had a good game, Solomon Jones led a comeback that failed.

Bobcasts 96 Magic 89: Throw Dwight Howard into the illustrious group of teams that refuse to admit the Bobcats shut ’em down. The Bobcats’ doubled hard and have the athletes to run off the three. No doubt the Magic had an off shooting night, but if there is a formula for beating the Magic, that’s it.

Doubling Howard forces him to make adjustments he’s not comfortable with and the Magic feast on the kick out and second rotation. But you have to run out effectively.

I’d love to give you some sort of insight on how Stephen Jackson dropped 28 on them but honestly it boggles the mind.

Heat 104 Sixers 91: Just so we can get this out there.

The Sixers lost to a Heat team without Michael Beasley (injury) and Jermaine O’Neal (ejection) and Dwyane Wade didn’t have to play in the fourth.

That my friends is a one-page recipe for Suck.

Jamal Magliore has flashes every now and again where he looks legit, like today in limited minutes. Go ahead and pencil in the Sixers for the best available point guard in the draft. Carlos Arroyo had 12 assists for crying out loud.

Thunder 119 Jazz 111: The Jazz for some reason did not play Kyle Korver much in their loss to the Bucks even though they needed a perimeter scorer to spread the floor. Then tonight they let him try and guard Kevin Durant for a bit.

Kyle Korver was then dragged to hell.

Westbrook and Durant scored 65 points on 33 shots. Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams brought it, but the Jazz lost in the paint which is insane because that’s where they should dominate. Serge Ibaka had 0 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes, but of course there is no box score stat for “punking Carlos Boozer like a madman.”

Suns 120 Hornets 106: Amar’e Stoudemire is back, ladies and gentlemen. THAT Amar’e.

Stat has topped 30 points in four of the last five games and the one he didn’t he had 29. There was very little the Hornets could do in this one. It wasn’t even the usual Nash pick and roll slice and dice either. Stoudemire took whoever was defending off the dribble, got it in transition did the whole thing. A dominant Stoudemire is something for playoff teams to fear.

Blazers 109 Raptors 98: This was a Rudy Fernandez game. He dazzled in limited minutes the type of game that makes you wonder if he shouldn’t have more time on the floor. He lit up from the arc and made a big show with some dazzling assists.

The Raptors? I don’t want to say it again. Don’t make me say it again. There’s got to be a different way to say this.

Nope. Raptors can’t guard anyone. Or anything.

Kings 114 Wolves 100: Tyreke Evans had 29 points, 11 assists, and 9 rebounds.

Man if only the Wolves had gotten the #2 overall pick. Or hadn’t selected a point guard that prefers Spanish beaches and mild winters.

‘It’s eating me alive:’ DeMarcus Cousins again leading Kings’ longshot playoff push

Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins, right, drives against Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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When the Kings drafted DeMarcus Cousins, he named his rookie goals: “Get to the playoffs, go for the championship.” But the NBA humbled the young player, as Sacramento went just 24-58 and missed the postseason for the fifth straight year. Cousins emerged for his second season resolute on a more-modest goal: “Playoffs. We’ve got to make the playoffs this year. It’s not even a goal. It’s basically in our contract, I believe. So, we’ve got to make the playoffs this year.”

Five seasons later, Cousins is still chasing that elusive postseason trip.

“It’s eating me alive,” Cousins said. “Every loss or every time another team wins in battling for the eighth spot, it’s eating me alive. Our only goal is to be in the playoffs this season.”

A depressing chase for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, where every team in the race is at least seven games under .500, has opened the door for the 17-27 Kings. They’re 1.5 games and three teams out of playoff position – a more daunting challenge than often realized. Not only must they play better, they must hope a couple teams ahead of them don’t also heat up. 538 gives Sacramento just a 5% chance of reaching the postseason, and ESPN is even more pessimistic at 3.8%.

Beginning his career with seven straight lottery trips would be another crushing blow to Cousins, who has built a credible case as the NBA’s best center. Greg Monroe is the only current player with more win shares who hasn’t reached the playoffs:

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Nobody nears Cousins besides Monroe, and the next-closest player, Jazz center Rudy Gobert, likely makes the playoffs this year. Monroe leads in win shares, because he entered the league more polished than Cousins and built a head start (and because this stat probably inflates’ Monroe’s contributions relative to Cousins’.) Monroe has never neared Cousins’ peak, and Monroe is now a backup for the Bucks. The only thing second-team about Cousins is his two All-NBA appearances.

Kevin Love is the only other player since the NBA-ABA merger to make multiple All-NBA teams before his first playoff season. He, of course, left the Timberwolves for the Cavaliers to escape lists like these.

On the other hand, there have been indications from both sides Cousins will soon sign a veteran-designated-player contract extension projected to be worth more than $219 million over five years. Staying in Sacramento and playing for owner Vivek Ranadive seems like the surest bet to keep Cousins’ postseason drought active.

Cousins already ranks in the top 25 all-time in win shares before a player’s first playoff season (which doesn’t count this season, because playoff teams aren’t yet determined):

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Cousins has 5.2 win shares this season and counting. Missing the playoffs again would launch him into the top 10 of this dubious list – and he could keep climbing.

Not only do the Kings face daunting odds to reach the postseason this year, it’s difficult to project them into the playoffs for the foreseeable future. Years of roster mismanagement have taken a toll.

Since drafting Cousins, Sacramento has held top-10 picks every year. Those have netted on draft night: Jimmer Fredette, John Salmons, Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere and Bogdan Bogdanovic – who’ve combined for a measly 2.2 win shares this season. And most of those win shares come from Stauskas and Robinson, who no longer play for the Kings.

In fact, Stauskas was sent out in a disastrous trade that gives the 76ers swap rights on Sacramento’s 2017 first-rounder* and Sacramento’s unprotected 2019 first-rounder.

*The Kings’ first-round pick must fall in the top to be swap-eligible. Otherwise, it goes to the Bulls, the result of another botched trade.

Sacramento has also recently struck out on major free agents and then settled for Arron Afflalo, Kosta Koufos, Anthony Tolliver, Garrett Temple, Matt Barnes and Ty Lawson. That adds up to one mediocre supporting cast.

Meanwhile, Cousins is better than ever. He has taken a larger offensive burden, including as a distributor and suddenly dangerous 3-point shooter, while cutting down his turnover rate. Defenders are often overmatched, and they foul him more than anyone in the league. And while Cousins’ defense comes and goes, it can be quite impressive while he’s locked in.

The result is a team that plays at a 41-win pace with Cousins on the floor and a 17-win pace when he sits, continuing a disparity seen over the last few years. Hera are the Kings win paces over 82 games with Cousins on (purple) and off (black):

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Obviously, teams generally play better with their stars and starters on the court, and Cousins is a star who usually shares the court with other starters. But this gap is particularly egregious, and Cousins’ fellow starters have underwhelmed.

So, more and more falls on Cousins’ shoulders.

Playing for his sixth head coach and third general manager in seven seasons, Cousins sets the tone for the Kings, for better or worse. He plays with a unique rage, sneering resentfully at anyone who gets in his way on the court – like players trying to defend him or referees, gasp, calling a foul on him. He leads the league with 12 technical fouls and is on pace to get (at least) 16 and an automatic suspension, which he also triggered last year.

His highs are incredibly high and his lows are unnecessarily low.

That moodiness has frustrated coaches and teammates, but it also sometimes works himself and his teammates into a productive frenzy. Sacramento usually plays passionately, which is both to its credit and a sign of a talent scarcity considering the team still loses so frequently.

“I’m still confident,” Cousins said, “and I still believe we’re going to make that push for the playoffs.”

For the last few years, Cousins has looked unstoppable while the Kings have been quite easily stoppable. He’s trying to drag the franchise up with him, but optimism and desire might not be enough. At a certain point we must ask: What more can Cousins do?

Russell Westbrook keeps trying to show up Rudy Gobert

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) goes to the basket as Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) defends in the second quarter during a NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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Jazz center Rudy Gobert is having an awesome season, credibly putting himself in the mix with Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Marc Gasol as the NBA’s best big men.

But that doesn’t mean Russell Westbrook respects him.

Before the Thunder’s win over Utah yesterday, Westbrook was asked how Oklahoma City would contain Gobert. Westbrook just laughed and walked off.

Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

Then, in the game, Westbrook tried to jump right over the 7-foot-1 Gobert and dunk on him:

I would say Gobert proved his ability by successfully protecting the paint, but I’m just too astounded by Westbrook’s leap.

Zaza Pachulia, running up court, turns back to smack Luke Babbitt in face (video)

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Is Zaza Pachulia a dirty player?

That debate can be rekindled after the Warriors center earned this flagrant foul for smacking Heat forward Luke Babbitt.

Just don’t forget: Pachulia is more than an unskilled enforcer. He brings plenty to the table as Golden State’s fifth starter, and his ability was on display earlier in the game:

Three Hawks lose uncontested rebound out of bounds (video)

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How did Mike Scott, Mike Dunleavy and Malcolm Delaney fail to secure this rebound?

No wonder the Hawks lost to a Clippers team playing without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.