Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Wednesday, while you were asking “What’s That Song?“…

Bobcats 100 Thunder 92: Raymond Felton is probably better than you think he is. He’s been a huge part of the Bobcats’ success this year, and his ability to create chaos in the offensive set now that teams can’t collapse because of Stephen Jackson is letting him tear things up. He was a huge part of the run tonight, 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting, 7 assists and zero turnovers.

This was a rare loss that actually looks bad for the Thunder. The Bobcats played with payoff toughness, and the Thunder didn’t really know how to respond. They can execute when they need to, but if you rough them up a bit, their inexperience shows. Kevin Durant needed 26 shots for 26 points and got blocked five times.

Cavaliers 99 Pacers 95: This LeBron James taking over late thing has gotten out of control. The Pacers made a run on a coasting Cavs team, and so James scored 6 points, got 2 blocks and 2 assists in the final four minutes. That’s just absurd.

Roy HIbbert was mighty fine in this one, and he’s looking more and more like a great center for years to come. If he gets a good point guard to pair with this summer next year could be huge for him. Of course, Larry Bird will probably draft Jon Scheyer or something, but whatever.

Celtics 109, Knicks 97: Boston has maybe the tallest, longest front line in the NBA. The Knicks starting center is 6’9″ and is not a center in any real sense of the word. The Celtics are not a stupid team. They pounded the ball inside early and often, were up 13 after a quarter and the only reason this one was just a little close was the Celtics packed it in five minutes before the game ended.

The very wise Kelly Dwyer says the game is always teaching you. This game is the exception that proves the rule. Nothing much to take away from this one.

Sixers 108 Nets 97: The Net can’t beat the Sixers without Devin Harris. Obviously.

The Sixers won this battle behind Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday, but the Nets will win the war because they have legitimate hope for next year and the years after.

Raptors 106 Atlanta 105: Atlanta’s picked a bad time to go to pieces.

The Hawks have been coasting for too long and you can tell they’re bored, and they didn’t put the effort forward to stop the Raptors’ terrific offense. They took this game lightly, allowed the comeback, and let Chris Bosh bury them.

Andrea Bargnani had 11 rebounds, and the Raptors won. These two things are not unrelated.

Magic 110 Spurs 84:The Spurs stopped Dwight Howard. Got him frustrated, limited, invisible. That’s how you’re supposed to stop the Magic, right? 

And that’s why the Magic got Vince Carter. Carter was en fuego, and between that and the Magic’s defense this wasn’t much of a contest. The Spurs pulled within 10 in the third and you thought it would be tight. Then the Magic rattled off another run. Goodnight, San Antonio. Have a nice night.

Rockets 107 Grizzlies 94: The Grizzlies don’t play great defense to start with. If the other team is on fire, they don’t have the defensive personnel or know-how to make adjustments. The result? Aaron Brooks was 7-7 from the arc, finished with 31 points and all of a sudden the Rockets’ backcourt looks downright terrifying.

The Grizzlies’ playoff hopes aren’t technically dead, but this was the night they turned off the respirator.

Mavericks 113 Bulls 106: Yeah. Another night. Another Bulls team with almost none of its starters. Another loss to a good team. the Mavericks owned this. They knew they should win and decided tonight was a night they wouldn’t screw around.

Caron Butler is SCARY good on this team.

Jazz 122 Wolves 100: Good news, Wolves fans! You gave up 30 fewer points than you did against the Suns!

This team. Is. Terrible.

Clippers 101 Bucks 93: The Clippers used, get this, zone. And it positively boggled the Bucks. Couldn’t get penetration, couldn’t get open looks, couldn’t create any of the switches they depend on. Bizarre development that may cost them in the playoffs.

Drew Gooden had 16 and 11, and looks good on the Clippers. Which makes a lot of sense in some ways.

Warriors 131, Hornets 121: New Orleans just got beat by a D-League team. Seriously. Three D-League callups by the Hornets — Anthony Tolliver, Chris Hunter and Reggie Williams — combined for 69 points on the night. On 66 percent shooting and 8 of 14 from three. (More on this to come later.)

The trio (and sparked one of the biggest comebacks of the year — Golden State was down 21with 5:30 left in the third. The game should have been over. All they had to do was stick with the game plan that had been working — don’t turn the ball over and keep pounding it inside against the small Warrior front line. Apparently that is too much to ask. Meanwhile Golden State (without Stephen Curry) just got hot from the floor. The result was a damn entertaining, if not fundamentally sound, rare Warriors win.

Coach Tyronn Lue says not to expect LeBron James to have “rest” games

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LeBron James has not missed one Cleveland Cavaliers game this season. At age 33 in his 15th NBA season, LeBron is fourth in the league in total minutes played, third in the league in minutes per game at 37, and is top 10 in the NBA in usage rate.

Don’t expect that to change.

LeBron doesn’t want to take games off — he even dominated the All-Star Game — and do you really think Lue is going to force him to sit while the Cavaliers try to adapt to a radical roster shakeup at the trade deadline? From Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

“I just think being the leader of this team, I don’t think he thinks he can take games off, because, you know, guys being hurt and going through a rough patch, and now new guys coming in,” Lue said before the Cavs’ 112-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. “So, I think he’s trying to lead and lead by example … I think we still got to be smart about the situation, but [the training staff] say he feels good.”

LeBron said this last month and things have not changed.

“I told you I want to play every game,” James said. “If my health continues as it is right now, then that’s what it is.”

While “load management” is a buzzword around the NBA — one ignored in Minnesota — LeBron has responded to his increased workload with an MVP level season. LeBron is averaging 26.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game, is shooting 35.9 percent from three, and has the highest value over replacement player in the league. (His less energized play in January likely cost him any real shot at his fifth MVP.) With the league emphasizing not resting players — particularly in nationally televised games, which the Cavaliers have a lot of — LeBron is not getting much if any rest. He wants to play in a full 82.

The only concern is will he wear down. LeBron is going to have to dominate in the playoffs for the Cavaliers to come out of the East. How much gas will LeBron have in the tank come May? There’s a reason Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, and a lot of other elite coaches give players a night off. That’s not going to happen with LeBron, at least not likely in a meaningful way.

Consider it something to file away and remember if the Cavaliers and LeBron look a step slower in the postseason.

Watch Kyrie Irving drop 31 on Knicks in Celtics’ win

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NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving had 31 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, leading the Boston Celtics over the New York Knicks 121-112 on Saturday for their second victory in two nights since the All-Star break.

Irving scored 15 points in a dazzling third quarter and then helped the Celtics finish it off with his passing in the fourth, highlighted by a behind-the-back dish to Jaylen Brown for a dunk that made it 115-106.

Brown had 24 points for the Celtics, who went into the break with three straight losses but came back with a victory in Detroit on Friday.

Trey Burke scored 26 points off the bench for the second straight game for the Knicks, but they couldn’t win this one after beating Orlando on Thursday to end an eight-game skid.

Irving was just 1 for 6 behind the arc in the first half but showed no lack of confidence in the third. He scored 14 straight Boston points, hitting four 3-pointers and pushing the ball right at the Knicks.

His last 3-pointer in that spurt gave the Celtics a 10-point lead, but the Knicks chipped away while he rested and it was a two-point game by the time he returned with 8:14 remaining.

Irving soon made another 3, and passed to Al Horford for a 3 that pushed the lead back to double digits.

Horford finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Damian Lillard scores 40, hits game-winner to beat Suns (VIDEO)

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PHOENIX (AP) — Passing the ball inbounds at a critical time proved too big a challenge for the sputtering Phoenix Suns. So, Damian Lillard got one final chance.

Of course, he came through.

Lillard scored 40 points, the last two on a driving layup with nine-tenths of a second to play, and the Portland Trail Blazers rallied from 15 down in the final 7 1/2 minutes to beat Phoenix 106-104 on Saturday night, the Suns’ ninth straight loss.

Lillard called it one of his “more significant performances” of the season.

“Obviously, Damian was huge, showed his leadership, showed his talent,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “We overcame a horrendous shooting night for most of the night and found a way.”

Lillard, who scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, got the final chance because Phoenix’s Troy Daniels couldn’t get the ball inbounds on a five-second call that turned possession over to Portland with 20.6 seconds to play.

“We knew they didn’t have any time outs left,” Stotts said, “so we gave it a shot and made some good reads and didn’t give them any outlets.”‘

Devin Booker scored 30 points for the Suns, losers of 14 of their last 15.

His two free throws gave Phoenix its biggest lead, 93-78, with 7:26 to play. Lillard triggered the subsequent 18-4 outburst that caught the Suns at 97-97 on his 3-point play. Booker’s fifth and final 3-pointer gave the Suns a 100-97 lead with 2:19 to go. Lillard’s 3 tied it at 100 with 1:10 left.

Booker’s powerful driving basket put Phoenix up 104-102 with 33.6 seconds to go. But, after a timeout, Lillard’s step-back 15-footer tied it at 104-104 with 28 seconds left. The Suns called time out to set up the play but, on the sidelines, Daniels couldn’t get the ball inbounds for the five-second call.

“We had no timeouts. I didn’t see anybody open. If I did, I would have thrown it obviously,” Daniels said. “I’ve been in that position a lot of times, but like I said, it’s tough to be in that position when you have no timeouts. You learn from and you get it better.”

On the play, Portland’s CJ McCollum said “I just tried to take away Booker.”

“I saw how they were set up and I just guarded him normal and when I turned and saw him run toward half-court I just shaded toward him,” McCollum said.

Booker never broke open, Daniels decided not to chance it, and the last opportunity was gifted to Portland.

“There was 20 seconds left and I just wanted to make sure I got the last shot,” Lillard said. “I really just wanted to get the clock down, keep it towards half-court where it is further out and I can get downhill. I took a peek, the clock was at six and I got downhill.”

The Blazers, coming off a win at Utah the previous night, have won three straight and five of six.

The game was tied 10 times before Portland finished the first half with a 7-2 spurt take a 55-50 lead at the break.

But the Suns turned it on in the third quarter, outscoring the cold-shooting Blazers 31-16. Portland scored the first five of the second half to take its biggest lead, 60-50. But Phoenix overwhelmed the Trail Blazers 29-5 to go up 79-65 on Booker’s 3.

 

Russell Westbrook, Paul George call out Zaza Pachulia for “dirty” fall on Westbrook

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Zaza Pachulia has a reputation. The league even created a rule — the “Zaza rule”  — after he stepped under Kawhi Leonard last playoffs and twisted the forward’s ankle, ending Leonard’s playoffs and the Spurs chances.

Then Saturday night, as the Warriors pulled away in the second half and routed the Thunder, this play happened, where Pachulia fell on Westbrook’s leg.

While there was some contact, was that really enough to knock Pachulia over? It doesn’t look like it, it looks intentional, but remember Pachulia falls into a lot of guys — including Kevin Durant last season. This, however, was ugly.

After the game Westbrook and Paul George called Pachulia out.

Even the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving chipped in on this.

It will be interesting to see if the league does follow up. There is some history here.