Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened while you were partying/rioting about health care reform…

Hawks 119 Spurs 114: This was a classic. Two teams that had answers for every big shot the other one hit.

Al Horford was considered a strange All-Star pick but he looked like it in this game. Monster plays down the stretch including a massive block on Ginobili and several key putbacks. The guy has a sense for big games and is a magnet for the basketball.

The Spurs can’t feel too badly about this one, though. Duncan was back to doing his thing, including a shot off the glass that I’m fairly certain was in direct violation of physics.

But when Ginobili scores 38 and Duncan scores 29 and your team loses, that’s probably not a good thing either.

Rockets 116 Knicks 112: So much for revenge of the T-Mac. In shocking news, dynamic small guards (Kevin Martin) can slice up a D’Antoni defense (Knicks) like swiss cheese.

But if you’re looking for a revenge story? How about Jordan Hill, who put in big minutes down the stretch for the Rockets to help them get a win after being buried in New York for the first four months of the year. Hill’s the perfect type of player for the Rockets and another facet of the steal Morey pulled off.

If Aaron Brooks was just a little more efficient he’d be in discussion as a top NBA point guard.

Pacers 121 Thunder 101: Didn’t see this coming. The Thunder looked like a bunch of 21 year-olds who had to wake up earlier than usual on a Sunday morning to play basketball in Indiana. They also looked like they sucked.

The Pacers, on the other hand, played like this was their superbowl. Earl Watson nailed a pull-up 35 foot three. I haven’t seen a shot like that since… ten minutes earlier when I saw about five of those attempts in one of the NCAA games (none connected). Roy Hibbert has become a legit player, it’ll be tense seeing if he turns into a top-level center.

Kings 102 Clippers 89: It’s March! College kids are living out the brief highlights of their entire existence, flowers are blooming, and the Clippers are completely mailing in their games. Time marches on.

Cavs 104 Pistons 79: You convince yourself that Detroit still has some muscle, until games like this. The Cavs manhandled them inside. Leon Powe had 16 points and 7 rebounds. That’s a bad sign. The Cavs’ offense wasn’t even that good in this game. They just completely shut down every angle, attempt, and set the Pistons tried to deploy.

Ben Gordon’s season from hell continues.

Lakers 99, Wizards 92: Kobe outscored the Wizards 20-15 in the second quarter, and that pretty much decided this one. Even by his own standards it was a good night for Kobe. When his long jumper is falling — he was four of seven from three-point land and hit some long twos for good measure — he is impossible to guard. Of course, the Lakers, up 28 early in the third, get bored and the Wizards closed hard to make this one seem closer than it was, but it was never in doubt. That’s 11 losses in a row for Washington.

Suns 93, Trail Blazers 87: You would have thought this would have been one of the more entertaining games of the day. Man, would you have been wrong. The Blazers did what they wanted, slowing the pace way down (90%), barely turning the ball over (4 times) and holding the Suns to 38 percent shooting. But they shot just 36 percent themselves, and that was not enough. Nor was it fun to watch.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.