Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Raptors_lose.jpgWhat you missed while watching Cinderella leave the ball…

Nuggets 97, Raptors 96: In a just and fair world, Denver does not win that game. Toronto gave their best effort in, well, a long time and outplayed Denver for 28 minutes (starting at the beginning of the second quarter). It was so bad JR Smith blew the chance for three dunks in transition within a minute of each other early in the fourth, including just fumbling one out of bounds. The best in-game dunker in the league was just dropping the ball. Sad.

Then Denver started its run, got physical, and got in position to give themselves a shot at the game winner.

On the final play Toronto coach Jay Triano went with Chris Bosh and a bunch of perimeter players — a lineup that lets them switch off any pick. Smart. A lineup that can be beat for rebounds. A risk. One that came back to bite them. Melo’s first miss was volleyballed and eventually rebounded by Nene, the Nuggets quickly swung the ball around the perimeter back to to Anthony. He was covered by Jarrett Jack, a full five inches shorter, so Melo got a clean look at the game winner. That’s the risk. He drained it.

Bobcats 107, Wizards 96: Usually when Charlotte’s defense isn’t great — and it wasn’t great in this game, it wasn’t good either — they are doomed. But tonight they were playing the lowly Wizards, now losers of 14 straight. Against them, even the worst offense looks like the Showtime Lakers.

Raymond Felton has developed into a consistent, rock solid point guard — 19 points of 8 of 10 shooting with 11 assists.

Pacers 122, Jazz 106: Utah got sucked into playing at Indiana’s pace — 100 possessions in the game, seven more than the average Jazz contest. Flex offense be damned, full speed ahead. Playing that style also means taking a lot of threes — Indiana took 36 and made 17 (47 percent).

Danny Granger is a flat out stud. He dropped 44 in this one on 19 shots.

Magic 106, Timberwolves 97: Al Jefferson and Darko Milicic make a nice front line on paper, or they might if they would  play up to their potential. Dwight Howard is all about the now and he wasn’t nice. He finished with 24 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks. The Magic could have played better, credit the Timberwolves for coming out fast and playing hard and making this one interesting.

Sixers 106, Hawks 98: Philadelphia is one of the few teams that can hang athletically with Atlanta. The Sixers were active on defense, which really threw Atlanta off its game. Example, with 1:25 left in the game Josh Smith got the long rebound off a Bibby missed three and drive into the lane, at 10 feet away leapt up and with no Sixer contesting the shot… tried to slip a pass between two defenders to Horford, which was stolen. The Hawks were not the aggressors we expect.

This was Iggy’s night: 25 points and 10 boards. Jrue Holiday added 13 points, 12 assists and 7 steals. Not bad rookie, not bad.

Celtics 94, Kings 86: This one went as expected. The Celtics are starting to put it together; the Kings were without Tyreke Evans. Boston was up 15 after 12 minutes and never looked back. Rondo had 18 assists.

Nets 118, Pistons 110: Break up the Nets! They have won two in a row and now have nine wins on the season — tied for the worst record ever. One win in the next three weeks and they avoid ignominy.

It is amazing what desperation — in this case to avoid embarrassment — can do. The Nets played hard on defense (not that they were still any good at it, but they tried) and got 37 from Brook Lopez and 31 from Yi Jianlian. It’s a small victory, but the Nets deserve to celebrate it.

Thunder 91, Lakers 75: Oklahoma City is long and active on defense, and that gave the Lakers huge problems at the start — they scored just 15 points on 30% shooting in the first quarter. Faced with an obstacle, the Lakers rolled over and played dead.

Kobe had nine early turnovers and was just sloppy. Darius from Forum Blue & Gold summed it up on twitter: “With all the fumbles, falling down, & passing the ball to the other team, Kobe looks like Kurt Warner, NY Giants version.”

No, Lakers fans, this game has no bearing on a future playoff meeting with the Thunder. Just relax.

Heat 87, Bucks 74: Milwaukee just could do nothing right on offense, and they finished shooting 31 percent on the night. They miss Bogut, but this wasn’t that, it was just a Mr. Magoo night. Meanwhile a Heat team that played the night before looked like they had the fresher legs.

Only concern for heat was Jermaine O’Neal hyperextending his knee and having to be helped off the court. He will be checked in the morning.

Spurs 102, Cavaliers 97: The Cavaliers had the lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs executed better down the stretch. Cleveland’s unimaginative offense makes it that much easier for a good defensive team to stop them. That could be an issue come playoff time.

Suns 132, Knicks 96: You know what this game says about Mike D’Antoni’s system? That it works better with more talented players.

Watch Stephen Curry drop 35 in final preseason game

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It’s just preseason, it matters as much public pay phones do now, but still.

The Warriors just went 6-1 in the preseason, and they capped it off with Stephen Curry dropping 35. He was hitting three, driving to the rim, hitting shots falling out-of-bounds, and all the rest of the Stephen Curry highlight reel specials.

The guy is just fun to watch play basketball.

Clippers seeking deep playoff run to erase past failures

PLAYA VISTA, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  L-R; Paul Pierce #34, Austin Rivers #25, DeAndre Jordan #6, J.J. Redick #4, head coach Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin #32, Jamal Crawford #11, Luc Mbah A Moute #12 and Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers pose for a photo during media day at the Los Angeles Clippers Training Center on September 26, 2016 in Playa Vista, California. 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 Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Clippers’ regular-season record of 166-80 in Doc Rivers’ first three years as coach proves they’re one of the better teams in the NBA.

Their postseason results, however, suggest something else.

They’ve never gotten past the second round of the playoffs in pursuit of the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship.

Now, time is ticking on Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, who enter their sixth year together. Griffin and Paul will be free agents at season’s end, while J.J. Redick is also in the final year of his contract.

If the Clippers don’t at least make the Western Conference finals, speculation is rife that the team could be broken up and rebuilt.

“We have the talent, leadership, tangibles and coaches,” Griffin said, “we just have to put it together.”

The Clippers went 53-29 in the regular season and lost to Portland in the first round of the playoffs, when Paul broke his right hand and Griffin reinjured his left quadriceps tendon, forcing both to miss the last two games of the series, which the Clippers lost in six.

It was the latest in a series of playoff failures for a team whose potential has yet to be fully realized.

In 2015, the Clippers lost to Houston in seven games in the Western Conference semifinals after blowing a 3-1 lead. In 2014, they bowed out in six games to Oklahoma City in the second round.

“This is the deepest, most talented group we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Rivers said. “That’s why this year should be great.”

Los Angeles opens the season on Oct. 27 at Portland in a rematch of last season’s playoff series and opens at home against Utah three days later.

Some things to watch for this season with the Clippers:

HOW GRIFFIN GOES: After missing much of last season because of a broken hand and the quad injury, he figures to have extra motivation. Griffin averaged 21.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists while limited to 35 regular-season games. His hand injury was the result of a fight with a former staff member and landed him a four-game suspension and a loss of pay. Besides demonstrating greater maturity, Griffin needs to stay injury-free and boost a shooting percentage that has declined five consecutive seasons.

FIFTH STARTER: Who will join Griffin, Paul, big man Jordan and shooting guard J.J. Redick as a reliable fifth starter? The small forward options are Luc Mbah a Moute, Wesley Johnson, veteran Alan Anderson and Austin Rivers. The elder Rivers may pick one or rotate depending on the need in a particular game. Mbah a Moute started 61 games last season, Johnson shot 33 percent from 3-point range last season, and the younger Rivers can guard an opposing team’s top guard, giving Paul a chance to focus on offense.

ADDING VETERANS: Rivers, who also serves as director of basketball operations, went after veterans during the offseason to add depth. He brought in 12-year pro Dorell Wright, 11-year pros Brandon Bass and Raymond Felton, eight-year pro Marreese Speights, who left Golden State, and seven-year pro Anderson. Along with three-time sixth man of the year Jamal Crawford, they’ll comprise a talented bench. “We all understand what we’re playing for,” Crawford said. Starting the season, they all appear to have bought into the vision of Rivers, who will have to juggle minutes among veterans who might have found more playing time had they gone elsewhere.

PIERCE’S FINALE: Paul Pierce is playing his 19th and final season before retiring at season’s end. He turned 39 earlier this month and is the NBA’s only active player with 25,000-plus points, 7,000-plus rebounds and 4,500-plus assists. He and Doc Rivers won the 2008 NBA Finals together in Boston, and Rivers enjoys having him around as a veteran presence in addition to the Big Three of Griffin, Paul and Jordan. Pierce started 38 of 68 games last season and he’d like to improve his averages of 6.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists before calling it a career.

D’Antoni says Rockets’ Patrick Beverley to miss about 20 games

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets walks to the bench during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Patrick Beverley is going to have a key role with the Rockets — he is their best defending guard. And it’s not close. He can help space the floor as a three-point shooter, he can work off the ball on offense and serve as a backup playmaker, but mostly what he brings is fearless, physical defense.

Except he’s not going to bring it for a while.

Following rumors he might knee surgery comes this from Houston coach Mike D’Antoni, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he expects guard Pat Beverley to miss at least 20 games with a left knee injury. His absence “complicates” some roster spots.

Beverley is going to have surgery but may only miss three weeks or so, which is less than D’Antoni’s predicting, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Rockets are going to have one of the best offenses in the NBA but whether they finish fourth or seventh or out of the playoffs completely in the West will come down to a combination of health and how well they defend. This is a setback on both counts.

Expect to see more Eric Gordon, Tyler Ennis, and P.J. Hairston. Gordon has a real chance here. This is going to be an interesting year in Houston.

Jimmy Butler shrugs off idea he’s a “diva”

Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler goes up for a dunk past Charlotte Hornets' Marvin Williams during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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The Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to New York, in hopes that the locker room, “whose team is this?” drama would head East with him. This is Jimmy Butler‘s team, with Dwyane Wade now assisting.

But the drama isn’t gone yet.

On their way out the door, the camps around Rose and Joakim Noah tried to paint Butler as a Diva who was the real problem. When Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times asked Butler about it, he basically laughed off the idea.

“Am I a diva? I don’t call it that,’’ Butler said before Thursday’s 97-81 loss to Atlanta in their final preseason game. “My will to win rubs people the wrong way sometimes. I can blame it on that, but won’t apologize for it. Never will.

“As far as that talk goes, I don’t care. I’m going to keep working and if people don’t like it, people want to say what they want to say, that’s fine. I know, and I think these guys know, where my heart is and how I want to do right by everybody.’’

Rose and Noah thought Butler tried to jump the line to be the leader of the team, which they saw as still their right as the veterans. Butler didn’t care what they thought then, he certainly doesn’t now.

What matters more, Nicola Mirotic and Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis don’t care, and they are the guys still there.

Who will finish with the better record, Bulls or Knicks, is one of my favorite subplots of the NBA season.