Baseline to Baseline, where we had ourselves a heck of a night

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What happened Wednesday while you were challenging Akinator

Cavs 101 Bucks 98: The Bucks are terrible at drawing fouls, fifth worst in the league, actually. Cleveland’s very good. So while the Bucks can probably rightfully complain about a 45-9 free throw advantage, they can’t complain too much. This team looked like they were willing to invest in the game, but not enough to force the issue against a great Cleveland defense. Lot of jump shots, lot of settling, not a lot of drive and finish.

And still, the Bucks were right there. You know what the difference was? Scott Skiles’ love of Luke Ridnour has helped him out all season, and Ridnour’s been terrific most nights. Tonight was not such a night. Not only was he the glaring shooting problem on the field, but he capped off the night by telegraphing and then missing on the pass for the game winning attempt, watching as LeBron snuck it out of the air. Even an average night from Ridnour and the Bucks walk away with this one. I don’t know if that’s better or worse.

Hawks 109 Lakers 92: The Lakers wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere else. The Hawks? They looked pretty comfy. One step faster to the bucket, to the offensive rebound, to the defensive position. Lot of jog and watch by the Lakers. Pau Gasol. Wow. I don’t know how a guy finishes with 16 and 11 and looks worse.

Early in the third, Ron Artest clubbed Mo Evans with an elbow. Evans shoved him, picking up a tech, and then Artest decided to get up in his face as the teams came together. Zaza Pachulia parted the seas and walked Artest off. Pachulia isn’t a great talent, and he’s no All-Star. But if you want to go to battle? Pachulia will have your back.

Bobcats 103 Sixers 84: The Bobcats may be teh best team in the league at gamble-and-recover. They push to the perimeter edges, to the catch point so often,  you’d think they would have a much worse defense. But instead, they push to those edges, sending the offense reeling just to settle itself, and use that time to reset the defense and get position. They know where their teammates are and they race to help each other.

The Sixers are simply incomplete. And with this much money in them, they’re going to need a complete overhaul.

Suns 116 Nets 105: Steve Nash is still in that category of “guys who if you do not have a specific plan for will absolutely destroy you.”

Guess what happened?

Brook Lopez is still incredible, and consistent. There’s no fluctuation in his performance from play to play. Same effort, same ability, same focus.

Thunder 109 Celtics 104: Terrific game. The Celtics are all flustered because of the number of fouls called. Interesting development there. Usually a foul differential exists because one team was more aggressive than the other. Either that, or it’s 2002. But it wasn’t that the Thunder were more aggressive, it’s that that the Celtics were too aggressive.

The C’s depend on bullying you as part of their plan. They rely on getting away with a lot of extra contact, a lot of sneaky plays, a lot of bruising. If you call those fouls and don’t set that tone as your baseline, the game stays out of trouble and the Celtics are limited.

Russell Westbrook and Rondo didn’t know what else to do with each other outside of going to the rim a lot. And it worked.

Jeff Green nailed two threes down the stretch that were perfectly executed. Both times he peeled off KG with a back-cut screen to a perimeter curl. The Celtics didn’t know what to do with it. And it was pretty much the ballgame.

Wolves 108 Kings 99: Some young teams can keep it going to the end. but you need a lot to go your way, and you need to have the carrot of wins and a playoff series to keep them interested. The Kings have neither. And so, the things that have made them shakey all year have made them pretty bad late.

The Wolves won! 16 game losing streak snapped! This is kind of what has been built there. A terrible team that can occasionally beat other terrible teams when things go their way. The bright spot for them is Corey Brewer, who has become a serious playmaker. Hopefully he’ll end up somewhere that teaches him the things he needs to be a complete player.

Jazz 128 Warriors 104: The Jazz scored 76 points in the first half. 76.

There is no piece of analysis I can give you that will explain how one team can score 76 points in 24 minutes while the other scores 49, other than, “The losing team is not very well coached defensively.”

The Jazz mean business. Top to bottom, they’re focused, confident, and mad as hell.

Trail Blazers 118, Knicks 90: This was as bad as the Knicks have played all season. Which is saying something, this team lost to the Nets twice. New York’s defense was just a frightful mess, their rebounding nonexistent. They let a Portland team — granted, one playing well right now — put up 60 first half points on their way to a 131 points per 100 possessions pace. Which is insanely good.

Portland, that’s 12 out of the last 14, congrats. But don’t read much into beating this team on this night.

Wizards 96, Hornets, 91: The Wizards 16-game losing streak ended because Shaun Livingston outplayed Chris Paul. No, I mean it. Totally one sided. Livingston is bigger and longer and they were not afraid to post him up on CP3, usually with good result. Livingston finished with 18 points and 8 assists, Paul with 8 points and 9 assists. Credit Quinton Ross, who also saw come time on Chris Paul and defended him well.

Still, David West got a good look at a three in the final 10 seconds to tie the game — Andray Blatche played some pretty lazy defense on that one despite the game being on the line — but West missed it. Just that kind of night for the Hornets.

Heat 98, Pistons 81: Jermaine O’Neal was out and meant there was room inside and Michael Beasley stepped up, getting into the paint and scoring 28. You know, the kind of thing the Heat expect him to do nightly but actually see so rarely. Don’t bet on a repeat performance. But it got them a win Wednesday.

Raptors 114, Clippers 92: I haven’t watched a game with this little defense since Paul Westhead left the college coaching ranks. It actually offended me as a basketball fan. Drew Gooden could not begin to contain Chris Bosh down low, he got no help, so Bosh had 33. But it was all the Raptors scoring at will. The Cl
ippers tried everything, eve
n some zone, but it didn’t work.

Still Los Angeles led at the half 53-48 because they dominated the glass — in the first half they grabbed the offensive board on 40 percent of their missed shots. Then the Clippers bailed out the horrid Toronto defense in the third by settling for jumpers. Long jumpers. When they started to miss, Toronto pulled away.

Spurs 119, Rockets 102: Remember when the Rockets were a really good defensive team…

The Spurs had their way on offense, and not really simply because Manu was back (although that helped and he sas. They shot 56.8 percent as a team, led by George Hill going 11 of 15 for a career high 30. The Spurs played like a team with a purpose, like a playoff team. They were the only ones.

Eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard: “I have a lot left in the tank”

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — At 31 and entering his 14th NBA season, eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard says his best basketball is ahead of him.

Wearing a teal suit with black trim, a smiling Howard insisted Monday he can return to being a dominant center with the Charlotte Hornets, where he will be reunited with coach Steve Clifford and play for one of his childhood heroes, team owner Michael Jordan.

“A lot of people have written me off, which is great because it’s going to make me work even harder,” Howard said during his introductory news conference. “I’m just looking forward to this opportunity because I have a lot left in the tank.”

This will be Howard’s third team in three seasons.

The Atlanta Hawks, his hometown team, traded him to Charlotte one year into a three-year, $74 million contract. Howard said he has no hard feelings, adding that “sometimes things just don’t work out.”

But he’s confident Charlotte is the right fit.

“I think I’m a lot healthier than I have been in the past five years and I think this is going to be my best time,” Howard said. “I’m a lot wiser now, stronger mentally and physically, and I’m in the right place with a great coach, a great GM and the GOAT (greatest of all time). So I think this is the perfect opportunity.”

Much of Howard’s optimism stems from being reunited with Clifford.

They worked together for seven seasons in Orlando and Los Angeles, and the 6-foot-11 three-time Defensive Player of the Year loves Clifford’s defense-first mentality. He’s also confident Clifford will put him in the right situations to succeed on offense.

“He understands me,” Howard said. “… He was always there for me and not once did he turn his back on me or talk bad about me. He was very positive and he was somebody that I have always trusted in.”

The feeling is mutual.

Clifford said he’s never coached a player smarter than Howard when it comes to understanding defensive coverages. While Howard has incredible athletic ability, Clifford said, he’s never been given the credit he deserves for playing a “thinking man’s game.”

“Smart always wins in the NBA,” Clifford said.

Howard is expected to start in Charlotte alongside All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, guard Nic Batum and forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams. Cody Zeller, last year’s starting center, is expected to come off the bench for the Hornets but still see significant minutes.

Howard said he’s learned a lot over the past 13 seasons.

“Over the years a lot of things have been said and I’ve not said anything back,” Howard said. “Somehow things that weren’t true kept getting stirred up, and that gave a lot of people wrong opinions about who I was as a person. I should be the one speaking up for myself instead of allowing other people to do that.”

In Charlotte, Howard becomes the second big-name athlete to be known as “Superman,” joining former NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers.

Both are from the Atlanta area and have met a couple of times but aren’t close friends. Howard said he’s eager to connect with Newton and get to know him better.

“We have the same attitude; we love to win, but we want to have fun,” Howard said.

 

As expected, Timberwolves waive Jordan Hill

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Last summer, the Minnesota Timberwolves took a $4 million flier on veteran big man Jordan Hill, hoping he could give them some backup minutes behind Karl-Anthony Towns. Didn’t work out that way, he appeared in just 47 minutes across seven games. Cole Aldrich was better (though not great), and so in the draft the Timberwolves took Justin Patton hoping he can give them some minutes next season.

Which means Hill’s time in Minnesota has come to an end.

Hill will be 30 years old next season, but I’m not sure that there’s another NBA contract in his future. If so he may have to earn it through a training camp invite.

Report: Nets, Sixers to try and land J.J. Redick as free agent

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Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get all the headlines as the big Clippers’ big free agents, but there is another Clipper going to get paid this summer:

J.J. Redick.

One of the best snipers in the NBA, he shot 42.9 percent from three last year. However, he’s become much more than just a shooter. No player works harder off the ball to get open than Redick, he’s got enough game to put the ball on the floor and create if he gets closed out on, and he’s a solid team defender. He has remade his body and his game since his days at Duke, and now he’s going to get paid.

Maybe by Brooklyn or Philadephia, reports Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.

Multiple league sources I’ve spoken to expect the Sixers and Nets to make a hard push at Redick. Were he to go to either of those teams, Redick could receive an opportunity unlike anything he’s had before. He is one of the greatest 3-point shooters in league history, and is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high six 3-point attempts per game. That’s a lot of triples, but it’s not enough. Even Sixers swingman Robert Covington averaged more last season, at 6.1 per game, and he shot only 33.3 percent. A gunslinger of Redick’s caliber should be averaging about 8.5 treys, in the same range as Klay Thompson or Eric Gordon. Had Redick taken 8.5 3s last season and posted the same 42.9 percent clip, he would’ve averaged 18.2 points per game. Redick could receive those chances with the Sixers or Nets, all while living within close proximity to his home in Brooklyn.

Redick will have options, the question is what does he want? Does he want to be close to home in Brooklyn? Does he want to both help on the court and mentor off it the up-and-coming Sixers? Would he take a little less money, and a couple fewer shots, to chase a ring? Does he want to stay a Clipper?

Redick has earned the right to have options, his skill set could help any team. He may be flying under fans’ radar, but not front office executives. They see Redick’s value. Which is why he will have options come July 1.

Report: Nuggets plan to make free agent run at Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap

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Denver likes its young core. As it should. Nikola Jokic looks like a franchise cornerstone piece at center. Young guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are clearly part of the future. Emmanuel Mudiay and Juan Hernangomez may be as well.

What Denver needs most is an upgrade at the four — someone who can defend, rebound, and space the floor. It’s a top off-season priority (and why they came up as a third team in the Kevin Love/Paul George trade talks, but that appears dead now).

Instead, expect the Nuggets to be aggressive on the free agent market. Via Marc Stein and Chris Haynes at ESPN.

Denver, according to sources, hopes to crash the list of suitors for Los Angeles Clippers unrestricted free agent Blake Griffin and Atlanta Hawks unrestricted free agent Paul Millsap.‎

Denver’s interest in Millsap is no secret and they will likely come in with a big offer, and it’s known he’s likely to leave Atlanta this summer. He’d be the perfect fit with his ability to defend other fours (he almost made the NBA All-Defensive Team), he is strong on the glass, and he shot 31.3 percent from three last season (you have to respect him out there). Griffin is more athletic and a better passer than Millsap, but he’s not the same level of defender, and he comes with more injury concerns. He also could stay with the Clippers.

Denver has positioned itself to be a player, a team going after one more big star to position itself not just in the playoffs in the West but as a team fast on the rise. Whether the Nuggets can out-recruit teams for elite players, remains to be seen. Millsap, Griffin and players of that level have options and a lot of teams chasing them.

However, Denver is one confident organization right now.