Baseline to Baseline; the NBA: Where overtime happens

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What you missed while figuring out how you were going to pay for Ferris Bueller’s Ferrari

Heat 105, Pacers 96 (OT):
You wouldn’t have expected a fun finish after an ugly first half, where both teams shooting 36.1 percent. It wasn’t even about great defense, it was about bad offense. But this one does get to be entertaining at the end.

It goes to overtime and the Pacers play the percentages — Dwyane Wade is shooting 29 percent from three point range this year, you want him to take that shot, not drive the lane where he is a force of nature. Two minutes left in OT, Heat up two, and two straight trips down they entice Wade into the three. And he drains them both. Ballgame. Wade has 43. What are you going to do?

Bobcats 87, Bucks 86 (OT): Larry Brown missed a good one. He got tossed two minutes into the second quarter, apparently saying something pretty special to referee Bill Spooner after a no-call on Kurt Thomas when he set what we’ll call a veteran pick (alternately, a hip check) on Gerald Wallace that flattened him. Spooner was quick with the hook, but the best part was Brown stopping at the end of the bench to plead his case to Michael Jordan. Who sat there stone-faced.

This game was a defensive coach’s dream — two that took away every easy shot, contested everything, closed out on shooters. Kind of a purists game. So I liked it. Then with everything on the line the Bobcats made some veteran plays. Stephen Jackson created some space then drained the three that was the Bobcats final points. Then when the Bobcats had the ball at the very end — five seconds in the game but two on the 24 second clock — Raymond Felton missed the shot but Tyson Chandler made the veteran move, just tipping the ball out to teammates and killing the clock rather than grabbing the board and getting fouled.

Charlotte is going to be a tough out in the playoffs.

Bulls 95, Wizards 87: The Bulls can’t afford to lose to the Wizards at this point. They can’t really afford to lose to anyone. That motivation was enough in this one.

Rockets 119, Celtics 114 (OT) : No Shane Battier. No Kevin Martin. No Trevor Ariza. But what was left was still the scrappy, tenacious Rockets that do not give up. And Chase Budinger, who looks good when he gets minutes. Once again the Celtics had trouble with speed, specifically in the form of Aaron Brooks. When the Rockets ran, even after made baskets, they got good looks. Houston recognized this and essentially stretched their offense out to 94 feet. And when they did the Celtics looked old. Sorry Danny Ainge, they did.

Paul Pierce just cannot create his own shot like he could two years ago.

Cavaliers 93, Hawks 88: As it has been in every meeting between these teams this season, it’s basically even for three quarters, then in the clutch Cleveland has another gear — particularly on defense — that the Hawks cannot match.

That intensified defense turned the slashing Hawks into jumpshooters, and Atlanta shot 31.6 percent in the fourth. Cleveland also dominated the boards in the clutch, doing that takes away Atlanta’s vital transition game. It’s the old Pat Riley coaching axiom: rebounds = rings.

Suns 109, Pistons 94: Phoenix had won nine in a row coming in. Detroit had lost nine in a row coming in. So how did you think this was going to go?

Grizzlies 107, Hornet 96: Remember before the season, the common prediction was the Grizzlies would rack up like 2 assists per game and finish as one of the worst teams in the NBA. Missed that one. This team is pretty good and going to finish over .500 (but not be rewarded with a trip to the playoffs, because that happens in the West).

As for the game, the Grizzlies jumped out early, were up 20 and this was never really in doubt.

Spurs 112, Magic 100: Thursday night the Magic looked dominant against the Mavericks, with Dallas on the second night of a back-to-back and looking a step slow. Friday night it was  the Magic’s turn. One of the best defensive teams in the land looked sluggish ad  had no answers for Manu Ginobili or Tim Duncan. Although a lot of teams have had that problem over the years.

Not much to read into this, back-to-backs do that.

Warriors 128, Knicks 117: Huge night for David Lee — 35 point, 20 boards, 10 assists. He’s busting it out there. He’s alone, most of the rest of team quit. Two high paced teams that can score, this should have been more fun to watch than it was.

Lakers 106, Jazz 92: When the Lakers really defend — like they did through most of this one — they are a very good team. (They’ll defend even better when Bynum returns.) When Lamar Odom plays well, dropping 26 and 10, the Lakers are a very good team.

This was not a four quarter performance from Los Angeles, but if you’re going to dominate two quarters the first and the fourth are the ones. The Lakers keep making it hard to believe anybody in the West beats them, despite the inconsistent effort.

Mike Conley does not crush Knicks free agent dreams, says everything on table

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) gestures after making a 3-point basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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When you talk about the most underrated players in the NBA, especially with the casual fan, Mike Conley is at the top of the list. The Grizzlies’ point guard has played at an All-Star level for a few seasons now but hasn’t gotten the recognition, in part because it’s Memphis and in part because the West is stacked with quality point guards.

The New York Knicks desperately need an upgrade at the point.

Which has led to the latest fantasy of seemingly every Knick fan (and talking head in the city) — the free agent Conley coming to New York this summer. When asked about it Friday before the Grizzlies and Knicks squared off, Conley didn’t kill the rumors (which in New York is like throwing gasoline on them). Here are his quotes, via Ian Begley of ESPN.

“I think everything will be on the table when that time comes,” Conley said Friday morning after the Grizzlies’ shootaround at Madison Square Garden. “I haven’t committed to anything…

“They’ve got talent, obviously,” he said. “I think [Kristaps] Porzingis surprised a lot of people. He’s going to be very, very good in this league. He already is pretty good. But he’s going to grow each year, and they already have one of the best small forward in Melo [Carmelo Anthony]. They’ve got a young team, so they’ve got a lot of room to improve.”

The smart money is on Conley staying in Memphis, the only NBA team he has ever played for. Conley was very active last summer in recruiting Marc Gasol to remain in Memphis, and has said it would be very difficult to leave him. Plus the Grizzlies can offer more money — one more guaranteed year plus larger raises.

The Knicks will need to lose some salary before July 1 just to offer Conley a max, which likely starts around $24 million (depends on the final salary cap number). What the Knicks can offer is a larger stage for his brand and the chance to bring that brand out of the shade of Gasol and Zach Randolph.

Conley — who is averaging 14.6 points and 6.1 assists per game, is shooting 35 percent from three, is good on the pick-and-roll, plus is one of the best defensive point guards in the game — will have plenty of other suitors as well. He’s one of the best players on the free agent market this summer.

NBA GM: Warriors ‘leaders in the clubhouse’ for Kevin Durant

Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant, left, drives the ball against Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green (23) and Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Kevin Durant to the Warriors is having a moment, but even the most recent and most credible report linking the Thunder star to Golden State contained an important caveat:

Make no mistake: Durant isn’t close to gone in Oklahoma City – no decision, no leaning, sources said

Nobody has credibly reported Durant is leaning toward leaving the Thunder. The issue at hand is where Durant would go IF he leaves Oklahoma City.

Except one NBA general manager has gone a step further.

Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

General managers know a lot of things we don’t, but like anyone, they can also be prone to repeating gossip and hearsay. Does this general manager have inside info, or is he just participating the echo chamber? Impossible to say, but the possibility of the former raises the level of intrigue.

Of course, the Warriors can’t be the leaders in the clubhouse, because they’re not in the clubhouse. Free agency doesn’t begin until July. Nobody has made their final pitch, not even the Thunder.

It’s fun to make bold predictions now, and this general manager has a chance of looking genius. But sometimes the desire for that designation causes people to get ahead of themselves.

Report: Clippers quickly rebuffed interest after Nuggets called about Blake Griffin

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) gets tied up near the basket by Denver Nuggets forward J.J. Hickson (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 13, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 110-103. (Michael Goulding/The Orange County Register via AP)   MAGS OUT; LOS ANGELES TIMES OUT
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Here was my gut feel on a report that the Clippers had talked to the Nuggets about trading Blake Griffin to Denver:

1. Nuggets calling Clippers about Griffin

2. Clippers saying they’re not interested

3. Nuggets leaking the fact that Griffin trade talks happened with the Clippers – technically true! – to excite their fan base and potential free agents considering whether or not to take Denver seriously

Dan Woike of The Orange County Register:

https://twitter.com/DanWoikeSports/status/695691007053070336

Woike is the more reliable source of information here. I believe that’s all this was.

The Clippers probably shouldn’t sell low on Griffin now. But if the Nuggets made a truly reasonable offer based on Griffin’s peak value – and I doubt they did – it also wouldn’t hurt to consider it.

LeBron James wants to leave Hack-a-Shaq rules as they are

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives on Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he increasingly believes the league should change its Hack-a-Shaq rules this offseason.

LeBron James – who has the commissioner’s ear on a number of issues – disagreed.

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

“I don’t really see a problem with it,” James said at shootaround Friday in preparation for the Celtics. “At the end of the day, it’s a strategy of the game and whatever it takes to win. If that’s a part of the game, and you have a guy that is a bad free-throw shooter and you put him on the line, that’s a part of strategy.”

“That’s no different from a guy that can’t shoot well from the outside and you try to make him shoot bad from outside, or if a guy is turnover-prone and you put pressure on him. It’s all part of strategy. It’s no different,” he said.

There is a difference – a big one.

Hacking someone takes no basketball skill.

I could intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond. I could not keep a bad NBA outside shooter from getting into the paint. I could not force a turnover-prone NBA player into coughing up the ball.

There’s nothing wrong with exploiting an opponent’s weakness, but with the exception of hacking, that takes ability of your own.

Hacking is an outlier strategy, and as a result, it deserves special treatment in the rulebook.