Baseline to Baseline, where the ghost of Ray Allen rode again

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What happened Sunday while you were singing ‘Sweet Caroline‘…

Celtics 117 Cavs 113: The Celtics’ offense in the first three quarters… wow! Rotation, penetration, and Ray Allen was in classic form. Their defense, doing what it’s supposed to, closing off angles and forcing the Cavs into a jump shooting team. Tremendous effort.

For three quarters.

Look, they held on. And we’ve already told you the downside of this game. But LeBron looked for most of this game like he was in a mental Easter egg hunt. Then he plugged in, and all of a sudden, that 20 point lead evaporated. They held on, but man. It just feels empty a bit.

J.J. Hickson has earned more time.

Spurs 100 Lakers 81: Kobe Bryant killed the Lakers.

I know.

I know.

I know.

This isn’t me saying he sucks. Or sux. Or whatever vernacular you prefer. I recognize, all haters to the left. I get that he’s still “the best closer in the game” or whatever. But take a look at this game, and you’ll see something bizarre.

What’s that? The Lakers bench scoring four points total? No, that’s not bizarre. That’s forseeable. We know this bench is bad. They’ve been bad all season, they’ll be bad all postseason, this is who they are. This is what happens when you have an All-Star or near All-Star at four of your five starting spots and one off the bench (when Bynum’s healthy). It comes with the territory.

No, it was Bryant, shooting poorly, playing badly, and not adjusting. Pau Gasol had 32 points on 20 shots. He could have used more touches. Lamar Odom shot 50% from the field, but only took 8 shots. Kobe? 24 shots for 22 points. That ain’t gonna get it done. The Lakers forced nothing, dictated nothing, and generally stood idly by while the Spurs did their thing, old school style.

They can care, they can not care, this was a game they should have won to send a message, at home, before the playoffs, and they were steamrolled.

Warriors 113 Raptors 112: Toronto can’t beat really good defenses or really good offenses. Everything in the middle, they do okay against.

Good thing they’re looking to go deep in the playoffs.

Chris Bosh missed a gimme. A laugher. A lay-in. A charity piece. The kind of shot you hit when warming up for a game of HORSE with your dad.

And in the middle of all this, Anthony Morrow really needs a chance with another squad. On Golden State? He’s just another no conscience chucker. But in Cleveland? He’d be a dagger machine. 5-7 from the arc and 10 boards. Solid.

Bosh had 42, 12, and 3 turnovers. Should have been 44.

Magic 107 Grizzlies 92: The scrum was nothing, not worth mentioning. You know who is worth mentioning? J.J. Redick. 15 points off the bench, and since Memphis’ bench is the worst in the league, the Magic won the game.

Great defender, great shooter, great ball handler. Redick’s going to get paid very soon.

Wizards 109 Nets 99: Back to back game against a team with a good stretch four? Yeah, NJ’s not winning that game, I don’t care how much they improved.

Shaun Livingston had 16 points, and played with energy and control. And if that doesn’t make you happy, you’re dead inside.

Pacers 133 Rockets 102: I remember when Houston played defense. That was when they were still in the playoffs.

A.J. Price continues to show he can play. And Josh McRoberts was beastin, filling in holes. The Rockets? Kevin Martin was terrible and no one played defense. That’s how you go home early in mid-April.

Thunder 116 Timberwolves 108: Thunder weren’t’ that good in this game.

Kevin Durant was.

Some nights, your star goes off and he gets the job done. That’s what happened.

Darko Milicic is a big loss for the Wolves. That pretty much sums up their season right there.

Knicks 113 Clippers 107: You know what drives you nuts about the Clippers? They do things badly and yet no one ever stops to say “Oh hey, we should do this more/better. They’re not shooting well from the arc? Shoot more!

Fail.

Timberwolves Zach LaVine knows how to finish alley-oop (VIDEO)

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The Dunk Contest is not going to be the same this year without Zach LaVine.

The man has the hops to get up and knows how to finish — Tuesday night he took a not-very-good alley-oop pass from Nemanja Bjelica and turned it into an awesome throwdown. LaVine finished the night with 18 points.

However, Kawhi Leonard dropped 34 and sparked the comeback as the Spurs won the game, 122-114.

Three Things We Learned: Chris Paul’s bad luck trouble for Clippers

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Here’s what you missed around the NBA Tuesday while trying to decide which animal in Australia is most likely to kill you….

1) Chris Paul is out six weeks, and the Clippers are about to slide into tough playoff spot. It’s not fair to call Chris Paul “injury prone” — trying to fight through a screen his thumb got caught in the shorts of Russell Westbrook, which led to a torn ligament in his thumb which will require surgery. That is the definition of “fluke injury.” So was the play where he broke his hand in the playoff series against Portland last year (trying to defend a layup by Gerald Henderson). CP3 is much more in a Lemony Snicket place: A series of unfortunate events.

However, the Clippers are going to pay the price for Paul’s latest injury — they are going to slide down the standings in the 6-8 weeks he is out (until early March). Especially with Blake Griffin still out for a week or two (knee surgery). The Clippers lose CP3 as they enter the toughest part of their schedule: After being home to the Timberwolves Thursday, the Clippers have 10-of-11 on the road, heavily against teams over .500, plus Paul will miss three games against the Warriors.

As you read this the Clippers are the four seed in the West, but they are just four games up on being the seven seed — which would mean a long road through San Antonio to get out of the first round of the playoffs (climb back up to the six seed and they could get Houston in the first round). It’s hard to imagine the Clippers holding on to home court in the first round even with Paul back for the last month of the season. Healthy and playing like they did the first month of the season (remember that?), the Clippers might beat the Spurs/Rockets in the first round, but it would be a brutal series. The good news for Los Angeles is the Clippers are not going to slide all the way out of the playoffs — they have an 11-game cushion over the nine seed. They will not fall that far.

2) It’s James Harden’s turn: his triple-double not enough to get Rockets win. The Rockets were one of the best teams in the NBA against teams below .500, starting the season 21-1 against them. Then, in the past week, they have come out flat and dropped two against lesser squads. The first was last week against Minnesota — at least that’s a team loaded with young talent that can put together a good game.

However, Tuesday’s loss to Miami was ugly. Granted, the Heat have not rolled over and have played hard through tough times (especially against good teams, they have seven wins against teams over .500 this season). And they do have Hassan Whiteside (14 points and 15 rebounds Tuesday). Still, this is a game the Rockets need to win. Especially since they got center Clint Capela back in the lineup (but they were missing Ryan Anderson and it showed, their spacing on offense was poor).

Instead, the Rockets wasted an impressive triple-double from James Harden. 40 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in a loss to the Heat 109-103.



3) Kawhi Leonard is quietly having a not so quiet season.
Kawhi Leonard is having an MVP-level season… well, most seasons he’d be in the mix, this year Russell Westbrook and James Harden are running away from the pack. But Leonard is right in the middle of the next tier of that award race — with Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and everyone else vying for votes (MVP voters choose five, who gets those last three slots will be interesting). Leonard is averaging 24.8 points per game, shooting 41 percent from three, pulling down 5.7 rebounds a game, plus playing lock-down defense to lead a Spurs team that is 32-9 this season. It’s just that he’s not out there trumpeting his own case for the award. That’s not his style.

You could see it Tuesday night, when Leonard dropped 34 points to spark a come-from-behind Spurs win against the Timberwolves. Don’t sleep on Leonard and the Spurs, this is a dangerous team.

Kawhi Leonard’s 34 points rally Spurs past Timberwolves, 122-114 (VIDEO)

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) Kawhi Leonard had 34 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a strong start by the Minnesota Timberwolves for a 122-114 victory Tuesday night.

Leonard’s fourth straight 30-point game helped him become the first San Antonio player to score 950 points in the first half of a season since Tim Duncan in 2003.

Coming off a career-high 38 on Saturday against Phoenix in Mexico City, Leonard was 12 for 17 from the field.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 29 points on 12-for-20 shooting, spoiling Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau’s 59th birthday.

San Antonio had difficulty with Minnesota’s explosive starting lineup. Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio added 21 points and 14 assists. Zach LaVine scored 18, Gorgui Dieng had 17 and Andrew Wiggins 10.

Minnesota’s 41 points in the second were a season high for any period and the most points in a quarter by a San Antonio opponent this season.

The Spurs were more active in the second half, holding the Timberwolves to 43 points.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: LaVine has 29 points, nine rebounds and three assists in two games since returning from a two-game absence caused by a bruised left hip. . Minnesota is 4-22 when allowing 100-plus points. . The Timberwolves’ last win against San Antonio was April 8, 2014, a 110-91 victory at home. . Minnesota’s previous high for a quarter was 39 points in the first against Orlando on Nov. 9. Its previous high for the second period was 35 in that same game against the Magic. . The Timberwolves are 5-15 on the road.

Spurs: Leonard has scored in double figures in 73 straight games, the seventh-longest active streak in the NBA behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Isaiah Thomas, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and DeMarcus Cousins. . Parker collected his 6,500th career assist, joining James as the only two active players with 6,500 assists and 18,000 points. John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton and Oscar Robertson are the only other players to reach those milestones. . San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was assessed his fourth technical foul of the season with 3:41 left in the first quarter for berating Michael Smith over a non-call. After Aldridge appeared to be shoved from behind on an attempted offensive rebound, Popovich walked the sideline screaming and shadowing Smith and had to be restrained near midcourt by Spurs assistant Ettore Messina. . The previous high for free throws attempted by an opponent was 38 by Sacramento on Oct. 27.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: At the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

Spurs: Host the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.

In salary cap move, Atlanta trades Mo Williams to Denver

CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 31: Mo Williams #52 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after hitting a three point shot during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at Quicken Loans Arena on March 31, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Nets 107-87. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***Mo Williams
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Mo Williams decided before the season he was done — he walked away from basketball and left the Cavaliers without a reliable backup point guard. LeBron James is still complaining about not having one.

But just because he wasn’t playing didn’t lead the Cavaliers to shed his salary. That was dead money that could be useful in a trade — such as landing Kyle Korver. The Hawks landed Mo Williams in that deal (along with Mike Dunleavy Jr. and a pick).

Now the Hawks have moved Williams on to Denver in a salary cap move for both teams, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Hawks worked out Gary Neal recently and saw the veteran as a shooter who could help them fill the hole left by Kover.

This is simply a salary cap trade. It’s not changing anyone’s rotation.