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.

Report: Unless they trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George, Celtics likely to keep main assets

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls and Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers chase down a loose ball at the United Center on December 26, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Celtics have been linked in trade talks to the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler and Pacers’ Paul George, but that requires the other team to deal with Boston. Indications are neither Chicago nor Indiana is particularly amenable.

So, time for the Celtics to pick another star to target?

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:

With less than 24 hours until the NBA’s 3 p.m. trade deadline today, the Celtics were said to be still holding out hope that internal discussions within the Bulls and Pacers would lead to one or both making their best player available.

But short of that, the view from around the league is that the Celts are becoming more and more enamored with the idea of keeping their main assets and using the first-round draft pick they have coming from Brooklyn in June via a swap of positions. (They also have the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder unencumbered.)

Sources continued to say that, while there remains a chance things could change as the deadline draws nearer, Chicago and Indiana are more likely to retain Jimmy Butler and Paul George, respectively. Those All-Star talents have been the Celtics’ two main targets

This could just be the Celtics playing hardball — either through leaks to the media or through conversations with other teams that have trickled out. But Bulpett is well-connected, especially in Boston. This is more likely than most reports of this nature to be accurate, but it’s always difficult to break through the smokescreens this time of year.

The Nets’ upcoming first-rounder is extremely valuable, as they’ll likely finish with the NBA’s worst record. The Celtics could do far worse than keeping that pick.

But Boston’s top players — Isaiah Thomas (28) and Al Horford (30) — are already at ages where they can’t necessarily wait for a 2017 pick, even someone as talented at as Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, to develop. It makes sense to cash in chips now.

Still, the Celtics’ deep pool of assets mean the window isn’t closing yet. There should be no desperation to make a win now trade.

If Boston keeps its main assets — mainly the Nets picks — past the trade deadline, we’ll just revisit all this again in the summer.

Cavaliers sign forward Derrick Williams to second 10-day contract

Cleveland Cavaliers' Derrick Williams, right, drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers' Rodney Stuckey in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed forward Derrick Williams to a second 10-day contract.

The NBA champions have been impressed with Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, and it’s likely they will sign him for the remainder of the season when his current contract expires. The Cavs announced Wednesday they signed Williams again. He has averaged 9.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Cavs, who have been bringing him off their bench with their second unit.

Before signing as a free agent with Cleveland on Feb. 9, Williams played for Miami this season before being released.

The Cavs returned from the All-Star break Wednesday and will practice before hosting the New York Knicks on Thursday, just a few hours after the trade deadline.

Hornets’ Miles Plumlee out at least two weeks with leg injury

Charlotte Hornets' Miles Plumlee (18) dunks against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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The Hornets are essentially two different teams with and without Cody Zeller.

They’re 22-17 when he plays and 2-15 when he doesn’t. They play at a 62-win pace with him on the floor and a 29-win pace when he sits.

So, with Zeller banged up, Charlotte traded for Miles Plumee. But Plumlee hasn’t provided much, just 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game in five contests.

And now he’ll add even less.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that center Miles Plumlee underwent a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), which revealed a second-degree calf strain in his right leg. Plumlee will be out for Charlotte’s game tomorrow at Detroit and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

The Hornets incurred significant long-term costs ($37.5 million over the next three years) to use Plumlee as a short-term bandage. Without him providing even that, this situation looks bleak.

Depending on Zeller’s health, this could turn Charlotte — 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position — into sellers before the trade deadline. At minimum, it makes the Hornets less likely to buy.

Report: Bulls pushing to trade for 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 14: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.

After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.

Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.

Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.

Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.