Baseline to Baseline, where back-to-backs do good teams wrong

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What you missed while watching the season premiere of Top Chef Masters

Nuggets 98, Thunder 94
: Carmelo Anthony is Chumbawamba — he gets knocked down, but gets up again, you’re never going to keep him down.

Thunder were up by 13, then the legs started getting heavy in the second night of a back-to-back and the Nuggets made its run, with Anthony back as part of it. You add in the swagger of Chauncey Billups — 15 in the fourth — and you get a nice comeback win for the Nuggets.

Suns 112, Spurs 101:  It is just fun to watch Steve Nash play basketball. Pure joy. Not that he earned the MVPs, not that he is a great defender, but he gets offense and how to set it up like nobody since Magic. Ask advanced scouts, and they tell you they love to watch Nash (and they see enough basketball to OD a hoop junkie). He was vintage Nash against the Spurs, he and Amare Stoudemire are a nearly unstoppable force on the pick-and-roll.

Pure joy to watch if you love basketball.

Bobcats 104, Hornets 103: Charlotte was dominating this one for a long time, but their 26-point lead disappeared. The reason – back-to-back games. Charlotte was on one and they started to fade, with 13 second half turnovers to fuel New Orleans. How flat did the Bobcats become? There are 48 seconds to go in the game and just drove by everybody and scored open layup.

D.J Augustin answered back, he came off a down screen and got a clean look three as Collison is well off him. Net. Bobcats by one.

One final chance for the Hornets and Collison is looking to pass rather than attack and score. Charlotte plays good defense and Collison finally realized he had to shoot it, and what was left was an awkward leaner in the lane. He missed. And with the win it is official, the Bobcats are going to the playoffs for the first time ever.

Heat 99, Sixers 95: Sixers made a game of it in the third with a 22-8 run, took the lead and were the active, motivated and looked like the playoff team.

Then Wade picked up his fourth foul with four minutes left in the third and Eric Spoelstra took a gamble — he left him in. Wade was 2 for10 with six points at that point. But seconds later on a fast break Wade drew the and one on Jason Kopono with a strong move, cut the Sixers lead to two. He got another one two possessions later to tie the game. Next Sixers possession Wade with the steal and breakaway dunk. Eight quick points.

Great ending. With 48 seconds left Wade does what Wade does, drives through the traffic, gets fouled, just missed the shot. As he circled out he passed Eddie Jordan and straightened his tie. Nice touch. Lou Williams had a chance to tie but Samuel Dalembert touched the ball above the cylinder for reasons known only to him and god, so the Heat win.

Rockets 113, Jazz 96: Want to know the effect of a back-to-back where the first game is a hard fought, dramatic over time game. This game was it. Rockets get 56 out of Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks, plus shoots 52.6 percent from three. In part because Jazz defenders had heavy legs.

Bucks 108, Nets 89: No Bogut to defend Brook Lopez, and the Nets don’t bother to get him the ball. He had taken just two shots late in the third, and finished one of six. Nets were not exploiting the mismatches.

The Nets get some good defense, basically crowding the paint and allowing Jennings and others to shoot the jumper early on. It worked on everyone not named John Salmons. But the Nets weren’t hitting from the outside either. Eventually the Bucks started hitting and, well, there you go. Nets shot 39 percent for the game.

Warriors 116, Timberwolves 107: Congats Nellie! Only other reason to watch this one was Stephen Curry — the first rookie in NBA history with 27 points, 14 assists, 8 rebounds and 7 steals in a game. (From ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz)

Mavericks 110, Grizzlies 84: Dallas simply did everything better. Everything. That’s why they were up 13 after one quarter. After that nobody was watching much. Nothing to see here, move along people.

Magic 121, Wizards 94: Orlando’s starters are far better than the Wizards, but that’s not why the Magic won this one going away. It was their bench, which shot 67.5 percent (25 of 37) including 10 of 13 of three. Mickael Pietrus, 16 on 4 of 5 of three to lead the way. When your reserves play like that, it’s a paddlin’.

Celtics 115, Raptors, 94: The Raptors play no defense, were without Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu had to leave with an injury. The Celtics had damn well better win a game like this, but the Raptors scraped for three quarters but they did not have the horses to run with Boston.

Pistons 90, Hawks 88: What happened to Atlanta? Second night of a back-to-back and they head into a game where they think they should cruise. Bad combination. Another game that was not pretty basketball, but the Hawks had their looks — 2 of 17 from three. That did them in.

Trail Blazers 93, Clippers 85: Portland looks like a playoff team — LaMarcus Aldridge a force in the low block, Brandon Roy in the high one. The rest of the team spaces the floor and cuts off them. It’s fun to watch. The Clippers look like a lottery team, not much fun to watch at all.

Josh Allen’s old tweet: ‘I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks’

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Josh Allen, a quarterback from Wyoming, could be the No. 1 pick in tonight’s NFL draft. But his recently unearthed high school tweets – which include using the n-word with an ‘a’ at the end – are the sports story of the day.

And there’s an NBA tie.

Via Ryan Young of Yahoo Sports:

I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks

— Josh Allen (@JoshAllenQB) June 7, 2011

Damian Lillard went down this same road with LeBron James, and they got past it.

But it would be a little more awkward if the Cleveland Browns – who have the Nos. 1 and 4 picks – take Allen. Then, Allen will face more scrutiny over this tweet – the most innocuous of the bunch.

Donovan Mitchell tells Thunder fans, Jazz teammates Utah not returning to Oklahoma City this season

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The Jazz blew a 25-point second-half lead in Game 5 last night, extending their series with the Thunder. Up 3-2, the Jazz are still in control. They can close out in Game 6 tomorrow in Utah. Blow that, and they must return to Oklahoma City for Game 7 Sunday.

But Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell is making it abundantly clear he doesn’t plan to do that.

Gabe Ikard of The Franchise 107.7:

Jake Edmonds of KUTV:

A confident proclamation that rallies his team or youthful exuberance run amok?

The narrative will be decided after Game 6. That’s just how this is done.

Report: Grizzlies moving toward keeping J.B. Bickerstaff as coach

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From the moment Robert Pera opted to retain control of the Grizzlies and end a prolonged ownership saga, it seemed interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff would remain Memphis’ coach.

Lo and behold…

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Bickerstaff did a decent job before the Grizzlies started tanking. But that was a small a sample, and his prior work as Rockets interim coach was uninspiring.

To be fair to Bickerstaff, those were both difficult situations. He’s an experienced assistant who might be ready for this challenge.

To be less fair to Bickerstaff, this looks like Memphis taking the cheap route. The Grizzlies didn’t appear to conduct much of a coaching search, if any. Nor has Bickerstaff been mentioned with other openings. It probably won’t cost as much to hire him as it would a more-established option.

Memphis seems to be operating under the belief that a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will right the ship next season. And they might. But given the age and injury history of those two, I wouldn’t assume they stay healthy and productive all season. Even if they do, they’d have to carry an underwhelming supporting cast – with limited room for upgrade this summer – in a deep Western Conference.

The Grizzlies want Bickerstaff, who’d be a first-time non-interim head coach, leading that team trying to win now? That doesn’t seem like the right risk-reward balance – at least until considering his salary, and even then.

Rumor: 76ers increasingly confident about signing LeBron James

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LeBron James-76ers rumors have been mainstream for the better part of the year.

And they’re not going anywhere.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

I now fully understand why whispers about the Philadelphia 76ers and their growing behind-the-scenes confidence that they can woo LeBron to Philly this summer are getting louder.

Why shouldn’t they be increasingly confident? Led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the 76ers have already won a playoff series. The Cavaliers are mired in a tight first-round series with the Pacers, and LeBron’s supporting cast has mostly stunk.

This has the makings of LeBron’s previous free agencies – when he left barren Cleveland for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat in 2010, when he left aging Miami for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love with the Cavaliers in 2014. Whatever motivations and narratives attached to LeBron’s decisions, he has left sinking teams for better-positioned ones.

The 76ers are good enough to fit that. They also have the cap flexibility to acquire him without sacrificing roster strength.

That LeBron has positioned himself as a mentor to Simmons – who shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron – would only make signing with Philadelphia easier. LeBron could sell the narrative of teaching and grooming Simmons. LeBron, who cares about his legacy, must explain why he’s again leaving his hometown team in a way that won’t alienate everyone – not easy considering his homecoming message upon his return. Working first-hand with his protégé would look understandable, maybe even commendable.

All that said, growing confidence could be going from a 1% chance to a 10% chance. That’d be a 10-fold increase while leaving Philadelphia a big underdog.

LeBron’s free agency is still a huge unknown – including, at least in part, to LeBron himself. But I believe he has already started to consider options, even if he hasn’t made up his mind. And when that happens, signs could emerge behind the scenes. Perhaps, the 76ers have a read on those.

Or maybe they’re seeing what we’re all seeing: The 76ers are rising while the Cavs are just trying to keep their heads above water. Which situation would LeBron choose?