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.

Sixers’ Ben Simmons fully cleared to play basketball

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Finally, some good news on the health front for Philadelphia.

Ben Simmons, the No. 1 pick a year ago, has been fully cleared for basketball activities about a month before training camp opens, reports Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times.

Simmons was healthy enough to dominate a random pickup game in Australia against a bunch of 5’10” guys this week. We’re desperate enough for good signs that we will take that as one.

Also, Markelle Fultz is expected to be fully healthy for training camp after his ankle sprain.

So much for the good news. There is no updates on the status of Joel Embiid, which is concerning only in that all health news about Embiid feels concerning.

The source said center Joel Embiid hasn’t been cleared for fullcourt scrimmaging “as of yet.” Embiid, who is from Cameroon, worked with children as part of the NBA Africa Game earlier this month, but didn’t play in the Aug. 5 game.

For the sake of the game, we need the Sixers healthy this season and starting to show us how a team with so much promise and potential starts to pay off. Please let us see it. The Basketball Gods need to smile more fortune and the feet and ankles of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Report: Cavaliers called Warriors about Kyrie Irving-Klay Thompson trade

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The Warriors rejected a Klay ThompsonPaul George trade offer from the Pacers.

What about Thompson for Kyrie Irving, who’s younger than George and locked up for an additional season (the same amount of time as Thompson for a similar price)?

Apparently, Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman inquired before sending Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

It would be hard to believe that Altman could have landed a better trade than the Boston one. He did call the uninterested Warriors about Klay Thompson, a source said.

I’m not sure what this trade would’ve accomplished for either team.

The Warriors obviously already have a point guard in Stephen Curry. Though Irving isn’t the best distributor, his handles and defense push him to point guard. Curry and Irving would have been a tough fit together. Golden State knows Curry and Thompson are a championship-caliber pairing.

Thompson would have been a big upgrade at shooting guard in Cleveland, but the Cavs would have been woefully undermanned at point guard. Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon and Kay Felder wouldn’t cut it. At least the Cavaliers have decent options at shooting guard with J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Kyle Korver.

The Warriors would’ve never said yes, which is fortunate for the Cavs. They did better in their trade with Boston, anyway. Thomas can step in at point guard while Crowder still provides much-needed wing depth – plus Zizic and that sweet, sweet Nets pick.

After Kyrie Irving trade, here are five biggest threats to Warriors

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Let’s be honest: The blockbuster Kyrie Irving trade to the Boston Celtics likely means the NBA Finals goes five games instead of four.

The Golden State Warriors can be that good. They won 67 games last season with the NBA’s top offense and second-ranked defense, now they have been in the system for a year as a unit, know each other better, and made some good offseason additions. The Warriors will be better. And they still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. The Warriors are the clear favorites to repeat as NBA champions.

But life rarely follows the script. So who are the biggest threats to the Warriors? Here are the top five.

1) The Houston Rockets. Houston won 55 games last season with the NBA’s second-ranked offense and a style of play that can hang with the Warriors — then they added Chris Paul to the mix. Plus GM Daryl Morey added quality veteran wing defenders such as P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, guys picked up in part to match up with the Warriors firepower. On paper, Houston is the NBA’s second best team and the one best poised to challenge the Warriors. It’s fair to wonder if Chris Paul and James Harden can share the backcourt and the ball — and if they can find a tempo that works for them — but coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t worried. It’s also fair to question if this team can be good enough defensively, even though they added good defenders. Still, the Rockets are a threat and a contender.

2) The Cleveland Cavaliers. The reason they are here is not the trade, it’s LeBron James. He remains the best player on the planet (although Durant is close). But the trade helps. In terms of pure offensive production, Isaiah Thomas matched or even bested Irving last season, IT is an All-NBA player for a reason. Also, the Cavaliers pick up the kind of “3&D” wing they have desperately needed in Jae Crowder. And if another player they really want/need comes available, they have assets in Ante Zizic and that Brooklyn first round pick to get him. Cleveland gets this spot because they are the clear favorite to win the East again, and if they are back in the Finals they have a shot despite an aging roster. The Cavs have beaten the Warriors in the Finals before.

3) The Boston Celtics. Admittedly, there is a bit of a drop off after those first two. I see Boston as more of a threat in two seasons (2018-19) and beyond, but after this trade they have quality players at key positions — Irving at the point, Gordon Hayward on the wing, and Al Horford in the paint. Boston also has one of the best coaches in the league in Brad Stevens, who will put Irving in better situations (so long as Irving buys in and doesn’t just force isolation action, as he did at times in Cleveland). What Boston needs is guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to develop, and Marcus Smart to step up, to become real contenders. They also need to show they can defend, they traded away some of their best defenders this summer. That and a stronger defensive presence in the paint. All that said, Boston has a legitimate shot to beat Cleveland and come out of the East, and if they reach the Finals, then the Celtics at least have a puncher’s chance against the Warriors.

4) The San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs won 55 games last season, had the best defense in the NBA, and with Kawhi Leonard they have their own superstar. The Spurs are going to execute and make plays. They will miss the depth that Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons brought, but they added the scoring punch of Rudy Gay off the bench. What we know is the Spurs will not beat themselves, that they will be in the hunt, and we should know by now not to sleep on them.

5) The Oklahoma City Thunder. I think this is a dark horse contender. What we know is that the Thunder should be a top five defensive team — they were 10th in the NBA last season, they brought back their core guys (Andre Roberson and Steven Adams are key here), and they added an excellent wing defender to the mix in Paul George. The Thunder will get stops. If George and Russell Westbrook can figure out how to play well together on the offensive end — last season the Thunder were middle of the pack offensively with the Westbrook show — and get in the top 10, they become a team that could surprise some people.

Thon Maker, all 7’1″ of him, sat in economy class to get flight going

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If you are six-foot or taller, economy class on a modern airline feels cramped. But at least the airlines make up for it with a delicious full meal a bag of peanuts and a free movie.

Can you imagine a 7’1″ guy in economy?

The Bucks’ Thon Maker did it on a recent United flight and the passenger next to him Paul Kuzma posted about it on Facebook (hat tip to onmilwaukee.com).

Well, a missed #United flight found me on a rebooked one. After ending up in an upgraded Economy Plus (yay!) middle seat (not so yay!), volunteers were asked one by one, row by row, if one would relocate to the last row of the plane, middle seat….

My heart leapt again when I came to the last row and BOTH the middle AND aisle seats were open! I stowed my gear in the middle seat area but sat in the aisle seat, hoping.

Alas, it was too good to be true! Moments later, a 7’1″ tall young man who could not even stand completely straight in the aisle of the plane made his way our direction. My heart sunk, not for me, but for him! I saw him emerge from an Economy Plus window seat!

I told him I was so sorry, knowing this would be uncomfortable for him. He nonchalantly said it was worth it to get this delayed flight going. He had practice to attend in the morning and had a 2+ hour drive to get where he was headed after landing….

I had to ask how in the world he ended up in the last row. He also had missed a flight and was rebooked on this one. He was assigned his original FIRST CLASS seat. He had settled in there when a flight attendant told him the person who had paid for that seat on THIS flight had shown up, albeit very late. They had to move him to Economy Plus.

Once there for a while, his story mirrors mine. Requests were being made for someone to move to the last row and no one was volunteering. So he volunteered, wanting the flight to begin.

He couldn’t even fit his knees into the Economy seat! Every time the snack cart came by or someone had to use the restroom, he had to get up and move out of their way.

The entire flight, there was not a hint of resentment in his voice. He was even happy to allow me a picture with him and an autograph. Class act, Thon!

Somewhere a cranky old NBA player is saying “we always used to have to fly commercial…” and sorry old man, but that doesn’t make it easy or right. There’s a reason NBA teams moved away from that (and it wasn’t to save money).

Good on Maker for being willing to sacrifice when plenty of other normal-sized people couldn’t be bothered.

And if the name Kuzma is familiar, the author says his is the second cousin once removed of the Lakers’ rookie Kyle Kuzma.