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.

Damian Lillard dismisses playoff expectations as pressure, says it insults regular people

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The Portland Trail Blazers have had a disappointing season thus far. The team is just 34-38 before their game with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and they’re battling it out for the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs with the Denver Nuggets.

This comes as after expectations rose greatly following the 2015-16 campaign which saw the Blazers finish 44-38, good enough for the No. 5 spot in the West.

Portland has looked better after trading Mason Plumlee to Denver in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic, but it might be too little too late. Meanwhile, team leader Damian Lillard isn’t bowing to the idea that last season’s good fortune raised the bar so much that it put undue pressure on his team.

Speaking with Sporting News, Lillard said he thinks the idea is really more about pressure vs. challenges.

Via SN:

Pressure, nah. Fam, this is just playing ball. Pressure is the homeless man, who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. Pressure is the single mom, who is trying to scuffle and pay her rent. We get paid a lot of money to play a game. Don’t get me wrong — there are challenges. But to call it pressure is almost an insult to regular people.

Look at the Wizards, they were kind of on the same wave as us. Didn’t even make the playoffs while we did. Now this year they’re the second-best team in the East. The adversity made them better. It can make us better, too. What I come from and my background made me who I am. As comfortable as I am with the good times, I’m also comfortable in adversity. Yeah, I might feel some type of way when somebody comes for me or says my name. But when it’s all said and done, it ain’t gonna rock me.

This is interesting to hear an NBA player say out loud. One, because I’m not sure I entirely believe it. You can have pressure without it having to be something that threatens your overall wellbeing.

Then again, maybe we’re arguing linguistics here. There’s definitely a different emotion from, say, trying to make sure you make rent and aren’t evicted to the street vs. trying to make the NBA playoffs. If one emotion is being defined as pressure, it makes sense to call the other a challenge.

It’s also interesting to hear an NBA player speak in those kinds of terms. There are a few guys around the league who seem to be relatively grounded and give out quotes like this from time-to-time. The absurdity of the NBA — playing games, making millions, and having folks worship you — would easily bend reality for most of us.

In any case, the challenge of making the playoffs for Portland is not going to be an easy one to overcome. Going into Sunday’s matchup with the Lakers, the Trail Blazers are a game behind Denver for the final spot.

Portland will face Denver on Tuesday, March 28 in perhaps their most important game of the season.

Kobe Bryant’s “Musecage” is like if Sesame Street had an NBA film room (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant’s video “Musecage” aired on ESPN on Sunday, and it’s one of the craziest things I’ve watched on an NBA broadcast. That includes watching Kobe’s own alley-oop to Shaquille O’Neal in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.

Someone on Twitter called it a “drug-fueled Muppet nightmare” but that’s selling short how remarkable the video was. In it, Kobe delivered a message about finding motivation as a young basketball player alongside a talking “Lil’ Mamba” puppet.

But here’s where it gets good: this video was made true to Kobe’s own person. Despite the happy, glockenspiel-laden background music with puppet accompaniment, Kobe’s message in “Musecage” was to use the dark part of your psyche as motivation to conquer your enemies.

I’m dead serious.


It doesn’t get any more Kobe than that.

The first video ends with Kobe’s advice to Lil’ Mamba, who goes off to become strong by using the dark musings as his fuel. Meanwhile, the second video talks about — and I’m not kidding — tactics James Harden and Russell Westbrook use to defeat their opponents in the pick-and-roll.

It’s like if Sesame Street was also a film room session.

Needless to say, all 10 minutes of Musecage are incredible. I don’t mean that in any sarcastic way, either. Bryant has been working on his Canvas series for a while, and his message shines true to the person we’ve known for the last two decades.

Use your happy feelings to push yourself? No! Use self-doubt as a motivator to Jawface your way through to six championship rings.

He debuted the original episode on Christmas Day, and it too had a kid-friendly feel.

I literally cannot wait for the next edition in this series.

Mark Cuban on Blake Griffin’s fall vs. JJ Barea: “We sent flowers to his family, condolences”

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The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers got into a bit of a scuffle the other night during their game. Clippers big man Blake Griffn and Mavericks PG JJ Barea tussled, with Barea earning a Flagrant 2 and an ejection for putting his hands on Griffin’s neck and pushing him to the ground.

It really was a sight to see, whether Griffin flopped or not.

Meanwhile, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was asked about the incident and responded with some heavy sarcasm that feels par for the course.

Via Twitter:

Griffin does have a bit of a reputation for acting and flopping, and Barea is hilariously undersized compared to him. Then again, the throat is a vulnerable area. Who knows if the fall was real or fake?

I’m just glad Cuban has a sense of humor about it.

Watch Derrick Rose leave Patty Mills standing still with eurostep, huge dunk

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New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose still has some explosivity left in his legs. Against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night, the former MVP left Spurs guard Patty Mills standing still on a thunderous dunk.

The play came in the fourth quarter with Rose on the break and Mills the only Spurs player defending the basket. Rose had a full head of steam, and it appeared Mills was going to for the charge call.

Rose then craftily eurostepped his way around Mills, leading to the jam.

San Antonio beat New York, 106-98.