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Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): Where it was like Miami’s dream come true

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What you missed while trying to find the most inappropriate Halloween costume ever for your child….

Heat 96, Magic 70: Before the season Doc Rivers said how good Miami ended up being would depend on how well they defend. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh they would score, but could they defend as a team?

They’re starting to figure it out. With each game their defense has been better and better until they just shut down Orlando, particularly in the second half, and cruised to the win.

There were two sides to Miami making this a blowout. Part of it was their defense — they were very active and aggressive contesting jumpers, and they were physical with the Magic inside. The pressure led the Magic to shoot a lot of contested two-pointers, the least efficient shot in basketball.

But Orlando deserves some blame here too. They were just bad at getting the shots they wanted, and even when they did they missed them. This is a team that lives and dies by the three, tonight they died. They were 4 of 24 from deep for the game. That could have something to do with tired legs on a back-to-back.

What did work was getting Dwight Howard the ball with his back to the basket and letting him work on the overmatched Heat centers. He had 19 first half points that way. He finished with 19. The Heat adjusted and dared someone else to beat them.

Magic players not named Howard shot 27 percent for the game. Magic starters outside Howard were 4-for-30. Orlando was 7-for-36 in the second half. I could go on, but why?

Vince Carter is supposed to be the guy who creates shots besides Howard, but he went down grabbing his tailbone after a collision and fall in the second quarter, and he did not return.

The man is as fragile and hurts more than the heart of a teenage girl.

Miami came out focused, went on a 14-0 run to start the second half and that was basically all she wrote. They got some turnovers in that stretch and if you do that to the Heat you will pay — there is no more fearsome team in transition than the Heat.

It was a game that — despite being decided and fairly dull the last 18 minutes — had a playoff feel to it. Credit the normally laid-back Heat crowd, they were into it. We’ll see if the Heat can keep up this kind of defense and the fans that kind of intensity through a long season.

Celtics 105, Knicks 101: The book on Rajon Rondo is to make him a shooter. The Knicks let him drop 24 dimes. Those are Bob Cousey numbers. It was really vintage Rondo, one of his prettiest games, and he finished with a triple double (10 points and 10 rebounds, too).

Credit the Knicks for hustle and hanging around, but this is a tough matchup for them because of Boston’s length. The Celtics dominated in the paint — they took 41 shots at the rim compared to 20 for the Knicks — and controlled the boards, and that ended up being the difference. If Knicks fans want, they can chalk this up as a moral victory. They played well.

Nets 106, Kings 100: This is one of the things you fear with the new technical foul enforcement — the second quarter of this game ground to a standstill with foul calls and techs. It was a parade of free throws. Fun times.

Kings were up 8 with three minutes left when Nets went on 13-0 run, with Jordan Farmar and Devin Harris hitting key threes. The key to the run was the Nets stopped turning the ball over — they shot the ball better and got to the line more all night long, but the 26 turnovers cut them off at the knees. Until it mattered.

The Kings got Samuel Dalembert back but he looked like a guy in his first game back from injury (he didn’t score and looked a step slow).

Hawks 104, 76ers 101: Not a lot of defense played in this one, but the Sixers seemed more willing to settle for long two pointers and that helped the Hawks. The bad news for the Hawks: Mike Bibby 33 minutes, Jeff Teague 11. But Atlanta is 2-0, so no complaining tonight.

Raptors 101, Cavaliers 81: Toronto just came out more aggressive in this one, really taking the ball into the lane. Jarret Jack was aggressive but Bargnani and Kleiza were the beneficiaries, they shot 6-of-12 combined in the first half. Kleiza finished with 19. Meanwhile the Cavs shot 4-of-17 in the second quarter, and that pretty much summed it up.

Pacers 104, Bobcats 101: Charlotte got two good looks at tying this in the final 10 seconds. DJ Augustin got a clean look but his feet were planted oddly so it was kind of a twisting shot that missed. But an offensive rebound gave them one last chance with 3.5 seconds left.

And the Bobcats got the look they wanted thanks to terrible Pacer defense. Stephen Jackson came free off a Boris Diaw moving screen that James Posey fought over the top of. Jack got an inbound pass nearly straight away at the three, gave an up fake and Posey went flying by so Jack got to set his feet. Nobody else ran out, the Bobcats had spread their four along the baseline and everyone stayed with their man and collapsed to get the rebound, even though Charlotte needed a three. But Jackson missed. May not have been justice, but that’s how it went down.

Hornets 101, Nuggets 95: In the second quarter the Nuggets offense stagnated, that led to a few turnovers and the Hornets got some transition baskets, and they were up 9 at the break. Denver battled back to have a fourth quarter lead behind Carmelo Anthony’s 24 on 10-of-17 shooting. But it was Denver that collapsed, and a 13-2 run won it for the Hornets.

Thunder 105, Pistons 104: Jeff Green — he of the no contract extension — is the hero in this one with a game-winner with 2.5 seconds left. The Thunder lived at the line in this one — 44 free throw attempts. They got that because they attacked the rim. No moral victories but the Pistons played well.

Timberwolves 96, Bucks 85: Kevin Love got to play the key moments of the game, he posted a double-double and he Wolves won. That could be coincidence, but Kurt Rambis should play him more to find out.

Grizzlies 91, Mavericks 90: How to lose a game in the fourth quarter — turn the ball over nine times. That’s what Dallas did, nine turnovers in the final 12 minutes. Not a terribly aesthetically pleasing game as both teams settled for a lot of jump shots.

Lakers 114, Suns 106: Phoenix went with what worked last time these two met — the Suns were in their 2-3 zone from the start. At first the Lakers did what they did in the Western Conference Finals — worked the ball around the perimeter then settled for a jumper. Gasol who? Attack the zone inside out what?

Eventually the Lakers remembered what they had done to the Suns in that series, got the ball inside first, shot a little better, got a few more rebounds and just adjusted their game to the team before them. Same result as last playoffs.

Warriors 109, Clippers 91: The Clippers defense, or lack of it, tells the story — Golden State shot 53.1 percent on the night and 58 percent from three, the Clippers shot 38.6 percent overall and 27.8 percent from three. And all those Clipper misses were not really about the Warriors defense, either.

New challenges face Portland guard CJ McCollum in Year four

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum poses for a photograph during NBA basketball media day in Portland, Ore., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) CJ McCollum became a starter for the Trail Blazers last season, broke out as the NBA’s Most Improved Player then signed a big contract over the summer.

Driving him all along the way was third-year pressure.

“Because I knew that was a make-or-break year for me. I know that going into year three I hadn’t played particularly well. I’d had flashes, but I just didn’t sustain a level of consistency for a season.

“In our league you get three years, you get traded, you get put in a box and they say `This is what you are,”‘ McCollum said when the team convened this week for training camp.

The 25-year-old guard became a star in the Blazers’ backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team’s starters left in the offseason.

With one of the youngest rosters in the league, the Blazers were considered a team that was rebuilding.

But they surpassed expectations, finishing 44-38 and earning the fifth seed in the Western Conference and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

At one point last season, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle referred to Lillard and McCollum as “a younger version of those Golden State guys.”

McCollum averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists during the regular season. He had 197 3-pointers, fourth most for the Blazers in one season. He scored in double figures in 79 games.

He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season and the dramatic turnaround earned him the Most Improved Player award.

That improvement was the most since Tony Campbell from an average of 6.2 points to 23.2 points with Minnesota between the ’88-89 and `89-90 seasons.

McCollum averaged 20.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the postseason last season.

But at times he was nervous that he was just an injury away from seeing all the hard work fizzle away.

“It was nerve-wracking for me because if you get hurt so many times you fear it. You’re like, `Oh, this could be it,”‘ he said. “So for me to get through a season healthy and to play well, it was comforting.”

McCollum, the 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Lehigh, missed the first 34 games of his rookie season with a foot injury.

The next season he was a reserve, but he started to turn heads down the stretch and into the playoffs after starter Wesley Matthews was knocked out with a ruptured Achilles. His postseason included a 33-point game against Memphis.

This summer the Blazers solidified their backcourt for years to come by signing McCollum to a four-year contract worth $106 million. It will keep him in Portland through the 2020-21 season.

While McCollum says he feels “less pressure” this season, he’s still looking to grow. The Blazers signed free agent Evan Turner in the offseason to help shore up the Blazers’ depth at guard.

“As a younger player you just play and react,” McCollum said. “As an older player you start to get more experience and you start to `think’ the game. I think once I put those two things together I can be a special player.”

Report: With new building set to open, Sacramento pushes to host 2020 All-Star Game

The Sacramento Kings released the NBA basketball team's new logo, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The new logo has a reshaped crown and new typeface meant to convey a modern look. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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In just a few weeks, the new arena that kept the Kings in Sacramento is set to open. It’s a well-designed basketball-first facility that both the fans and players should love.

Now the Kings want to show that building off to everybody and host a future All-Star Game, reports James Ham of CSNCalifornia.com.

It’s not uncommon for a team with a new building to get to host the All-Star Game. The 2017 game is in New Orleans, 2018 is in Los Angeles, 2019 will go to Charlotte if the “bathroom bill” is repealed (or strongly modified). That makes 2020 the next one up.

The Kings new building is in downtown Sacramento, in a growing area close to the California state capital. The only question is whether that area has enough hotel rooms and nearby convention space to handle the massive influx of people that come to an All-Star Game. The league office has this mapped out, it knows how many hotel rooms it needs in close proximity to the arena, for example. If Sacramento can meet all those qualifications, it could well land the February showdown.

Sixers players have dinner with Will Smith

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Actor Will Smith attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Focus" at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Ali. Men in Black. I am Legend. Fresh Prince. Suicide Squad. Independence Day. Plus more than a few movies he’d like us to forget (hello Hancock).

Will Smith is all that — and part owner of the Philadephia 76ers.

As training camp opened, Smith took his team out to dinner, according to the Sixers official site.

Jahlil Okafor and his teammates weren’t told that the Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning entertainer from West Philadelphia would be dining with them.

“It was great, it was a lot of fun,” said Okafor, who participated in Tuesday’s practice, despite sustaining a minor ankle sprain a few weeks ago. “Will Smith is my favorite celebrity, my favorite actor. It was great to hear him speak.”

Smith shared stories and passed along advice to a crowd consisting mostly of early to mid 20-year olds who grew up on his movies and albums.

“I think the main thing he said is the company you have around you,” Joel Embiid said. “He was trying to explain the people you have around you affect the type of person you are. He was just trying to tell us to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

It’s a good lesson for the Sixers in what could be a season of lessons coming for the Philadephia. This team is going to be better than it was a year ago, but don’t confuse that with good. They may get there someday, but there are a lot of hard lessons to learn between now and then.

But it’s a lot more fun to get some of those lessons from Will Smith.

Report: Other teams offered Denver first round picks for Will Barton, answer was no

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 23:  Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 23, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Nuggets defeated the Suns 104-96. 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.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Picking up Will Barton as part of the Arron Afflalo trade a couple of seasons back was one of the smartest moves of the Nuggets front office. Before last season they signed him to a three-year, $10 million deal and he blossomed as his jumper became a real weapon — this season he’s a guy to watch in the Sixth Man of the Year race.

A good player on a good contract? You can be sure other teams will try to poach him.

Which is exactly what happened, reports Christopher Dempsy at the Denver Post.

Now he’s being praised after a breakout season that landed him in the thick of the conversation for postseason awards, that had other teams offering first-round picks to nab him, and that had opponents highlighting him on scouting reports as a player to stop.

At age 25 Barton is part of a young core in Denver that includes Emanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic and others. Why would Denver let Barton go?

At some point maybe Denver will move him to get a player at a position they need more. But that time is not today, Barton is still part of the plan in Denver. And it’s going to take him a lot to pry him away (that first round pick is going to have to be high up the board).