Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): The night the Grizzlies were thieves

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What you missed while carving your pumpkin to look like the Death Star

Hornets 99, Spurs 90: It’s really a simple game at the end of the day — just put the ball in the bucket. The Spurs struggled mightily to do that. They missed the tough shots as the clock was winding down, they missed wide-open looks, they missed from the midrange, they missed at the rim, they just missed. It was just not their night.

Well, to be clear they missed for three quarters — they shot 31.7 percent through the first three quarters and were down 18 early in the fourth. Then they shot 59 percent for the final quarter, had a 16-3 run and made a game of it at the end. They got within three and Richard Jefferson even got a good look at a three to tie, but the Spurs were 6-26 from beyond the arc for the game so that didn’t go down.

That Spurs run, by the way, came with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker on the bench.

The Spurs defense did what it does — tried to take Chris Paul out of the game and force long twos, taking away easy stuff inside. But the Hornets were hitting — they shot 53.9 percent on long twos (16 feet or more) and drained 7 of 11 from three.

Big win for the Hornets, which David West celebrated by punching Chris Paul over and over as he dribbled out the clock. In a good way. The Hornets are now 3-0 to start the season. Didn’t see that coming.

Grizzlies 109, Timberwolves 89: Memphis had 22 steals in this game. Minnesota turned the ball over on 26 percent of their possessions — when you turn it over one in four times down the court, you lose. Big.

Trail Blazers 100, Knicks 95: Early on Portland was just an efficient offense — lots of cuts off the ball, movement and attacking the mismatch on offense (and the mismatch was whomever Raymond Felton was guarding). They sprinted out to a big lead. Then they stopped doing it. Just because. The Knicks started to step up their defense, started rebounding (they had 18 offensive boards, which never should happen against the Blazers) and generally outplayed Portland for a stretch.

The Knicks would have won if Portland hadn’t reverted to form and went on a 17-3 run to close out the game and secure the win. You can thank Andre Miller for that late run and the win.

Hawks 99, Wizards 95: Washington got off to an early lead because a zone defense confused the Hawks, while Washington was hot and shot 60 percent for the first quarter. The Hawks didn’t shoot terribly well most of the game, but they battled back, then Joe Johnson took over in the fourth with 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting — because he stopped taking the long twos he was missing and started driving, hitting shorter pull ups or draining the three.

This just in: John Wall is a stud. He had 28 and was the reason Washington hung around.

Kings 107, Cavaliers 104: It’s weird to say this, but Beno Udrih is playing well so far this season. Smart, in control, had 12 points (6-9 shooting) and 11 dimes in this one. He almost looks like a guy who deserves that contract. Almost.

Fun game to watch if you don’t care about good defense, because that was missing. Really a tale of two halves, the Cavs dominated the second quarter, were up 14 at the break then the second half was just the Kings playing smarter and better.

Pacers 99, Sixers 86: Indiana started out the second half on an 18-5 run, sparked by 8 from Danny Granger, and that’s your ballgame. The Pacers were just more aggressive, they got to the line more often, got the offensive boards and just seemed to win all the hustle plays.

Bulls 101, Pistons 91: Chicago won the fourth quarter 34-9. Damn. Derrick Rose put up 39 and led the charge, looking like a stud. He has to carry that team’s offense, and it’s quite a show.

Aside that, not much to love here, just a fast-paced game (102 possessions) with a lot of missed shots from both teams.

Bucks 98, Bobcats 88: Andrew Bogut had four blocks on the night and really seemed to control the paint on defense, with the Bobcats shooting just 47.7 percent on shots near the rim. When you miss the chippies, it’s a long night.

Nuggets 107, Rockets 94: Carmelo Anthony had 24 points but needed 20 shots to get there. Al Harrington had 28 points but needed 24 shots to get there. Basically, the Nuggets were their usual, inefficient selves on offense. But, they attacked the rim and so got to the line more, they rebounded better, they were just more aggressive. Some night’s that’s enough. Houston just fouled and took bad shots rather than attack, they really don’t know who they are on offense. The fact Aaron Brooks sat a lot for foul trouble didn’t help.

Fergie says she “tried my best” after national anthem blowback

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fergie is apologizing after trying something different with the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” the Grammy-winning singer said in a statement Monday. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after she finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on “the dawn’s early light.”

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 +-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured Sunday’s mood – and became an instant GIF – when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, “Let’s play some basketball!”

The Black Eyed Peas singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he “needed a cigarette” after Fergie’s performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal leaped to Fergie’s defense, saying: “Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone.”

Others on social media weren’t as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

 

Did Lakers help keep LeBron James in Cleveland with trade?

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When the trade went down between the Lakers and Cavaliers before the deadline — sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus Cleveland’s 2018 first-round draft pick (top-five protected) — it caught the NBA by surprise.

The first reaction for a lot of people to the deal? This opens up as much as $70 million in cap space for the Lakers this summer (depending on other moves with players such as Julius Randle). Los Angeles could sign two max players — LeBron James and Paul George. Why would Cleveland help Los Angeles open up room to steal LeBron.

The Cavaliers didn’t see it that way — they knew they had to make a major shakeup or LeBron was gone. At that point, does it matter where? So in a series of moves, Cleveland GM Koby Altman radically remade the roster around LeBron. The goal was to energize them back into being the team to beat in the East, and from there make it hard for him to leave as a free agent. Since the trades, the Cavaliers are 2-0 and LeBron has clearly been reinvigorated, plus they will add Kevin Love back in a few weeks.

Altman’s plan seems to be working, one executive told Mark Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”

I had heard from sources for a while LeBron to the Lakers was not likely (Paul George is another story, that door remains open). As Spears notes, the Lakers did not have an All-Star in Sunday’s game. Even if LeBron and PG13 went to Los Angeles, that team was third or fourth best in the West next season. LeBron is in full on legacy mode and wants to win rings. Los Angeles is not the place to do it.

Houston is interesting (and it’s still a team I hear some execs think has a real shot), but the gutting or role players on that roster to make it work would be a concern. Maybe a dark horse such as Philadelphia can emerge. However, if LeBron can lead this newly-energized Cavaliers team to the Finals again (his eighth consecutive trip there), they get a high draft pick with the Brooklyn pick, then LeBron gets a commitment from Altman and owner Dan Gilbert to keep spending and being aggressive, where is he going to be closer to a title than at home?

Lou Williams trolls Jimmy Butler for resting during All-Star Game

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Jimmy Butler was in Los Angeles and enjoying his well-earned All-Star slot on Team Stephen.

Well, except for the actual playing basketball part. Butler did not set foot on the court during the All-Star Game at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

Lou Williams, the Clippers’ guard who likely would have been near the front of the line for an open All-Star roster spot in the West (likely second in the queue behind Chris Paul), but instead took part in the Saturday Skills Competition then had Sunday off, trolled Butler for it on Twitter.

This seems more good natured than genuinely bitter.

Williams will roll with it, but his point’s a valid one — if you’re an All-Star, at least play a little and give the people what they want. Get out there for five minutes or whatever. LaMarcus Aldridge only played four minutes, no big deal.

If you’re not going to use the roster spot, give it up to someone who will.

Report: Raptors won’t sign Vince Carter if he gets bought out

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Of returning to the Raptors, Vince Carter said, “It’ll happen one day.” It sounds as if the Kings would buy him out if he wants.

Will he end the season with Toronto?

Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050:

After speaking with a few team sources, I can confirm that they’ve had internal dialogue and debate about the idea of bringing Vince Carter back. It’s something that they wanted to do over the summer. That’s why they made him an offer, something that I’ve reported in the past. And it’s also something that they’d be open to in the future, perhaps next year in some capacity. But they’ve decided now is not the right time. And I think the consensus seems to be there’s so much going on right now, and they want this season to be about this team, their accomplishments and their playoff push and not the sideshow that I think would come with a Vince Carter return.

The Raptors (41-16) are on pace for their best record ever. They’re excelling offensively and defensively. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are spearheading a more dynamic offense that spurs hope for more playoff success.

Toronto is probably correct to save the Carter reunion for another year – though it depends who else is available. That 15th roster spot could be useful. If Carter is the best player who’d sign, the Raptors should sign him and deal with the hoopla.

But it’s not clear whom they could get or whether they could even get Carter. He hasn’t sounded like someone who’d forgo guaranteed salary to play for the minimum.