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Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): Where the Celtics tried to give one away, but couldn’t

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What you missed while figuring out where to buy the Wii Michael Jackson game

Denver giving the improved Dallas defense their first real test was the Game of the Night.

Celtics 105, Bucks 102 (OT): Boston got lucky. They were up 6 with 1:22 to play. Boston closes that out. Ray Allen doesn’t miss free throws in the clutch. But tonight they did. And Boston escaped with a win.

One play of note: The Celtics key defensive stop with 30 seconds to go in overtime was vintage Boston. It’s how they’ve won for years. Ray Allen didn’t pressure Carlos Delfino getting the ball on the wing and coming a little late gladly gave up the baseline, guided him that way. Because Kevin Garnett is already there in help position — Boston brings the help earl and pushes you to it. Allen and Garnett took away the pass back to Bogut (Garnett’s man) and left Delfino with few options. He still choose poorly, leaping under the basket and then throwing a pass Paul Pierce easily intercepted.

Delfino made more bad choices, throwing a pass that was picked for the final play of the game, but he did drain a key three.

The Bucks are 1-4, they are really struggling on offense. Didn’t expect that.

Hawks 94, Pistons 85: There are serious problems in Detroit. And not in the “they were 10-21 on shots at the rim and if you can’t finish 50 percent of your shots at the rim you will lose” kind of way. Although that was true Wednesday. But more in the Rodney Stuckey and coach John Kuester had something going on and Stuckey played just 2:56 the second half kind of way. The day after Tayshaun Prince fired back at the coach. Serious problems.

By the way, Atlanta won because it shot better, got to the line more, was more aggressive and just plain better.

Sixers 101, Pacers 75: The Pacers were just off. One of those nights. Danny Granger started out the game 1-8 with all of his shots 13 feet or farther out, on the night only two of his 14 shots came inside of 10 feet. Which was part of the problem — not getting to the rim. Winless Philadelphia played with a sense of desperation.

Magic 128, Timberwolves 86: Minnesota made one bucket in the final six minutes of the first quarter as Orlando went on a 33-8 run and were up 19 after one. Then it got uglier and uglier.

Hornets 107, Rockets 99: New Orleans shot 42 free throws, Houston 14. That speaks to being aggressive, that speaks to getting the ball inside and working inside out, that speaks to playing smart defense and not fouling. Chris Paul took this over in the fourth, scoring 14. Also, Emeka Okafor is playing really good defense, I thought you should know.

Jazz 125, Raptors 108: The Jazz won this one by getting points inside, in the paint, and knowing the Raptors couldn’t stop them. Al Jefferson had 27, Paul Milsap 21 and combined they shot 61 percent. The Raptors can be a good confidence boost for teams that way.

Spurs 112, Suns 110: Richard Jefferson has developed a corner three. You need to fear that rest of the league. Jefferson put up 18 in the fourth to power the Spurs win.

Lakers 112, Kings 100: The Lakers defense has not been that great this season. It wasn’t very good against the Kings. But LA cruises to another win because of their offense. Kobe leads the way with a triple double.

The Kings made a little late push when the Lakers stopped running the triangle offense and went with the Orlando offense for some reason — throw it into the post and wait for the kick out, and don’t move. Whatever you do. Then when the game gets really tight. , Fisher nailed a corner three, got a steal and a three-point play. Because that is what he does.

Warriors 115, Grizzlies 109: My god, Monta Ellis can just flat out score the ball. He had 39 including all the key late baskets. Then there was the dagger — David Lee was open in the paint, got the feed and went Kwane Brown just fumbling it. Monta Ellis beat everyone there, put on a spin move then shot an 18-foot contested fade away. Nylon.

Clippers 107, Thunder 92: Eric Gordon and Eric Bledsoe are the future of the backcourt for the Clippers, who look so much quicker with Baron Davis out. The Clippers found the holes in the Thunder defense — there are a lot of them right now — and went at them. For the Thunder, well, mama said there’d be days like this. Just not their night.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.