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.

Report: Cavaliers not willing to put Nets pick in potential trade packages

Associated Press
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When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Kyrie Irving to Boston last summer — at Irving’s request — they got something Danny Ainge had held onto for years: The Brooklyn Nets 2018 unprotected first round pick.

From the first moment the Cavaliers got the pick there was speculation they might flip it to get LeBron James more help to chase a title this season (and then, ideally, get him to re-sign with the team next summer). Yet, every utterance from the Cavaliers front office on and off the record was that the pick was untouchable. Consider it LeBron insurance should he leave, and if he stays they can add some good young depth.

Now approaching a third of the way into the NBA season, with the Cavaliers looking good but a clear step behind Golden State or Houston (and with Brooklyn playing better than anyone expected), has their position on the pick changed? No, reports Sean Deveney at The Sporting News.

Nearly two months into the season, circumstances have changed for the Cavaliers, but according to league executives, one thing that has not changed has been Cleveland’s unwillingness to part with that Nets’ pick, even as Brooklyn has exceeded expectations, thus dinging the value of the pick.

“They would be open to a deal by all indications,” one general manager told Sporting News. “But they’re not talking about that pick. That’s the Plan B for the LeBron stuff and from what I know, they don’t want to budge on it.”

It’s an interesting team building philosophical debate for the Cavaliers: When you have a reasonable shot at a title is it better to go all in for the big prize, or do they need to think about what is next, especially with LeBron’s future unsure? (Cleveland is not a title favorite, however, they are still the favorite to come out of the East in the playoffs, and if the Cavs reach the Finals they have a puncher’s chance at least.)

The Cavaliers seem to be leaning toward keeping the pick and thinking a little about the future. The Cavaliers do have their own first round pick — which will land in the mid- to late 20s — to potentially thrown in a trade. It’s a first-round pick, if not a terribly valuable one.

On top of this, just how good the Nets have been must factor into the Cavaliers’ decision. If the season ended today, the Nets pick would be 10th heading into the lottery (which has a 1.1 percent chance of jumping up to the top pick, a 4 percent chance of jumping up to the top three picks, and an 87 percent chance of staying 10th). On our recent podcast looking ahead at the draft, NBC’s Rob Dauster said what a lot of scouts have said: After about player 8, there is a drop off. If the scrappy Nets keep playing this well as the trade deadline approaches, do the Cavaliers change their calculus?

The Cavaliers have reportedly reached out to teams about big men — the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan (available), the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol (the team says not available) — but it’s hard to imagine the Cavs getting an impact player that can help them get closer to another title without throwing in the Brooklyn pick. The Clippers aren’t going to take Tristan Thompson and the Cavs pick for Jordan, they will need more.

This is going to be an interesting trade deadline, and Cavaliers are going to be in the middle of it all.

Adam Silver is honest: NFL more likely to expand to Europe than NBA

Associated Press
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Basketball is a much bigger sport in Europe than American football (not to be confused with the futball that rules European sports).

However, in reality, the NFL is far more likely to put a team in London than the NBA. Logistics is why, and why the NBA is much more strongly considering a team in Mexico City (there will be a D-League in the Mexican capital within a season or two).

Adam Silver addressed the NFL’s scheduling advantages for a London team, speaking to Marc Stein of the New York Times.

For the NBA teams closest to London — Northeast teams such as the Knicks or Celtics — the flight time from their cities to London or Mexico City are about the same (a little over six hours). However, for a team such as Miami it is just a little over 3:30 to Mexico City and nearly five hours more than that to London. And as you move West and get to teams from Los Angeles or Denver — not to mention the three teams in Texas — the trip to Mexico City is less than a cross-country flight to play those East Coast teams.

I could see the NBA putting an All-Star Game in London someday, but even that would require a longer break around the showcase game than exists now.

I’m not about to speculate how an NFL team would draw in London, if they could sell out the required luxury boxes and expensive seats, or if they could help broaden the league’s shrinking television audience. But it makes a lot more sense for that league to explore the idea than it does the NBA.

Magic Johnson: Lakers might save cap space for 2019

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LeBron James seems to be tempering expectations of him signing with the Lakers.

Lakers president Magic Johnson – who has hyped signing two max free agents this summer – is doing the same.

Johnson on Spectrum SportsNet , as transcribed by Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation.

“I feel really good about it. Now, we have cap space for probably two max guys, but that’s not to say we’ll use both of them. We want to if we can, but we have a Plan A and we have Plan B. Say we only get one of those guys, then we’ll make a decision on not to use the cap space. We can do that and save it for the class that’s coming the next year. We’re not going to give money away just because we have the cap space. I’m not about that. If the guy can’t really take our team to another level, and we see what Kyrie Irving has done for the Boston Celtics. Put him with that young talent the Celtics have, and they’ve taken off. We feel the same thing can happen for the Lakers. If we get the right free agent, that guy can take our young talent to a whole ‘nother level.”

I don’t think this will be deemed tampering, though the league’s arbitrary enforcement leaves it questionable. But I’m surprised Johnson – who already played a role in the Lakers getting a $500,000 tampering fine – discussed Irving while suggesting the Lakers leave money available for 2019, when Irving will likely become a free agent. That’s just asking for trouble.

To the substance of Johnson’s comments, no, the Lakers won’t have double max cap space next summer. Not without other moves that will reduce their positive assets.

And rolling over cap space isn’t so simple. If the Lakers sign one max free agent, his 2019-20 salary will cut into 2019 cap space. Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Luol Deng and Kyle Kuzma are collectively due a raise of $5,895,550 from 2018-19 to 2019-20. Re-signing Julius Randle, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and/or Brook Lopez to multi-year deals would eat into 2019 cap space. It might not be possible to keep those players without multi-year guarantees, and losing them would hurt the team as it tries to impress free agents through quality play.

The Lakers shouldn’t spend just to spend this summer. But delaying would come with complications, too.

Joel Embiid takes blame for Sam Hinkie leaving 76ers

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In his letter resigning from the 76ers, Sam Hinkie wrote:

You can be wrong for the right reasons. This may well prove to be Joel Embiid.

Embiid never played for Philadelphia while Hinkie ran the team, sitting out his first two pro seasons due to injury. Then, Hinkie got ousted and Embiid got healthy. Now, Embiid – arguably the NBA’s best center – is leading the resurgent 76ers, and Hinkie is left to subtweet the franchise.

Embiid, in a Q&A with David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Me: Sam Hinkie drafted you. Do you keep in touch with him, call, text?

JE: Yeah, we text sometimes. We talk to each other sometimes. I mean, that’s the guy that drafted me, and he made sure he put everything in place so I could get healthy. And I got healthy and I got back on the court. And I feel like he basically kind of lost his job because of me, because I missed two years. So I feel like I owe him a lot. Yeah, we talk. We talk sometimes.

Hinkie’s patience in a long-term plan allowed Embiid to wait as long as necessary to play. (It also might have enabled Embiid to not take his rehab seriously enough.)

So, I get where Embiid is coming from.

But Hinkie knew what he was getting into when he drafted Embiid, who fell to the No. 3 pick in part due to injury concerns. The 76ers signed off on Hinkie’s Process then lost their appetite for the plan amid all the losing. It’s not Embiid’s fault Hinkie couldn’t persuade people to follow his direction. It’s not Embiid’s fault ownership got skittish.