Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Heat are running and cruising

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What you missed while listening to Johnny Depp read Keith Richards autobiography…

Our game of the night is a reminder that the Spurs are still the Spurs, click for details.

Heat 123, Suns 96: The Heat came out and wanted to make sure Chris Bosh felt loved and wanted — he had the first eight points (on 4 of 4 shooting) and they went to him exclusively for a bit. They kept going there because it worked, he finished with 35 on 12-17 (plus he got to the line 11 times).

This was close for a quarter until the Heat settled in for a fast-paced game then really just took over at both ends — the Suns scored only two field goals in the first seven minutes of the second quarter. The Heat got up big and never looked back. There were 97 possessions in this game, six faster than a normal Heat contest, but with their athleticism and finishers they need to play up-tempo like this more. They are not, should not be a D’Antoni style team, but they should be playing a lot faster than they are (which was 22nd in the league before Thursday). This game was the proof of that.

Hornets 99, Mavericks 97: Mavs raced out to 12-2 lead but you knew the Hornets would battle back, that this one would be close and it would come down to execution at the end.

With the game on the line the Hornets ran the same play three times in a row — a wing pick-and-pop with Chris Paul and David West that the Mavericks had no answer for. Go read the NBA Playbook breakdown. The Hornets executed with the game on the line and they get

Raptors 94, Sixers 86: With 25 seconds left and down six, the Sixers missed a shot and the Raptors got the rebound. Instantly Philly coach Doug Collins started yelling “foul, foul” hoping to extend the game, but his team moved at half speed and seemed disinterested. At best. It took 12 seconds before someone committed the requested foul. And that tells you pretty much all you need to know about where the Sixers are right now.

Nice 2-2 road trip for the Raptors.

Lakers 103, Pistons 90: Kobe was hot, the Lakers jumped out to an early lead and cruised…yada, yada, yada. Best tweet of the night comes to us courtesy Dave McMenimen of of ESPNLA:

A 12-yr old girl sitting behind Lakers bench just screamed: “The triangle offense failed in ’04, Phil! You’ll always have to live w/ that!”

Thunder 116, Rockets 99: Oklahoma City’s most complete game start-to-finish in weeks — combined with a struggling opponent — made this one the easy win the Thunder have needed after some tough ones lately.

Celtics 114, Wizards 83: This was close for a while as the Wizards made contested shots and played with the energy that the Celtics are greeted with every night. But the Wizards play poor defense, and you’re not going to stay hot forever against the Celtics, they make you work too hard to get your shots. The blowout was inevitable, if a bit delayed in this one.

Timberwolves 113, Clippers 111: Michael Beasley had 33 points on 14-23 shooting, including the game winner with 2.3 left. Beasley has been big lately but count me among the still skeptical — he his 6 of 10 long twos in this game. He has been doing that for games now, don’t expect him to keep hitting from range like that.

Clippers have now lost to the Pistons, Nets and Wolves in a row.

Jazz 98, Nets 88: Turns out the Jazz can win a game they never trail in during the final 35 minutes.

Knicks 113, Kings 106: It was Glee night at ARCO arena. The Kings deserved to lose for karma reasons alone.

It’s all about having shooters on the floor in the Mike D’Antoni system. In the first quarter, the Knicks are 5-23 overall and 0-6 from three and they are down 27-14. Second quarter they start
9-12, 4-for-4 from three and they outscore Kings 40-22. The Suns were good when they had five shooters on the floor at a time, the Knicks are not there yet.

As for the Kings, you can tell Paul Westphal is looking different rotations (new starting lineup tonight) trying to find combos that work. But the formula is eluding him.

Paul George on return to Indiana Wednesday: “For whatever reason, I’ll be booed”

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This week is the Oklahoma City Thunder’s “you can’t go home again” week of the schedule. On Saturday night, Carmelo Anthony will return to New York where Knicks fans should welcome him with cheers and open arms — he meant a lot to that franchise in recent years — but may very well not.

First up, however, Paul George returns to Indiana in a Thunder uniform Wednesday night.

There’s little doubt how he will be greeted by Indiana fans, who felt betrayed by a man they stuck by through recovery from a severe injury. George knows what is coming,

Here are the key lines from PG13:

“Boos. I honestly wouldn’t think it would be any other way. The Pacers fans outweigh the Paul George fans. That’s what I’m looking forward to. For whatever reason, I’ll be booed, but I’m gonna embrace that. I’m gonna thrive on that.”

For whatever reason? You asked to be traded and fans take that personally. There is no loyalty in sports — I have no problem with players asking out because teams show no hesitancy in dumping players they no longer have a use for (and fans are almost always good with that) — but he had to know how this would be taken in Indiana.

What George might want to worry about is stopping the red-hot Victor Oladipo (he averaged 35.7 points per game last week), because he and the Pacers are playing better than the Thunder right now.

Kawhi Leonard returns Tuesday on minutes restriction

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The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.

Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.

He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.

Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.

However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.

That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?

 

 

 

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.

Watch Kawhi Leonard chop boards ‘karate styyyle’ (video)

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Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.

He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.

But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.

Except we now know he apparently likes karate.

Leonard:

Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.

If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.

Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN: