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.

C.J. McCollum’s cab driver had some hilarious opinions on today’s NBA

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I think we’ve all been in the situation that C.J. McCollum found himself in recently.

Whether you are a hardcore NBA fan, a blogger, a professional writer, or a basketball player, when folks interested in the league find out about your passion, they often try to connect with you about it. Which is great! Especially as sometimes you get cats like the one who was driving the Portland Trail Blazers star guard in the video below.

Now, I have to warn you about some NSFW language, but what the guy had to say was pretty great. Hilarious, even.

The topics ranged from superstars being on the same team, to hating the Golden State Warriors, to the future success of the Blazers themselves.

Again, some extremely NSFW language ahead but also some serious laughs to be had.

Via Instagram:

CJ McCollum's drive to the airport was something. 😂 (via @3jmccollum)

A post shared by Sports Videos (@houseofhighlights) on

I’m dying. This guy is the best.

Watch Stephen Curry’s best play from every game last year (VIDEO)

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It was probably damn near impossible to put together at this video.

Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors star point guard/human highlight machine, produces enough good content on a given night for multiple highlight videos. Going through and selecting just the best play from each game must have been a difficult challenge.

But here we are.

The NBA published a video to their YouTube channel this week of the single best play from each game of Curry’s 2016-17 season. The result is a 20-minute video that is well worth the watch.

Summer can seem to drag on, but seeing back-to-back plays like this just makes you thirsty for the winter.

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.