Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Spurs are legit

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What you missed while freaking out that there are flying snakes

The Clippers with the upset of the Hornets is our Game of the Night

Spurs 106, Magic 97: The Spurs are legit. Not sure they can beat the Lakers in the playoffs, but if that’s the standard then no other team in the NBA may be legit. But the Spurs — if they can stay healthy — look like the one team in the West that can push LA. San Antonio racked up an 11-1 record against one of the softer schedules in the league, but Monday they faced off against Orlando and knocked off the Magic. And looked good doing it.

The Spurs got fantastic guard play — Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 49 points on 53 percent shooting, 5-9 from three and they had 19 assists. It was a counter to the Magic, who early on tried to establish Dwight Howard inside — and if you think he has one move you need to watch him again. He has developed some shots. He’s not Hakeem, but there are some different shots and he used them on Tim Duncan. Howard finished with 26 points and 18 boards.

But in crunch time the Spurs were making the plays. —Parker, Ginobili and Richard Jefferson all had key late threes. And just before that, Matt Bonner hit a shot from roughly El Paso. Then at the game’s key moment Ginobili shocked the world by going to his right got the and-one. Meanwhile the Magic were turning it over. The Spurs are back, baby

Pacer 93, Heat 77: If the Miami Heat played with the pace and off-the-ball player movement in the halfcourt offense that the Indiana Pacers have, they would be far more dangerous.

The Heat looked terrible in this one. Dwyane Wade was a surprise starter returning from injuring his non- shooting hand but he did not look right — he was 1 of 13 from the field for three points. The Heat offense was all isolation and looked listless. The defensive rotations were, frankly, pathetic.

The Heat had 4 points off the bench — all from Jamaal Magloire, who could be cut tomorrow to make way for Erick Dampier. The Heat were 4-20 from three. Credit the Pacers for playing some good defense and taking advantage of all the miscues. But the Heat are making a lot of miscues.

Celtics 99, Hawks 76: The first quarter was as good as the Celtics can play. The Hawks were flat, but the Celtics intimidating intensity was part of that. The Celtics shot 72 percent, their defense pressured the ball on the strong side (as they long have done) and contested every shot, it overwhelmed the Hawks — 39-13 overwhelmed. The Hawks settled in and played better as the game went on, but this one was over early. Really solid game for Shaq, he was too much for the Hawks inside from the start.

After the game, the Hawks closed their locker room to the media. They needed a team meeting after that ugly performance.

Thunder 117, Timberwolves 107: Don’t tell anyone, but Darko Milicic played really well down the stretch in this one. And Kevin Love had 24-17. Still wasn’t enough because the Thunder are just the vastly better team.

Suns 123, Rockets 116: Steve Nash was back and the Suns looked like the Suns again — an offensive rating of 124.2 (points per 100 possessions).

The Rockets were 0-12 from three in the first half of this game. They didn’t stop shooting it and attack the rim more, they kept launching threes. On some level you should applaud their determination in the face of adversity. Then again, you could say the same thing about the Confederates at Gettysburg. They finished with 26 threes, recalling the Rudy T. era.

The Suns did what they wanted and went on a 11-0 second quarter run, pulled away and never looked back.

Jazz 94, Kings 83: What you expected out of this game is what you got. The Jazz are just the better squad.

Nuggets 106, Warriors 89: Denver was attacking, which means Carmelo Anthony is attacking. He was an impressively perfect 17-17 from the free throw line and finished with 39. Al Harington was 5-7 from three. Denver and the Warriors have similar records, but it was pretty clear who is the better team here.

Thunder give P.J. Dozier No. 35, Kevin Durant’s old number

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The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.

Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.

Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.

But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.

Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.

In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.

Cornrowed Joel Embiid calls minute limit f—ing BS

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76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.

Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.

Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”

“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”

“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”

“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”

We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.

Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.

Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.

At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.

LeBron James game-time decision for Cavaliers-Celtics opener

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James may miss Cleveland’s opener Tuesday night against Boston because of a sprained left ankle.

James injured his ankle in practice on Sept. 27 and played in just one exhibition game. He participated in the team’s morning shootaround, and a team spokesman said it will be a game-time decision whether he faces the Celtics. James is officially listed as questionable.

James took some outside shots but did very little lateral movement when the media was permitted to watch the Cavs work out.

It’s hard to imagine James missing the first opener of his career and a chance to play against former teammate Kyrie Irving, who was traded this summer to Boston after telling Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out. James and Irving had a sometimes rocky relationship during three seasons together, but they made it to three straight NBA Finals and won the title in 2016.

 

Why did Kyrie Irving request trade from Cavaliers? ‘I will never pinpoint anything, because that’s not what real grownups do’

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Kyrie Irving said he requested a trade from the Cavaliers because he wanted to be happy and maximize his potential.

But why did he feel that couldn’t happen in Cleveland?

Irving hasn’t come close to directly answering that question, saying things like, “My intent, like I said, was for my best intentions.” Returning to Cleveland with the Celtics, Irving was again pressed to explain.

Irving, via MassLive:

Going forward, I kind of wanted to put that to rest in terms of everyone figuring out or trying to figure out and dive in and continue to dive into a narrative that they have no idea about and that probably will never, ever be divulged, because it’s not important. This was literally just a decision I wanted to make solely based on my happiness and pushing my career forward. I don’t want to pinpoint anything. I will never pinpoint anything, because that’s not what real grownups do. They continue to move on with their life and and continue to progress, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.

Perhaps, Irving is just following Dwyane Wade‘s advice and taking the high road. But that won’t ease our collective curiosity. Fans will continue to speculate about why Irving wanted out, and reporters will continue to dig into it. Reporting and speculation have both centered on LeBron James.

If Irving eventually wants to set the record straight – and he doesn’t sound interested, lending credence to the theory he wanted to leave LeBron behind – everyone will be all ears.