Baseline to Baseline Weekend Edition: Knicks Gone Wild

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What you missed this weekend while worrying that your extra virgin olive oil isn’t such a virgin

Celtics 104 Bulls 92 (Friday): I know the Bulls thought they were an elite team. The Celtics, however, are currently the only Eastern team (and maybe the only NBA team) at that level right now. If we’re looking at matchups in a potential playoff series, the fact that Kevin Garnett outright obliterated an admittedly still finding his legs Carlos Boozer is going to jump off the page and smack us around a bit. Derrick Rose is spectacular and his ability to create, then lean away from contact in mid-air gives him what can only be described as special powers against the Celtics. Unfortunately, Shaquille O’Neal has a neater super power: being much, much, much bigger than Joakim Noah and bullying him like Noah skipped a grade then got assigned to the same gym class with the jocks. Boston is outright terrifying at this point. Basically the Celtics are very outright.

Magic 104 Pistons 91 (Friday): Detroit was so bad they lost to an Orlando team that pretty much resembled the extras from “The Walking Dead.”

Milwaukee 96 Magic 85 (Saturday): Milwaukee was so bad they only beat an Orlando team that was only able to suit up 8 players by 11. There was a lot of sneezing. The end.

Bobcats 91 Nets 84 (OT) (Friday): The score was 33-32 at the half. It very well may have been the worst first half in professional basketball history. Here. Let us never speak of it again.

Rockets 127 Grizzlies 111 (Friday): The Rockets looked like they are back!

Bulls 119 Rockets 116 (OT) (Saturday): The Rockets are not back. The Rockets had this game. Had it. Down cold. Lock, stock, and barrel. Then Derrick Rose took over, with a series of whirlish-dervish one-way-back-slash passes and one very killer off-the-dribble three he should never have gotten due to the fact that Houston should have fouled, fouled, and then fouled again up three, I don’t care if Derrick Rose’s three-point reliability is kind of a neat new trick. Luis Scola also pulled off a very impressive Dream Shake impersonation that manages to out-fake I’m pretty sure every Bull on the floor, several on the bench, and a few that are playing overseas. Alas, Houston falls again.

Knicks 100 Hornets 92 (Friday): The Knicks may be back. For Emeka Okafor with all his might, all his improvement, for every way that Chris Paul should dominate Raymond Felton, the Knicks ran roughshod. Amar’e Stoudemire at this point is nearly unstoppable and the Knicks are firing on all cylinders. Chris Paul is strikingly passive in the second halves of games and you have to wonder if the health is all there. The Knicks are creating easy shots for themselves and hard ones for their opponents. The Hornets are in the exact opposite condition.

Knicks 116 Raptors 99 (Sunday): Yup, Knicks are probably back.

Spurs 107 Wolves 101 (Friday): There are meltdowns, there are colossal meltdowns, and then there’s the Wolves in this game. An utter self-demolition as they gave the Spurs an opening, then stood around guffawing as the Spurs hit that fifth gear from nothing. Kevin Love was not good, George Hill was very good, and the Wolves looked like they had absolutely no brain running the body for the last quarter. The Wolves could really have used a significant weapon down low they could turn to who wouldn’t get railroaded by Tim Duncan. Instead they had Darko Milicic (who had a fine game the following night against Cleveland).

Wizards 83 Blazers 79 (Friday): This was an unhappy game. John Wall was bad and frustrated. The Blazers lost to the Wizards, despite John Wall having a bad game and being frustrated. This was a joyless, coal mine shift of a game.

Suns 105 Pacers 97 (Friday): Channing Frye had 29 points. So, you know, the Pacers may have some trouble with non-traditional positional adjustments.

Dallas 93 Jazz 81 (Friday), Dallas 105, Kings 103 (Saturday): Eight quarters for the Mavs this weekend, points produced: 23, 16, 27, 27, 28, 26, 26, 24. Steady light a freight train, sharp like a razor.

Report: J.B. Bickerstaff agrees to three-year deal to coach Memphis Grizzlies

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We heard rumblings that the Memphis Grizzlies were looking to remove the interim distinction from J.B. Bickerstaff’s title and make him acting head coach. Now, the team has made their move.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Memphis agreed to a three-year deal with Bickerstaff on Thursday, making him the new head coach of the team.

Bickerstaff, 39, was previously the associate head coach of the Grizzlies under David Fizdale. Fizdale was fired in November, and Bickerstaff took over as interim head coach.

This has been a long time coming for Bickerstaff, who was a longtime assistant coach in Charlotte, Minnesota, and Houston. Bickerstaff took over the Rockets job in 2015 when the team fired head coach Kevin McHale.

The task ahead of Bickerstaff will not be easy. Next season he will get Mike Conley back from injury, but the roster is still in the process of being rebuilt and Marc Gasol, 33, seems like constant trade bait. The Western Conference is tough, but finally Bickerstaff gets his shot at the big job on a permanent basis.

Enes Kanter helps pardon Thunder fans who left playoff game early (VIDEO)

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Enes Kanter may be leaning toward opting in to his $18 million player option with the New York Knicks this summer (I would) but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have love for fans in Oklahoma City.

In a video posted to social media on Thursday, Oklahoma City mayor David Holt and Kanter appeared together to give pardons to the Thunder fans who left early during the team’s Game 5 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony staved off elimination with their win against Utah, giving the Jazz a 3-2 series lead as they head back to Salt Lake City on Friday night.

Kanter, who played for the Thunder from 2015-2017, says he is still friendly with many of the players on the Oklahoma City roster. Kanter also played for the Jazz for the first three-and-a-half years of his career.

Via Twitter:

I personally don’t understand leaving a game early. Your car is trapped underground or is parked six miles away on some back alley, you’re not leaving any game quickly. The train is going to be jam packed and will sit at the stadium station for like 28 more minutes after you board, no matter when you board.

Don’t leave games early, folks. Try to haggle with the people working the concession stands to give you another soft pretzel for free. Get your money’s worth.

Giannis Antetokounmpo slashes Celtics, forces Game 7 in Boston

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The Milwaukee Bucks needed a big game from Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday night. Boy, did they get it.

After a disappointing in Game 5 in Boston, Antetokounmpo was fearsome in his return to the Bradley Center for Game 6. The Bucks were able to keep their defensive intensity up, and we got the game most of us expected from Antetokounmpo in a return to his home court: complete domination on the biggest stage.

The game started out much the way we’ve seen in this series — sort of kooky. It was another low-scoring affair as the first half closed with Milwaukee leading, 49-38. The Celtics couldn’t get things rolling offensively, and were saved by baskets in the paint in the first quarter. Boston scored just 15 points in the second period, saving themselves with makes from beyond the 3-point line.

The real story of the game came in the second half. Antetokounmpo would not let up from the gas, scoring both as the Bucks center and on the break. Milwaukee’s franchise player matched up against Al Horford all night long, and the battle between the two was intense. Both seemed to want to muscle each other, and for different stretches they both got the better of each other.

Boston battled back, eventually tying the game at 61-61 with 4:21 to go in the third. The Celtics’ charge was led by Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Horford, all three of whom allowed Boston to make up a 14-point deficit. Boston played carefully, allowing their young wings to do the work. Despite not having a fastbreak point until late in the third, they also didn’t have their first turnover of the second half until there was little more than three minutes to go in the same quarter. Antetokounmpo, who couldn’t let Boston’s run continue after the tie, turned on the jets to close the quarter and Milwaukee entered the fourth period with a 9-point lead they would never cede.

The fourth quarter was much of the same, with the matchup between Antetokounmpo, Horford, and Horford’s backup in Aron Baynes. Several times, Antetokounmpo ran full speed after starting with the ball on the opposite free-throw line, going right at either Horford or Baynes. But the Bucks star wasn’t completely selfish. He managed to stave off tunnel vision, at times finding teammates on his spins to the bucket.

A lot of talk was made about Antetokounmpo’s poor performance in Game 5, a career playoff-low of 16 points on just 10 field goal attempts. The Greek Freak made sure that didn’t happen again, finishing the game with 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting, adding 14 rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton were amped up as well. Both finished with 16 points, and as a team the Bucks scored 25 points on the break, with 50 points coming from the painted area, topping Boston in both regards.

For the Celtics, Tatum led the way with 22 points on six-of-14 shooting, adding three rebounds and three assists. Terry Rozier continued his playoff emergence, scoring 18 points while nabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists. Boston shot just 27.8 percent from the 3-point line.

Game 7 now heads back to Massachusetts, where we will see if Antetokounmpo can keep his foot to the floor and drive the Bucks past the second-seeded Celtics on Saturday.

Stephen Curry back in full practice mode for Warriors

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Stephen Curry resumed full practice with contact and could play for the defending champion Golden State Warriors as soon as Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Saturday night against New Orleans.

Curry looked strong as he practiced Thursday wearing a protective brace over his sprained left knee, which has sidelined him since the injury March 23 – the same day he returned from a six-game absence because of a hurt right ankle.

Coach Steve Kerr is calling Curry questionable for Saturday. That could change if the two-time NBA MVP still feels fine Friday and is fine after one more day of full practice before the Pelicans visit Oracle Arena to begin the best-of-seven series.

“Steph practiced at 100 percent, he did everything, he looked good,” Kerr said. “What we have to do is see how his body responds the rest of the day, put him through another practice tomorrow. I think he needs to string together two good days but it was very positive today. … I think it’s been coming along pretty well. When we were in San Antonio and I was asked a question about how he was doing, I think I was able to give an answer, `He’s doing great but we haven’t ramped him up yet.’ I think today was an important day because it’s the first time he’s actually gone live action and he was allowed to go through practice. And he appears fine.”

Curry went through his usual shooting work with Kevin Durant from various spots after practice, cutting and exhibiting his fancy footwork and dribbling skills. The Warriors have played well without their floor leader, eliminating the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the first-round series with a 99-91 win Tuesday night.

The Pelicans will present a different, faster pace for the Warriors, so getting Curry back to push the ball and direct the offense would be important. Andre Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, started in the first round in his place while Quinn Cook handled point guard duties late in the regular season with Curry out.

“We’re excited. I know he’s very eager to play,” said Klay Thompson. “He’s a competitor, so sitting out I know kills him. We can’t wait for him to get back whenever that is.”

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