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Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Grizzlies and Kings with the finish of the year

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What you missed while purchasing the iPhone bottle opener

Kings 100, Grizzlies 98: Two struggling teams that could use a win and it came down to this:

Kings up 97-96 with 5.5 seconds left, no timeouts left for anyone. Memphis inbounds the ball from the sidelines to O.J. Mayo and runs a poorly-designed play — Mike Conley, who inbounded the ball, ran right past Mayo, basically just bringing the extra defender for the double-team right to the ball. Mayo ignored this and worked along the three-point line and eventually near the top of the key took an off-balanced, off-one-leg fall away two. And he drained it. Grizzlies by one.

Now there is 1.5 seconds left, and with no timeouts the Kings inbound to Tyreke Evans, who gets the ball near the free throw line, dribbles a couple of steps, shoots as time expires — and drains a 50 footer for the win. Arco Arena goes wild.

Best ending this season. Go ahead and make all the “it takes that kind of shot for the Kings to win a game” jokes you want, their fans deserve something like this.

Pistons 104, Celtics 92: At one point Tracy McGrady made the steal and Ben Wallace finished with the power dunk on the break. When that is happening, you know the Pistons are having a good night.

This was just a night when the Celtics played poor defense — Kevin Garnett’s early exit certainly was part of that — and Detroit just could not miss. As a team the Pistons shot 55.7 percent, plus they hit 10 of 15 from three. McGrady had 21 on 7 of 11 shooting. Charlie Villanueva got a little revenge — not that he was looking for it — hitting 4 of 6 from three on his way to 14 points.

This was a big win for Detroit. This was just one of those games for Boston.

Lakers 103, Hornets 88: Phil Jackson moved Andrew Bynum into the starting lineup as a surprise, and that moved Lamar Odom back to the bench. The result was better Laker defense at the start and much better player and ball movement from the Lakers bench players. That meant an easy win.

One night after the Lakers struggled to hit anything against the Spurs they shot 67.6 percent in the first half against the Hornets and put up 59 points (and had an 18-point lead). Los Angeles basically led the whole way. Bynum was big on offense, too, scoring 18. Odom had a game high 24 off the bench.

Heat 125, Rockets 119: The tempo was way up for this one — 99 possessions — and that led to a lot of offense for both teams. And not much transition defense. It shouldn’t be a shock this one was close because the Rockets are scrappy and play hard every night (Byron Scott should show his Cavs the films). But in the end, talent wins out and the Heat had too much of it. Joel Anthony has had some really impressive ends of games for the Heat.

Bobcats 101, Cavaliers 92: Tonight it was Stephen Jackson’s turn to look like he loves Paul Silas’ new system, dropping 38 on the Cavs. Jackson was able to drive into the lane at will — we love Captain Jack here at PBT, but if he is driving unimpeded to the rim you have problems, he is not that quick. The fact that Jackson was constantly in the paint tells you all you need to know about the Cavs effort in this one.

Hawks 103, Warriors 93: The fact the Hawks don’t defend the rim well should have played into the hands of the Warriors and their penetration, but Golden State just turned the ball over too much and settled for too many jumpers. Meanwhile the Hawks were efficient and able to do basically whatever they wanted on offense. This was the best the Hawks looked on offense in a while, with nice ball and player movement.

Wizards 104, Pacers 90: The dreaded second game of a back-to-back, fourth-game-in-five-nights game for the Pacers. Then throw in a team that wants to run like Washington and you get a Pacers team fading in the second half. Andray Blatche had 10 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Nuggets 119, Timberwolves 113: Chris Andersen had five key points in the final two minutes for Denver:  Two on a reverse layup when his man (Kevin Love) went to help on Chauncey Billips penetration and Andersen cut baseline to the basket; Two more on free throws when he drew the offensive rebounding foul on Love; Then one more when he drew another foul on Love, this time when the two were fighting for defensive rebounding position and Andersen sold a little shove with a big flop (he hit one of two from the line).

Thunder 114, Nets 93: It was an up-tempo game and you had to know the Nets could not hang with the athletes of the Thunder at that pace. The Nets fueled that pace with 15 first-half turnovers and their habit of launching up threes that led to long rebounds.

Sixers 123, Suns 110: Vince Carter returned and had 18 points on 8 of 20 shooting, and was 1 of 6 from three.

Look, we’ve been telling anyone who will listen the last few weeks that the Sixers are better than people think. If you don’t play any defense and let them dominate the boards you make it easy. That’s what happened. The Suns defense is awful and the Sixers have the people to exploit it.

Jazz 103, Clippers 95: Eric Gordon probably had the best Clipper dunk of the night, which is disappointment. As for the game, the Clippers led at half but the Jazz came out on a 16-3 run to start the second and went on to win from there.

Reports: Kings consider firing Karl. DeMarcus Cousins: “We’ve got a bigger issue” than players

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The Sacramento Kings have lost six of seven. A couple of weeks back they climbed to the eight seed in the West, but since then have gone into a tailspin. In those games, Sacramento is getting beat by 6.1 points per 100 possessions, mostly because their defense is giving up 110.4 points per 100 possessions (fifth worst in the NBA in that time).

In Sacramento, most of the blame for the losing streak seems to have fallen upon the players. Or, at least, the players feel that way. DeMarcus Cousins apparently has had enough of it. After Friday’s ugly 128-119 loss to Brooklyn on the road, Cousins said the Kings have bigger problems than the players, as reported by James Ham of CSNBayArea.com.

“I’m not going to keep blaming the guys in the locker room,” Cousins said following the game. “Energy and effort is a huge part of the game, but we’re not going to keep blaming it on that. We’ve got a bigger issue and we need to figure it out as a team….

“I’d rather keep it in-house, but we’ve got bigger issues than just energy and effort,” Cousins added. “That can’t be the excuse every night.”

Not sure that’s a very good job of keeping it in house.

The logical conclusion to jump to is Cousins is referring to coach George Karl, who has never been on the same page with Cousins. Karl was hired at the All-Star break last season, replacing Mike Malone (who Cousins loved) and has pushed the pace with a roster not built for that style of play (at 102.1 possessions per game the Kings play at the fastest pace in the NBA). With the team struggling and falling out of playoff contention (3.5 games back of eight seed Utah) Karl’s job is in immediate jeopardy — he may not make it to the All-Star break, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Vlade Divac were so livid about a blowout defeat to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night – the franchise’s sixth loss in seven games – they were strongly weighing the firing of coach George Karl, league sources told The Vertical…

As hours passed following the 128-119 loss to the Nets, there were indications that Karl could be spared long enough to coach the Kings on Sunday in Boston. Nevertheless, Karl has rapidly lost support in management and some parts of the locker room, league sources told The Vertical.

That part would include Cousins. Apparently.

The Kings have a brutal Boston then Cleveland back-to-back Sunday and Monday on the road, and then face the Sixers on Wednesday before the All-Star break starts. Any coach hired before that back-to-back walks into a couple of losses.

A big part of Cousins’ frustration with the Kings has been the franchise’s instability — they seem to pick a new style of play or make some other radical change every year. There is no continuity. Karl is Cousins’ fifth head coach in Sacramento in six seasons. Most recently, gone was Mike Malone’s slower play (which had worked fairly well when Cousins was healthy) and a couple of months later in came Karl’s uptempo system. Now he may be gone. There is no effort to build slowly and to a system that fits the roster. That issue goes straight to owner Vivek Ranadive.

This would be another one of those changes, but Cousins would apparently welcome it this time. Money does play a factor in this — Karl was signed to a deal with $11.5 million in guaranteed money, fire him and they have to cut a huge check. (Minority owners in Sacramento are already frustrated with Ranadive.)

There is no word on who might be in the wings to replace Karl, although it likely would be an interim coach through the end of the season.

No, this does not mean the Kings are going to trade Cousins. At least not immediately, at the deadline, and not likely next summer either. He’s the Kings’ best player, and they would not get equal value back for him. Ranadive is Cousins’ biggest supporter in the organization. Finally, remember the Kings move into a new building in downtown Sacramento next season — you don’t trade your most popular player and face of the team’s marketing program while trying to sell luxury boxes/sponsorships/season tickets in a new building.

Hassan Whiteside gets triple-double as Heat hold off Hornets

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) reacts to his team scoring a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Dallas. The Heat won 93-90. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Associated Press
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside did his part to prevent the Charlotte Hornets from scoring inside.

Mix in a couple of key steals in the final seconds, and the Heat had a nice win on the road.

Whiteside had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots, and Miami beat Charlotte 98-95 on Friday night.

Dwyane Wade scored 22 points and Chris Bosh added 20 points for the Heat, who have won six of seven. Goran Dragic had 12 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

Whiteside, a native of nearby Gastonia, North Carolina, posted his third triple-double of the season and No. 4 for his career.

“I was at the YMCA around the corner two years ago; now I’m here,” Whiteside said. “When a ball is around my elbow area, I’m going to try and catch it.

“The last three minutes, they were so worried about pump-faking, pump-faking. I told the guys to just stay with the 3-point shooters.”

Marvin Williams scored 27 points for the Hornets, and Nicolas Batum added 21. Kemba Walker had 20 points.

“Whiteside just dominated every aspect of that game,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “Right now, he’s the premiere rim protector in the league. It changed the game when he came in; they were a totally different team when he was out there.”

The Heat were coming off a close 93-90 win at Dallas on Wednesday. The last time Miami played at Time Warner Cable Arena on Dec. 9, Charlotte won 99-81.

“It’s hard not to notice what they’ve done on this home court,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It seems that every top team in the East that comes in here walks out of here with a double-digit loss.

“It was something that we wanted to collectively do – get a win to put us at .500 on the road, and in a building that we haven’t played well.”

The Hornets led 93-90 with 1:10 remaining, but Wade made a layup and Bosh added a three-point play to make it 95-93 with 23.5 seconds left.

Charlotte had a chance to tie it, but Justise Winslow‘s steal set up a free throw by Luol Deng for a 96-93 advantage with 13.2 seconds left.

Wade then stole the ball from Walker and passed to Deng for a fast-break dunk with 4.3 seconds remaining and the Heat’s biggest lead of the game.

Before Miami’s flurry at the very end, neither team was able to grab much of an advantage. There were 26 lead changes and 12 ties, including 47-47 at halftime.

“We know we have to get stops,” Wade said. “We know we have enough offensive firepower down the stretch to get great looks. Tonight, Hassan was incredible down the stretch with protecting the basket.”

TIP-INS

Heat: Winslow had eight points and 10 rebounds. … Miami finished with 12 blocked shots. … The Heat outscored the Hornets 64-32 in the paint, and also enjoyed an 18-6 edge in second-chance points thanks to eight offensive rebounds.

Hornets: Shot 44.4 percent from the field (36 of 81), and made 10 of 26 3-pointers. … Also shot 13 of 15 from the free-throw line. … Charlotte’s reserves scored just 12 points, while Miami got 29 points from its backups.

 

HONORING `ZO’

Former Hornets star and 15-year NBA veteran Alonzo Mourning, now the vice president of player programs and development for the Heat, was honored by the home team during halftime of Friday’s game.

While he spent only three seasons in Charlotte (1992-1995), Mourning still holds franchise records for career blocks (684) and blocks per game (3.2), and is second in career scoring (21.3 points) and rebounds (10.1 per game).

 

Paul Millsap, Al Horford pace Hawks past Pacers 102-96

Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford dunks against the Indiana Pacers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday Feb. 5, 2016, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 102-96. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Associated Press
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ATLANTA (AP) — Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer wasn’t terribly concerned that his team gave up 19 offensive rebounds.

Not when Atlanta held on for a third straight win.

“Obviously we’d like to be better, but I think just because you give up a rebound doesn’t mean automatically they’re going to score two points,” he said. “Overall, our defense is a lot of times what’s giving us a chance.”

Paul Millsap scored 24 points, Al Horford added 21 points and the Hawks beat the Indiana Pacers 102-96 on Friday night.

Paul George finished with 31 points for Indiana, which has lost 17 of its last 19 regular-season matchups in Atlanta. Lavoy Allen added 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.

The Pacers missed their first six shots of the fourth quarter before C.J. Miles‘ runner cut the lead to 78-74 with 8 minutes remaining.

George’s 3 with 4:49 left gave Indiana its last lead at 86-84. He hit another 3 with 1:02 left, falling back and heaving the ball over his right shoulder for a 35-footer that brought the Pacers within two.

But Jeff Teague‘s jumper and Kent Bazemore‘s two free throws pushed the lead to six with 22 seconds left. Teague had 16 points. Bazemore had 15 points and tied for a game-high eight assists.

Neither team led by more than six until the closing seconds. The lead changed hands 12 times.

It was a particularly frustrating night for Indiana, which out-rebounded the Hawks 53-32 and outscored them on second-chance points.

“Our bigs did a great job of rebounding,” George said. “It’s hard to make plays when they’re getting whacked all day at the rebounding, but it’s another game that we should have had – one that we didn’t do so late in the game and put it away.”

Horford had two consecutive dunks to push Atlanta back in front 73-72 in the last minute of the third. Dennis Schroder hit a 3 to make it a four-point lead early in the fourth.

“I think guys were pretty excited about the dunk(s),” Horford said. “I felt like that defensively fueled us going into the fourth.”

Millsap, at 6-foot-8, and the 6-10 Horford caused problems for Indiana’s big men all night on the perimeter with their passing skills and athleticism. They helped the Hawks outscore Indiana by four points in the paint.

“We did some good things but we didn’t handle their pressure well enough offensively,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “They got some very, very difficult coverages with Horford and Millsap out there spacing the floor we didn’t handle well enough either.”

The Hawks stayed in third place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-22 record. Indiana, at 26-24, fell to eighth place.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Indiana has dropped six of its last eight on the road. … George has scored at least 30 points in 15 of his 50 games. … G Monta Ellis, who averaged 20.5 points in the previous four games, scored 11.

Hawks: Atlanta has won nine of its last 11 at home. … The Hawks improved to 25-3 when scoring at least 100 points. … Led by Schroder’s nine points, the bench scored 20 – 60 less than the reserves combined for in Wednesday’s win at Philadelphia, the team’s highest total since 1987-88.

 

Bulls’ Jimmy Butler leaves game with sprained knee (VIDEO)

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This is not good.

With just more than a minute to go in the second quarter in Denver, Jimmy Butler drove the basket, absorbed some contact, and hit the ground hard. Butler — who seems to bounce back up from everything — stayed down. He hobbled out to take his free throws (the only way he could potentially return to the game) but then left it in a wheelchair. He did not return to the game.

The Bulls announced he has a left knee sprain. This is the same knee where he has been battling tendonitis.

Butler will have an MRI to assess the damage. As of now, there is no timetable for his return, but it seems he will miss at least a few games.

The up-and-down Bulls can’t afford to lose him for an extended stretch.