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

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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.

Marcus Smart returns, helps Celtics win Game 5 over Bucks

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Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the year, and boy was it just in time.

The Celtics guard came off the bench, doing what he does best: attacking opposing guards, grabbing rebounds, and making hustle plays for his squad. Smart thoroughly annoyed the Milwaukee Bucks, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo failed to make a push in the second half (and as Khris Middleton‘s shooting slowly deteriorated) it was Boston who came out with a win in Game 5, 92-87.

Milwaukee’s offense failed to show up early. According to NBA TV, it was the second-lowest halftime total for the Bucks this season, and the away team scored just 37 points at the break. Milwaukee struggled mightily as a team, shooting just 21 percent from 3-point range. Despite the issues, both Antetokounmpo and Middleton had 11 points by half.

Boston’s attack was balanced, with nine players scoring in the first half but none reaching double figures. Smart was effective off the bench, playing 12 minutes in the first half. Smart’s presence was felt elsewhere on the floor as well; in those minutes he racked up two blocks, two rebounds, and two assists.

The Celtics stalled to start the third quarter, at times going several minutes between baskets. The intensity level was still high, particularly during one tussle with 9:33 left in the third. Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier got into a bumping match on the baseline away from the ball, resulting in one player getting pushed into an official. Bledsoe earned a Flagrant 1 for his efforts, and Rozier was assessed a technical.

Milwaukee began to battle back on surprising baskets by Shabazz Muhammad. The former Minnesota Timberwolves wing dropped two 3-pointers to help the Bucks make a run at the Celtics all the way into the fourth quarter.

The critical play of the game came with 80 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, Al Horford was allowed by officials to shoot a long jumper. The refereeing crew didn’t blow the whistle, and Boston took a second possession after a backtip.

Then, with 28 seconds left as the Bucks were trying to steal or foul the Celtics, came the play Boston fans had been waiting for from Smart. At first it appeared Milwaukee had shot at a turnover as they hustled Smart to the floor on a trap. Thinking quickly, Smart leapt on the lost ball, flipped over, and sent a pass to a wide open Horford for the basket, all but sealing the game.

Milwaukee tried to play the foul game in the final minute or so, but weren’t able to come up with a win. Antetokounmpo finished with just 16 points and Middleton with 23. Horford led the Celtics with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Boston now leads the series, 3-2, as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday.

Meek Mill gets out of jail, takes helicopter to 76ers-Heat, rings bell pregame

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Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid had been one of the most notable NBA players leading the charge for the #FreeMeekMill movement. The rapper Meek Mill, a Philadelphia native and Sixers fan, has been incarcerated for violating the terms of his probation multiple times.

At the heart of the movement to free Meek Mill is the idea of comparative justice, that he has been unfairly targeted because of his race as an absorber of punishment from the penal system despite it being a decade since he committed his crime. People from Embiid to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have made their voices heard on the subject.

Today, Meek Mill was released from prison and was sent a special gift: the opportunity to fly via helicopter, provided by 76ers minority owner Michael Rubin, to Game 5 between the Sixers and Miami Heat.

When he arrived at the game, the rapper rung the ceremonial bell before tip-off.

Not a couple of hours fresh out of the joint.

Russell Westbrook fined $10,000 for confrontation with Gobert, no suspension

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The rule in the NBA is clear and strictly enforced (just ask Amar’e Stoudemire and the Suns): Leave the bench during an altercation and you get suspended for a game.

Monday night, in the fourth quarter of the chippy game Monday where the Jazz beat the Thunder, Russell Westbrook was set to check into the game when there was a little dust-up between Rudy Gobert in Raymond Felton, and Westbrook came in and escalated it. Did he leave the bench, or was he coming into the game and that’s different.

The NBA decided he was coming into the game already — Westbrook got a $10,000 fine and an after-the-fact technical, but no suspension.

OKC needs Westbrook — and an aggressive Westbrook who is knocking down his midrange shot — to have a chance to avoid elimination in Game 5 Wednesday. The Thunder have had their strengths turned against them, and have not shown the versatility to adjust in this series, and if Westbrook and company cannot change that Wednesday their season will end.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.