Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where all good streaks must come to an end

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What you missed while… why weren’t you watching the Clippers beat the Heat? (That was our game of the night.)

Hornets 92, Magic 89 (OT): Orlando’s nine-game win streak ends because they shot just 39.1 percent in this one — not that they didn’t get good looks, they did. The shots just didn’t fall. That happens sometimes, you outplay the other team but can’t knock them down. The Magic have been hot shooting of late, so the off night shouldn’t come as a shock.

Pacers 102, Mavericks 89: Still no Dirk Nowitzki (that’s eight games missed), and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was desperate enough for an answer start Alexis Ajinca at the four. Turns out that wasn’t it (although it did move Shawn Marion to the three, where he will be starting for Caron Butler the rest of the season). The Mavs miss Dirk’s offense and ability to hit a contested two, but the real problem is they haven’t played well defensively lately. Paul George’s 16 off the bench were big for Indy.

Hawks 104, Raptors 101: The Hawks struggled the second half of this game with the Raptors zone defense. There are a couple basic ways to beat a zone – pound it inside or shoot over the top of it. With the game on the line, Mike Bibby went for the latter and hit the game-winning three. The Hawks were in it because Jamal Crawford hit 12-of-23 shots for 36 points.

In the irony file, Hawks center Etan Thomas didn’t travel with the Hawks to Toronto because he was snowed in at his Atlanta home.

Bobcats 96, Bulls 91: Charlotte’s starters raced out to a 17 point lead, but the second string came in and the depth of these two teams became clear. Well, that or the Bulls have developed a slow start pattern. Either way, this was tied up with six minutes to go and it looked like the Bulls had slowed the new, running Bobcats down (well, they did, just 89 possessions). But the Bobcats did a great job of hard doubles on Derrick Rose late, not letting him take over (same with Boozer). The Bobcats offense is unimpressive, but if Stephen Jackson is hitting hard, contested shots they will get points. Enough to win.

Celtics 119, Kings 95: Really fast pace in this one — 99 possessions — and it turns out the old guys can still run a little. Big difference in this one: Kings 2-13 from three, Celtics 12-20.

Grizzlies 107, Pistons 99: Detroit went with a new starting lineup tonight — Tracy McGrady, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Chris Wilcox and Greg Monroe — and it worked pretty well, the two starting lineups played each other about even. The Grizzlies bench destroyed the Pistons bench. That’s your ball game.

Spurs 91, Bucks 84: What a shock — the Bucks lost because their offense stinks. The Spurs played well and all, but you can stop the Bucks offense and that leads to wins. Not sure there is much else to say here.

Thunder 118, Rockets 112: This game was about what you’d expect — the Rockets make the Thunder really work for it, but in the end Houston had no answer for Kevin Durant (30 points) and Russell Westbrook (23).

Suns 118, Nets 109 (OT): Credit the Nets for playing hard despite all the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors, a lot of teams might have not brought the effort. Still, they had a 15-point lead early in the fourth and blew it. Steve Nash owned overtime, as he had 10 points and got most of those at the free throw line. Free throws in general were key for the Suns, who got to the line 20 more times than the Nets.

Lakers 115, Warriors 110: Along with Heat/Clippers, maybe the most entertaining game of the night. Monta Ellis had 38 points and was making plays that inspired Kobe Bryant to take over — and looking like vintage Kobe of five years ago — he hit shots and put up 39. It was quite a show those two put on, but Lamar Odom’s 16 fourth quarter points were key. The other key was the times — the spotty times, the Lakers were not consistent — they got the ball inside to whomever David Lee was guarding. The Lakers went right at him.

Jazz 131, Knicks 125: This is not the up-tempo game you normally expect the Jazz to play (96 possessions each team) but Utah shot 58.4 percent and hit 10 of 22 from three. They looked plenty comfortable as seven players got into double figures scoring.  For the Knicks, Shawne Williams hit seven threes in a half and finished with a game high 25 points.

NBA looking into Rockets’ owner interacting with referee during game

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Like every Rockets fan — and, let’s be honest, every fan of every team — Leslie Alexander is convinced the referees were screwing over his Rockets.

Except that Alexander is the owner of the Rockets.

And he approached a referee during game play.

The NBA is understandably investigating this, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

The NBA said an investigation “is underway” into Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander’s getting up from his courtside seat to have a few words with official Bill Kennedy in the first half.

Alexander appeared to say something to Kennedy during a Thunder possession before returning to his seat. Alexander declined to give any detail beyond he was “upset … really upset.” Rockets guard James Harden said he didn’t see his owner get up. “He did that?” a surprised Harden said after the game. “He’s the coolest guy. I would have helped him.”

The NBA doesn’t let players or coaches cross a line when talking to officials, but they are at least allowed to interact and discuss calls with a ref during a game. It’s something else entirely for an owner to get in the ear of an official during game play.

I’d expect Alexander will see a fine for this.

Whatever he thought of the officiating, the Rockets won to advance on to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Steve Kerr to see Stanford specialists about back issues, is optimistic about return to bench

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If he were not coaching a perennial contender and a team where he genuinely has a deep bond with the players, the GM, and his fellow coaches, Steve Kerr might have walked away from basketball for a while. The pain from spinal fluid leakage from a couple of back surgeries he had two summers ago (the ones that led to Luke Walton coaching the first half of the season in Golden State) would have been too much.

But he tolerated and managed the pain as best he could, until a few days ago when it became too much. Kerr did not coach the final two games of the Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers and said he would not return to the bench until healthy enough to do so.

Kerr’s next step is to talk to specialists at Stanford University’s medical program, and Kerr is optimistic about the long-term prognosis, he told Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

He revealed to NBCSportsBayArea.com that in recent days he has spoken to several people who have experienced the debilitating effects of a cerebrospinal fluid leak and been able to overcome it. He says that because his symptoms have intensified over the past week, in an odd twist, that may make it easier for specialists to trace the precise source.

“That’s what the next few days are all about,” Kerr said, standing down the hallway from the visitor’s locker room. “They’re trying to find it. If they can find it, they can fix it.”

He’ll begin in the coming days by consulting with specialists at Stanford Medical Center, which has some of the more respected surgeons in the world.

Kerr said his spirits have been lifted by other people who went through this, people who told him doctors found the leak and it changed their lives, that they bounced back to 100 percent. He said that the first back surgeries did their job in relieving his lower back pain, but it has led to spinal fluid leakage that is worse than the symptoms the first surgery solved.

Whether a fix can happen to get him back on the bench these playoffs is immaterial, we all hope it happens just so Kerr the person can go back to enjoying his life without chronic pain. He’ll be around the team as much as he can through the playoffs, but there are far more important things going on with him than basketball right now.

 

Thunder’s offseason moves start here: Offer Russell Westbrook $220 million contract

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The narrative of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff loss to Houston — and frankly its entire season — was about how little help Russell Westbrook was given. Game 5 was the perfect example: The Thunder were +12 when Westbrook was on the court, but he rested for 6:07 and OKC was -18 in those minutes. The Thunder’s role players are young and many — for example, Enes Kanter — are very one dimensional, but that’s because their role was supposed to be much more narrow and defined. Then Kevin Durant left and players were asked to do things outside their comfort zones, or grow up fast, and it didn’t go that well.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has some work to do this summer to tweak that roster, make it more versatile, and design it to fit better around Westbrook (not to mention take some of the load off him).

But the first thing Presti has to do is keep Westbrook — and that means offering him a five-year, roughly $220 million extension. Royce Young if ESPN has the details on how that works.

After signing an extension last summer in the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook can sign another in the ballpark of $220 million over five years this summer. Westbrook is signed through the 2017-18 season, with a player option on the following year, but the Thunder would obviously like to have a longer commitment from their franchise player.

The expectation is that they will make the offer, but should Westbrook decline, all that talk of stabilizing the franchise would get a little more wobbly, and with only a year guaranteed, talk of trading him could spark again. It will certainly be alarming for the front office, especially after what it went through with Durant.

It’s hard to imagine Westbrook walking away from that money — it’s about $75 million more guaranteed and one more year than any other team can offer. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table, I don’t care how much you make in endorsements. (If Westbrook left, signed a max deal elsewhere for four years, then signed a max deal for that fifth year later, he still would get roughly $35 million less than signing with the Thunder now.) Once Westbrook is locked into place, Presti can start looking to reshape the Thunder roster.

But if Westbrook pauses and doesn’t sign, the NBA rumor mill will be moving at the speed of Westbrook in transition. The Thunder wouldn’t want to lose Durant and Westbrook for nothing, it would set their rebuilding process way back, so Presti would have to consider trades. However, because Westbrook is a free agent in 2018, he would almost have a no-trade clause — no team is going to give up much to get him without an under-the-table understanding he would re-sign in that city.

Expect Westbrook to agree to the extension in OKC. Because he likes the team — remember, he signed that extension last summer (which got him a healthy pay raise) — and because it would make him the highest-paid player in the NBA, and that would feed his ego (and pocketbook).

Once he does, Presti’s real work begins.

After tough loss, Chris Paul wasn’t having any of reporter’s inane question

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LOS ANGELES — The Clippers are feeling a lot of pressure these playoffs, and they have suffered a couple tough losses at home now. That can lead to some interesting postgame press conferences, something we’ve already seen this series from Doc Rivers.

Tuesday it was Chris Paul‘s turn.

The Clippers had just dropped Game 5 at home and are staring a 3-2 deficit series deficit in the face, and they have to win those two games without the injured Blake Griffin. That’s when this exchange happened.

I was in the room with this happened. Yes, there were a lot of eye rolls when the question was asked.

This was not a rookie reporter, it was a guy who gets sound for local radio stations and has been a regular at Staples Center games for years. He knew what he wanted, a fairly standard quote about how the Clippers just need to take it one game at a time but they are confident they will be back, that they can still win the series. We have all heard it before, the kind of generic crap that is all over columns about the game and talk radio. The reporter served up the softball and, frankly, most nights savvy players just give the reporter the quote they want and move on.

Tuesday Paul was having none of it. Which led to a pretty amusing exchange, especially with the follow up that was not going anywhere.

That said, I do not know one reporter worth his or her salt who has not asked a question they regret, and been called out for it. Sometimes we get called out for good questions we do not regret. It is part of the gig.