Durant Westbrook

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Two entertaining games and some ice cold Heat


What you missed while thinking about the worst things people call food….

Thunder 125, Magic 124: Two teams that will make their bones in the playoffs on defense set it aside for a night, and that led to one really entertaining game. To be fair, there was a lot of hot offensive talent on the floor, too. Especially Russell Westbrook who finished with 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. Dwight Howard had 39 points, 18 boards.

OKC’s big players made big plays. Jeff Green had the dagger with the beat-the-clock, off-balance three. Kevin Durant twisted that knife with a little runner a possession later (points the Thunder ended up needing as Jameer Nelson was stepping up). The Magic usually win when they shoot 14-of-28 from three.

This was fun regular season basketball. It was two teams who were able to exploit what they want. It had hot shooters and fun transition plays. As we head into the dog days of the season I would love more game like this one.

Nuggets 130, Heat 102: No LeBron James (out with a sprained ankle). And the West Coast to Denver back-to-back is the toughest in the league (second game is played at high altitude against a good team that likes to run, it is a huge advantage for the Nuggets). Even if LeBron was healthy this was going to be a tough one.

Denver controlled how this was played, it was an up-tempo, ragged game. TNT’s Kenny Smith had a great line at halftime about J.R. Smith and the Nuggets as a whole — they are comfortable in a messy room. When the game gets ragged and sloppy and lacks structure, they have guys who are at home. They thrive. Get into that game with them and you lose. That’s what the Heat did. And in that setting Smith had a game-high 28. Not a coincidence.

Shed a tear for the 72-10 dream (that was always a pipe dream anyway, but people fiercely cling to those). Don’t go reading into the back-to-back Heat losses. There could be three in a row — Chicago is up next and that will be hard whether or not James is back. These losses are meaningless everywhere but weekly power rankings.

Timberwolves 109, Wizards 97: There was a moment when you started to believe this could be the game the Wizards finally won on the road — they went on a tight little 9-0 run in the fourth and you thought maybe. But really, for 90 percent of this game the Wolves had been the better team, starting with an early 11-0 run. So the 19-1 run late that sealed the Minnesota win shouldn’t have felt like a shock to the system. But it still kind of did.

Kevin Love is grabbing rebounds in traffic, making clever little moves and shots inside, and draining contested threes with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. I’m running out of adjectives.

Wolves did this without Michael Beasley. That’s a good win for them.

Before season starts, watch top 10 dunks of preseason

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Starting Tuesday night, the games matter. The dunks matter.

But before we move onto those dunks, let’s have some fun with the top 10 dunks of the meaningless preseason. They may not matter, but they certainly were fun.

Of course there are some expected highlights — can you have a dunk reel without Russell Westbrook? — but game-winning dunks always get the top slot.

Carmelo Anthony says rather than take knee during Anthem he wants action in communities

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on against the Cleveland Cavaliers during their game at Madison Square Garden on March 26, 2016 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Colin Kaepernick certainly fired up a discussion — not always the conversation he intended, but a discussion of the treatment of African-Americans in our society was part of that conversation.

No NBA player has taken that same step through the preseason, taking a knee during the national anthem (only anthem singers have done that). Some teams are locking arms during the anthem in a show of solidarity, but they stand in two orderly rows.

Carmelo Anthony explained in an interview with Bleacher Report that what he and many others want to see is the next step in Kaepernick’s protest — action in the community.

“I’m past the gestures,” New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony told B/R Mag. “I’m past that. It’s all about creating things now and putting things in motion. So, that’s what I’m on. I’m trying to get guys on board with that and help them understand that—enough of the gesturing and talking and all of that stuff—we need to start putting things in place….

“He’s done it,” Anthony said of Kaepernick. “He was courageous enough to do that. He created that. He created the kneeling and that protest. And people fell in line with that. Some people supported it. Some people didn’t. But at the end of the day, and I’m not taking nothing away from him…I just don’t think the gesturing is creating anything. I think it’s bringing awareness, but I think doing stuff and creating awareness in the communities [is more effective].”

What are those things? Players, the players’ union, the NBA itself, and it’s teams are all working to figure that out. This is not something where one blanket program fits all — what is needed in communities in New York is different from the needs in Milwaukee, is different from the needs in Sacramento. This needs to be local, with players involved.

There have already been some steps. The Bulls held a basketball tournament between police and a mentoring agency, which was followed by a panel discussion. Dwyane Wade biked with police through Miami. The Grizzlies have revived the Police Athletic League in Memphis. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, there are teams from New Orleans to Los Angeles are working to bring youth and police together to talk.

It’s a start. A good start.

There is no one magic gesture, no one simple measure that can heal the deep divides in our nation right now. There are no easy answers, and as a nation we can be too dependent on easy answers. We need to listen. We need to talk to each other, not at each other. We need to practice empathy.

NBA players can help lead that effort, that conversation. It would be the next step after a protest — to act on those steps. Good on Anthony and the NBA for attempting to go down that road.


Rockets change from earlier reports, waive Pablo Prigioni, keep Tyler Ennis

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 17:  Pablo Prigioni #9 of the Houston Rockets celebrates in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers during Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals at the Toyota Center for the 2015 NBA Playoffs on May 17, 2015 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The Rockets traded for Tyler Ennis., sending Michael Beasley away in the deal.

Which is why it was a bit of a surprise on Monday when early reports had the Rockets waiving Ennis, but either the report was off or the Rockets changed their minds.

With Patrick Beverley out injured, this leaves the Rockets thin at the traditional point guard spot. However, in practice James Harden, Eric Gordon and others will initiate Mike D’Antoni’s offense, so the bigger challenge will be defensively. Prigioni was not much help there at this point in his career.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a team snaps up Prigioni as insurance, or he certainly can make money overseas. Prigioni played last season as a backup point guard for the Clippers.

Want some dance lessons from Hassan Whiteside? We got that.

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 26: A portrait of Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat on September 26, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Miami’s Hassan Whiteside is a lot of things: An elite shot blocker, up-and-coming NBA star who worked hard for the right to be that, a Heat cornerstone.

Dance instructor?

I’m not sold, but he’s showing off his groove in this Twitter video.

When you get a $98.6 million contract, you can do whatever you want. So he can be a dance if he wants to.