Baseline to Baseline recaps: When good games are overshadowed by the ‘Melodrama

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What you missed while reading the story about Deadspin in GQ

Nets 103, Jazz 95: “Melo? We don’t need no stinkin’ Melo”

In what in some ways seemed like an anti-climactic game, was “Russian Culture” night in New Jersey. That motivated Andrei Kirilenko who came out fast. But once the game settled down this was all Nets for the most part. The Jazz defense let the Nets — the team 28th in the league in offensive efficiency — put up an impressive 117 point per 100 possessions. The Jazz still had some chances at the end but they missed some chippies and the Nets hit theirs. Seven guys for the Nets in double digits.

Magic 99, Sixers 98 (OT): No lead is safe with these Sixers. I mean, when they have it. Dwight Howard fouled out and got a technical with 28 seconds left, and the Sixers were up 5. And the Magic got it to overtime. The Sixers have blown more leads this season than I can count. Once in overtime the Sixers left Jameer Nelson wide open for a three. They fouled J.J. Redick for a four-point play. And they still almost won it — Andre Iguodala had a shot go about as far down as one can and rattle out with five seconds left, Evan Turner hustled and got the offensive board and put up a leaning floater that missed and the Magic escaped with one

Suns 106, Cavaliers 98: With Mo Williams out for a couple weeks, it was Ramon Sessions having to cover Steve Nash. We expected a blowout, but frankly the Suns played down to the level of the competition and got away with it. The Suns started cold in the first part of the fourth quarter and suddenly it was a four point game. But the Suns still had enough talent to win a game they would have lot to 28 other teams. Grant Hill had 27, making this his first back-to-back 25 point games since March 2005.

Vince Carter was ice cold, but he did have the best moment of the night — he was on the sidelines to inbound the ball, reached over and wiped off his hands on Byron Scott’s suit. Scott just laughed.

Celtics 86, Pistons 82: The Celtics had the same disease as the Suns — they played down to the competition. You would have thought they learned their lesson about that when they lost to the Pistons before, but no. Shaquille O’Neal sparked a 9-1 fourth quarter run that led the comeback. There just should not have had to be a comeback.

Bucks 100, Wizards 87: The Bucks offense showed up for this one — they actually got to 100 points and won the home fan free McDonald’s food. That would be three times this season. But getting to 100 points (108.7 points per 100 possessions pace, 8 points above their season average) without Brandon Jennings or John Salmons, and with Andrew Bogut scoring just 6, is a surprise.

Hornets 103, Grizzlies 102 (OT): Emeka Okafor had one assist in this game — a nifty bounce pass through traffic to Marcus Thornton for the game winning reverse layup. Thornton had 17 for the game, all in the fourth quarter and OT. Trevor Ariza, 2-12, must shoot less. The other key to this game, the Hornets defended the Memphis bigs without fouling — the Grizzlies shot just 15 free throws, the Hornets 28.

Rockets 104, Knicks 89: The Rockets controlled this game from the start and afterwards on twitter Rockets GM Daryl Morey explained why: The good defense of Chuck Hayes on Amare Stoudemire (who still had 25 on 11-of-21 shooting) allowed the other Rockets defenders to stay home on the Knicks shooters. The Knicks stayed 1-on-1 with Stoudemire all night, no doubles, no shooters left unguarded. Morey said that is the key to knocking off the Knicks, not to let the other guys beat you.

Mavericks 109, Lakers 100: The Lakers focused their defensive effort on slowing Dirk Nowitzki and all game left Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, and Sasha Pavlovic open if they took jumpers. In the first half Pavlovic made them pay, in the second half Kidd came alive and the price got steep for LA. I’d say that was the Lakers strategy but really it was just bad rotations. Dallas had an offensive rating of 131 points per 100 possessions in this one.

In the third quarter the Lakers also started settling for jumpers, launching threes, missing and that fueled the Mavs running game. The Lakers can’t run with the Mavs.

Nuggets 112, Thunder 107: Carmelo Anthony had 35 and played like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Can’t imagine why. He took over in the fourth quarter and was the hot player. The crowd still booed him after the game, during the post-game interview. Durant was 1-of-9 shooting in the second half.

Blazers 94, Kings 90 (OT): This game would have fit in well with yesterday’s “sloppy but entertaining” theme. Look at it this way: With 2:30 left and the game tied 83-83 we got a missed Rudy Fernandez three; followed by a missed Omri Casspi three; then LaMarcus Aldridge missed a good-look jump hook in the lane; then Jason Thompson missed 18 footer; that was followed by a sloppy Andre Miller jump pass to Aldridge which ends up a turnover; then Tyreke Evans pushes the pace back the other way, gets into the lane, passes to Jason Thompson who has his a dunk blocked; so the Blazers try to run and Miller misses the layup.

With Marcus Camby out the Kings got into the paint for shots a lot, although not DeMarcus Cousins who played like a rookie.

Spurs 104, Raptors 95: The Spurs joined the list of teams — Celtics, Suns — that played down to the level of the competition and got away with it Wednesday. Manu Ginobili and DeJuan Blair saved them.

Warriors 110, Pacers 108: Monta Ellis is as deadly as anyone in the league if you want a game-winning clutch shot. Beautiful crossover, got to his spot near the elbow, great elevation over Brandon Rush, nothing by nylon. Pretty play to win it. Don’t want to leave out David Lee, who had a key end of game free throw and offensive rebound. Steph Curry had an impressive late layup, but his foul on a Darren Collison jumper that made it a three-point play and tied the game was almost a disaster. Ellis bailed him out.

Clippers 126, Wolves 111: Everyone seemed focused on the Kevin Love/Blake Griffin matchup, and it was pretty good. They both got theirs, Love had his millionth consecutive double-double, Griffin had 29 points and a spectacular dunk. What you really should take away from this — the Clippers have built a really nice core and have the much better team and future right now.

Heat have work cut out vs. surging Sixers

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MIAMI (AP) — Philadelphia 76ers reserve guard Justin Anderson scored six points on Thursday, but he played a major role nonetheless in a 128-108 playoff win over the Miami Heat.

It was Anderson who worked on the psyche of teammate Joel Embiid, the 76ers’ All-Star center who returned after missing 10 straight games because of a concussion and left-eye injury.

“Justin was hyping me up on the bench, telling me I’m one of the best players in the league and that I have to take over,” said Embiid, who wore a mask during the game. “I liked that.”

Embiid, with that added boost of confidence, produced 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 30 minutes. He missed his first five shots from the floor and then made five of his next six, including three 3-pointers.

In addition, Embiid made 10 of 15 free throws, wrapping up his highly successful NBA playoff debut.

On Saturday afternoon, the teams will meet again at AmericanAirlines Arena in a first-round series the Heat trails 2-1.

Certainly, the Heat will try to corral Embiid, but Miami gave its own star center, Hassan Whiteside, just 13 minutes on Thursday, in part because of foul trouble.

Whiteside produced just five points, two rebounds and one block. He made his only shots from the field, but his four fouls helped to keep him off the court.

“I want to get more minutes,” said Whiteside, who led the NBA with 3.7 blocks in 2015-2016 and with 14.1 rebounds last season. “Even with the fouls, I could’ve been out there. I would not have fouled out.”

This season, Whiteside is averaging 14.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. But, on average, his minutes per game are down seven minutes from last season and even more in the playoffs.

Whiteside said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra “wants me to just be in a corner and set picks.”

Spoelstra, meanwhile, said “it’s part of my job to figure out how he can get to his strengths and make an impact on defense and rebounding.”

Aside from the two centers, the other big story line in this series revolves around the 76ers, a young team that won 18 of its past 19 games. After years of horrendous records amid a major teardown and rebuild effort, the 76ers have looked like the best team in the league during the past month.

They didn’t just beat the Heat on Thursday — they ran them over, making 18 of 34 3-pointers (52.9 percent). They also shot 50.6 percent overall and were plus-eight on rebounds and plus-14 on paint points.

Ben Simmons, the 76ers’ star point guard, nearly had a triple-double with 19 points, a game-high 12 rebounds and seven assists.

JJ Redick, one of the top shooters in the league, scored just 10 points, but 76ers teammates Dario Saric and Marco Belinelli each scored 21 points and each hit four 3-pointers to help the offense flow.

Miami was led by 23 points and eight assists from point guard Goran Dragic. Heat reserve forward Justise Winslow scored a season-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. But Miami’s top three shooting guards — Tyler Johnson, Dwyane Wade and Wayne Ellington — combined for just 21 points.

The game’s biggest factor was Embiid, who had been listed as unlikely to play until Thursday afternoon, when he was cleared by doctors.

Embiid had a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter, which continued a trend. In Philadelphia’s two wins in this series, they have outscored the Heat by 31 and 21 points, respectively.

Anderson said Embiid has been a team player throughout.

“One of the things (Embiid) told me during (Thursday’s) game was to tell Coach that he didn’t want any plays run for him,” Anderson said. “He just wanted to play within the scheme.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo laid waste to Aron Baynes with this dunk

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For the first time this series Friday night, the Bucks looked like the more talented team.

That got them a comfortable win at home against the Celtics and set up a huge Game 4 on Sunday, with the Celtics still up 2-1 in the series. This looked more like the Bucks team that some of us picked to win the series, the team with the long and superior athletes unleashed on defense to challenge everything Boston tried. Milwaukee also got a big game out of Thon Maker at the five, which helped spread the floor because he’s a threat from three (as a team, the Bucks were 16-of-33 from deep) that the Celtics had to cover. That opens up driving lanes.

Giannis Antetokounmpo took advantage of those lanes laid waste to Aron Baynes with this dunk.

🛫 THE GREEK FREAK TAKES FLIGHT! 🛬

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Damn. That’s not fair.

🇬🇷💥

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Game 4 is Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee… and let’s just say I’m not betting Baynes will be able to turn the tables and put the Greek Freak in a poster.

Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers completes pass to become part owner of Bucks

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Aaron Rodgers is regularly be seen courtside at Milwaukee Bucks games, having professed his love of the sport many times. Here was there Friday night for the Bucks’ Game 3 win, sitting courtside with girlfriend Danica Patrick.

This time, he was doing it as part owner of the team.

Milwaukee announced between the first and second quarters that the Packers QB1 is now part-owner of the Bucks, having bought a minority stake in the team.

“I have proudly called Wisconsin my home for the past 13 years, and I am thankful for the friendships and the opportunities I have been given to live and play here,” Rodgers in a released statement. “I am excited and honored to deepen my connection to the region by joining Wes Edens, Marc Lasry, Jamie Dinan, Mike Fascitelli and the ownership group of the Milwaukee Bucks. As a huge fan of the NBA and the sport of basketball, this is a dream come true for me, and I look forward to furthering my affinity for Wisconsin sports as a minority owner in a team I love and support.”

Rodgers is a California native who attended Cal in the Bay Area for college and now — like many an NBA player — splits his time between living where he works in Wisconsin and Southern California.

This is a smart time to buy into the Bucks — and not just because they won Friday. Milwaukee moves into a brand new building next season which should generate a lot more revenue for the franchise. Plus, the Bucks are poised to make a leap forward in the East as a team behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and a solid supporting cast (likely led by a new coach next season), which will lead to more revenue as they become a team to see on the road, one that fills buildings.

Pelicans look to pull off sweep of Trail Blazers

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Before the 2017-18 regular season began, any conversation regarding the New Orleans Pelicans and brooms had something to do with the possibility the team would clean house.

That would have meant parting ways with coach Alvin Gentry and general manager Dell Demps if the Pelicans missed the playoffs for a third consecutive year despite having one of the NBA’s best players in Anthony Davis.

But now, the broom means something very different.

Energized on both ends of the court, the Pelicans have the broom ready Saturday at the Smoothie King Center to sweep the faltering Portland Trail Blazers out of the Western Conference playoffs with a fourth consecutive victory in the first-round series.

With a win Saturday, the Pelicans would become the first playoff team seeded sixth or lower to sweep a first-round playoff series since the 2001 Charlotte Hornets swept the Miami Heat 3-0 in a best-of-five series.

“Closeout games are the hardest,” said New Orleans guard Rajon Rondo, a 32-year-old veteran who is the Pelicans’ second-oldest player, someone who has served as an on-court coach to his younger teammates. “That’s what I’m going to try to explain to these guys. The first three might have been tough, but this last one is going to be very tough.”

In routing the Blazers 119-102 on Thursday to take a 3-0 series lead, the Pelicans fed off a raucous sellout crowd and led by as many as 33 points in the second half, allowing Gentry to rest his starters. Davis finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds while nursing a sore left thumb, and forward Nikola Mirotic, acquired after center DeMarcus Cousins went down in late January with a season-ending Achilles injury, scored a career-playoff-high 30 points, with 14 in the first quarter.

Even though Portland’s normally potent guard tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum had their best game of the series — combining for 42 of the Blazers’ 102 points — Lillard had trouble shaking free of the Pelicans’ trapping defense, which forced the ball out of his hands. Lillard made just 5 of 14 shots, including 3 of 9 from 3-point range.

“They whooped our butt,” said McCollum. “They beat us in every facet of the game: loose balls, rebounds, free-throw line, energy plays, 3-pointers in transition. … You name it, and they did it.”

The Pelicans have made a conscious decision to swarm Lillard and McCollum at every opportunity, daring other Blazers to beat them. Portland hasn’t adjusted properly to the strategy. Lillard has shot 32.7 percent in the three losses.

“I don’t think (defensive assistant coach) Darren Erman has gotten the credit that he deserves,” Gentry said. “He put together a great defensive game plan. It was him that brought the game plan to me and said, ‘This is what I want to do against them.'”

“You have to continue to mix it up and give them different looks,” Gentry added. “Even doing that, those guys got some shots off and made some real difficult shots. We’ve just got to make sure that we stay locked in and not let them get into one of those zones when it starts to go in and it doesn’t matter what kind of shot they’re shooting that it’s going to go in.”

Making matters worse for the Blazers is their injury status. Both Moe Harkless (left knee) and Evan Turner (right toe) are questionable for Game 4.

Portland coach Terry Stotts said the Pelicans have been tough to handle because a different player each night has shredded the Blazers’ defense.

“Going into the series, those four guys (Davis, Jrue Holiday, Mirotic and Rondo) have played extremely well,” Stotts said. “(Mirotic) is the third different guy who’s had a 30-point night. He’s very efficient, and he made a lot of smart basketball plays as well.”