Rudy Gay; Mike Conley

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Cavs and Raptors almost got wins. Almost.

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What you missed while planning to your trip to Flavor Flav’s new fried chicken restaurant in Iowa (Yo! Bum Rush the Restaurant)….

Nets 103, Cavaliers 101: To lose 17 in a row takes a combination of bad luck and very bad execution at the end of the game. There was plenty of bad execution on both sides at the end of this one, but that made it oddly entertaining.

Joey Graham was almost a hero for the Cavaliers. Down three late the Cavs ran their set and New Jersey’s Anthony Morrow slid down to stand in the paint to help on penetration when the only thing the Nets needed to avoid was giving up a three. He left Graham open and he nailed it from the corner. Tie game but with plenty of time for the Nets to run a final set.

New Jersey’s plan is to get the ball into Brook Lopez, and they do. Cleveland’s plan in this case to foul Lopez so they get one last shot to win or tie — Ryan Hollins tries to foul Lopez by slapping his back. It was sadly comical. That’s not going to get you the call at this point in the game, not even close (you’ve got to wrap the guy up, Hollins). Lopez ignores the slaps, gets into the middle and hits a jump hook to put New Jersey up two with 1.4 seconds left. Daniel Gibson had a decent look three that almost fell for Cleveland, but it hit the iron and the Nets got the win.

Grizzlies 100, Raptors 98: Another game that went right down to the wire — but Memphis has a legit end of game option in Rudy Gay. Tie game at 98-98 late, Memphis has a final shot and the call was Gay in isolation from the top of the key — he executed it like a max-deal guy. He waited, drove deep right until he was level with the basket then pulled up and nailed the 14-foot baseline jumper with .05 left. Big time play. The Grizzlies Marc Gasol had a good game against what passes for the interior defense of the Raptors, scoring 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds.

Sixers 105, Suns 95: The Suns made a late 11-0 run to make this look a lot closer than it was. These are two teams heading in opposite directions (the Sixers aren’t great but you can see improvement). Thaddeus Young had a good game in the win — 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting plus seven boards and five dimes. Free Steve Nash!

Pistons 103, Magic 96: Orlando is one of the league’s better defensive teams, the Pistons one of the worst offenses, yet Detroit scored at a ridiculously good 114.4 points per 100 possessions in this one. The Pistons wing players were key — Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye each had 20 points. What mattered more, as a team the Pistons only had 6 turnovers, 10 fewer than the Magic. You kids at home, remember to take care of the ball.

Knicks 115, Wizards 106: Flip Saunders needs to just sit Andray Blatche on nights like this. Some nights he’s fantastic, but on nights like this the Wizards are just better off with someone — anyone — off the bench. Saunders got desperate enough to run out a lineup of Mustafa Shakur, Al Thornton, Rashard Lewis, Trevor Booker and JaVale McGee — and it worked. Better than the starters. Made of game of it, but at the end of the day the Knicks are better.

Rockets 129, Timberwolves 125: Minnesota lets teams take a lot of threes (fourth most in the league) and they don’t defend it well (teams shoot 38.5 percent from three this season, fourth worst in the leauge). In a close game, the 14-of-30 from Houston three and Kevin Martin earning 18 free throws were really the key.

Bulls 92, Bucks 83: The best defense in the league against the worst offense in the league — how did you think this would end?

Hornets 91, Thunder 89: First things first — Chris Paul did leave at the end with what looked like a sprained ankle but he said later it was fine. We’ll take him at his word. For now.

As for the game, it certainly didn’t look like the Hornets were the hot team early with the Thunder up 14 in the first quarter. But these Hornets are nothing if not resilient. They battled back while the Thunder had 17 turnovers — 20 percent of their possessions. If Thunder fans want to blame something for the loss, blame that (and the fact two of those turnovers were in the last 14 seconds of the game).

Meanwhile with it tied 89-89 the Hornets beautifully executed their last shot. Chris Paul was sitting so it fell to David West, who got it up near the three point line, drove to he elbow, pulled up and hit the 18-foot fade away for the lead with 0.5 on the clock. Ballgame.

Kings 96, Trail Blazers 81: The tape of this game is not headed to Springfield and the Hall of Fame — it was not pretty. In the least. But when it got tight late the Kings got a big three from Tyreke Evans, a great tip in from Omri Casspi, solid defense from Samuel Dalembert. All the injuries have caught up with Portland. The effort is there, but you can only lose so many key guys.

Spurs 113, Warriors 102: The two best three point shooting teams by percentage in the league so we expected some real fireworks… 10-of-30 combined shooting by these teams from deep. Disappointing.

David Lee was just on fire from the midrange and finished with 31 points on 19 shots. The Warriors starters played well but the depth of the Spurs was key here — the Spurs bench outscored Golden State 46-14 (and 8 of those Warrior bench points were in garbage time).

Will Jonathan Isaac jump from high school to NBA draft?

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Satnam Singh, the Mavericks No. 52 pick in the 2015 draft, was the first player drafted directly from high school in a decade.

Another, much higher-profile, high schooler could follow his path.

The NBA’s “one-and-done” rule effectively prohibited anyone from jumping from high school to the NBA. Amir Johnson, whom the Pistons drafted No. 56 in 2005, was the last high school player drafted before the rule was implemented.

But Singh spent five years at IMG Academy in Florida and was eligible. Now, another IMG player wants to follow a similar path.

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated:

In a decision that could signal a new avenue to the NBA for elite American basketball players, Top 10 high school prospect Jonathan Isaac told Sports Illustrated on Friday that he will explore declaring for the 2016 NBA draft directly from prep school.

Isaac, a 6’10” small forward from IMG (Fla.) Academy, said in a phone interview that he expects to take advantage of a new rule that allows prospects to enter the NBA draft and return to college if they don’t feel good about their projected draft position. The new rule allows Isaac to participate in the NBA draft combine, hold an NBA workout and pull out of the draft without compromising his amateur standing at Florida State, where he’s signed to play next season.

Isaac, 18, and IMG officials expect that he’ll be eligible for the 2016 NBA draft because he started high school in 2011, which would make him one year removed from his initial graduating class. Isaac did not graduate from high school in 2015, but IMG officials expect he’d be eligible because former IMG player Satnam Singh had a similar circumstance and was eligible for the 2015 Draft.

Isaac is a potential first-rounder. The new rule doesn’t affect his ability to declare for the draft, but rather his ability to withdraw and play for Florida state IF he declares for the draft.

The bigger question: Can he declare for the draft?

The relevant requirement in the Collective Bargaining Agreement:

The player (A) is or will be at least nineteen (19) years of age during the calendar year in which the Draft is held, and (B) with respect to a player who is not an international player (defined below), at least one (1) NBA Season has elapsed since the player’s graduation from high school (or, if the player did not graduate from high school, since the graduation of the class with which the player would have graduated had he graduated from high school

Isaac turns 19 in October, so he’d meet the age requirement. He also hasn’t graduated high school, so he could claim his class graduated last year – four years after entering high school.

However, that argument works only if he doesn’t graduate this spring. If he does, that takes precedence over his class’s graduation, and he’d have to wait another year to declare for the draft.

As crazy as this sounds, Isaac will have more options for his professional future by NOT graduating high school.

This passage in the Collective Bargaining Agreement should probably be changed in the next edition.

It’s also difficult to tell how this situation compares with Singh. Although academics kept him from receiving college scholarships, Singh graduated from IMG, according to his father. Perhaps, Singh didn’t actually graduate. A quote from his dad isn’t a verified transcript.

No matter how Singh got to the draft, Isaac and those close to him at IMG should know the details of the path.

Now, it’s a question whether Isaac can and will follow.

Kevin Durant chokes up talking about Monty Williams’ wife (video)

Oklahoma Thunder players, from left, Cameron Payne, Kevin Durant, Andrew Morrow and D.J. Augustin bow their heads during a moment of silence for Ingrid Williams, the wife of Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams, who died Wednesday as the result of a car accident Tuesday, before an NBA basketball game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder, in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder held a moment of silence for assistant coach Monty Williams’ wife before their game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night, a day after she died following a car crash.

Williams coached New Orleans last season, and the Pelicans also held a moment of silence for Ingrid Williams before their game Wednesday night against Utah.

The family’s pastor, Dr. Mark Hitchcock of Faith Bible Church in Edmond prayed for the family.

Thunder star Kevin Durant was overcome with emotion as he reflected after the morning shootaround.

“Just love Coach Monty so much, man,” Durant said. “I feel for him, man. It’s somebody we all love.”

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said it would be different Thursday without Williams to his right, but the team had no choice but to prepare for the game.

“I thought our group this morning was as good as it could be coming in,” Donovan said. “Everybody, I think, personally, is hurting for Monty and his family. Just trying to have faith right now that Ingrid is in a better place, and hopeful that our guys will come out there and play to the best of their ability.”

Ingrid Williams, 44, was involved in a crash Tuesday night. An oncoming car crossed the center line and hit her SUV just outside of downtown Oklahoma City, said police Capt. Paco Valderrama. That driver was pronounced dead at the scene, Valderrama said.

Monty Williams was hired by New Orleans to his first and only head coaching job in 2010 and fired after last season. He helped guide the Pelicans to the postseason twice and had a record of 173-221.

Pelicans star Anthony Davis spent three seasons with Williams as his coach and said Ingrid Williams was important, too. He said in a tweet: “Completely devastated. Ingrid Williams was like a 2nd mother to me when I got to NOLA. My thoughts & prayers are with Monty & the family.”

First-year Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Ingrid’s impact was significant. It really affected his team as it prepared for its game Wednesday night, and the players were still dealing with it Thursday.

“It was really difficult for our guys to get through it because he (Monty Williams) has had such an impact on the players, and she had even more of an impact, maybe, with the mothering that she did for most of the guys and the type of person that she was,” Gentry said. “She wanted everybody to feel like they had a home away from home.”

Suns spin Markieff Morris-Archie Goodwin scuffle as brotherly bickering

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Markieff Morris got into a physical altercation with teammate Archie Goodwin during the Suns loss to the Warriors yesterday.

Then, Morris flipped off a Phoenix fan.

This might not have been a low point for the Suns, who’ve had a miserable season due in part to Morris problems. But if it wasn’t, it was close.

At least everyone was on the same page in characterizing the scuffle (videos via Bright Side of the Sun):

Suns coach Earl Watson:

There was one point in the year where those two lived together. They’re closest on the team. They’re like big brother, little brother.

We have to control our emotions. Other than that, those two are really close. There’s no in between. The team is not split. Those two are the closest on the team. They have a bond. They have a unique relationship.

I wouldn’t saying it was a fight. I would say it was a pushing match, what I saw. I’ve never seen NBA players really fight.

Markieff was trying to motivate Archie.

Morris:

That’s nothing. That’s part of being a leader, being a big brother. Sometimes, big brothers and little brothers get into it.

What happened wasn’t supposed to happen. Wrong place, wrong time. But that’s my little brother. I’ve been here with him for three years, and I know him really well. I know his family, and we’re a little closer. And it happens sometimes.

Big brothers shake little brothers up sometimes. It happens.

No, it don’t look good. But nothing I do is going to look good. Like I’m telling you all, it’s between us. We’re family.

Like I said, I apologized to him. And I like I said, that’s my little brother. We’re going to move forward, no hard feelings.

[What Goodwin said when Morris apologized] I love you. That’s what I said to him. No hard feelings.

Ain’t no, ain’t any of that bull, BS be talking about choking somebody.

Goodwin:

Family. It happens. I love him like a brother. He loves me. That’s all there is to say about it. No more comments.

When someone asked him about Morris choking him, Goodwin walked away.

I’m not sold on the choking charges. You can pause the video at the right moment, and Morris’ hand is on Goodwin’s neck. But it’s quick, and it’s while Goodwin is standing up. I don’t see credible evidence Morris tried to choke Goodwin.

But these quotes paint a far rosier picture than the video presented. I’m hardly convinced everything is as hunky dory as the Suns say. There was a lot of frustration behind that dispute.

That said, it’s meaningful Morris and Goodwin both told the same “brother” story – true or not. At best, it’s accurate, and they’ll be fine going forward. At worst, they were cool enough with each other to present a nice message to the public.

And even if it’s that worst-case scenario, that’s far better than what could’ve been – especially for Phoenix this season.

Reports: Raptors looking hard for power forward upgrade at trade deadline

Al Horford Thaddeus Young
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There are precious few windows in the NBA when everything comes together for a franchise and it can make a deep playoff run (well, unless you’re the Spurs). When those opportunities arise, teams have to grab them. Carpe Diem.

The Toronto Raptors are the clear second-best team in the Eastern Conference, and the top seed Cavaliers do not look invincible. But the Raptors have a glaring hole in their lineup at the power forward spot. The Raptors start veteran Luis Scola, but they are 10 points per 100 possessions better when he is off the court than on it — not one Raptors lineup with Scola and center Jonas Valanciunas has a positive plus-minus this season. They have Patrick Patterson off the bench, but he has a limited offensive game that would cause matchup issues in the postseason.

The Raptors want to seize their moment — expect them to be active at the trade deadline trying to upgrade at the four.

Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun said that in a recent ProBasketballTalk podcast. He said their ideal player would be Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks. However, if the Hawks decide to keep him or the price is too high, the Raptors are looking at other options as well, something Brian Windhorst discussed in a recent radio conversation in Toronto, as transcribed by The Brooklyn Game.

“I think they’re gonna go for it. I think from what I understand, from what I’m hearing, they’re pretty aggressive in the trade market. They’re looking for power forwards. I’ve heard them attached to Thaddeus Young. I’ve heard them attached to (Nuggets forward) Kenneth Faried. I’ve heard them attached to (Suns forward) Markieff Morris. They have extra draft picks. I wouldn’t trade that New York Knicks pick unless it was for a blockbuster acquisition, because you can’t protect it, you can’t protect another team’s pick. I would do it if I could put, like, a top-five protection on it. But you can’t do that. You can’t say, allright, we’ll give you two of our picks if it falls in the top five. But they have assets to do it. They have some young players.”.

The Nuggets have tested the market for Faried, and he is available, his energy/glue-guy game would pair well with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Although, if I were Rockets GM Masai Ujiri and I was talking to Denver, the name Danilo Gallinari would come up a lot, more often than Faried. His shooting and pick-and-pop skills would fit with the Raptors guards well.

Young would be a good fit and an upgrade. Morris could be an improvement on the court, and he’s on a reasonable contract, but there are concerns about time he could miss (suspension and maybe jail) for a pending felony assault case with his brother Marcus.  The Raptors also need to ask themselves if they have the right internal structure and locker room leadership to provide the support/guidance teams need if they bring Morris on — something incidents Wednesday night emphasized. But Morris is better than anyone on the Raptors’ roster.

The Raptors have multiple first-round picks coming up they can move, the New York park would have to be included in a Horford deal but not necessarily the others. There are also young players that the team is high on, such as Lucas Nogueira, that could be moved in the right deal.

Raptors fans were angry last season at the deadline when Ujiri didn’t pull the trigger on any deals, but that seemed the right move at the time. The Raptors were a few steps away from the top rung of the East, and the reported deals would not have changed that picture.

This season feels different. Expect a bold move out of Toronto during or after All-Star weekend. Carpe Diem.