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).

Minnesota Timberwolves kick in more money to renovate Target Center

Flip Saunders, Glen Taylor
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx owner Glen Taylor is kicking another $9-12 million into the Target Center renovation project.

The Timberwolves announced the additional funds on Tuesday. The team says the new money will be used to get new seats, railings for the lower bowl, a new skyway off of the backside of the arena and a more improved Wi-Fi platform.

Taylor says the new money is geared toward making sure the project to refurbish the dated arena in downtown Minneapolis is as effective as possible. It will push the total cost of the project to between $138-141 million.

Renovations are underway and the city-owned building is scheduled to close this summer so the project can be completed in time for the start of the 2017-18 NBA season.

John Wall, Bradley Beal and defense keying Wizards’ 12-game home streak

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 04: John Wall #2 celebrates after Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards hit a three point shot against the Atlanta Hawks in the fourth quarter of the Wizards 95-92 win at Verizon Center on November 4, 2016 in Washington, DC. 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) The same fans who John Wall once joked get more excited for a free chicken sandwich when an opponent misses two free throws than a victory are now being treated to something even better: A winning streak.

Wall and the Washington Wizards have won 12 in a row at home heading into the midpoint of the NBA season and haven’t lost at Verizon Center since Dec. 6. Better starts and improved defense and bench play have sparked this run, pushed Washington to fifth place in the Eastern Conference and made home feel pretty sweet.

“We like playing on our home floor, there’s no question we have a comfort level,” coach Scott Brooks said. “The baskets, everything seems to be good for us. I think our guys are comfortable, they like playing here. We want to make this a special place. Crowd’s been great. We just got to continue to give them something that they can be proud of.”

Brooks tells his players that Wizards fans don’t expect perfection but want 48 minutes of great effort. After a disappointing .500 season last year depressed turnout, this retooled team plays a more exciting, up-and-down brand of basketball that’s worth watching.

The Wizards have eclipsed 100 points in 17 of their past 20 games with Wall on pace to set a career high in points and steals. Backcourt mate Bradley Beal is also on the way to a career-high scoring season, but he points to the other end of the floor as the reason for Washington’s success and home winning streak.

“In terms of us, it’s just been our defense and just us getting after it and playing with energy,” Beal said. “It makes everything easier on offense when we get out and run. That way we don’t necessarily have to call plays all the time, we just get out and flow, and it works. In order to do so, we have to play defense and defend, and we can’t do that if we’re always taking the ball out.”

Brooks wanted the Wizards to become a defensive-minded team that could score instead of an offensive team that defended when it felt like it. Second-year guard Kelly Oubre showed that progress with on-ball defense by locking down the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard on Monday and said that aspect of the game is better now with more familiarity of scouting reports.

Beyond starters Wall, Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat, the second unit led by Oubre, rookie Tomas Satoransky, Trey Burke and Jason Smith is coming along.

“Guys know their roles now,” Oubre said. “We’re a solid defensive team. We’re getting better. … We have a good home-court advantage coming on now. We got 12 in a row? We’ve got to keep that rolling, man. These fans want to see wins. We’re here to give it to them.”

Wall took some heat last year for suggesting that the free fast-food chicken sandwich fans get if an opponent misses both free throws in the fourth quarter generates the most excitement. It’s oftentimes the loudest cheer of the night, but not lately thanks to the Wizards winning.

He definitely notices a difference.

“We start to win, we go to the starting lineup, the gym is kind of packed more than empty and not getting packed later on,” Wall said. “There is a lot of excitement, and it’s great to know that when they call our names they are cheering for us. It’s something we can use as an advantage.”

After the finale of this home stand Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Wizards play five of their next six games on the road. Their challenge now is to adapt the home winning recipe to winning in less-friendly confines.

“We have to now view it the same way, respect our opponent no matter who it is and just come out with energy knowing that the crowd is against us, nobody’s there to cheer for us,” Beal said. “It’s us against everybody. Just having that same mindset in our approach to the game is probably all we need to do.”

Warriors break ground on new arena with synchronized excavators … seriously (VIDEO)

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The Golden State Warriors are moving to San Francisco, and with that move comes a new arena. The Chase Center, to be exact, the ground of which was broken on Tuesday, complete with synchronized excavators set to The Blue Danube.

No, really.

Video of the groundbreaking — which also included acrobats throwing traffic cones at each other gracefully — showed three large excavators moving about to the classic waltz.

Via Twitter:

Ah, ok then.

At least the Warriors probably won’t be changing their name after the move.

Coach Steve Clifford: Poor defense has led to Hornets’ losing streak

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 04:  Teammates Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 and Marvin Williams #2 of the Charlotte Hornets react at the bench as head coach Steve Clifford reacts during their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Spectrum Center on January 4, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Hornets coach Steve Clifford points to one factor when explaining his team’s five-game losing streak – a lack of defense.

Charlotte went 0-5 on its recent road trip, surrendering an uncharacteristic 109.6 points per game during that span. The Hornets return home Wednesday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers, part of a stretch of five-game home stand which Clifford hopes will help turn things around.

But Charlotte’s fourth-year coach said nothing will get better until the Hornets start playing better man-to-man defense.

“It starts with our ability to guard our guy,” Clifford said. “When you get blown by a lot on the perimeter where you are constantly in need of help, then you are going to give up 3s – and that’s what is happening.”

The Hornets raced to a 14-9 start this season and were third-best in the league in points allowed through 23 games.

Since then, things have steadily fallen apart, culminating with Charlotte giving up at least 100 points in eight straight games. The Hornets have since dropped to 12th overall in points allowed.

The Hornets have fallen to 20-21 on the season and are on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture. It hasn’t helped that Nic Batum and Cody Zeller have been in and out of the lineup with injury problems, but Charlotte’s struggles on the road – where it has lost 11 of its last 13 – is concerning.

Zeller said the Hornets spent Wednesday morning watching cutups of defensive miscues over the last five road games.

“All four years I have been here it starts with defense,” Zeller said. “That is what coach Clifford preaches.”

The 7-foot center said it is mostly simple things that can be corrected.

“There are sets that we know are coming – and we just aren’t defending them right,” Zelller said. “We are making too many mistakes.”

Added guard Marco Belinelli: “We need to speak a lot more on the court and help each other.”

Getting the defensive mistakes fix won’t be easy.

After Portland, the Hornets host Toronto, Brooklyn, Washington and Golden State. All five teams rank in the top 14 in the league in scoring offense, with the Warriors being No. 1 overall and Raptors No. 3.

A year ago, Hornets general manager Rich Cho pulled off a quality late-season trade, landing “three and D” guard Courtney Lee. He proved to be the driving force on the team’s playoff run and played well in the postseason.

The problem was Lee did so well it made it impossible for the Hornets to re-sign him. Charlotte re-signed Batum and Marvin Williams, and let Lee walk in free agency. He signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the New York Knicks.

The Hornets figured with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returning this year from a shoulder injury they would be fine defensively, but the struggles are mounting.

Clifford wouldn’t discuss whether the team needs to make a similar trade before the NBA deadline.

As for the offense, Clifford likes what he sees.

Kemba Walker, a first-time All-Star candidate, is in the midst of the most productive season of his career, averaging 23 points per game while shooting 41.3 percent from 3-point range.

“I mean he’s having a great year,” Clifford said. “He’s worked really hard and it’s paying off for him.”