PRO BASKETBALL TALKPBT Select Team

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Upset specials all across the league

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What you missed while watching the return of the Power Rangers

The Cavaliers setting a new record in futility at the hands of the Mavs was our Game of the Night…

Bobcats 94, Celtics 89: Charlotte was in this thing from the start, but it looked like they blew it right before half. That’s when Stephen Jackson got a foul fighting for position with Kevin Garnett, got a technical when he walked over to the referee to complain about it, and earned a second tech and an ejection when he wouldn’t shut up about it and kept yapping. He had 11 points to lead the team.

But for one night the Bobcats would not go away. At the end it was still close when Eduardo Najera knocked down a key three because Garnett did not close out. Then on the next trip down when KG did close out Najera blew by him. Pierce missed a late layup. Rondo missed a wide open corner three. These kinds of things happen to every team on the second night of the back-to-back (yesterday Rondo was raining shots like that on the Magic).

Rockets, 108 Nuggets 103: Carmelo Anthony dropped 50 on just 24 shots. He was attacking and getting to the line, he was hitting threes, it was a masterful performance. But if you can figure the Nuggets out then you’re better than me. Fully capable of beating or losing to any team on any night. Kevin Martin had 37 for the Rockets.

Lakers 93, Grizzlies 84: Lakers usually struggle with Memphis, one of the few teams in the league that can match their length along the front line. But the Lakers are more talented when really focused, and they were focused on defense Monday night. Zach Randolph was 2-of-12 shooting and finished with just 8 points. The Grizzlies as a team shot just 40 percent.

Timberwolves 104, Hornets 92: Key in this one — Minnesota was 25-of-25 from the free throw line. Jonny Flynn looked the best he has since returning from hip surgery with 13.

Trail Blazers 109, Bulls 103: There are these nights — when LaMarcus Aldridge is dropping 42 and Andre Miller is running the offense so brilliantly and scoring 27 — that you can see how good Portland might have been if everything had gone right for them. Portland put up 123 points per 100 possessions on the best defense in the league.

Jazz 107, Kings 104: Sacramento led most of the second half and seemed in control until two big fourth quarter runs — first 8-0 and then a 10-2 run later — put the Jazz ahead. Paul Millsap played a big role late by getting to the line for 6 fourth quarter free throws.

Suns 104, Warriors 92: Phoenix was in charge of this thing the entire way and led by as many as 23. The Warriors made it interesting with an 11-0 fourth quarter run, but the Suns answered right back and cruised. Phoenix had a really balanced attack with six guys in double digits.

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

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New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.

Likely top-10 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State declares for draft

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This had long been expected, but now it is official.

North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.

“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”

Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).

Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.

Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.

James Harden says playing in every game should matter in MVP voting

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James Harden has played in every Houston Rocket game this season so far. Russell Westbrook has done the same thing for Oklahoma City.

When voters sit down in a few weeks to choose the league’s Most Valuable Player — in one of the most wide-open races in memory, with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James making legitimate cases as well — Harden says they should take playing every game into account. It’s the latest part of the rest discussion going on around the league. Here’s what Harden told Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

“Yeah, because you’re not leaving your teammates out there to dry, ” Harden said Tuesday morning, before the Rockets’ game against the Warriors. “For me, I worry about always having my teammates’ back and always being out there….

“I’m going to have [my teammates’] back and they know that they have mine as well,” said Harden, who is second in the league in points and first in assists. “For the coaching staff and the fans, especially here in Houston, the front office, I’m here to play.”

Both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have had rest nights.

This injects Harden into the rest debate, where recently Harden’s teammate Patrick Beverley came out and said players are “disrespecting the game” when they rest. Gregg Popovich sees more nuance in the debate and certainly backs resting players. On the latest PBT Podcast, former Bull B.J. Armstrong told me that they didn’t have rest days back in his day, but players were kept out of games for things they could play through to get right for the playoffs, it was just listed differently. He added that the rest situation might have been different back in the day if the data about the increased chance of player injuries on the second night of a back-to-back (and it goes up from there with four games in five nights) had been available.

In this case, Harden lobbying for his case in the MVP voting. The thing is, his numbers make the case for him: Harden is averaging 29.4 points per game, leading the league with 11.3 assists a night, and he’s creating the most points per game 27.5 (buckets and direct assists. He has taken on the point guard duties in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has taken on the largest load on offense he has in his career — and he has continued to do it efficiently.

However, one can make a strong statistical case for Westbrook (who carries a larger load for an OKC team that has less talent around its star than Houston), Leonard (best defender of the group), and LeBron (the Cavs recent struggles may doom his chances).

Little details are going to divide this group, and Harden is trying to get his point out there.

That said, the Rockets are almost certainly locked into the three seed in the West, and once it’s clear they are in that slot team management should discuss giving Harden a night off before the playoffs, to let his body rest. Whether he wants to or not.

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