Baseline to Baseline recaps: Game winners everywhere, but the Clippers don’t need one

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What you missed while trying to recreate the movie “Up”

Clippers 108, Celtics 103: Boston had a plan — Blake Griffin was not going to beat them. It’s one thing that Boston’s defense has done well in this “big three era” — take away an opponent’s favorite option (sometimes two or three). Griffin was swarmed all night and shot 4-of-14 and had 12 points.

Problem was the other Clippers not named Griffin shot 57.4 percent on the night. Mo Williams had 28 points on 17 shots — including a late three that was the dagger — and DeAndre Jordan had 21 points on 10 shots. (I know the man in question is out injured, but what Jordan did makes you think about how Boston might miss Kendrick Perkins.) The Clippers jumped out to a first quarter lead, pushed that all the way to 23 points early in the second half, then held on to get the win.

Troy Murphy has yet to make a shot as a Celtic.

Jazz 96, Raptors 94: Utah road big fourth quarters from C.J. Miles (10 point in the fourth) and Al Jefferson (8) to erase a 14 point deficit ad have a chance for the win. Then at the buzzer it was Jefferson with the fluky high-arching tip that goes in after the red light goes on and gives the Jazz a dramatic win. Not a pretty win, but the Jazz needed it so they’ll take it.

Bulls 101, Bobcats 84: The Bobcats were supposed to get Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas back for this one, but last second neither was quite healthy enough to go. So the Bobcats struggling offense went up against the best defense in the league and, frankly, did better than I would have predicted. Not good, but not as big a disaster as expected. Gerald Henderson had 20 for Charlotte; Kyle Korver had 20 off the bench for the Bulls (4-of-7 from three).

Thunder 110, Sixers 105 (OT): Philadelphia was up 101-96 with 42 seconds left. But then Kevin Durant happened. And the game went to overtime where the Thunder were in control.

Sure, there was the big shot to send the game to OT, but more importantly Durant had maybe the best defensive game I can remember from him — he shut Andre Iguodala down. Which is the opposite of what was supposed to happen, Iggy was supposed to shut down the league’s leading scorer. Instead Durant had 34 and chipped in 16 boards. Meanwhile Iguodla was 5-for-12 for 14 points.

Nets 94, Warriors 90: A London hangover and Deron Williams off watching his fourth kid be born yet the Nets still found a way to get this win. Of course, it was the last game of a seven-game trip for the Warriors, so you kind of expected them to fade at the end. And they did. Brook Lopez had 24 and 10, plus hit the old-fashioned three-point play with 1:10 left to seal the win. But the best Net was Sundiata Gaines — Jordan Farmar started this for Nets at the point but Gaines finished. He was a +21 and things just seemed to go right when he was in.

Bucks 110, Cavaliers 90: Honestly, I value my time too much to watch a lot of this. But Earl Boykins seemed to spark the normally anemic Bucks offense for a night.

Knicks 110, Grizzlies 108: The Knicks almost blew this one — they were up 10 with three minutes left, but it took a dramatic game winner to get the win. Which is something Carmelo Anthony can get you. He had the ball on the left wing, guarded by one of the better perimeter defenders around in Tony Allen, and he hit a long two with a hand in his face. Great shot. Good win for the Knicks against one of the hotter teams in the league over the last few weeks.

Hornets 93, Mavericks 92: The biggest shocker of the night — because Dallas was up 7 with under one minute to go. But in that final minute the Hornets knocked down a three pointer (Marco Bellinelli) plus a putback (Emeka Okafor), three offensive rebounds, and one forced turnover on a Dirk Nowitzki pass. Then after Tyson Chandler missed two free throws Jason Kidd fouled Jarrett Jack on a three, he sank all three free throws, then Dirk missed a game winner and that was it. Jack hit 8-of-19 shots for 21 points on the night.

Timberwolves 101, Pacers 75: Kevin Love set the record with his 52nd double double. Congratulations to him. Aside that, Indiana is just very bad right now.

Spurs 111, Pistons 104: What the hell is John Kuester doing? A couple weeks back he pulled Tracy McGrady for no good reason and gave him five DNP-CDs in a row. That meant Rodney Stuckey had been the man at the point and he had been good — he’s averaged 20.8 points, eight assists and six rebounds per game over those four. So tonight Stuckey was benched and McGrady was back in. McGrady played well, but that’s not the point. The Pistons are a mess.

The Spurs shot 80 percent — that’s not a typo, 80 percent — in the first half. The Pistons made it look respectable in the final score, but that was a mirage.

Magic 106, Kings 102: DeMarcus Cousins reminded us what a talent he can be, putting up a career high 29 points on Dwight Howard (who fouled out). But that was not enough. The Kings shot 30 percent in the second half against a stout Magic defense, Jameer Nelson got in the lane and Hedo Turkoglu hit the dagger three. The Magic got the win but that was one of the Kings best games in a while.

Draft is next up during NBA’s dizzying days of deals

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NEW YORK (AP) — Markelle Fultz is ready for the NBA draft. He’s already learned about life at the trade deadline.

During a dizzying few days of deals around the NBA, the presumed No. 1 pick had his Saturday plans – not to mention his future destination – change when the Philadelphia 76ers brought him in for a workout. They then completed a trade with the Boston Celtics and are expected to take the Washington guard to begin the action Thursday night.

And if the last few days are indication, what follows might be a wild night inside Barclays Center.

“It’s been a little crazy last couple days,” Duke forward Jayson Tatum said Wednesday.

Teams seem to have one eye on the draft and future stars like Fultz and Lonzo Ball, while the other is firmly focused on jockeying for proven veterans. Former and future No. 1 picks have already been dealt this week in what feels like the trade deadline, free agency and draft all rolled into one frenzy.

“It just shows you what the NBA is about. I mean, you can get traded in the blink of an eye, without knowing,” Fultz said. “It just shows you how this business is and like I said, I just go with the flow. I’ve got an opportunity to play basketball and that’s all I ask for.”

Though Fultz heads what’s widely regarded as a strong draft class, the young stars have had to share the spotlight this week with veterans who are – or could be – on the move. All-Stars and Olympic champions such as Paul George and Jimmy Butler are front and center in trade talk that usually isn’t this heavy until February. Dwight Howard was dealt and D'Angelo Russell – who just two years ago was on the same stage the players will walk Thursday as the No. 2 pick – was dealt by the Los Angeles Lakers, presumably to clear the point guard spot for Ball and salary cap space for the future.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of crazy things. They’ve been coming through my phone with the ESPN app,” Kentucky guard Malik Monk said.

“I knew right before the draft something crazy was going to happen. It happens almost every year, so I wasn’t shocked about it.”

Things are expected to settle down a bit for at least the first two picks. The 76ers, selecting first for the second straight year, should take Fultz before Magic Johnson takes Ball with the Lakers again in the No. 2 spot, which is exactly what the UCLA guard and his father, LaVar, want.

“It would mean a lot to play for my hometown and learn from the best point guard ever,” Ball said.

From there it could be Tatum, Josh Jackson of Kansas, Kentucky’s De'Aaron Fox or some other player in the mix at No. 3, where the Celtics will now pick after the deal with the 76ers. Celtics President Danny Ainge said after making the trade he thought he could get the player he wanted two spots lower.

“It’s a very loaded class and I feel like especially whichever guys go at the top four, five, there may not be that much separation between (them) because everybody’s just so talented,” Tatum said.

Many of them, as usual lately, are freshmen. A record 14 were taken in the first round of last year’s draft and that number should be threatened Thursday. The Sacramento Kings have two top-10 picks, while NBA champion Golden State and runner-up Cleveland have none in the first round.

Teams chasing those two squads may make up ground quickest with a veteran player they can only get through free agency or a trade, so that may have to wait until July.

But they should be able to find someone good Thursday.

“This, I think, has a chance to be a historic draft,” Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Scott Layden said. “You look at the top end of the draft and I think there’s a chance that there’s going to be a lot of very good players, but it also runs deep into the late first round. I think that’s why there will be a lot of activity at this draft, because I think teams see potential to get a great player.”

 

Report: Cavaliers offer Chauncey Billups job running front office

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Not quite the news Ice Cube broke, but the Cavaliers are a step closer to hiring Chauncey Billups.

Jason Lloyd of The Athletic:

Owner Dan Gilbert has offered Chauncey Billups a five-year contract to head up the Cavaliers front office, but Billups has yet to accept, sources with knowledge of the talks told The Athletic.

Billups has long desired a front-office after retiring as a player. It’d be difficult to find a more exciting opportunity.

The job comes with potential peril. LeBron James could leave in 2018, Gilbert isn’t always a treat to work for.

But the Cavs are championship contenders right now, Billups – with a little tweaking and, given the Warriors’ dominance, luck – could deliver Cleveland a title next year. Connect with LeBron and convince him to stay, and Billups could keep the window open a while longer.

Billups never shied from pressure as a player. Will he again embrace it as an executive?

Steve Kerr on Warriors visiting White House: ‘It might be a good statement for us to go’

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Steve Kerr reportedly stated in November a plan to decline an invitation to Donald Trump’s White House if the Warriors won a title.

Now that Golden State won the 2017 championship and players are talking about not going to the White House, Kerr is striking a different tone.

Kerr on The TK Show:

The biggest thing, for me, is it’s about the players. This is a visit that is about the team. We have not met about it, because we haven’t been invited.

But I would want to make sure the players gave this really a lot of thought. And everybody knows I’ve been a very outspoken critic of Trump, and as a result, maybe we won’t even get the invitation. But I do think it’s very important to consider a potential invitation because I think it could have really positive ramifications if we did go.

And it’s a different way to look at it. I, like many of our players, am very offended by some of Trump’s words and actions. On the other hand, I do think there’s something to respecting the office, respecting our institutions, our government. And I think it could make a statement in a time where there’s so much divide and everybody seems to be angry with each other. It might be a good statement for us to go and to show that, hey, let’s put this aside, put all this partisan stuff aside and personal stuff aside, respect the institution.

And maybe even if one of you players wants to voice your concerns over what’s happening, what better opportunity to do so? Now, that may be incredibly idealistic. But I would want to at least bring that up with our players as an option rather than just coming out and saying, “No way. I’m not going.”

Among Kerr’s mistakes:

  • Implying that his players haven’t already considered the positives of visiting the White House before reaching their conclusions
  • Believing the Warriors visiting the White House would be significant enough to reduce partisanship
  • Thinking Trump has any interest in hearing comments that challenge his worldview

Phil Jackson: Carmelo Anthony said he prefers to stay with Knicks

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Knicks president Phil Jackson said Carmelo Anthonywould be better off somewhere else.”

That drew a huge uproar – from the players’ union with a statement, from Kristaps Porzingis with a skipped exit meeting, from other players with leaked discontent.

From practically everyone but Anthony himself.

But Jackson revealed the response of Anthony, who holds a no-trade clause.

Jackson on MSG Network:

Here’s a guy that’s really special, Hall of Fame player who’s done a lot for our organization. We know that we value him highly, and we know that the NBA does, and other teams do.

This is something that is on the long-term kind of situational thing. We’ve expressed the fact that – we’ve done a lot of things to try to put teams together than can win, and we haven’t been successful. And it might be time for him to find an opportunity to go somewhere else. He’s come back and said he’d just as soon stay.

We’re trying to start growing from the youth aspect of it. There will be conversations after the draft and after the free agency, as teams start reorganizing their rosters. So, there will be other conversations in the process.

I don’t know whether it sounds phonier for Jackson to talk up Anthony’s value to the Knicks or to the rest of the league. If Anthony were so valuable to the Knicks, they wouldn’t be trying to trade him – especially because he’ll return so little. He’s 33 and due more than $54 million over the next two years. Potential trade partners know its a closed market, Anthony’s ability to pick his destination through his no-trade clause eliminating desperate losing teams in small markets.

Resisting a trade is the same approach Anthony took before the trade deadline. Apparently, according to Jackson, Anthony hasn’t changed his stance – and that’s what matters.

Anthony controls this process.

Good luck changing his mind, Phil.