Baseline to Baseline recaps: Back-to-backs not sitting well with Boston

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What you missed while checking out the Cheezsculpture at South By Southwest

The Heat returning the beat down favor to the Spurs was our game of the night.

Nets 88, Celtics 79: When the winning team shoots 39.7 percent, you got yourself one ugly game. The first half the Nets shot 32 percent, the Celtics had an offensive efficiency of 88.4 (points per 100 possessions) and it was just not good. But the Nets shot 57 percent in the third quarter, opened a lead and were able to hold on. Brook Lopez had 20, Kris Humphries had 16 points, 15 boards as the Nets were the dominant team inside.

Boston tends to look old on the second night of back-to-backs (and they are in a tough little stretch). Rajon Rondo struggled and when Doc Rivers was asked why he said “because he’s human.” So that rules out my assist-generating robot theory.

Thunder, 116 Wizards 89: Kendrick Perkins made his debut with the Thunder and their defense looked great, holding the Wizards to 39.4 percent shooting (0-9 from three) and 89 points in a fast paced game. If it wasn’t the Wizards, maybe Thunder fans could get excited about that. They shouldn’t about this, wait until they prove it against better teams. Kevin Durant had 32 points on 16 shots.

Nuggets 114, Hornets 103: When Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton were on the court together for the first three quarters, Denver was +21 (they were -4 in the garbage time late). That combo won the game as the Hornets could not stop them. Chris Paul was the best point guard in this game (27 points) but the Nuggets backcourt dominated this one.

Grizzlies 105, Clippers 89: Zach Randolph dominated his old team, and he dominated Blake Griffin, dropping in 30 while helping hold Griffin to 4-of-10 shooting. This one was over early.

Jazz 112, Sixers 107 (OT): Utah was up 8 with three minutes to go, then Andre Iguodala put up a fast 7 points and (with a Lou Williams jumper thrown in) the Sixers had a lead. It was nip and tuck the rest of the way, then the score tied Iggy missed a contested elbow jumper to win it at the buzzer and the game went to overtime. There Andrei Kirilenko took over with seven points and some quality defense in the paint in the extra time.

Rockets 95, Suns 93: No Steve Nash or Canning Frye, so credit the Suns for really fighting to make it close at the end. The Rockets had controlled this thing from the start and it was Josh Childress and Vince Carter who made the Suns push to make it close. Aaron Brooks clearly wanted to rub it in the face of his old team, but he struggled and finished shooting 1-of-9 and chipped in as many turnovers as assists).

Lakers 97, Magic 84: Andrew Bynum’s defense and rebounding were the key here — the Lakers didn’t shoot that well (43.8 percent overall) but they got the offensive rebound on 30 percent of their misses and Bynum had 9 offensive boards. Bynum also altered and changed a lot of shots in the paint and finished with 18 boards. Dwight Howard had 22 points and 15 boards, so it’s not like Bynum shut him down, but Howard had 9 turnovers on the season as he struggled to recognize where the double was coming from. The Magic turned the ball over on 21.2 percent of their possessions. Basically the Lakers cruised and looked like contenders.

Kings 129, Warriors 119: Lightening fast pace in this one — 105 possessions — and very little transition defense being played. That worked for Marcus Thornton, who dropped 42. The Kings took control with a 19-0 run in the first quarter and never really looked back, leading big the rest of the way. Second chance points also big for the Kings.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.