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.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.

Veteran NBA official Monty McCutchen to be head of referee development, training

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After 25 seasons running up and down the NBA hardwood and refereeing more than 1,400 games, NBA official Monty McCutchen got a promotion.

He officiated his last game Thursday night in Minnesota and will move to a desk at the league office where his new title is Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.

“Monty has earned the respect of players, coaches and his peers during an exemplary career as an NBA official,” said Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle D. Johnson (who started on the job in October).  “He understands as well as anyone what it takes to be an outstanding referee and how the league can best support its officials.  With his wealth of insight and experience, Monty is uniquely suited for a leadership role in our officiating program.”

“I’m excited for the opportunity to channel my passion for the officiating profession in a new way,” McCutchen said.  “While I’ll miss officiating games, I’m grateful to continue working with our incredibly talented referee staff as part of an organization so dedicated to excellence and innovation.”

Despite what some fans like to blast on Twitter (especially during the playoffs), NBA officials are the best trained and flat-out best basketball referees in the world (if you don’t think so, watch the college/scab referees from the last lockout of the refs, it was painful). Could they improve? Sure. Hopefully, McCutchen can help do that in his new position.