Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Dallas has 50 wins in a season. Again.

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What you missed while developing a remote control floating cloud to hoover over soccer stadiums….

Mavericks 104, Timberwolves 96: No Kevin Love tonight for Minnesota so on paper this this looked like it a blowout… but nobody counted on good Anthony Randolph showing up. Much like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects the good Anthony Randolph.

Randolph started for the injured Love and had 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting plus 6 rebounds in the first half. It got basketball fans excited and twitter was buzzing. I’m telling you now — he is teasing you. We’ve been there before. Randolph will tease you with his talent then once you are in he will disappear for a while. Then, when you are about to jump off his bandwagon, he’ll be back for a couple games. It’s a vicious cycle.

Dallas led most of the second half but Minnesota made a move in the fourth quarter thanks largely to Anthony Tolliver (9 points in the quarter). We had a game. But Dallas knows how to execute —it got an 11-2 run late that included a Jason Terry pull-up three. Terry is shooting 41 percent from three in the fourth this season, (up from 37 percent overall). Meanwhile Minnesota had three shots blocked late and had Jonny Flynn driving into Wilson Chandler and throwing the ball away. Dirk Nowitzki dropped 30.

The win means the Mavs have had 50 or more wins in a season for 11 years. The only ones who bested that are the Spurs right now and the Showtime era Lakers, both with 12. That’s impressive company.

Hornets 121, Jazz 117: The ending of this was both entertaining and uncomfortable.

Paul Millsap was brilliant — on possession after possession last in the game the Jazz used him almost as a point forward, attacking from a deep wing or baseline position (he finished with 33 points). He had a ridiculous falling, sprawling across the lane, throw it up and “look what I got” basket. With about 50 seconds left he crossed over David West and went baseline for a bucket. Later Millsap did the same thing but when the help came he made a nifty pass to Al Jefferson for a bucket (that put the Jazz up two).

Then came the David West dunk to tie and landing that blew out his knee. That took the energy right out of the building.

Still the Jazz had a chance to win it and again it was Millsap, this time he was fouled trying a fade away at the elbow. He sank both with 1.4 left the Jazz were up two. Then Aaron Gray threw a baseball pass the length of the court that was knocked down, but the loose ball ended up in the hands of Emeka Okafor who threw up a prayer while falling. A prayer that was answered off the glass and gave us another 5 minutes.

The Hornets went on a 9-2 in overtime to get the win.

The loss helps solidify the Hornets in the 7 seed spot in the West (half a game back of Portland in the six spot, one game ahead of Memphis in the eight spot and three games ahead of the Rockets and falling out of the playoffs all together). The Jazz are now almost done with the playoffs, they needed this one. They are 4.5 games back of Memphis and the last playoff spot.

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.