Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs get top seed, Heat slip back

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What you missed while barking at a police dog….

Bucks 90, Heat 85: No Dwyane Wade in this one due to his thigh bruise, and the Heat are now 3-2 when he sits. It didn’t help that Chris Bosh floated around the perimeter this game (except during the Heat’s one fourth quarter run, not so coincidentally) and LeBron’s shot was not sharp (10-of-22). The Bucks offense was better for a night with some nice ball movement. Where has that been all season?

Magic 111, Charlotte 102 (OT): If it hadn’t been for a 19-4 fourth-quarter run sparked by the Magic bench, they would have joined the ranks of the upset tonight. Orlando started the overtime on a 9-0 run and that was it. Not a good defensive effort from either team here. Charlotte is out of the playoff hunt now; the Pacers are the eight seed.

Knicks 97, Sixers 92: Big win for the Knicks as this moves them back into the six spot in the East (meaning likely Miami in the first round, if the Knicks can hold on). Carmelo Anthony had 31 in this game, which is what he has averaged on the Knicks five-game winning streak.

Warriors 95, Lakers 87: Two consecutive Lakers losses to non-playoff teams — that means time to panic in Los Angeles. (Not really, but some fans will.) The Lakers put up a sad offensive rating of 94.6, they were not moving without the ball, and Lakers not named Bryant or Gasol shot just 34.8 percent (Bryant and Gasol shot 54.8 percent together). The Lakers turned the ball over 17 times and the Warriors had 18 rebounds. Golden State also got a combined 68 points out of Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and David Lee.

Spurs 124, Kings 92: This win clinched the top seed in the West for the Spurs — and they did it with offense. Which is fitting as that is how they got the top seed. This game was close at the half but the Spurs shot 61 percent in the second half, and George Hill’s 12 third quarter points helped that along. Expect the Spurs to start cutting back the minutes of their stars now (if not have them sit entire games).

Nuggets 104, Mavericks 96: Tuesday, J.R. Smith sat on the bench during the key moments of a close game, and Denver lost. Wednesday he played and took over the end of this game. He had two threes and a driving layup as part of a late 10-0 Nugget run to seal the win. There was also a Sean Marion sighting — 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting plus 10 boards.

Pacers 136, Wizards 112: Blistering pace — 106 possessions — and it felt like the 1980s again. Well, the 1980s games where nobody played no defense, anyway. The Wizards transition… no, really all of their defense was weak. The Pacers shot 59.5 percent, got out to a 14 point lead after one quarter and ran away and hid.

Pistons 116, Nets 109: This game was not televised, anywhere, so we’re not convinced it actually happened. The whole “if a tree fell in the forest…” thing. (Why no television? The YES Network chose to show the Yankee game, and Fox Sports went with the Twins.)

Cavaliers 104, Raptors 96: With this move Cleveland moves half a game ahead of Minnesota for the worst record in the NBA. Cleveland is out of the cellar and has won two straight. Which leads to the question: What are they doing? If ever you were going to tank for the lottery, this might have been the time. Whatever.

Our own John Krolic had the best line about this game at his Cavs blog, saying the Raptors are “peacefully protesting defense.” Yet, somehow there are reports that coach Jay Triano may be safe at the end of the season. This is two years in a row with the worst defense in the NBA, folks.

Hornets 101, Rockets 93: This loss does not mathematically remove the Rockets from playoff consideration, but for all practical purposes it does. Kyle Lowry has been awesome lately, really fantastic, but Chris Paul reminded him what the best point guard in the game can look like. Big night for the Hornets’ backup point guard Jarrett Jack off the bench, too.

Suns 108, Timberwolves 98: Largely a battle of the benches since neither team is playoff bound. Phoenix has the better one.

Thunder 112, Clippers 108: The Clippers will not just roll over and die, they shot 50.6 percent and hit 6-13 threes (although some of that was due to lackadaisical defense from the Thunder). That meant the Thunder never quite put the Clippers away (the largest lead was 12) but they also never trailed in the second half, and the game never felt in doubt. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were a combined 19-for-45.

Fergie says she “tried my best” after national anthem blowback

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fergie is apologizing after trying something different with the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” the Grammy-winning singer said in a statement Monday. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after she finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on “the dawn’s early light.”

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 +-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured Sunday’s mood – and became an instant GIF – when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, “Let’s play some basketball!”

The Black Eyed Peas singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he “needed a cigarette” after Fergie’s performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal leaped to Fergie’s defense, saying: “Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone.”

Others on social media weren’t as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

 

Did Lakers help keep LeBron James in Cleveland with trade?

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When the trade went down between the Lakers and Cavaliers before the deadline — sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus Cleveland’s 2018 first-round draft pick (top-five protected) — it caught the NBA by surprise.

The first reaction for a lot of people to the deal? This opens up as much as $70 million in cap space for the Lakers this summer (depending on other moves with players such as Julius Randle). Los Angeles could sign two max players — LeBron James and Paul George. Why would Cleveland help Los Angeles open up room to steal LeBron.

The Cavaliers didn’t see it that way — they knew they had to make a major shakeup or LeBron was gone. At that point, does it matter where? So in a series of moves, Cleveland GM Koby Altman radically remade the roster around LeBron. The goal was to energize them back into being the team to beat in the East, and from there make it hard for him to leave as a free agent. Since the trades, the Cavaliers are 2-0 and LeBron has clearly been reinvigorated, plus they will add Kevin Love back in a few weeks.

Altman’s plan seems to be working, one executive told Mark Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”

I had heard from sources for a while LeBron to the Lakers was not likely (Paul George is another story, that door remains open). As Spears notes, the Lakers did not have an All-Star in Sunday’s game. Even if LeBron and PG13 went to Los Angeles, that team was third or fourth best in the West next season. LeBron is in full on legacy mode and wants to win rings. Los Angeles is not the place to do it.

Houston is interesting (and it’s still a team I hear some execs think has a real shot), but the gutting or role players on that roster to make it work would be a concern. Maybe a dark horse such as Philadelphia can emerge. However, if LeBron can lead this newly-energized Cavaliers team to the Finals again (his eighth consecutive trip there), they get a high draft pick with the Brooklyn pick, then LeBron gets a commitment from Altman and owner Dan Gilbert to keep spending and being aggressive, where is he going to be closer to a title than at home?

Lou Williams trolls Jimmy Butler for resting during All-Star Game

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Jimmy Butler was in Los Angeles and enjoying his well-earned All-Star slot on Team Stephen.

Well, except for the actual playing basketball part. Butler did not set foot on the court during the All-Star Game at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

Lou Williams, the Clippers’ guard who likely would have been near the front of the line for an open All-Star roster spot in the West (likely second in the queue behind Chris Paul), but instead took part in the Saturday Skills Competition then had Sunday off, trolled Butler for it on Twitter.

This seems more good natured than genuinely bitter.

Williams will roll with it, but his point’s a valid one — if you’re an All-Star, at least play a little and give the people what they want. Get out there for five minutes or whatever. LaMarcus Aldridge only played four minutes, no big deal.

If you’re not going to use the roster spot, give it up to someone who will.

Report: Raptors won’t sign Vince Carter if he gets bought out

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Of returning to the Raptors, Vince Carter said, “It’ll happen one day.” It sounds as if the Kings would buy him out if he wants.

Will he end the season with Toronto?

Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050:

After speaking with a few team sources, I can confirm that they’ve had internal dialogue and debate about the idea of bringing Vince Carter back. It’s something that they wanted to do over the summer. That’s why they made him an offer, something that I’ve reported in the past. And it’s also something that they’d be open to in the future, perhaps next year in some capacity. But they’ve decided now is not the right time. And I think the consensus seems to be there’s so much going on right now, and they want this season to be about this team, their accomplishments and their playoff push and not the sideshow that I think would come with a Vince Carter return.

The Raptors (41-16) are on pace for their best record ever. They’re excelling offensively and defensively. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are spearheading a more dynamic offense that spurs hope for more playoff success.

Toronto is probably correct to save the Carter reunion for another year – though it depends who else is available. That 15th roster spot could be useful. If Carter is the best player who’d sign, the Raptors should sign him and deal with the hoopla.

But it’s not clear whom they could get or whether they could even get Carter. He hasn’t sounded like someone who’d forgo guaranteed salary to play for the minimum.