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Baseline to baseline recaps: Dallas has some issues

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What you missed while out celebrating Boxing Day….

Kings 100, Lakers 91: We covered this one already in our game of the night.

Nuggets 115, Mavericks 93: Mavericks forward Sean Williams threw up when subbed out in the fourth quarter of this game, which got a lot of laughs on the Mavs bench but pretty well summed up the Dallas performance. Ty Lawson dominated Jason Kidd and that was the spark… but the bigger issue was Dallas had no spark whatsoever for the second straight night. Denver controlled this game from the start. Not time to panic yet in Dallas, but it is time to be concerned.

Spurs 95, Grizzlies 83: This is the 11th straight season the Grizzlies have lost their opening game. Neither team looked sharp in this one, nothing like the playoff series last season, but the 24 turnovers by Memphis sealed it.

Nets 90, Wizards 84: The craziest game of the night by far. The Wizards led this 35-15 in the second quarter and were in complete control, until Johan Petro started to lead a comeback that had the Nets in the lead in the third quarter. A 21-5 Nets run in the fourth sealed it. This was a sloppy game where nobody shot well, although Kris Humphries was efficient on his way to 21 points and 16 rebounds (the Nets controlled the glass and had 19 offensive rebounds, which was key). John Wall seemed to spend the game trying to make the more difficult, spectacular pass when a simple one would have led to a good look shot.

Pacers 91, Pistons 79: Indiana had a balanced attack and three double-doubles — Roy Hibbert (16 points14 rebounds), David West (11 and 12) and Tyler Hansbrough (15 and 13). Indiana had control of this one from the start.

Magic 104, Rockets 95: If you have big man who cam match up with Dwight Howard — like the Thunder did on Christmas in Kendrick Perkins — you can slow the Magic down. Jordan Hill and Samuel Dalmbert could not do that for the Rockets, Howard had 21 efficient points and things opened up for Orlando. Hedo Turkoglu had 23 points on just 14 shots and it was bombs away for J.J. Redick with 20.

Bobcats 96, Bucks 95: Kemba Walker has gotten his Rookie of the Year bid off to a fast start, hitting two late free throws to win this game. Walker finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Brandon Jennings had 22 for the Bucks but their offense let them down again (just like last season). Charlotte won this with a dominant third quarter (30-14) where they dominated the glass. Bobcats guard D.J. Augustin sprained his ankle and is listed as day-to-day.

Raptors 104, Cavaliers 96: Not a great game if you enjoy defense, but Toronto brought more balance with seven players scoring in double digits. The Raptors went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter and never gave the lead back.

Trail Blazers 107, Sixers 103: Portland went small in the second half and the 76ers could not make them pay for it. Portland grabbed the lead in the first quarter and despite runs by Philly never gave it back behind 25 from LaMarcus Aldridge and 21 from Gerald Wallace. People who sleep on how good the Sixers are will regret it.

Thunder 104, Timberwolves 100: Young legs will be key for the Thunder this season. Up-tempo game (100 possessions) on the second night of a back-to-back but Oklahoma City gets the win. Kevin Durant had 33, Russell Westbrook 28 for OKC. Michael Beasley led the Wolves with 24 but needed 27 shots to do it. He is a black hole. One key — the Thunder got to the free throw line 31 times and made 29; the Wolves got there 26 times and made just 19.

And by the way, Ricky Rubio looked really good in limited run. More on that later.

Hornets 85, Suns 84: Newly acquired Eric Gordon got the call with the game on the line, squared up Jared Dudley and drained the 20 footer for the win with 4.2 seconds on the clock. The Hornets were able to keep the tempo of the game in check, which was key. Gordon had 20 for Charlotte, Robin Lopez led the Suns with 21. Steve Nash had 14 points and 12 dimes.

Warriors 99, Bulls 91: Stephen Curry can be so, so good — he had 21 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, outplaying Derrick Rose. But the scary part comes with his fragility — he had to leave the game after aggravating his ankle injury. This was really a win for the Warriors bench — the game was 16-16 in the first when subs started coming in and Golden State went on a 30-11 run and made that lead stand up against a Bulls team on a back-to-back. Chicago’s 20 turnovers helped that cause. Monta Ellis had 26 and David Lee 22 in the win. Luol Deng led the Bulls with 22.

Playoff preview: Four key questions about San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, center, scores against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Between 2011 and 2014, the Spurs and Thunder combined for six Western Conferences Finals appearances with at least one reaching it each year. Last season featured Warriors vs. Rockets. This year, one – but only one – of San Antonio and Oklahoma City will return.

1. Are these Kevin Durant‘s final games with the Thunder?

Let’s get this out of the way. Durant, as you well know, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. At this point, the best thing Oklahoma City can do to keep him is win. He knows the city. He knows the franchise. He knows the roster (which would likely return in similar form if he re-signs). Whether the Thunder send him into free agency with a good taste in his mouth is the biggest variable.

Will Durant leave just because Oklahoma City loses to the Spurs? Of course not. Will Durant stay just because Oklahoma City beats the Spurs? Of course not.

But this is a big opportunity for the Thunder to accentuate their positives – and the Spurs, another team in the Durant hunt, to do the same.

2. Who wins the Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard matchup?

More directly on the court… Durant is involved in what might be the best individual matchup of the 2016 playoffs

Durant and Leonard should both finish top five in MVP voting. If they do, it’d be the first time two players top five in MVP voting who play the same position met in the playoffs since 2012, when LeBron James and Durant faced off in the Finals.

The matchup should be fun on both ends of the court, but it’ll be particularly intriguing when Oklahoma City has the ball. Durant is one of the NBA’s best offensive players, Leonard the best defender. I can’t wait to watch them go at it.

3. How do the Spurs handle Oklahoma City’s athleticism?

In his last 20 games against San Antonio, Serge Ibaka is 15-5. Ibaka embodies the athletic advantage the Thunder hold over the Spurs. At his best, Ibaka attacks with hops and speed the Spurs’ bigs can’t match. Ibaka looked old throughout much of the regular season, but he appeared rejuvenated in the first round against the Mavericks. If he was just saving his energy for the playoffs, following the Dwight Howard model in previous years, Ibaka could play a major role.

Ditto Russell Westbrook, who will challenge Tony Parker to keep up. San Antonio could cross match with Danny Green, but that presents complications in transition.

The Spurs are collectively more skilled, but the Thunder have done a better job than most at neutralizing that advantage.

4. Has Billy Donovan found a rotation that narrows the gap?

Billy Donovan passed his first playoff test against Rick Carlisle. Now the challenge grows even greater against Gregg Popovich.

One thing Donovan did right: Putting Nick Collison, not Kyle Singler, in the playoff rotation. Collison’s minutes could be key against a Spurs team that often plays two slower bigs. I guesses Singler rather than Collison would play regularly, which lowered Oklahoma City’s adjusted net rating by a few points per 100 possessions when projecting using only players in the playoff rotation.

I’ll again use nba wowy! to rank playoff teams by regular-season net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), counting only lineups that include five players projected to be in the team’s postseason rotation, once the first round ends. But for now, here are San Antonio’s and Oklahoma City’s ratings, from the regular season adjusted to only lineups that include five players projected to be in the playoff rotation:

2. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 110.5 to 110.0
  • Defensive rating: 99.4 to 96.1
  • Net rating: +11.1 to +13.9

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 113.6 to 117.3
  • Defensive rating: 106.0 to 104.6
  • Net rating: +7.6 to +12.7

Both teams — already strong by this measure — benefited from beating up on their first-round competition, and the Thunder got a bump for using Collison over Singler. Oklahoma City still trails the Spurs, but the gap is much closer than overall regular-season results would suggest.

Prediction: Spurs in 7

Report: Deron Williams opting out of Mavericks contract

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 03:  Deron Williams #8 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball agains Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Center on November 3, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Deron Williams sacrificed $16 million to leave the Nets in a buyout last summer. He recouped $5,378,974 with the Mavericks this season.

Now – instead of exercising his $5,621,026 player option – he’s looking to get more.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Deron Williams intends to opt out of the second season of his contract with the Mavericks, sources told ESPN.com.

Williams could return to the Mavericks. They’re one of the few teams that need a starting point guard, and two others that do – the Nets and Knicks – are probably off the table given Williams’ antipathy for a large market. Expect Dallas to at least try for an upgrade like Mike Conley first.

But even if Williams signs as a backup, he can still probably command more than $6 million next season. With the salary cap skyrocketing to about $92 million and so many teams flush with cap space, the salary picture is changing.

This also increases the Mavericks’ potential cap space.

They project to fall about $24 million under the cap, counting cap holds for Williams, Chandler Parsons (who has a player option that could go either way) and Dwight Powell. In other words, Dallas could spend that $24 million then exceed the cap to re-sign Williams, Parsons and/or Powell.

Renouncing Williams ($6,454,769 cap hold), Parsons ($19,969,950 cap hold only if he opts out) and/or Powell ($1,180,431) could clear additional cap room. Parsons opting in would restrict the Mavericks’ ability to clear space .

Williams would have been a bargain if he opted in. Instead, Dallas gains flexibility.

Report: Kings willing to trade DeMarcus Cousins because his moodiness bothers teammates

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins walks up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 104-94. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
AP Photo/Darren Abate
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The Kings, after years of shutting down DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors, will reportedly seriously explore the market.

What changed for Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac?

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

the sense within the organization is Divac is tempted by the prospect of pairing his center with his personally selected coach but that he has become increasingly frustrated by his center’s ongoing issues and, for the first time, is willing to test the market for the two-time All-Star.

The disconnect between Karl and Divac, and Karl and Cousins, is rivaled closely by the discord within the fragmented locker room. Apart from Rondo, Cousins has few friends among his teammates. Several players privately have complained to management about his mood swings and disrespect for those around him, including his coaches and in particular Karl.

I still doubt Sacramento trades Cousins. There’s a vast gulf between soliciting Cousins offers and actually pulling the trigger on one. He remains one of the NBA’s most valuable players – already a star, 25 and locked up for two more seasons at a reasonable $35 million combined. It’d take a haul to land him, and I doubt any team offers a package that sways Divac – though a few could have him thinking.

But Cousins’ moodiness is a problem. It gets him harmful technical fouls, takes him out of games mentally and – as we learn here – upsets his teammates.

It seems the Kings are attempting to scare him straight – reports like this leaking, including one that their next coach will have management’s backing if he wants to discipline Cousins.  They have to try something. Rajon Rondo‘s leadership, while endearing to Cousins, apparently didn’t change the center significantly enough.

I wouldn’t rule out Sacramento trading Cousins. If you put a player on the market, you might just hear an offer you like. But selling low on Cousins a – franchise-level player – would be a mistake. It’s too hard to get a player with his talent just to dump him when he’s still young.

A far better outcome would be Cousins heeding these implicit messages, maturing and cutting out the nonsense that too often overshadows his immense talent.

Tony Allen warns Mike Conley: ‘If I see you in New York or one of them places, you got a flagrant foul coming’

Memphis Grizzlies forward Tony Allen (9) and guard Mike Conley (11) react during the second half of Game 2 in a second-round NBA playoff basketball series against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, May 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Marc Gasol has a simple plan for convincing Mike Conley to re-sign with the Grizzlies: Be nice.

Tony Allen is going another way.

Peter Fleischer of Fox 13 Memphis:

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace says Conley will re-sign with Memphis. Others disagree. For his part, Conley has been vague – though he left the door open for signing with the Knicks, need a point guard and could have max cap space .

Conley will have options, and he should explore them. This will be his first free agency after the Grizzlies drafted him and signed him to a contract extension. Staying with the only NBA team he has know should be appealing – but other options could be, too.

People in Memphis clearly care about him returning.

Each in their own way.