Baseline to Baseline recaps: Kobe drops another 40

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What you missed while you tried to shame your kid into behaving….

Clippers 95, Heat 89: The game where the rims were afraid was our game of the night.

Lakers 90, Jazz 87 (OT): The Lakers might not have gotten to the overtime without Kobe Bryant dropping 40 points — but when Kobe went cold late it was Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum who bailed him and the Lakers out.

Through three quarters Kobe had 29 points on 18 shots, like the night before he was shooting a lot but was efficient doing it and carrying a Laker offense where nobody else had scored in double digits. But on the second night of a back-to-back with a sore wrist he seemed to wear down and with that came bad shots late. He was 2-of-7 in the fourth quarter, including an off-balance pull-up jumper at the end of regulation that airballed. He was 1-of-5 in overtime.

The Lakers are not just the Kobe show (even though it doesn’t seem like it at times). They have skilled bigs. Gasol knocked down a key corner three in overtime. Then when Kobe missed a game-winning shot late in overtime it was Bynum who snuck in back door for a tip in that gave the Lakers the lead 88-87. Next possession Bynum blocked an Al Jefferson shot in the paint to preserve the win (Kobe free throws with less than a second left gave us the final score).

The Jazz are a tough team. They have a physical front line with Jefferson, Paul Millsap (who had a team-best 29) and Derek Favors is coming along. Raja Bell is a solid veteran in the back court (although he might have wanted to commit referee homicide after some calls in this one). They have some depth with Josh Howard and C.J. Miles. They play very well at home. They are talking playoffs in Utah, and that looks like a legit goal right now.

Mavericks 90, Celtics 85: Boston seemed to be fighting its way uphill all night, coming from behind by double digits twice to tie it 85-85 on a Paul Pierce three with: 25 left. But Dirk Nowitzki beat an aggressive Kevin Garnett off the dribble, got to the rim and drew the and-one foul from Brandon Bass and that was the ballgame. Vintage Dirk, and Dallas just executed better when it mattered most.

Nowitzki had 17, Jason Terry 18 for Dallas. Rajon Rondo led Boston with 24, the problem was the “Big 3” were 9-of-24 shooting on the night. But give credit where it is due, Dallas is winning because of defense — in the last eight games opponents have shot 39.5 percent and the Mavs are 6-2.

Knicks 85, Sixers 79: Hold off on the coronation of the Sixers in the Atlantic, the Knicks sent their own little message Wednesday. The Sixers good, but the schedule is just starting to test them — like having to play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back. The Sixers looked tired. Carmelo Anthony seemed to be in full hero mode (27 points on 24 shots, plus 9 rebounds) and Amare Stoudemire was efficient on offense with 20. The big story here is the Knicks actually played hard on defense and against a weary 76ers team — they shut them down enough to win.

Kings 98, Raptors 91: The Kings got their first win on the road, thanks to DeMarcus Cousins who had 20 points and 19 boards. The Kings pushed the tempo (99 possessions) and got 29 points from Tyrke Evans. Sacramento attacked all night, getting to the free throw line 34 times and that was really the key.

Pacers 96, Hawks 84: Part of this was matchups — Danny Granger returned for the Pacers, while Al Horford had to leave the game early after straining his shoulder trying to block a Roy Hibbert dunk attempt. (It looked bad, he could be out a little while.) The Pacers had one of their best games of the season, the kind of game that makes you think they could be a playoff threat. Granger found his shooting groove (the guy is an admitted slow starter) and had 24, plus they controlled the paint (as the highlights show).

Bulls 78, Wizards 64: Derrick Rose was out with a sprained big toe and the Bulls offense suffered because of it. John Lucas stepped up with 25 points and 8 dimes in Rose’s absence, but that’s not what won it. The Bulls defense was still good and the Wizards offense is still the Wizards offense — they shot just 31 percent for the game. After the game Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said as much — he kept Taj Gibson and Omer Asik in the game late because they were playing lock-down defense and that was going to be enough to win.

Thunder 95, Hornets 85: Young legs matter this season — Oklahoma City was playing its fifth game in six nights and got the win. The Thunder looked flat to start, the Hornets were fired up and it was 19-9 early for the Thunder. But talent wins out and the Hornets don’t have anyone like Kevin Durant — 29 points on 17 shots and in the fourth quarter played good defense on Emeka Okafor (who was 5-of-7 shooting on the night).

Spurs 101, Rockets 95: Tim Duncan and Toy Parker seemed to set the clock back for a night and they led he Spurs to the win. By the way, they have a player in rookie Kawhi Leonard. Kyle Lowry had 22 points, six rebounds, seven assists and three steals for the Rockets.

Nuggets 123, Nets 115: Up and down, fast paced game (97 possessions), which really played into Denver’s hands. The big difference was Denver attacked and had 18 more free throw attempts. The Nets stayed in this because they were 20-of-35 from three (20 makes is a club record). Danilo Gallinari had 22, Arron Afflalo and Corey Brewer each had 19. Jordan Farmar came alive with 26 (yes, it confused us, too, but he did).

Magic 107, Trail Blazers 104: Orlando played a very good game — they had great spacing and crisp ball movement, they got the ball inside to Dwight Howard and when the ball came out it moved fast to the open man. Then they knocked down the shot — the Magic were 16-of-27 from three for the night. When you have the best center in the game and hit 59.3 percent of your threes they are nearly impossible to beat. Orlando had seven guys in double figures, led by J.J. Redick with 17, while Jameer Nelson was 7-of-7 shooting. Jamal Crawford had 24 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 23.

Frustrated Kyrie Irving on another ring: “And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

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Since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked like a championship team. They have been in a malaise going 8-10 with the second-worst defense in the NBA during that stretch. The Cavs like a team that is just waiting for the games to have meaning again in the playoffs. It makes one tempted to say this will come back to bite them in the postseason, but which team in the East is going to beat them?

The Cavaliers players are frustrated with their play of late, too.  Kyrie Irving vented about it after practice, as reported by Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Obviously it was just a frustrating game and there have been a few frustrating games for all of us,” Irving said. “Just getting back to what we do, having fun with one another and being truthful with one another — we’ll be good…

And then Irving said: “You can’t rely on just thinking that one championship is enough. It’s natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a (competitor) you want two, you want three, you want four. And if you dedicate yourself more like you say you do, then you want more. And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

Injuries have had key players, most recently Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out of the rotation of late, and working them back in has not gone smoothly. Still, this is the same core from the team that won the title last season, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into a groove.

Cleveland is acting like a team that thinks it can flip the switch.

Maybe they can, but there are some powerful teams out West who seemed to have flipped theirs long ago.

 

Rumor: Bulls ready to move on from Jimmy Butler this summer

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Predicting what the Chicago Bulls front office will do this summer is a game of roulette — the ball can land anywhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Is Dwyane Wade coming back? Is Nikola Mirotic part of the future? Fred Hoiberg? What kind of team are the Bulls trying to build, anyway?

Then there is the biggest one: Is Jimmy Butler still part of the long-term plan? Or is he going to be moved to facilitate a rebuilding process?

Last summer when the Bulls had the chance to trade him, they kept Butler to build around him… then made some interesting choices in trying to do that. They didn’t get enough shooting, players didn’t fit well, and others didn’t develop, and the Bulls are struggling to even make the postseason.

So what do the Bulls do this summer? One exec told Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Bulls were going to move Butler.

Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.”

Paul George wanting to contend (or if not, be in Los Angeles) is not news, but whether the Pacers decide to be serious about trading him this summer depends on a number of factors that we’re not going to get into here. This article is about Butler.

Do the Bulls want to trade Butler? Some in the front office do, some don’t. There were reports the Bulls wanted an All-Star level player for him so the team did not take a step back, but nobody was giving that up. Everyone in Chicago from ownership through management is not on the same page, which helps explain some of the stop-gap team building moves by the team. Chicago needs to decide if it wants to go for the full rebuild, which is what happens if they trade Butler. The playoffs are out of the questions for a few years if they do, but that’s not a bad thing if they draft well and commit to the plan. However, there is a sense that ownership thinks “this is Chicago, we don’t rebuild.”

All of which is to say, if the Bulls trade Butler it’s not a huge surprise. If they keep him, it’s not a huge surprise. But other teams — hello Boston — may be prepping for him to come back on the trade market around the draft.

PBT Podcast: Future of Isaiah Thomas, Ricky Rubio, also award talk with Dan Feldman

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We asked for your questions on Twitter and Facebook, and you gave myself and Dan Feldman got some fascinating discussion points:

If the Celtics land a top two pick, what does that mean for the future of Isaiah Thomas in Boston?

Is Ricky Rubio‘s run of strong play mean he remains the point guard of the future in Minnesota?

How good is Devin Booker?

We discuss all of that plus the NBA end of season awards that we are still looking at and trying to make up our minds about.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.