Baseline to Baseline recaps: Kyrie Irving does not fear the moment

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What you missed while waiting for Nadal and Djokovic to finish….

Heat 97, Bulls 93: LeBron James and Derrick Rose had moments of brilliance and key missed free throws in our game of the day.

Cavaliers 88, Celtics 87: If you want to say that Boston choked, to ahead — if you give up a 12-0 run to close the game and lose you did blow it. But also give these Cavaliers some credit, they are scrappy. Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao in particular in the final minutes refused to lose. Varejao forced the ball out of Brandon Bass’ hands, and that set up Irving’s game winner, where he calmly waited to start his move with 7 seconds or so left then he went through his legs, put on a spin move, got into the lane and hit the floater. As good as Ricky Rubio has been, Irving is making a good case for Rookie of the Year. By the way, Cleveland had 58 points in the paint, that’s a lot of effort by Cleveland and some weak defense by Boston at home.

Mavericks 101, Spurs 100 (OT): The Spurs reserves almost pulled this one out. Dallas was up 18 midway through the third quarter when Gregg Popovich emptied his bench and sat the starters who never saw the court again (except for nine seconds for Kawhi Leonard). Gary Neal would have 15 points the rest of the way, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green 8 each, the reserves could not miss from three and they went on a 17-2 run and eventually took a 7 point lead.

Dallas fought back behind Jason Terry, who had 34 points including the key shot to tie the game at 91-91 and send it to overtime. Neal almost won the game in regulation with a jumper but the ball left his hand .01 after the buzzer. Then in OT Neal missed the tying free throw. Can’t blame him though, there is no OT if he didn’t play lights out up to that point. For Dallas Terry had 4 in overtime (Dirk Nowitzki also had 4 in the extra period giving him just 10 for the game, he looked rusty in his return after four games off).

Lakers 106, Timberwolves 101: The Lakers controlled the tempo of this game, but the big key is they got 84 points from the combination of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. By the way, that means 22 from everyone else. Decide for yourself if that is sustainable. Another note, Kobe had 14 rebounds, which was more than the 13 Bynum and Gasol had combined.

Pacers 106, Magic 85: The Pacers were just better at both ends of the floor. They shot 51 percent, led by a hot second half from David West (16 points), they held the Magic to 34 points in the second half and forced 19 turnovers. Orlando is now 1-4 in their last five games and struggling on offense. Apparently Dwight Howard ripping the team in the media didn’t motivate them. Shocking. He’s playing well but do you think anybody on that team is going to follow the leadership of a guy with one foot out the door?

Clippers 109, Nuggets 105: Hell hath no fury like a hometown hero scorned — Chauncey Billups came back to Denver and dropped 32 on the hometown that sent him packing to New York (he eventually landed back in Los Angeles). The Clippers came from 10 points back in the fourth quarter with 13 from Chris Paul in the quarter leading the way (he had 25 overall). Denver didn’t play great defense late and the Clippers offense was clicking, they shot 58 percent in the final quarter to pull off the come back.

Raptors 94, Nets 73: Toronto went small — Linas Kleiza and Aaron Gray out of the starting lineup, Jerryd Bayless and Amir Johnson in. It’s an interesting adjustment to being without Andrea Bargnaini. It paid off in the second half as Toronto pulled away. DeMar DeRozan attacked hard and got to the line 14 times in the second half on his way to 27 points. This was DeRozan’s best game of the season by far, Toronto needs more of this. As for the Nets… they just aren’t very good. Not much else to say here.

Hawks 94, Hornets 72: These are the nights when you think Jeff Teague can be what Atlanta needs — 24 points on 11 shots, not one turnover. It’s a good performance no matter the competition. As for the Hornets… they just aren’t very good. Not much else to say here.

Gregg Popovich on Fox News pundit attacking LeBron James: “Unbelievable”

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Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham launched an attack at Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James after the NBA star voiced his opinion on Donald Trump. LeBron had done so many times before, alongside other notable NBA personalities like Kevin Durant and Steve Kerr.

This instance of LeBron speaking up apparently struck Ingraham in some type of way, enough to invoke a shot at James’ intelligence and speaking mannerisms in thinly-veiled comments. Ingraham told James to “shut up and dribble” which sparked the ire of many around the league. LeBron responded in kind, and most considered Ingraham’s racially-tinged tirade to be par for the course from that particular outlet.

Ingraham, who failed to do basic research on LeBron’s background, community leadership, and charitable contributions, also drew criticism from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Speaking before San Antonio’s game against the Cavaliers, Popovich told a crowd that Ingraham’s comments said more about her than about LeBron, and that he was happy the game had such a positive role model for young fans in James.

Via Twitter:

Shoutout to Popovich for continuing to be a voice from such a prominent position within sports and pop culture. Guys like him and LeBron haven’t exhausted themselves even though the discussion about what they say is undoubtedly tiring.

Jimmy Butler has surgery on right meniscus, no timetable for return

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The playoff picture in the Western Conference became much more opaque after Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler went down with a knee injury earlier in the week.

Reports out of Minnesota was that Butler had suffered a right meniscus injury, ducking what many had feared was an ACL tear. According to the team, Butler had successful surgery on his right meniscus this weekend.

As of Sunday morning they did not have a timetable for his return.

Via Twitter:

Minnesota currently stands third in the West but they will have a hard time fending off the rest of the playoff hopeful teams below them without their star player.

For his part, Butler is hoping he will be back in time for the playoffs. Early reports were that the team was thinking his recovery had a 4-to-6 week timeline, but again nothing has been set. Meniscus recovery times vary greatly depending on the issue at hand and the procedure done, neither of which we have details on at this time.

The Timberwolves have the 15th most difficult strength of schedule ahead of them according to Tankathon.com, with games against major Western Conference opponents ahead of them as well as bottom-dwellers like the Memphis Grizzlies.

Minnesota has been a good story all season long. No doubt many will bring up Tom Thibodeau’s workload once again with Butler injured, something compounded by Butler apparently requesting to rest during the 2018 All-Star Game.

Wolves fans have been waiting a long time for this. They don’t deserve this kind of punishment at this late a date, but the Basketball Gods are cruel and unceasingly unforgiving.

Isaiah Thomas on Cavaliers trade to Lakers: “They were in panic mode”

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It seems Isaiah Thomas is a thorn in the side of many in the NBA these days. The Los Angeles Lakers point guard reportedly was the source of some locker room conflict while he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers, although it appears that Dwyane Wade was the first to lead the charge against Kevin Love in the infamous player rap session.

Thomas is now a member of the Lakers after being part of the worst section of the season in Cleveland. The Cavaliers, with their revamped roster, have just one loss since the trade deadline. LeBron James & Co. have moved on, and Thomas appears set for free agency this summer and yet another team.

A move for the Cavaliers seemed inevitable, even if the return for Kyrie Irving from Boston — conveyed through consequent trades — was less than ideal. Meanwhile Thomas, who didn’t appear to enjoy his time in Ohio, has now said that he was surprised Dan Gilbert’s team bailed on him so quickly.

Via ESPN:

“I didn’t think they would pull the trigger that fast, 15 games,” Thomas told ESPN’s E:60 in an interview that will air March 11. “But again, it’s a business. And the Cavs were, I mean, they were in panic mode. We were losing — a lot. And I think they felt like they needed to make a move, and they, they basically cleared house.”

Thomas went on to say that he didn’t think he had enough time to find a rhythm not only coming back from a hip injury but on a new team in a new system. Thomas also mentioned that he harbored no ill feelings toward the Cavaliers.

We’ll see if that’s the case when the Lakers take on Cleveland on March 11 in LA.

Coach Tyronn Lue says not to expect LeBron James to have “rest” games

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LeBron James has not missed one Cleveland Cavaliers game this season. At age 33 in his 15th NBA season, LeBron is fourth in the league in total minutes played, third in the league in minutes per game at 37, and is top 10 in the NBA in usage rate.

Don’t expect that to change.

LeBron doesn’t want to take games off — he even dominated the All-Star Game — and do you really think Lue is going to force him to sit while the Cavaliers try to adapt to a radical roster shakeup at the trade deadline? From Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

“I just think being the leader of this team, I don’t think he thinks he can take games off, because, you know, guys being hurt and going through a rough patch, and now new guys coming in,” Lue said before the Cavs’ 112-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. “So, I think he’s trying to lead and lead by example … I think we still got to be smart about the situation, but [the training staff] say he feels good.”

LeBron said this last month and things have not changed.

“I told you I want to play every game,” James said. “If my health continues as it is right now, then that’s what it is.”

While “load management” is a buzzword around the NBA — one ignored in Minnesota — LeBron has responded to his increased workload with an MVP level season. LeBron is averaging 26.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game, is shooting 35.9 percent from three, and has the highest value over replacement player in the league. (His less energized play in January likely cost him any real shot at his fifth MVP.) With the league emphasizing not resting players — particularly in nationally televised games, which the Cavaliers have a lot of — LeBron is not getting much if any rest. He wants to play in a full 82.

The only concern is will he wear down. LeBron is going to have to dominate in the playoffs for the Cavaliers to come out of the East. How much gas will LeBron have in the tank come May? There’s a reason Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, and a lot of other elite coaches give players a night off. That’s not going to happen with LeBron, at least not likely in a meaningful way.

Consider it something to file away and remember if the Cavaliers and LeBron look a step slower in the postseason.