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Baseline to Baseline recaps: Jeremy Lin is king of New York

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What you missed while thinking that even though you didn’t love Madonna’s halftime show at the Super Bowl, it was better than the Black Eyed Peas doing Tron or whatever it was the year before….

76ers 95, Lakers 90: It was the Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams show, and it was our game of the night.

Knicks 99, Jazz 88: Jeremy Lin is not a great point guard (he turns the ball over too much, not great going to his left), but he attacks off the pick-and-roll like a pit bull, and the Knicks have been missing that. Badly. They look like a different team with a guy who can run Mike D’Antoni’s offense as it was designed.

There was no Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony pulled up injured midway through the first quarter, but the Knicks had Lin’s 28 including 13 in the fourth to seal the win. His ability to drive and draw defenders had Tyson Chandler throwing down lob passes from him, Steve Novak draining open threes and the entire Knicks offense humming. It looks like a new offense we haven’t seen this season in New York. Knicks fans are ready to name a park after Lin and put up a statue.

The Jazz looked like a tired team that had just flown across the country. Or gone out partying in New York like the city had won the Super Bow (not saying they did, saying they played like they did)l. Al Jefferson had 22 but needed 20 shots to get there. Utah looked a step slow and couldn’t catch up with the Lin momentum.

Thunder 111, Trail Blazers 107 (OT): The best game of the night, one of the most entertaining of the season.

There was controversy at the end of this one — Kevin Durant tied the game and sent it to overtime with a layup that LaMarcus Aldridge blocked but was called a goaltend. It wasn’t, he got it before it hit the glass. Look for yourself (although I think you could have called a foul here with his arm into Durant’s body):

(As a side note, this game featured two of the most homer announcing crews in the league. Both called that play with their hearts, but for the OKC crew not to admit it was a block moves them up the ladder to one of the worst homer crews in the league, right there with the Spurs.)

That controversy shouldn’t mar a fun game. Kevin Durant had 33 points (although he needed 33 shots to get there), with a lot of jumpers down the stretch that kept the Thunder in it. Russell Westbrook had 28 points and a key block on Nicolas Batum at the end of regulation. Aldridge was the best player on the floor with 39 points and 15 rebounds, OKC did not have an answer for him. The Thunder won this game because of their amazing athletes, but their end-of-game execution is not impressive and they are often left with tough shots in isolation, come the playoffs that is going to haunt them if it doesn’t improve.

Clippers 107, Magic 102 (OT): The Magic had their offense clicking in the first quarter — Dwight Howard was getting baskets at the rim (he had 13 in the quarter, 33 for the game) and Jason Richardson was knocking down a couple threes as Orlando shot 68 percent and raced out to a lead that reached 15.

But this was a game all about offense (the Magic had an offensive rating of 110 points per 100 possessions, the Clippers 115.4, both insanely high numbers) and that meant the Clippers were going to get back in it. Chris Paul dissected the Magic with dribble penetration that got him 29 points on the game (13 in the fourth quarter) and eight assists. The Clippers led by nine in the second half but it was Orlando’s turn to fight back. However, in the overtime Los Angeles secured the lead with a Caron Butler three off a Glen Davis turnover, then next trip down Paul hit a baseline step back rainbow over Howard — how anyone gets that shot off over D-12 is beyond me, let alone a PG. Clippers got a hard-fought win.

Bulls 108, Nets 87: I liked the Nets throwback uniforms. That’s about the only think Nets related I liked. Chicago’s defense suffocated New Jersey and this was a blowout from the first quarter on, Derrick Rose or not (he left with back spasms and is day-to-day). Deron Williams had 25 for New Jersey, Carlos Boozer 24 for the Bulls.

Wizards 111, Raptors 108 (OT): Washington did a good job pushing the pace early and that led to a healthy lead. John Wall had 11 of his 31 in the first quarter, Nick Young 10 of his 29. But midway through the fourth the Raptors starting hitting every three — Jarryd Bayless had four from deep in the quarter and 16 points and it was a ball game again. One headed to overtime — not a very pretty overtime as only one field goal made, everything else at the line. But the Wizards will take it.

Spurs 89, Grizzlies 84: Three Spurs stood out in this one. Tim Duncan continues to find himself, scoring 17 and playing some good defense on Marc Gasol, including having a key block. Kawhi Leonard was given the task of guarding Rudy Gay and held one of the game’s best forwards to 18 points on 9-of-26 shooting. Tony Parker is playing like an All-Star on both ends of the floor; he had 21 points, 7 assists and some good defensive plays as well.

Kings 100, Hornets 92: New Orleans was in charge of this one, up 18 just before the half and cruising behind its defense, holding the Kings to 33 percent shooting for the half, and Emeka Okafor, who had 11 points in the first quarter alone. But Kings’ rookie Isaiah Thomas sparked a comeback, playing with real energy and scoring 14 points and having 5 assists in the second half (he had 17 points total). That seemed to wake up DeMarcus Cousins, too, who was a beast and finished with 28 points and 19 rebounds.

Rockets 99, Denver 90: This was a tight game the whole way, the final score was actually the largest lead either team had all game. Houston took control in the fourth with a small lineup that had Kyle Lowry (20 points on the night plus he played great defense on Ty Lawson, winning that battle) and Goran Dragic in at the same time, along with Courtney Lee. Luis Scola’s face and game seemed fine, and he dropped 25. The difference in this game was the threes — the Rockets were 10-19, the Nuggets 3-22.

James Harden says playing in every game should matter in MVP voting

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James Harden has played in every Houston Rocket game this season so far. Russell Westbrook has done the same thing for Oklahoma City.

When voters sit down in a few weeks to choose the league’s Most Valuable Player — in one of the most wide-open races in memory, with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James making legitimate cases as well — Harden says they should take playing every game into account. It’s the latest part of the rest discussion going on around the league. Here’s what Harden told Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

“Yeah, because you’re not leaving your teammates out there to dry, ” Harden said Tuesday morning, before the Rockets’ game against the Warriors. “For me, I worry about always having my teammates’ back and always being out there….

“I’m going to have [my teammates’] back and they know that they have mine as well,” said Harden, who is second in the league in points and first in assists. “For the coaching staff and the fans, especially here in Houston, the front office, I’m here to play.”

Both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have had rest nights.

This injects Harden into the rest debate, where recently Harden’s teammate Patrick Beverley came out and said players are “disrespecting the game” when they rest. Gregg Popovich sees more nuance in the debate and certainly backs resting players. On the latest PBT Podcast, former Bull B.J. Armstrong told me that they didn’t have rest days back in his day, but players were kept out of games for things they could play through to get right for the playoffs, it was just listed differently. He added that the rest situation might have been different back in the day if the data about the increased chance of player injuries on the second night of a back-to-back (and it goes up from there with four games in five nights) had been available.

In this case, Harden lobbying for his case in the MVP voting. The thing is, his numbers make the case for him: Harden is averaging 29.4 points per game, leading the league with 11.3 assists a night, and he’s creating the most points per game 27.5 (buckets and direct assists. He has taken on the point guard duties in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has taken on the largest load on offense he has in his career — and he has continued to do it efficiently.

However, one can make a strong statistical case for Westbrook (who carries a larger load for an OKC team that has less talent around its star than Houston), Leonard (best defender of the group), and LeBron (the Cavs recent struggles may doom his chances).

Little details are going to divide this group, and Harden is trying to get his point out there.

That said, the Rockets are almost certainly locked into the three seed in the West, and once it’s clear they are in that slot team management should discuss giving Harden a night off before the playoffs, to let his body rest. Whether he wants to or not.

Rajon Rondo is hilarious (photo)

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Is Rajon Rondo stubborn? Yes.

Is he petty? Yes.

Is he harsh? Yes.

But the Bulls point guard is also hilarious in his own way.

 

Sean Highkin of The Athletic:

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek: “We can use some more defensive players”

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For all the flipping between the triangle and a more modern offense, despite ball stopping by Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks offense is 17th in the NBA for the season. Not good, but the middle of the pack, right around Oklahoma City, Miami, and Memphis — all playoff teams (or potential ones in Miami’s case).

The reason the Knicks season ends in seven games is their defense — 25th in the NBA. Put the triangle in (and get players who fit the system) or don’t, but that’s not the end of the court where the Knicks need to improve. And while system matters on defense, the fact of the matter the Knicks roster is loaded with poor and/or indifferent individual defenders.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek emphasized all this speaking to ESPN’s Ian Begley.

“I think if you look at our defense this year, we can use some more defensive players,” Hornacek said. “[Management] will look at that. [General manager] Steve [Mills] and [president] Phil [Jackson] and those guys will look at whatever can help us out. We know we need some help there.”

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. Now comes the time for action.

The Knicks are going to have a Top 10 draft pick (currently sixth) plus max-player money in free agency. Also, they are looking to move Anthony this summer (he has a no-trade clause so he will have to agree to it). All of which is to say they have a chance to reshape this roster into one that will have more of a defensive focus. Or any defensive focus for that matter.

It will be interesting to see if the Knicks target more defensive minded free agents this summer, ones who might fit the triangle offense such as Thabo Sefolosha, or to a lesser extent Tony Allen. It’s going to be a fascinating summer in New York.

Master P says Pelicans should hire him as assistant coach: ‘I’m serious’

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Did you know Master P had two NBA contracts?

Percy Miller was with the Hornets before the 1999 season and the Raptors before the 1999-00 season. But he was cut in the preseason both times.

These were mostly publicity stunts. Still, the rapper could actually play a bit. NBA quality? He long insisted yes, though his music career provided a convenient and lucrative excuse for sidetracking his basketball ambitions.

Yet, now, the New Orleans native says he wants back in the NBA with the Pelicans — in a different role.

Master P, via TMZ:

I think they need me to be an assistant coach.

I’m serious about coaching.

I don’t think he’s actually serious.

But if he is, would it be a good idea? Probably not. The Pelicans have real issues integrating Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, and they need devoted coaches, not passing entertainers, to solve this.

Would it be fun? Heck yeah.

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