Baseline to Baseline recaps: LeBron beats Cleveland. Yawn.

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What you missed while learning to play a-ha on the accordion….

Heat 107, Cavaliers 91: As has been their pattern, this is another game where the Heat played down to the level of the competition. At least for three quarters — in the fourth the Heat cranked up the defense and that was enough to pull away and get a comfortable win.

The Heat’s offense was clicking all night as both Dwyane Wade (26 points) and LeBron James (24) were attacking and getting in the lane (it seemed like dunking practice for LeBron). But give the Cavaliers some credit — Kyrie Irving was the fourth best player on the court and Anderson Varejao may have been the fifth (Udonis Haslem had a good night as well). Antawn Jamison had 25 for Cleveland.

Timberwolves 86, Kings 84: Minnesota has a winning record. Let that sink in for a moment.

No Kevin Love for the Timberwolves (two game suspension for using Luis Scola as a doormat), but Nikola Pekovic started and filled in pretty well, knocking down 9-of-12 shots for 23 points, 10 rebounds, and a couple blocks. Sacamento kept it close because it was Jimmer time late, Fredette had 13 fourth quarter points. He and Isaiah Thomas pushed the pace and helped make this a game again — so why does Keith Smart take them out and put Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton back in for the final minute?

Tied 82-82 with a minute left, Ricky Rubio drove the lane and four defenders were in the paint watching him, which meant nobody was out with Derrick Williams at the three point line, he got the pass and drained it. But the Kings had their chance at the end. Rubio needs to develop a floater, because late he drove again (a little too early in the clock) with a chance to seal it but missed an awkward pull up. The Kings grabbed the miss and pushed it in transition, and in a scramble the ball came out to Donte Green, who got a good look at the game winning three, but clanked it off the rim. If the Kings ever have a good first quarter (they were down 15) they may win a game.

Pacers 104, Jazz 99: Indiana got this win thanks to a fantastic fourth quarter by Danny Granger, who had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the final period and finished the game with 25 points. It took a late 8-0 run for the Pacers to secure the win at all. Credit to the Jazz for even making a game of this — the Pacers had gone on a 14-2 run early in the third quarter and were up 21, but the Jazz would not just roll over. Utah went on a 25-4 run (sparked in part by Josh Howard and C.J. Miles off the Jazz bench), Indy shot 0-for-10 during it, and we had a tie game in the fourth. Paul Millsap was playing like a beast again and had 18. But the Pacers finally responded with nice ball movement and a Darren Collison three and they took the lead for good. Another great game for Roy Hibbert, who finished with 17 and 10. This is four road losses in a row for the Jazz, who are becoming one of those home/road Jekyll/Hyde teams.

Suns 107, Bucks 105: There was a moment early in the second quarter when Michael Redd came in, drained 5-of-6 for a quick 10 points, that must have been like a flashback to the people in Milwaukee. This was not a game with a lot of defense played by either side, the result was six Suns in double figures scoring (Marcin Gortat led the way with 21) and on the other side Drew Gooden had 25 (on 21 shots). But in the end, the best player on the floor — Steve Nash — hit the game winner and dominated Brandon Jennings on the night.

Celtics 94, Bobcats 84: It was Paul Pierce’s night — he passed Larry Bird on Boston’s all-time scoring list, had 15 points (but needed 18 shots to get there), 8 rebounds and 9 assists. Late in the first half the Celtics were forcing the ball to him to get him to the record and against a better team it might have hurt them, but this is the worst team in the league they faced. Charlotte, to their credit, hung pretty close for three quarters but an 11-0 Celtics run early in the fourth put this one away. Kevin Garnett had 22 points, Rajon Rondo had 14 assists and zero turnovers. Derrick Brown was 10-for-10 shooting for Charlotte, but they just lack players who can impact the game.

Thunder 119, Warriors 116: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. The losing team in this game had an offensive rating of 117.2 in what was a fast-paced game with 99 possessions. Monta Ellis put up a blistering 48 points (on 29 shots), while on the other side Kevin Durant had 33 — do you think he meant to bank in the game winner? — and Russell Westbrook 31 (but nine turnovers). This came down to who make the plays at the end — Durant hit his game winner and blocked a Brandon Rush shot, while Ellis just could not knock down his good look. Some nights that’s the difference.

Damian Lillard defends Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts on Instagram

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It’s far too early for panic in Portland. This is a team most outside Portland thought would finish a little above .500 and maybe grab one of the back-end playoff spots in the West, and at 9-7 they are on that pace.

But after an ugly Portland loss to Sacramento (just a few games after a loss to Brooklyn where coach Terry Stotts benched center Jusuf Nurkick for most of the fourth), Trail Blazers fans were restless and started to slam coach Stotts on the Trail Blazers’ Instagram page.

I doubt Stotts noticed, but Damian Lillard did and jumped in to defend his coach.

Lillard added this (hat tip Mike Richman at the Oregonian).

“Because people think they know more about what it takes to get things done at this level … For our team than they actually do,” he said. “We’re in this position for a reason. And coach Stotts had two 50-win seasons here and four straight years in the playoffs for a reason –because he knows what he’s doing. They mention … our record is 8-7 and we’re having breakdowns late in games. Well those breakdowns are a missed shot here, a turnover there, a defensive breakdown here, giving up extra possessions, missed free throws. It’s things that players control. If we were down 30 every game, that’s different. But we’re in position to win games. And when it’s time to win games, that’s the players’ job. “

Lillard is loyal to those around him and has had the back of teammates and his coach before.

Lillard and his teammates went out Saturday night and got some revenge on the Kings, winning 102-90.

Portland’s defense has been surprisingly good this season, second best in the NBA. It should have been better with Nurkic in the paint, but this has been a radical turnaround for a team where that end of the floor held them back in recent years. While that lofty ranking may not stick all season, the Blazers are defending.

Now the Blazers are just having trouble scoring efficiently (18th in the NBA), which is a little about a less-efficient Lillard and a rough start on that end for Nurkic.  That end of the court should come around, Lillard and C.J. McCollum are too good for it not to.

 

Teammate spoke to Lonzo Ball about walking away from “fight”

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We see these posturing/shoving matches all the time in the NBA, and they’re pointless. Late in Friday night’s Phoenix win in Los Angeles the Suns called a timeout, then Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one a shoving match. As happens, players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up… except for Lonzo Ball, who looked at it and kept moving along.

I have defended Ball’s actions as mature (he’s right, nothing was going to happen), while others (fans and media) have questioned his leadership for not rushing to stand by teammates, pull guys out of the pile, and having a “band of brothers” attitude.

None of that matters, the only opinions that carry any weight are the ones in the Lakers’ locker room. What did his teammates think? Lakers coach Luke Walton said a teammate did talk to Ball, quote via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Someone on our team talked with him,” Walton said after the Lakers’ practice Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process.”

If his teammates were bothered, then there’s an issue. It’s more about perception than anything, again nothing was happening in that “fight,” but perception matters. It’s a small issue, but an issue. With young players this gets discussed, and everyone moves on.

Ball’s passing and energy on the court are things teammates love. As his game matures — and he eventually finishes better around the rim and, hopefully for him, finds his jumper — and he grows as a bigger threat on the court, his teammates will forget this ever happened. As will fans. But when you play for the rabid (and not always rational) fan base of the Lakers, and when your father invites publicity and with it scrutiny, things get blown out of proportion. Welcome to Lonzo’s world.

Marc Gasol kicks away Clint Capela’s shoe, earns technical

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Midway through the first quarter, Clint Capela literally came out of his shoe trying to move up to set a pick for James Harden. Just stepped right out of it. J.R. Smith wasn’t there to untie the laces or anything.

Capela turned around to go get his shoe, and Memphis’ Marc Gasol showed his soccer skills kicking the shoe away. That earned him a technical foul. Gasol could argue he just wanted to get something he could trip over off the court, but Capela was clearly coming back for it at that point. Gasol earned this one.

Capela retied his shoes and went on to have 17 points and 13 boards in Houston’s 105-83 win over shorthanded Memphis.

Stephen Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.