Baseline to Baseline recaps: There are days the Magic look good

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What you missed while realizing your Valentine’s Day could have gone worse….

Knicks 100, Kings 85: The perfect storm that is Jeremy Lin continues, and it is our game of the night.

Hawks 101, Suns 99: Our own Brett Pollakoff was at this game and filed a report.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t give you a little Steve Nash video highlight from this one.

Magic 103, Sixers 87: This game followed the old axiom “you can’t win a game in the first quarter but you can lose it.” Orlando raced out to a 23-6 lead and never trailed. The Sixers tried, they made some rallies — like when they made push to cut it to nine inside of four minutes. But back-to-back threes by Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson pushed the lead to 15 and all but sealed it. Anderson finished with a game high 27, Dwight Howard had 17. Lou Williams led Philly with 21.

This game was a far cry from the meeting a couple weeks ago where the 76ers held the Magic to 69 points total.

Pistons 98, Celtics 88: Detroit owned the fourth quarter holding Boston to 28 percent shooting and just 16 points. Which is pretty much the opposite of what we all expected. But there was no Kevin Garnett (Boston’s defense scrambles around without him) and Paul Pierce seemed a ghost in the offense. Rajon Rondo tried to make up for it with a career best 32 points plus 15 dimes. Wasn’t enough when nobody else knocked down shots. Rodney Stuckey led Detroit with 25. Good win for the Pistons.

Spurs 113, Raptors 106: It was the Tony Parker show. He had 34 points — 14 in the fourth quarter to hold off the Raptors — and he dished out 14 assists. Parker was in attack mode and got most of those in the paint. Parker and Tiago Splitter (13 points) make a good pick-and-roll combo, he rolls hard to the rim. Manu Ginobili is showing flashes of his old self as he finds his footing. Neither team played the kind of defense we expected out of them. DeMar DeRozan dropped 29 for Toronto, two on this play.

Cavaliers 98, Pacers 87: Kyrie Irving was back from his concussion and looked fantastic on his way to 22. He helped spark the Cavaliers racing out to a quick double digit lead (32 first quarter points). But this was as much about a terrible Pacers performance, their fifth straight loss. Irving destroyed the Pacers defense on the pick-and-roll. The Pacers offense looked lost. They missed Danny Granger, but t more than that.

Grizzlies 105, Nets 100: Rudy Gay has been playing his best ball of the season since he got snubbed (or at least believes he got snubbed) for the All-Star Game, and he dropped 25 on the Nets. Marreese Speights has had a couple good games in a row now, scoring 20 with 18 boards in this one. Memphis is now 8-1 in games against teams below .500 — beating the teams you are supposed to matters. Deron Williams had 26 for New Jersey. Also, Memphis, stop with the Tams uniforms, please.

Rockets 96, Thunder 95: Oklahoma City’s end of game execution is just unimpressive. They had three chances at a game-winning shot in the final 24 seconds and it was isolation without ball movement, ending with contested jumpers from Kevin Durant. He missed, and Russell Westbrook missed a tip in. They rely on their amazing athleticism, but I just want to see guys get better looks by design.

That said, the Rockets may have won this in the first quarter when they built a 19 point lead. Kevin Martin had 12 of his 32 in the first quarter, but the biggest two may have come on the game tying and winning free throws when he drew a foul in the fourth. For a guy who went scoreless the night before it was a huge turnaround. The Rockets made the big plays late when they had to. Durant finished with 33.

Timberwolves 102, Bobcats 90: Charlotte hung around well into the third quarter, so they can claim a moral victory if they want. In reality it is 16 straight losses, they are historically bad. Minnesota pulled away in the fourth, which is when Nicola Pekovic scored 9 of his 21, he’s been fantastic of late. Kevin Love had 30 points and 18 rebounds.

Hornets 92, Bucks 89: Milwaukee got booed by their own home crowd as they were down double digits to a 5-win team. The Bucks are not defending like a Scott Skiles team and Marco Belinelli took advantage to score 22 points including shooting 6-of-7 from three. The Bucks have lost three straight and looked bad doing it.

Mavericks 102, Nuggets 84: Dallas won this was with suffocating defense — Denver shot 36 percent for the game and scored only 39 points in the first half. Denver, on the other hand, played poor defense all night and Dallas used balance (six players in double figures) to put up big numbers. This was a blowout early and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle got to rest his starters during the fourth.

Trail Blazers 93, Warriors 91: Portland finally won a close game — and did it with a late 10-3 run. The Blazers did it without LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle sprain) and against a Warriors team that had won three in a row. Gerald Wallace took control for Portland and finished with 24 points. Still, Golden State had a chance at the end on a final play — Nate Robinson got into the lane and falling down got the ball to Brandon Rush for a game-winning look at a corner three, but it didn’t fall. Robinson and Rush in the clutch? Yes. Warriors coach Mark Jackson liked how his bench had played and rode the hot hand (which was smart, Robinson was hot had more points in the fourth quarter than Ellis did all game). David Lee was the exception as he had 29 for the Warriors.

Clippers 102, Wizards 84: The score looks like a blowout but this was close until the fourth quarter. Los Angeles looked flat early (just getting home after a six-game road trip) and John Wall’s speed seemed to make the Clippers look like they were moving in slow motion. But Wall couldn’t finish (4-of-13 shooting). He did dish out a dozen assists and JaVale McGee started out hot (he finished with 18). But like a good team should, the Clippers found a way in the fourth, when Randy Foye had 10 in the quarter. Blake Griffin had 23 on the night (and some monster dunks), Caron Butler had 21.

 

Cavaliers try to convey confidence amid their own star crisis (crises?)

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Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said the Pacers could have done better in their Paul George trade – a bold (though correct) public critique from someone who had to apologize for his handling of the last time he lost a star and is staring down the prospect of losing another star this summer and the original star again next summer.

What was supposed to be a press conference introducing new general manager Koby Altman today predictably turned into an examination of Kyrie Irving‘s trade request and LeBron James2018 free agency.

“This thing is not broken,” said Altman, who takes over a team that has reached three straight NBA Finals – winning the 2016 title – but now faces immense peril.

Both Gilbert and Altman kept their assessments of Irving’s trade request close to the vest, not even confirming it occurred. But even NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he assumes reports of Irving’s request are accurate.

Gilbert said he planned to call Silver, clearly part of an attempt to project stability. That was the transparent underpinning of the entire press conference, which included Gilbert saying he felt better about hiring Altman than any prior general manager. The plan went awry when Gilbert stumbled through an answer about why he’s never given a general manager a second contract and why the Cavs couldn’t lure Chauncey Billups, who turned down leading the front office and later said he knew of Irving’s discontent and labeled it “alarming.”

But Gilbert did give his assessments on the franchise’s biggest issues.

On LeBron’s future beyond this season: “We do not control all the cards we get dealt.”

On whether Irving will be in training camp: “Right now, Kyrie Irving is under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for two or three years, depending on the last year. So, as of now, he’s one of our best players. Sure, we expect him to be in camp.”

In context, Gilbert sounded as if he was merely saying he expected every Cavalier under contract to be in training camp until their contract status changed – not that he was predicting Irving wouldn’t be traded this offseason.

All reports are that the Cavs are proceeding as if they’ll trade Irving, though Gilbert also brought Kobe Bryant’s infamous 2007 trade request. Kobe and the Lakers reconciled, and he won two more titles in Los Angeles.

“I’m not saying that that happens here,” Gilbert said. “But the possibilities of what will happen are wide.”

The Cavs at least left the door open publicly for Irving returning. Altman downplayed any animosity between the team’s stars, echoing LeBron’s tweets. But Irving’s issues with LeBron appear to be deeper and different than face-to-face resentment, and this summer’s saga hasn’t necessarily helped.

Altman called LeBron “deeply committed to this team and deeply committed to this city” and Irving a “core piece of who we are and what we do.”

Yet, the new general manager wanted to expand discussion beyond those two.

“It’s interesting,” Altman said. “We’ve had an active offseason that I wish some of you would talk more about, in terms of what we’ve done.”

The offseason LeBron reportedly deemed frustrating?

Altman gets a pass for David Griffin’s departure, which clearly rankled LeBron. But Cleveland’s signings – Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, Cedi Osman – leave plenty to be desired, especially as the Warriors load up. A championship looks even further from Cleveland.

With the goal so high and future so turbulent, Gilbert and Altman faced an uphill battle in projecting stability today. Luckily for them, this isn’t the true measure of success.

But things that matter far more – navigating Irving’s trade request, re-signing LeBron – might not be much easier.

Watch the top 60 clutch shots from last NBA season

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It’s that time of the year when there is no basketball, so we fill the time with idle Kyrie Irving speculation and video highlights of last season.

Along those lines, above you can out the top 60 clutch shots from last season, as determined by the folks at NBA.com.

The great thing about the clutch shot list is the ball is in the hands of stars at the ends of games, so there is plenty of Russell Westbrook, John Wall, LeBron James, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and more. Personally, I would have switch No. 1 and No. 2 on the list, but it’s all fun to relive.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert: Pacers ‘could have done better’ on Paul George trade

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Kyrie Irving has requested a trade. LeBron James could leave next summer. The Cavaliers keep churning through general managers, the newest – Koby Altman – the reason for today’s press conference.

But Cavs owner Dan Gilbert looked past his own team’s turmoil and potential turmoil to take a shot at the Pacers, who traded Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

“I will say Indiana could have done better than they did,” Gilbert said after Altman refused to directly address a question about George trade talks and shifted the discussion elsewhere.

This didn’t strike me as Gilbert trying to distract from Cleveland’s troubles. He just seemed to want to take a shot at a foe, something he’s no stranger to doing. The Cavaliers are particularly salty about their trade offer for George, which included Kevin Love, not being accepted.

For what it’s worth, Gilbert is right. The Pacers should have done better. Oladipo is now on a lucrative contract extension, and Sabonis spent his rookie season showcasing the reasons people doubted him the draft. That’s a piddling return for a star, even one on an expiring contract with dreams of joining the Lakers.

Report: Kings meet with former Magic GM Otis Smith about front-office job

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The Kings lost Scott Perry to the Knicks, so Sacramento is seeking someone else to aid Vlade Divac in the front office.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Former Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith has met with Sacramento Kings officials about the franchise’s vacant vice president of basketball operations job, league sources told ESPN.

Smith has plenty of experience, which Divac lacks. But it’s not all good experience.

Running the Magic, Smith made numerous errors – including drafting Fran Vazquez (who has never played in the NBA) No. 11, overpaying Rashard Lewis and then trading Lewis for Gilbert Arenas’ even worse contract. If Smith’s Orlando tenure is predictive, he’ll indulge the Kings’ worst tendencies to mortgage the future for the present.

That said, Smith might have learned from his time with the Magic (though working under Stan Van Gundy with the Pistons the few couple years isn’t exactly the best place to hone long-term-planning skills). What amounts to an assistant general-manager role might be a better fit for him, too.

Usually, this opening wouldn’t garner so much attention. But Perry was lavished with praise for Sacramento’s offseason, raising the profile of this job – which already carried relative prominence. The No. 2 in the Kings’ front office is now perceived, somewhat fairly, as more important than the typical assistant general manager.