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.

 

Advantage Utah? Jazz’s Derrick Favors “100 percent” back

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — When Derrick Favors can find ways to impose his will, good things happen for the Utah Jazz.

Favors has been quietly, albeit effectively, getting it done against the Oklahoma City Thunder, playing in the shadows of Utah rookie of the year candidate Donovan Mitchell and Jazz center Rudy Gobert.

But a healthy Favors is making an impact.

The Jazz have returned to Utah with the series tied 1-1, thanks in no small part to Favors. He tallied career playoff highs of 20 points and 16 rebounds in Utah’s 102-95 road win on Wednesday.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder will start Favors at power forward alongside Gobert beginning with Game 3 on Saturday. But he will also utilize him as a backup center to spell Gobert. Favors has done his part to make playing alongside Gobert work by extending his shooting range to improve offensive spacing. He has also made himself an effective roller.

“He’s always been a good pick-and-roll player, regardless of `position,”‘ Snyder said. “We’ve never really thought of him as one position or the other. We’ve thought of him as a basketball player and tried to have him understand his strengths and then play to his strengths.”

Indeed. In the first two playoff games against the Thunder, Favors is averaging 13.5 points on 52 percent shooting and 10.5 rebounds.

It is exactly the type of impact Favors envisioned making when fighting to reclaim his body from knee and back injuries that afflicted him for the better part of two seasons.

“I’m back to being 100 percent,” Favors said. “Back healthy. Back moving the way I know I can move and playing the way I know I can play. It’s a big advantage for us.”

There’s no question having Favors at full strength has improved Utah’s ability to counter a Thunder team featuring the potent trio of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. The veteran forward/center offers versatility on both ends of the court honed through playing multiple positions as circumstances dictate.

Crashing the boards definitely tops the list when checking off Favors’ strengths. He ranks second on the Jazz roster in rebounding behind Gobert with 7.2 rebounds per game.

When Favors is active on the glass, it can change the direction of a game for Utah. In Game 2 against Oklahoma City, he grabbed eight offensive rebounds through the first 2 1/2 quarters. By contrast, the Thunder totaled six offensive boards as a team in the same stretch.

“His length and his strength allow him to get his hands on balls,” Snyder said. “He’s got such good hands that even when he keeps the ball alive, usually something good happens.”

Favors’ willingness to go full throttle around the basket has turned him into a reliable complimentary player on offense. He rolls to the basket with consistency and, more often than not, it pays off for him.

It has turned Favors into a legitimate offensive presence again. He averaged 9.5 points on 48.7 percent shooting while limited to 50 games a year ago. This season, Favors is scoring 12.3 points per game while shooting 56.3 percent from the floor.

“Other teams and other opponents, they look and see I’m 6-foot-10 and think I’m a 5 man or whatever, so they try to take advantage of it,” Favors said. “It just feels good to be able to go out there and move the way that I know that I can move and be able to play the way I know that I can play and teams can’t take advantage of it.”

Favors is focused on staying aggressive as the series with the Thunder shifts to Utah. He is having fun playing basketball again and wants to make sure Oklahoma City continues to feel his presence on both ends of the court.

His teammates certainly do and they understand what a difference it can potentially make as the Jazz battle to keep going in the postseason.

“He’s been like that all year,” Mitchell said, “but he’s definitely turned it up with what he can do.”

 

Heat have work cut out vs. surging Sixers

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MIAMI (AP) — Philadelphia 76ers reserve guard Justin Anderson scored six points on Thursday, but he played a major role nonetheless in a 128-108 playoff win over the Miami Heat.

It was Anderson who worked on the psyche of teammate Joel Embiid, the 76ers’ All-Star center who returned after missing 10 straight games because of a concussion and left-eye injury.

“Justin was hyping me up on the bench, telling me I’m one of the best players in the league and that I have to take over,” said Embiid, who wore a mask during the game. “I liked that.”

Embiid, with that added boost of confidence, produced 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 30 minutes. He missed his first five shots from the floor and then made five of his next six, including three 3-pointers.

In addition, Embiid made 10 of 15 free throws, wrapping up his highly successful NBA playoff debut.

On Saturday afternoon, the teams will meet again at AmericanAirlines Arena in a first-round series the Heat trails 2-1.

Certainly, the Heat will try to corral Embiid, but Miami gave its own star center, Hassan Whiteside, just 13 minutes on Thursday, in part because of foul trouble.

Whiteside produced just five points, two rebounds and one block. He made his only shots from the field, but his four fouls helped to keep him off the court.

“I want to get more minutes,” said Whiteside, who led the NBA with 3.7 blocks in 2015-2016 and with 14.1 rebounds last season. “Even with the fouls, I could’ve been out there. I would not have fouled out.”

This season, Whiteside is averaging 14.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. But, on average, his minutes per game are down seven minutes from last season and even more in the playoffs.

Whiteside said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra “wants me to just be in a corner and set picks.”

Spoelstra, meanwhile, said “it’s part of my job to figure out how he can get to his strengths and make an impact on defense and rebounding.”

Aside from the two centers, the other big story line in this series revolves around the 76ers, a young team that won 18 of its past 19 games. After years of horrendous records amid a major teardown and rebuild effort, the 76ers have looked like the best team in the league during the past month.

They didn’t just beat the Heat on Thursday — they ran them over, making 18 of 34 3-pointers (52.9 percent). They also shot 50.6 percent overall and were plus-eight on rebounds and plus-14 on paint points.

Ben Simmons, the 76ers’ star point guard, nearly had a triple-double with 19 points, a game-high 12 rebounds and seven assists.

JJ Redick, one of the top shooters in the league, scored just 10 points, but 76ers teammates Dario Saric and Marco Belinelli each scored 21 points and each hit four 3-pointers to help the offense flow.

Miami was led by 23 points and eight assists from point guard Goran Dragic. Heat reserve forward Justise Winslow scored a season-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. But Miami’s top three shooting guards — Tyler Johnson, Dwyane Wade and Wayne Ellington — combined for just 21 points.

The game’s biggest factor was Embiid, who had been listed as unlikely to play until Thursday afternoon, when he was cleared by doctors.

Embiid had a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter, which continued a trend. In Philadelphia’s two wins in this series, they have outscored the Heat by 31 and 21 points, respectively.

Anderson said Embiid has been a team player throughout.

“One of the things (Embiid) told me during (Thursday’s) game was to tell Coach that he didn’t want any plays run for him,” Anderson said. “He just wanted to play within the scheme.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo laid waste to Aron Baynes with this dunk

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For the first time this series Friday night, the Bucks looked like the more talented team.

That got them a comfortable win at home against the Celtics and set up a huge Game 4 on Sunday, with the Celtics still up 2-1 in the series. This looked more like the Bucks team that some of us picked to win the series, the team with the long and superior athletes unleashed on defense to challenge everything Boston tried. Milwaukee also got a big game out of Thon Maker at the five, which helped spread the floor because he’s a threat from three (as a team, the Bucks were 16-of-33 from deep) that the Celtics had to cover. That opens up driving lanes.

Giannis Antetokounmpo took advantage of those lanes laid waste to Aron Baynes with this dunk.

🛫 THE GREEK FREAK TAKES FLIGHT! 🛬

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Damn. That’s not fair.

🇬🇷💥

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Game 4 is Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee… and let’s just say I’m not betting Baynes will be able to turn the tables and put the Greek Freak in a poster.

Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers completes pass to become part owner of Bucks

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Aaron Rodgers is regularly be seen courtside at Milwaukee Bucks games, having professed his love of the sport many times. Here was there Friday night for the Bucks’ Game 3 win, sitting courtside with girlfriend Danica Patrick.

This time, he was doing it as part owner of the team.

Milwaukee announced between the first and second quarters that the Packers QB1 is now part-owner of the Bucks, having bought a minority stake in the team.

“I have proudly called Wisconsin my home for the past 13 years, and I am thankful for the friendships and the opportunities I have been given to live and play here,” Rodgers in a released statement. “I am excited and honored to deepen my connection to the region by joining Wes Edens, Marc Lasry, Jamie Dinan, Mike Fascitelli and the ownership group of the Milwaukee Bucks. As a huge fan of the NBA and the sport of basketball, this is a dream come true for me, and I look forward to furthering my affinity for Wisconsin sports as a minority owner in a team I love and support.”

Rodgers is a California native who attended Cal in the Bay Area for college and now — like many an NBA player — splits his time between living where he works in Wisconsin and Southern California.

This is a smart time to buy into the Bucks — and not just because they won Friday. Milwaukee moves into a brand new building next season which should generate a lot more revenue for the franchise. Plus, the Bucks are poised to make a leap forward in the East as a team behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and a solid supporting cast (likely led by a new coach next season), which will lead to more revenue as they become a team to see on the road, one that fills buildings.