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.

 

Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. throws down 360 dunk against Wizards (video)

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The Wizards are in a rough place.

They’ve lost three of four, including a 23-point setback to the Mavericks last night, and Dennis Smith Jr. is out here practicing for a dunk contest on them.

Report: Damian Lillard meets with Trail Blazers owner, but doesn’t request trade as Paul Allen feared

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Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen was reportedly investigating whether his team’s problem was roster or coaching. In other words, it sounded as if he were determining whether he should fire general manager Neil Olshey or coach Terry Stotts amid a disappointing season. Portland has the NBA’s fifth-largest payroll and is on track to pay the luxury tax, but the team is just 25-22 and seventh in the Western Conference.

In these turbulent times, Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard – who has strongly supported Stotts publicly – wanted to address Allen directly.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Portland Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard met with team owner Paul Allen to gather an understanding of the organization’s direction, league sources told ESPN.

Lillard, who turns 28 on July 15, requested the meeting in part to reaffirm his commitment to the only professional franchise he has ever suited up for, but also to gain assurances that the organization was just as devoted to expeditiously crafting a title-contending team, sources said.

In the weeks leading up to the meeting, Allen feared Lillard would request a trade, sources said, but a trade request was not made.

The meeting, which sources described as a productive, open forum to share opinions and express concerns, could also lead to more sit-downs in the future.

Lillard issued a heartfelt vote of confidence for head coach Terry Stotts, sources said.

They also discussed players to target.

In addition, Lillard sought an explanation from Allen as to why Will Barton was traded to Denver in February of 2015, sources said. Lillard made it known he didn’t agree with the move.

The Trail Blazers traded Barton, because he wasn’t ready to lock down a rotation spot. They got Arron Afflalo, who was more ready to help a team still trying to win with LaMarcus Aldridge. The move was completely logical at the time, and it’s the type of gripe brought up now because Barton has developed with the Nuggets, and Portland is frustrated and in a funk.

Lillard surely suggested win-now moves leading up to the trade deadline, because that’s what players prioritize. I wouldn’t be surprised if Allen would rather shed a few million in salary to avoid the luxury tax in an underwhelming season.

How would Lillard feel about that? Did this meeting open a productive line of communication? Or would he just feel ignored?

Lillard has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to the Trail Blazers. A trade request would have been a huge reversal from his public statements. But did Allen have any reason to suspect Lillard would ask out other than the meeting request and Portland’s middling record?

That Lillard would seek this meeting shows his growth as a player. He’s taking an active role in his team’s fortunes, spreading his reach beyond the court – or at least trying to.

The big question now: Where will that lead him and the Trail Blazers?

Three Things to Know: Jason Kidd out in Milwaukee, now what for Bucks?

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Milwaukee fires Jason Kidd as coach. It’s the right move, but now what? It’s a move that caught the players in Milwaukee off guard, a move that will be trashed by some of the NBA’s old boy network, but something expected by many officials from other teams and league observers (although most thought it would be an offseason move).

Jason Kidd was fired as coach of the Milwaukee Bucks Monday.

It was the right move. Individual players grew under Kidd — Giannis Antetokounmpo blossomed into a superstar with the ball in his hands, and he was so unhappy with the move he offered to intervene and try to save Kidd’s job — but the team did not. Last season the Bucks went 42-40 in the regular season and were up 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against Toronto before ultimately losing in six, but as had happened too much with this team it was two steps up and one step back. The Bucks didn’t grow from there. The team entered this season with players talking of 50-win season and a top four seed (Las Vegas oddsmakers set the wins under/over at 47.5), and the expectation was the defense would finally come around. It didn’t. Kidd blamed the team’s youth to everyone — the media publicly and team management privately, asking for more veterans — yet he made some, shall we say, “interesting” end of game coaching decisions that left everyone bewildered. Kidd eventually backed off some on the ultra aggressive, trapping defensive style this team played — a style teams figured out how to beat with ball movement — but it wasn’t enough. The Bucks are 25th in the NBA in defense. With that they are 24-22, but with a negative point differential that suggests a 20-26 team, not one clinging to a playoff slot (currently seventh in the East, 1.5 games up on ninth-seed Detroit and missing the playoffs all together, fivethirtyeight.com gives them a 68 percent chance of making the postseason).

Now what?

For the rest of this season, long-time assistant Joe Prunty will run the show, and he will get the chance to Frank Vogel his way into the job if the team excels under him (and the moved was timed as the Bucks enter a soft part of the schedule, they can rack up some wins right now). However, more likely is a big off-season search where the biggest names in coaching without a job will come calling. Already two names bandied about are Jeff Van Gundy and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams. David Fizdale has to be considered. Every coach without a job will want this one — with Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and a host of long, athletic, quality role players (such as Thon Maker, Jon Henson and others) this team has a world of potential. It should be talked about with Minnesota and Philadelphia as the teams who have next in the NBA.

The Bucks have been rumored to be interested in DeAndre Jordan, is that still the case or will they try to make their moves in the off-season (when they can’t afford to sign Jordan or much of anyone else of consequence without shedding salary)? My guess is now the team now waits, it will want to consult with whoever is hired as coach.

Also, how will the Bucks at times feuding ownership play into all of this? New Yorkers Mark Lasry and Wes Edens have had their differences — Jon Horst is the GM now because the two sides could not agree on a candidate so they compromised on him, someone farther down on both lists. On the court this team is seen as one of the league’s best jobs with the most potential, but the coach may need to navigate ownership landmines along the way.

The Bucks move into their new arena next fall and there will be pressure on the new coach to bring the team up to the level of the building — the Bucks have the pieces to be one of the top teams in the East (a conference that could open up depending on what LeBron James chooses to do next summer). It’s a coveted job, but not an easy one.

2) DeMarcus Cousins has the kind of night nobody has had in 46 years. All-Star starter DeMarcus Cousins went off on the Bulls Monday night — 44 points, 24 rebounds, and 10 assists in the Pelicans’ double OT win against Chicago. These were not meaningless points, Cousins picked up seven of them in the second overtime.

The last time somebody had a 40/20/10 night in the NBA Elton John had just released “Rocket Man” — Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1972 when he was still playing in Milwaukee.

3) Locker room issues bubble up in San Antonio and Cleveland, but will it matter? Two things that can lead to locker room dissent in the NBA? Struggling teams on losing streaks pointing fingers, and guys with lingering injuries that were expected back.

We saw both of those creep up Monday, in San Antonio and Cleveland. The question is, will it matter to either organization come the playoffs? Probably not.

In Cleveland, losers of 8-of-11 and heading into a tough stretch of games, they held an emotional team meeting Monday’s practice, and Kevin Love became the whipping boy. Because the more things change, the more it’s still always Kevin Love’s fault. Other players questioned the illness that Love said he suffered that forced him to sit out much of Saturday’s blowout loss to the Thunder (he left the building before the game was over) and then miss practice Sunday. The meeting got heated, but Love spoke to the team to explain himself and that seemed to calm things down, mostly. For now. These team meetings make headlines, but most of the time prove to be meaningless on the court. Are the Cavaliers going to start to care and at least give some effort on defense after this? We’ll see. I wouldn’t bet on it lasting, it almost never does, but we’ll see.

In San Antonio, reports came up that the always quiet Kawhi Leonard has become “disconnected” from the team while dealing with the thigh injury that has let him play just nine games this season. Leonard and Popovich have always been on the same page, is this just frustration with a rehab on a quad injury that is just not healing as fast as anyone hoped and expected? Is it more than that? Both GM R.C. Buford and Leonard’s uncle denied any rift.

What happened with LaMarcus Aldridge shows us how this likely plays out. Aldridge demanded a trade last summer, but rather than panic and ship him out (for less than fair market value) Popovich sat down with Aldridge, figured out why he was frustrated, adjusted how he used him, and now Aldridge is happy — he signed an extension — and is having an All-Star season. Expect Popovich to figure out how to work with Leonard, too.

Are these leaked black and white uniforms the All-Star Game jerseys?

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Nike faced a challenge with this year’s All-Star Game in designing the uniforms — there is no East vs. West. How do you design a uniform for the teams captained — and selected — by Stephen Curry and LeBron James? Maybe go back to 1997 (and a few years after) where players just wore their team’s uniform, either home whites or road colors.

It looks like Nike has solved the problem by going black-and-white.

Conrad Burry of Sportslogos.net — who in the past has nailed early leaks of NBA uniforms — confirmed ongoing Web rumors that the league is going black and white (hat tip ESPN).

What do you think? I’m with Conrad here — if these are the really the uniforms they don’t work for me. Maybe it will work better in person and on the broadcast, but I don’t know. We’ll see.