Baseline to Baseline recaps: Pistons handle Celtics easily

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What you missed while trying to decide if you should vote for the naked cowboy guy for president

Knicks 104, Mavericks 97: So Mark Cuban, still think Linsanity is all about New York? Matt Moore broke this down as our game of the day Sunday.

Heat 90, Magic 78: It wasn’t that close, the Heat are steamrolling everyone right now. PBT broke this game down as well.

Thunder 124, Nuggets 118: Kevin Durant had 51 points, Russell Westbrook had 40 — it’s been 27 years since two teammates scored 50+ and 40+ in one game (Kiki Vandeweghe and Alex English for the Nuggets in 1983). Matt broke this game out as well.

Pistons 96, Celtics 81: This is five losses in six games for slumping Boston. Kevin Garnett did not play (personal reasons, he was excused by the team). We can all admit that KG is a step slower than he was a few years back, but even so Boston’s defense is not the same without him. In fact, it’s pretty poor. The Pistons were able to get to the spots the wanted on the floor, control the flow of the game and generally whip the Celtics. Boston’s 22 turnovers didn’t help. It also didn’t help when Rajon Rondo got ejected for throwing the ball at an official in the third quarter (you can bet a suspension is coming). Greg Monroe had 17 points, Rodney Stuckey 16 (10 in the first quarter) to lead the Pistons.

Pacers 108, Bobcats 73: The Bobcats are very, very, very bad. That really is all you need to know.

Cavaliers 93, Kings 92: You got vintage DeMarcus Cousins at the end of this game — the good and the bad. With the game tied at 88-88 and less than a minute left he came up behind Kyrie Irving in transition, swiped the ball away, threw a length of the court pass back to Marcus Thornton for a layup and the lead. Then tied 90-90 with 12 seconds left the Kings had multiple shots, missed them, then Cousins foolishly fouled his Alonzo Gee 88 feet from basket and sent him to the line to give the Cavaliers a lead (91-90). The Kings come down (6.2 seconds left) and give the ball to Cousins on the block and he made a strong spin and drive around Tristan Thompson, hits the reverse layup and the Kings lead 92-91 with 2.9 seconds to go.

Everyone in the building knows Irving is going to take the last shot, but when he drives Tyreke Evans makes a bad (and obvious) reach in foul out by the top of the key with 0.4 seconds left. The Kings were in the penalty. Irving sinks both free throws and the Cavs win. Evans made that play while his backup, rookie Isaiah Thomas, had 23 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds.

Bucks 92, Nets 85: While everyone is caught up in what Durant and Westbrook did, nobody noticed that Ersan Ilyasova had 29 points and 25 rebounds on the day. The Bucks were in control from the middle of the second quarter on, and a 15-4 run to start the second half all but sealed it. Deron Williams did have 26 for the Nets.

Rockets 101, Jazz 85: Houston cranked up the defense in the second half and Utah shot just 28 percent for those 24 minutes. Combine that with Kyle Lowry draining seven three pointers on his way to 32 points and you get a Rockets win. Luis Scola had 26 for Houston, Al Jefferson’s 23 led the Jazz.

Timberwolves 92, Sixers 91: Neither team had a lead of more than 1 for the final six minutes of this game, it was that close. Following a Lou Williams miss on an 18-foot fadeaway, the Timberwolves got the last shot. Minny inbounded to Kevin Love who spun around Thaddeus Young, that’s where Andre Iguodala had helped off and he reached in to try and strip the ball and got called for a foul — a call that left coach Doug Collins and Sixers fans livid. With reason. It was a borderline call at best, not one where the whistle should be blown with 0.1 seconds left in the game. (Love had gone forward and had his shot blocked by Elton Brand, they had body contact and while that wasn’t a foul either it was more of one than what was called on Iggy).

Love sank both free throws and Minnesota wins. The Sixers have lost three in a row.

Suns 102, Lakers 90: The league schedules these home-and-homes to build up a little playoff-like tension. The Suns got beat handily Friday but bounced back with some fire in this one and won behind 25 from Jared Dudley, 21 from Marcin Gortat and 14 assists from Steve Nash. The Lakers have no depth. Lakers not named Kobe/Gasol/Bynum shot 34 percent on the night.

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.

Celtics look to push win streak to 16 vs. Mavs

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DALLAS (AP) — The Boston Celtics aren’t yet halfway to the NBA record for consecutive victories, a mark the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers still hold, but at 15 in a row, they are in rare territory.

Since 1946-47, there have only been 35 instances of a 15-game win streak or longer. And of all the legendary Celtics teams, this squad already holds the franchise’s fifth-longest win streak. A victory Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks, who are an NBA-worst 3-14 overall and 2-8 at American Airlines Center, would tie the 1964-65 Boston team’s 16-game win streak.

If the Celtics (15-2) get the win, they would climb closer to the 1959-60 team’s 18-game win streak, and then comes the club mark of 19 in a row accomplished by the 2008-09 team.

This version of the Celtics has to be considered the most unexpected to string together so many wins. The team has a slew of new players, starting with guard Kyrie Irving, and Boston lost another prized newcomer, forward Gordon Hayward, in the season opener.

After starting 0-2, Boston hasn’t lost. Yet, it’s not exactly as if the Celtics are steamrolling the league. For the Mavericks, who are coming off snapping the Milwaukee Bucks’ four-game win streak Saturday, the fact that Boston has actually had to rally to get a handful of its wins must be seen as an opportunity to steal a decision.

In fact, four of the Celtics’ victories during the streak have come after Boston trailed by 16 points, including a 110-109 win against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

“Most of us have never been on a winning streak like this,” Irving said following the win over Atlanta. “I don’t know if we even know how to pay attention to all the hoopla that goes on in terms of the excitement of it. I just think that every single game we take it as a challenge.”

Irving has been accepting that challenge with tremendous success after asking to be traded away from Cleveland, where he won one title with LeBron James and lost twice in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors.

He closed out those same Warriors last week, scoring 11 of the last 15 points in the final 4:21. The clutch play has Irving already being talked about as an MVP candidate.

“He’s so good in those moments that you want to give him the appropriate amount of room,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told the Boston Globe about Irving. “Maybe it’s finding a matchup. Maybe it’s creating a two-man game with Al (Horford).”

Irving will be a major test for Mavs rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who has displayed some tremendous flashes while also showing he is a green 19-year-old with one season of college ball under his belt.

Dallas, one of the league’s lowest-scoring offensive teams, is relying heavily on Smith and Harrison Barnes to carry the load. Dirk Nowitzki, 39, has dropped off significantly, averaging just 10.3 points a game, his lowest output since his rookie season in 1998-99.

Unlike the Celtics, Dallas has lost its share of games by being unable to close out games late. On Saturday, the Mavericks won a rare game going away, blitzing the Bucks with a franchise-tying 19 3-pointers. Guard Wesley Matthews said he thinks all the hard work is starting to pay off.

The history-chasing Celtics will put that claim to test.

“We can actually see everything that we’ve been trying to do come together, and hopefully that just carries the momentum into the off day where everybody’s feeling good,” Matthews said after Dallas’ victory. “We’ve got another tough battle Monday against Boston, who is the hottest team in the league right now, but it’s another opportunity for us.”