Boston Celtics' Pierce and Garnett react when the team was called for a technical foul against the Chicago Bulls during NBA basketball game in Chicago

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Pistons handle Celtics easily


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.

Damian Lillard’s goal for season: Win MVP

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) poses for a photograph during NBA basketball media day in Portland, Ore., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
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When the PBT staff made our predictions for MVP you saw some expected names — LeBron James, James Harden — and a smart pick off some people’s radar in Kawhi Leonard. Russell Westbrook was discussed as someone with a chance.

What about Damian Lillard? You know, the hip-hop star.

Lillard told a Jay Allen of Portland area Fox Sports Radio that’s his goal.

Lillard averaged 25.1 points and 6.8 assists per game last season, he is unquestionably a dynamic offensive force — he has a great pull up jumper and he can get to the rim and finish. Plus, he’s just entertaining to watch.

But MVP? That’s going to take more than numbers.

Portland won 44 games last season. The MVP almost always goes to the best player on a top two or three seed, meaning a team winning around 55 games or more. For Portland to add 10 wins or so and get Lillard noticed in the MVP race is going to be about defense — Portland was bottom 10 last season in defense and they need to be at least middle of the pack this time around. Which comes back to Lillard on some level, he’s often an overmatched defender and he can lose focus on that end. He’s gotten better over the years, but Lillard is going to have to lift up the Blazers defense, not just offense, to get in the MVP discussion.

I’m skeptical (of Lillard’s chances and the Trail Blazers taking a step forward), but we all underestimated Portland last season, too.

LeBron James says he can still win MVP with reduced workload, cites Stephen Curry

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 02:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers with the ball against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 2, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The door is open for LeBron James to win a legacy-altering fifth MVP.

But his Cavaliers could also win another championship, leaving Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue planning to limit LeBron’s minutes in preparation of a long playoff run.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN

“No,” James said Saturday when asked if he was concerned that planned rest could affect his MVP case. “Because Steph played 31 minutes a game and he won the MVP.”

“Well, I’ve never set into a season saying I want to win MVP,” he said. “I’ve always thought of the season saying I want to be MVP for my team and it’s resulted in me getting four of them. So I’ve been available, for the most part, every night and I’ve been available on both sides of the floor. I’ve been healthy.

Curry won 2015 MVP while playing 32.7 minutes per game, the fewest by any MVP. He played 34.2 minutes per game last season, third-fewest by an MVP – ahead of just himself and 1978 Bill Walton, who played 33.3 minutes per game.

To contrast, LeBron has set career lows the last two seasons with 36.1 and 35.6 minutes per game. So, LeBron could get a reduced workload and still play more than Curry did.

But Curry, to some degree is an anomaly. He often sat late in games with his Warriors on the right side of blowouts. The Cavs aren’t good enough regularly rest LeBron as much in those situations.

It’s not that voters care directly about minutes. But the less LeBron plays, the lower his per-game averages will be and the less Cleveland will win. Those factors matter significantly.

LeBron can overcome that. He’s darned good, and there could be a push to reward him after the last two Finals have shown he’s still better than Curry when it matters most.

Playing fewer minutes per game won’t eliminate LeBron from the MVP race, not even close. But it will – and should – hurt his case. After all, MVP should reward the player who does the most to help his team win. MVP-caliber players don’t significantly help while sitting on the bench.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder prepare for life without Kevin Durant

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a preseason game at American Airlines Center on October 11, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Maybe life after Kevin Durant won’t be so bad for the Thunder.

After the longtime face of the franchise left for Golden State, crestfallen Oklahoma City fans were worried it was just a matter of time before the team’s co-star, Russell Westbrook, would follow suit. In a move that shocked many, Westbrook re-signed with Oklahoma City. The former scoring champion and two-time All-Star MVP’s return gives the team hope.

New faces such as shooting guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domantas Sabonis, both acquired in the deal that sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando, might take some time to fit in. Westbrook believes the team is talented enough to succeed if it is focused and the new pieces blend with the old ones who helped the Thunder reach the Western Conference Finals last season.

“Just play hard, man,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know, win or lose. The only thing I know is that as long as we play hard, we give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

Westbrook could post historic numbers. He averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds last season and had 18 triple-doubles, the most since Magic Johnson had 18 during the 1981-82 season. Without Durant, more of that could be on the way.

Sabonis, a rookie out of Gonzaga who played for Lithuania’s Olympic team, played with the starters throughout the preseason. Oladipo averaged 15.9 points and 4.0 assists in three years with Orlando. He joins Westbrook to form arguably the most athletic backcourt tandem in the NBA.

“Defensively, I think we can be the best defensive backcourt in the league because we can do different things with our size and using our length and our speed,” Westbrook said.

Here are some things to watch for the Thunder:

Steven Adams

The 7-footer from New Zealand was already a top-notch defender and rebounder before stepping up his offense and averaging 10.1 points during the playoffs last season. In his final two preseason games, he scored 20 points against Minnesota and 17 points against Denver. He could be a breakout star.

“I think we’ve had an opportunity these last two nights (against Minnesota and Denver) how good he is around the basket, how smart he has become and how much of a presence he is in the middle,” Westbrook said.

Enes Kanter

The natural expectation was that Ibaka’s departure would prompt coach Billy Donovan to move Kanter, who finished third in balloting for the league’s sixth-man award last season, into the starting lineup. Instead, Donovan started Sabonis throughout the preseason. Perhaps Donovan knows best – Sabonis showed he can hang with the starters, and Kanter averaged 17.8 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 61.7 percent in the preseason.


Oklahoma City’s defense could slip with Ibaka in Orlando. Sabonis has great potential, but he’s young, and NBA defense takes some time to learn. Donovan said Sabonis has caught on quickly, but there still could be a dip early because Ibaka’s level of play is difficult to replace – he was a three-time first-team All-NBA defender and a two-time blocks leader.


The Thunder added several foreign players to the roster who will add depth – Spain’s Alex Abrines, France’s Joffrey Lauvergne and Turkey’s Ersan Ilyasova. Donovan said he likes the maturity foreign players add to a team. Abrines played for Spain’s national team that earned bronze medals at the Olympics. Lauvergne played for France in Rio.


Andre Roberson has shifted from the starting shooting guard to starting small forward. That means the Thunder still have Roberson’s dynamic athletic ability, defensive prowess and nose for the ball on the boards in the lineup. He was a liability on offense in the past, but he started becoming more of a factor on offense during the playoffs last season.

“I think he feels more comfortable and confident offensively,” Donovan said. “He’s put forth effort in that area. It’s just him continuing to grow offensively and trying to put him in situations where he slashes to the basket and he can cut and he can get out in transition and he can take his open corner threes.”

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP

Raptors’ Jared Sullinger to have foot surgery, miss “extended time”

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 19:  Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics looks on from the bench against the Atlanta Hawks in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 19, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Raptors are counting on Jared Sullinger to cover for the loss of Bismack Biyombo by crashing the boards, helping them space the floor on offense, and just being solid.

But they are going to have to get by without him for a while, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports, and confirmed by the team.

There is no timeline for Sullinger’s return, but it’s going to be a while. Sullinger had battled a stress reaction in his foot a year ago, this is likely an extension of that problem.

This certainly hurts the Raptors’ depth up front, but it’s also not a massive setback for a team with lofty aspirations this season. Patrick Patterson will get more minutes, which is a good thing, plus the Raptors need to play DeMarre Carroll more at the four. They can wait for Sullinger (who they signed this summer after Boston let him walk in the wake of signing Al Horford.