Baseline to Baseline recaps: Bulls look every bit the contender

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What you missed while realizing that it’s time to turn off the autocorrect on your phone before someone gets hurt….

Bulls 96, Spurs 89: That is why the Chicago Bulls are contenders. They played a fantastic game behind Derrick Rose, who had 29 points and made all the big plays at the end, including a pull up jumper and a pretty floater off the glass. However it was Luol Deng who knocked down the dagger jumper at the end off some pretty ball movement by the Bulls when the Spurs defense focused on Rose. The Bulls also attacked the Spurs up front, where San Antonio is weakest. Tim Duncan had 18 points but needed 21 shots to get there.

San Antonio took an early lead, fell back and mounted a charge at the end as good teams will do. The Bulls were able to hold them off behind Rose. Yes, no Manu Ginobili, but if you beat the Spurs in San Antonio you’ve got a quality win.

Bulls fans had their hearts in their throats when Rose was on the floor clutching his knee at one point — there was a knee-on-knee collision with Tony Parker, but both eventually walked away from it.

Magic 102, Wizards 95: With the Wizards on the second night of a back-to-back it looked like the Magic would run away and hide, getting up 17 in the first quarter. But the Magic took their foot off the gas and credit the Wizards for fighting back and actually leading for a chunk of the third quarter (Washington started the second half on a 10-0 run). Orlando came back because they hit 10-of-15 threes in the second half, led by Ryan Anderson who had 11 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, plus he had 15 boards. John Wall had 33 to lead the Wizards.

Thunder 92, Sixers 88: Philly looked like they were going to steal this one until the Thunder closed the game on a 12-1 run and took the win. This was the kind of closeout win on the road you see contenders make. The key stat in this one — Oklahoma City grabbed the offensive rebound on 42.2 percent of their missed shots (19 total, seven by guard Russell Westbrook). Kevin Durant had 23.

Celtics 102, Bucks 96: That was a vintage Kevin Garnett performance — 25 points, 10 boards and he was a force on defense. Rajon Rondo had 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, his third triple-double of the year. Boston owned this game after a big third quarter and was up 17 in the fourth — but a late 13-0 run by the Bucks made this one very tight at the end. Ersan Ilyasova continued his strong play of late with 25 points.

Warriors 85, Hawks 82: The Hawks shot 33.7 percent as a team, “led” by Josh Smith who was 5-of-20 and couldn’t hit a jumper to save his life. You think that was because of the Warriors 26th ranked defense? Exactly. Monta Ellis had 24 points but needed 27 shots to get there, David Lee had 22 points and 12 rebounds.

Knicks 120, Cavaliers 103: Cleveland was in control in the first half of this game and led by as many as 17. Rookie Kyrie Irving was looking good controlling play, Antwan Jamison had a dozen in the first quarter and Daniel Gibson had 10 in the second. But in the third quarter the Knicks exploded for 33 points, played fantastic defense (led by Tyson Chandler) and took the lead back. The Knicks bench continued that in the second and they pulled away for the win. Carmelo Anthony had 22 points, Jeremy Lin had 19 and 13 assists.

Grizzlies 96, Mavericks 85: Dirk Nowitzki left the game in the second quarter with a minor back injury and did not return. (He is expected to be available on Friday.) When he is not in to hold it together, the entire Mavericks offense falls apart, and they lose. Marc Gasol had 22 points and 11 boards for Memphis.

Pistons 109, Bobcats 94: In a battle of bad teams, the Bobcats prove they are worse than anyone in the league this year.

Raptors 95, Hornets 84: Toronto can play pretty good defense at times and they held the Hornets to 37.5 percent shooting (39.4 percent eFG%). Do that and you win. DeMar DeRozan and Linas Kleiza each had 21 for the Raptors — good to see from DeRozan after coach Dwane Casey benched him in the fourth last game. DeRozan sparked an 11-1 fourth quarter run that was key for the Raptors in this one.

Nuggets 104, Trail Blazers 95: Ty Lawson was back and had 18 points, but it was great play from Kenneth Faried down the stretch that helped Denver hold on for this win.

Jazz 104, Rockets 83: The night after the looked so good, the Rockets came out and shot 39.1 percent and just were unimpressive. C.J. Miles had a monster game with 27 points and Devin Harris continues to try to up his trade value with 19 points on just 11 shots.

Lakers 104, Timberwolves 85: The Lakers front line is tough to contain as it is, but take Kevin Love out of the equation — he missed this one with the cover-all excuse of “flu like symptoms” — the Timberwolves didn’t really stand much of a chance. Andrew Bynum had 13 and 13, while Pau Gasol owned the third quarter (11 points in that frame) when the Lakers pulled away. Kobe Bryant had 31 and if he shoots like this he should wear a mask every game. Note to Mike Brown: Sit your star starters at the end of blowout games. What exactly are you trying to do?

Report: Pacers bring back Lance Stephenson in time for playoffs; deal for three-years, $12 million

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The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).

Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.

Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.

It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.

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Tuesday’s win gives Wizards first division crown since 1979

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Divisions are almost forgotten in the NBA. They exist still as quaint reminders of days gone by, but they don’t matter other than as a potential tie breaker with a non-division-winning team. Winning your division doesn’t even guarantee a team a playoff spot anymore.

Yet, the last time Washington had won a division title they were in the Atlantic division and when you turned on the radio you were likely to hear that new hit Heart Of Glass by Blondie. It was 1979.

That was until Tuesday when John Wall led a 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter against the Lakers to get the Wizards the win and the SouthEast division title.

According to CBSSports.com, that 38-year division title drought was longer than any team in any major U.S. professional sports — NHL, NFL, and MLB.

Congrats to the Wizards. They also have locked up home court in the first round, and they are currently the No. 3 seed in the playoffs (who they face in the first round is up in the air still as only three games separate seeds five through nine).

With Scott Brooks at the helm this feels like a far more dangerous — and healthy — team heading into the postseason. Wizards fans have waited a lot time for a team like this.

Report: Pacers waive Rodney Stuckey, will likely add player before playoffs

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Rodney Stuckey was having a down year for the Pacers when he was healthy, averaging 7.2 points and 2.2 assists per game, with a well below average 48.3 true shooting percentage. Stuckey also was not healthy often, playing in just 39 games.

The Pacers are banged up — Glenn Robinson III and Al Jefferson are hurt — and need a healthy body on the roster for the playoffs, plus they weren’t going to pick up Stuckey’s $7 million option for next season anyway, so they chose to wave him Wednesday, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports.

The question now is who the Pacers bring in to fill that spot. With Jefferson down, do they lean on someone they know in Tyler Hansbrough? Is there someone out of the D-League or free agent pool that intrigues them?

The Pacers need to do something to start winning some games and making Paul George happy.

Paul George on Pacers after loss: “No sense of urgency, no winning pride”

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Indiana still has a 75 percent chance of making the playoffs (according to fivethirtyeight.com), they are two games clear of the nine seed with seven games to play.

But they fell to that seventh seed with a loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night, an evening that Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Miami all won. Chicago is the nine seed right now, lurking with its soft schedule, and looking for another team to slip up, and in a key game Indiana did.

The Pacers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night despite being at home and having a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Indy had no answer for Karl-Anthony Towns, who dropped 37. Paul George had 37 points as well, and afterwards pissed and frustrated would be good words to describe his mood. Here’s his quote, via Nate Taylor at the Indy Star.

“We should have a professional approach, man, and defend our home court, especially to a team that’s not even in the playoffs,” George said of losing to the Timberwolves (29-44). “That’s what it comes down to. As a team, we’ve got to have a grit and we’ve got to own up, man up….

“There’s no urgency, no sense of urgency, no winning pride,” he said. “This locker room is just not pissed off enough.”

If you don’t have urgency playing for your playoff lives with seven games left in the season, when will you have it?

Yes, this was a frustrated George venting after a loss. However, it also points again to the challenges Larry Bird and the Pacer front office have this summer — George wants to win, wants to play for a contender. Or if not that, maybe in his hometown. If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team (he likely just misses out, forward is a stacked position in the league right now) and the Pacers can’t offer him a “designated player” max, Indiana needs to put a contender around him, or consider trading him so they don’t lose him for nothing in a year. Both of those options present challenges come July.

In the short term, the Pacers need to make the playoffs. Even if they do, play like this against the Cavaliers (their current first-round matchup) or any of the other top-four teams in the East and Indy’s stay in the postseason will be short and uneventful.