Baseline to Baseline recaps: It’s the Deron Williams show

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What you missed while suing your college because your dorm roommate had too much sex

Celtics 115, Knicks 111 (OT): Rajon Rondo dominated Jeremy Lin, put up a monster line — 18 points, 20 assists, 17 rebounds — and got the Celtics a big win in one of our games of the day.

Lakers 93, Heat, 83: You knew Kobe Bryant would have a big game. The other keys were the Lakers bigs and Metta World Peace having big days too in our other game of the day.

Nets 104, Bobcats 101: Deron Williams was a force of nature — 57 points, 21-of-21 from the free throw line. And that was still barely enough to get the Nets a win against the worst team in the league. Which tells you all you need to know about the Nets.

The Bobcats chose to single cover Williams coming off the pick-and-roll. Why? Because you really need to fear all those other guys on the Nets roster? Brook Lopez is good but you take the ball out Williams’ hands.

Bulls 96, Sixers 91: This was a hard-fought, close game until in the first half of the fourth quarter Derrick Rose and Luol Deng sparked a 15-2 run and suddenly the Bulls started to pull away. You would think that was it, and most teams would roll over. Not the 76ers. They fought back with a 10-1 run of their own and made this a game late — they trapped Rose and dared any other Bull to beat them. C.J. Watson tried with 7 in the fourth quarter. But down the stretch Rose still got a key bucket (a 15-foot leaner baseline) and finished with 35. And the win.

Suns 96, Kings 88: Our man Brett Pollakoff was at this game and sends along this report:

The Suns won their third straight game coming out of the All-Star break, but for the third straight game, it took overcoming a double-digit deficit to do so. It’s the first time since 2002 that’s happened in Phoenix, and that wasn’t the only milestone the Suns were able to reach against the woeful Sacramento Kings.

It was also the third straight game the Suns held their opponent under 40 percent shooting from the field, something the team hasn’t done since 2008. Phoenix obviously hasn’t been known for its defense, but the players have seemed to figure out that it’s the only way to win with the way the roster is currently constructed.

After a slow start, the Suns held the Kings to 20, 19, and 17 points in each quarter following the first, and ended up ahead in the rebound column for the third straight game, as well. Channing Frye continued his horrific shooting with a 3-of-12 outing, after going just 2-for-18 on Friday while checking the Clippers’ Blake Griffin. That’s 5-for-30 in the last two games for the advanced stats crowd out there, but Frye did grab 10 boards and was active inside defensively, which is more important to what this Phoenix team is trying to do anyway. The usually affable Frye clearly isn’t pleased with his lack of offense, as evidenced by the fact that he’s bounced from the locker room two games in a row without speaking to reporters.

Marcin Gortat continues to put up big numbers in this system, and finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Steve Nash was average by his standards, leading Phoenix in scoring with 19 while dishing out just seven assists. Shannon Brown provided a nice spark off the bench, hitting back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth which pushed a three-point lead up to nine, and ultimately provided enough separation for the Suns to improve their record to 17-20 on the season.

Raptors 83, Warriors 75: Golden State had a nine-point lead at the break, then scored just 11 points on 23 percent shooting in the third quarter, then 17 points on 33 percent shooting in the fourth. That all added up to a season-low 75 points and a loss. Toronto got 25 out of DeMar DeRozan and 18 from Leandro Barbosa.

Clippers 105, Rockets 103 (OT): It looked like the Rockets were going to win this until the Clippers ended the overtime on a 5-0 run. This is the third loss in a row for the Rockets and has to sting a little, especially for Kevin Martin who was ice cold down the stretch (he hit just one of his last nine shots). Houston did a good job keeping Blake Griffin in check (mostly that was Luis Scola) but the Clippers had the best player on the floor in Chris Paul who had 28.

Nuggets 99, Spurs 94: The key to this game was Denver was able to control the pace — they play at the fastest pace in the league, the Spurs like it slow and Denver won that battle of wills. They got a lot of those transition points in the first half and were able to hold off the Spurs late for the win. It was a fun point guard battle, Tony Parker had 25 and Ty Lawson had 22.

Pistons consider shutting down Reggie Jackson for rest of season

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The Pistons have started Reggie Jackson. They’ve brought him off the bench. They’ve sat him entirely.

No role seems right for the point guard as Detroit has lost four straight and seven of eight.

Now, it seems the Pistons might just shut down Jackson, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury. He’s at least doubtful for tonight’s key game against the Heat.

Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy, via Fox Sports Detroit:

We’ve been thinking about this, actually for a long time, OK? And he’s been playing at — it’s just hard to put a percentage — but probably at about 80 percent. And as we get into this stretch of games in March where we’re playing a lot, the fatigue is just making it worse.

It wasn’t really fair to him. We were running him out there, putting pressure on him. He’s seeing things he should be able to do, and he just can’t do. He’s not feeling pain, but he just can’t make the plays he wants to make. And we’re trying to put him out there.

We were really struggling, and we just need to have guys who are at full energy and the whole thing. And as much as he wants to, he can’t right now. It’s honestly amazing what he’s done.

To his credit, he fought me on it. He wanted to keep going.

He needs some rest. We don’t know how long it will be. But he needs some rest and to be able to try to get his energy back and see if we can get him at full strength.

He’s been a warrior. He’s tried to fight through it. He’s been frustrated, because he sees openings and things on the court that he just hasn’t been able to get to. I think part of it is a confidence thing.

And I think the thing that we really look forward to, and he looks forward to, is getting a fresh start in the offseason and being able to go through the preparation for a season like he did last year. And not only get right physically, but really get his confidence back to be able to attack and make the plays he’s had.

Jackson hasn’t looked right this season, showing only fleeting moments of quality production. It’s unclear whether that’s his knee, confidence, regression to the mean after a breakout season last year, bad luck or some combination.

But it has the Pistons in dire straights. They’re 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position with tonight’s game against eight-place Miami crucial.

Detroit’s offense and defense have hummed better with Ish Smith, but despite the better chemistry he affords, the talent drop from Jackson is also glaring. It’s not as if the Pistons have soared with Smith. And relying on Beno Udrih for backup minutes is its own risk.

Van Gundy is talking a lot about next season when it comes to Jackson, which seems telling. The coach’s compliments seem designed to soften the blow.

The odds are against Detroit making the playoffs, but they might be higher without Jackson. The fact that that’s even considerable is also telling about Jackson’s season.

Joakim Noah says he’s cleared to play, which will allow suspension to begin

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The NBA suspended Joakim Noah 20 games — effective once he’s “physically able to play.”

Noah underwent knee surgery about a month ago, and though it seemed he’d miss the rest of the season, the Knicks said at the time he’d be reevaluated in 3-4 weeks. That gave the team cover to claim his suspension should begin this season.

So, Noah rushed to practice today, and no matter how unlikely he would’ve been to follow this timeline sans suspension, that will seemingly be enough.

Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

New York has eight games remaining, which would leave 12 for Noah to serve at the beginning of next season.

Obviously, the more of his suspension Noah serves during this lost season, the better. The Knicks might be a wreck next season too, but at least there’s a chance they’re ready to win (and a chance Noah can contribute). This year is confirmed hopeless.

 

After fun back-to-back wins, Kings deemphasizing veterans

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Break up the Kings.

No, really.

After consecutive thrilling wins — a historic comeback against the Clippers on Sunday and another one-point win over the Grizzlies, Sacramento coach Dave Joerger’s former team, yesterday — the Kings announced a changing of the guard.

Joerger, via CSN California:

This was maybe our last stand for the year, as far as you’re probably not going to see all those veterans play together the rest of the season.

Darren Collison, Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, Anthony Tolliver and Ty Lawson played major roles against Memphis. Expect their minutes to be cut down the stretch.

The Kings have “fallen” to the NBA’s eight-worst record. It’s unlikely, but a late-game surge could “drop” them to the league’s 10th-worst record.

That’s unviable for a team that put itself on the tanking track and loses its first-round pick (to the Bulls) if it falls outside the top 10. Sacramento must protect itself from bad lottery luck.

It might not require going full Suns, but the Kings should and will emphasize developing their young players — who, not at all incidentally, are less equipped to help the team win.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.