Baseline to Baseline recaps: Kevin Love outduels Blake Griffin

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What you missed while buying way more Girl Scout cookies than you really should…

Thunder 95, Mavericks 92: Oklahoma City scored the final eight points to win another close contest, which was our game of the night.

Timberwolves 95, Clippers 94: With all their mistakes late, I have no idea how the Timberwolves pulled this one out. There was Martell Webster with the terrible turnover late. Then there was maybe the ugliest end-of-game possession ever: what was essentially a J.J. Barea isolation that ended in a scoop shot. Minnesota was still up three, the Clippers had one possession left when Derrick Williams foolishly fouls Chris Paul on his three attempt to tie it.

But Chris Paul missed the final free throw, Rubio got the rebound, was fouled and that spelled the end. (Really like the way Rubio wisely missed the second free throw intentionally, because with 1.8 seconds left the Clippers had no timeouts and could not go length of court and score). Kevin Love finished with 39 on 25 shots and was a dominant force in this game.

Bulls 92, Pacers 72: Revenge is a dish best served… oh, it doesn’t matter how it is served, it usually tastes pretty good. The Pacers beat the Bulls a couple weeks ago at the United Center and Derrick Rose and others thought the Pacers celebrated too much on their floor. It showed in a third quarter where the Bulls blew this open (33-13 in that quarter). Yes, Derrick Rose had 11 of his 13 in that quarter but it was really about the Bulls defense holding the Pacers to 27 percent shooting in the period.

Nuggets 119, Kings 116 (OT): The most entertaining game of the night. In part because Arron Afflalo had a career night with 32 points and took over late, except when Ty Lawson (16 points) was doing it like he has for the last week. On the other side there was an aggressive Tyreke Evans getting 27.

Great ending to this one. The Kings were up three and Denver had one last shot, Afflalo got the ball and overdribbled trying to get the three for himself rather than pass to a couple open teammates. He took a bad shot but he got bailed out when Marcus Thornton fouled him. Afflalo hit all three free throws and this one was bound for overtime. In the OT Kenneth Faried had four of his 20 — you have to love his energy every night. Still it was 116-116 with 2.6 seconds to go when Lawson hits the three to seal the win. Thornton plays the goat for Sacramento, but he had 27 on the night and they would not have been there at the end without him.

Warriors 120, Wizards 100: Golden State had 41 in the first quarter and just ran away with this one from the start. Monta Ellis had 14 in the first quarter and finished with 25 getting to sit the fourth. Klay Thompson had 18 (11 in the garbage time fourth, but who cares) and six Warriors were in double digits. Stephen Curry was back and made some plays, including a breakaway steal then up-and-under on John Wall that was impressive. Wall finished with 20.

Jazz 109, Cavaliers 100: You can’t stop Gordon Hayward… well, the Cavs couldn’t on Monday anyway as he had 10 in the third and 22 overall. But the real issue was that the Cavs had no answer for Al Jefferson and his 25 inside — the Jazz controlled the pain outrebounding the Cavs by 16. Kyrie Irving had 22, as did Antawn Jamison.

Magic 92, Raptors 88: Credit Toronto for really fighting in this one (something they always seem to do against Orlando). The Raptors had no answer whatsoever for Dwight Howard (sorry Aaron Gray) who finished with 36 points, hitting 16 of 20 shots, plus had 13 rebounds. (Note to Orlando players: You need to feed Dwight like this every night.) The Raptors led at times in the third and kept it close behind 23 from DeMar DeRozan, but J.J. Redick hit the dagger three with 9.7 seconds left. We had a Jerryd Bayless sighting — he had 12 points in the fourth quarter for Toronto (15 in the game). There are moments you think he’ll be good, but then they pass.

Bucks 97, Sixers 93: Brandon Jennings was on fire early with 19 points (and 2 assists) in the first quarter to put the Bucks ahead, but the Sixers fought back and led most of the second and third quarters. The Bucks made their next run (a 15-0 run) from the end of the third into the fourth, sparked in part by Drew Gooden who was the best paint player in this game and finished with 25. In the fourth quarter, on the second night of a back-to-back, Philly relied on Lou Williams who had 16 in the fourth quarter. But with the game tied 93-93 Beno Udrih hit an open 12 footer then at the other end Williams missed the floated with 6.7 left and that was essentially the ballgame. Jennings finished with 33. Sixers have lost 8 of 10 now.

Trail Blazers 86, Hornets 74: The Hornets hung around in this one until a 15-0 run midway through the third blew it open and Portland led by as many as 26 before coasting in for the win (a late 9-0 New Orleans run made it seem closer than it was). Nicolas Batum led the way with 19. The Blazers needed this win.

 

Kevin Durant trolls Westbrook, haters with cupcake hat — now topped with a ring

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Back when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were breaking into the NBA together and learning how to win together, one of their veteran mentors was tough guy Kendrick Perkins. When Perkins thought someone was acting soft, he called that player a “cupcake.”

When news broke on the Fourth of July last summer that Durant was leaving OKC for Golden State, the NBA world freaked out. Except for Westbrook. He just posted one Instagram photo that day — a tiered tray of red, white, and blue cupcakes. It was meant as a subtle jab at Durant, but when word got out (via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated) what it meant, Thunder fans embraced it and had cupcake signs and clothing made for Durant’s return to Oklahoma City.

Durant had the last laugh — he’s got a new hat with a cupcake on it, topped by a ring.

Well played Durant. Well played.

Another report Rockets “aggressively” trying to clear cap space to chase Chris Paul

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Daryl Morey is big game hunting. Again.

The Rockets, with James Harden running Mike D’Antoni’s offense, made a leap up to the NBA’s second tier last season — then landed with a playoff thud. The team should be better the second season in the same system, but to get past the Warriors, the Rockets need more talent.

Hence the Rockets are going to chase Chris Paul. That’s not new news to anyone paying attention, but Chris Haynes laid it out in more detail in on SportsCenter.

The Rockets need talent and Chris Paul is unquestionably that. He and James Harden could figure out how to play together.

The problem is money. Chris Paul is going to demand max or near-max money, so close to $30 million. The Rockets enter the summer with about $10 million. The Rockets need to clear cap space and are ready to deal so long as they don’t take contracts back. Lou Williams will make $7 million next season, so even moving him and Patrick Beverley is not enough to land a Chris Paul or Paul Millsap. Moving Ryan Anderson ($19.6 million) or Eric Gordon ($12.9 million) helps much more.

That Morey is being aggressive isn’t the news, the question is can he find a willing partner to lower some money off his cap and give him a sense of what is to come. CP3 is going to meet with a lot of teams, but the Clippers do have advantages and are the favorites to retain him.

Jimmy Butler trade sets the stage for looming free agency

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(AP) — As draft night approached, some of the heavy hitters in the NBA – Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston, Boston, the Clippers among them – were jockeying, making calls and looking for deals to try to position themselves to make a run at the Golden State juggernaut.

The Warriors’ greatness has forced the rest of the league to do deep self-examination and be aggressive in upgrading their rosters if they’re even going to have a chance to compete. The Celtics and Cavaliers were looking hard at Pacers star Paul George and Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, the Rockets and Spurs were looking at clearing cap space to make a run at some big-name free agents next week and the Knicks were, well, the Knicks.

Draft night always lays the groundwork for what will happen when the circus (officially known as free agency) begins on July 1. And with all of those contenders looking to make a splash, the biggest move was made by … the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Wolves reunited Tom Thibodeau with Butler, giving up two promising young players in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick to land one of the best two-way players in the game. The move should jumpstart Minnesota’s pursuit of its first playoff spot since 2004 and, the Wolves hope, pave the way for success in free agency.

“I think it will (help) a lot,” Thibodeau said. “With players, they look around the league, they see the makeup of the team, they see how they play, play together. That’s the main thing. Both offensively and defensively.”

The Timberwolves have long had difficulty attracting free agents to a relatively small market that spends four months of the year covered in ice and snow. Landing a top-15 player like Butler to team with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins sends a sign of how aggressive the teams could be.

The Bulls plunged head-first into a rebuild with the decision, and now it’s up to the Pacers to decide if they want to do the same.

Much to the dismay of Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard, George let it be known last week that he did not plan to re-sign in Indiana when he becomes a free agent next summer. Most of the league assumes that he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, who appear to be in a tug-of-war with the rival Celtics for George’s attention.

“I’m confident we’ll get something,” Pritchard told reporters in Indianapolis on Friday.

One of the big markets affected on Thursday night was at point guard, the deepest position in the league. Philadelphia, the Lakers, Sacramento, New York and Dallas all drafted point guards in the top 10, which could diminish the options for veterans like Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Jeff Teague and Patty Mills.

The elite point guards available – Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry – should have no trouble finding significant contracts. With Tony Parker suffering a serious injury in the playoffs, the Spurs were reportedly trying to clear space to make a run at Paul, who is widely considered the best point guard in the league. Paul has spent the last six seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, but has yet to advance to the Western Conference finals.

The Clippers are trying to make a decision about retooling around the core of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but really it’s a decision that depends largely on Paul’s thinking. He has long struggled to win big in the postseason, and heading to San Antonio to join with Kawhi Leonard or Houston to team up with James Harden could prove to be more attractive.

Lowry figures to remain in Toronto with a Raptors franchise that he has helped put back on the map, but after that there will be few teams in the market for a high-priced starting point guard. Denver, Utah, New York and Indiana could wade into those waters. But if they look at themselves as still being a couple of year away, they might be hesitant to spend big bucks on a veteran.

Other big names available include Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Andre Iguodala. And while some of the very biggest names like Kevin Durant and Steph Curry figure to stay put, it only ramps up the sense of urgency for teams that have big holes to fill.

The clock is ticking and Thursday night provided the first steps toward making big improvements to the roster.

The Timberwolves rocked the boat with Butler, but the waters were calm after that, which should only mean one thing: It’s about to get real choppy when the clock strikes midnight on July 1.

 

Report: Dallas picks up option on Yogi Ferrell for next season. As expected.

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When teams sign a guy out of the D-League, or late second-round picks/undrafted guys as you see this summer, they are often announced as “a three-year deal.” The reality, this is a non-guaranteed contract (or at most a guaranteed contract for a short period of time) with team options for future years.

Why teams do that is guys like Yogi Ferrell.

Dallas snapped him up out of the D-League last season when they needed a point guard, and Ferrell proved to be a solid rotation-level player to bring off the bench. With that Dallas now has the option to bring him back at a good price next season, and they will do just that, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Sources say the Mavs have informed PG Yogi Ferrell that they are picking up his team option for next season, an easy decision after he proved himself capable of being a rotation player after his promotion from the D-League.

Ferrell will make $1.3 million next season, a steal for a rotation player. Dallas needs that, because the cost of keeping Nerlens Noel could push the Mavericks close to the luxury tax.

If Ferrell keeps playing like he did last season, and his big payday is coming in a couple of years.