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.

 

Sixers to keep Joel Embiid’s minutes in teens to start season, he’s not happy

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Joel Embiid wants to get on the court, he wants to unleash himself on the NBA this season. After three seasons of being bottled up — even in the 31 games he has played there was a minutes restriction — Embiid wants to impose his will on the league.

He’s going to have to do that in less than 20 minutes a night, at least to start the season.

Sixers coach Brett Brown says to start the season there will be a tight minutes limit on Embiid, who averaged less than 15 minutes in two preseason games after finally being cleared to play. Embiid does not like that. Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia has the quotes.

“I don’t really know if there’s a solid number,” Brett Brown said Monday after practice. “I can tell if you were to choose a number, it’s somewhere in the teens.”

“I didn’t know about that, but that’s very disappointing,” Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. “I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice.”

The Sixers being cautious with Embiid is about as surprising as the last Transformers movie sucking.

That said, if any particular game is close going into the fourth quarter don’t be shocked if Embiid breaks his minutes limit — this is a team that wants to start winning, and that means keeping their best players on the court longer. If Saturday night against the Raptors Brett Brown thinks giving Embiid 22-23 minutes helps get them the win, he will. The goal will be to get him up to the high 20s by the end of the season.

The real test for these Sixers will not be how the offense fairs with Embiid sitting — they have guys that can create and knock down shots if needed, such as Ben Simmons or J.J. Redick – instead it’s how well they can defend with him resting.

Report: Spurs signing LaMarcus Aldridge to two-year, $50 million contract extension

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From troubled to extended, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s Spurs tenure has changed directions in a hurry.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Piecing this together, Aldridge is exercising a $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19. That means his extension is worth $50 million over two years will carry him through age 35. All in all, Aldridge is now under contract for four more seasons.

Aldridge is a borderline All-Star, and he raises San Antonio’s floor. His back-to-the-bask mid-range games remains reliable, and he’s a willing defender. Him signing this deal should end pining for greener pastures, but it certainly won’t force him into diligent acceptance of his role forever. Players can become discontent whenever they please.

This extension significantly limits the Spurs flexibility the next two summers and maybe even in 2020, depending on Aldridge’s guarantee in the second year of his extension. They seem fine with that, perhaps believing they already have enough to topple the Warriors if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

With Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills all under contract for the few years around Leonard, San Antonio should remain stably good. But will these deals for aging veterans limit the Spurs’ ceiling? That’s the risk for an organization that has built its identity on championships and already has a young, in-his-prime superstar who has proven capable of being the best player on a title team.

Hawks: Dennis Schroder will face discipline for physical altercation

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Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge a couple weeks ago.

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk in a statement:

“There is an ongoing investigation into the details of the incident involving Dennis Schröder that occurred on Sept. 29th. During this process, we plan to support Dennis as we would any of our players working through a situation.

However, from our preliminary findings, we are aware that Dennis was involved in a physical altercation. That behavior is unacceptable, will not be tolerated by the Hawks organization, and will result in discipline for Dennis at the appropriate time once the matter has been more fully developed through the law enforcement process and otherwise.

Dennis has accepted responsibility for his actions. He looks forward to learning from this incident and focusing on the season.”

On one hand, it’s odd that the Hawks are both deferring to the process and pledging discipline. On the other hand, teams should more often make their own judgments on how to handle these issues than blindly rely on the legal system.

This statement is intentionally vague, and it gives the Hawks wide latitude in how to proceed. Eventually – likely dependent on legal outcomes – they’ll reveal Schroder’s punishment.

NBA season predictions: Who wins East? West? NBA Finals?

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Tuesday the NBA marathon begins, and it will run until June with 1,230 regular season games and what the league hopes are a more intense, contested playoffs than last season.

Which will probably all end with the Warriors and the Cavaliers in the Finals. Again. For the fourth year in a row.

We’ve already given you our awards predictions for the coming season, now here are the NBC Sports NBA staff’s picks for the NBA standings and playoffs.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Kurt Helin:
1. Cavaliers
2. Celtics
3. Wizards
4. Bucks
5. Raptors
6. Heat
7. Hornets
8. 76ers
Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Celtics

It is possible Boston (or even Washington, if their starting five stays healthy and you like longshots) outpace Cleveland in the regular season, but come the playoffs a healthy Cleveland team will be the clear best team. I think the Raptors take a step back due to lost depth (and the Bucks are improving). I have the Sixers slipping into the playoffs but if Reggie Jackson returns to form Detroit could nab that spot.

Dan Feldman:
1. Cavaliers
2. Celtics
3. Wizards
4. Raptors
5. Bucks
6. Hornets
7. Heat
8. 76ers
Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Celtics

The Cavaliers and Celtics are in one tier, Wizards and Raptors in another and Bucks, Hornets and Heat in a third. The 76ers share the fourth tier with the Pistons, and I’m predicting Joel Embiid will be just healthy enough to get Philadelphia into the playoffs — but that’s a huge unknown.

Dane Carbaugh:
1. Cavaliers
2. Celtics
3. Wizards
4. Raptors
5. Bucks
6. Heat
7. Pacers
8. Pistons
Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Wizards

Even though the Celtics added Irving to their roster they still have a lack of depth after trading both Crowder and Bradley. They will be relying on their young players to come through in playoff time, and it’s more reasonable to think that will happen in the coming seasons. The Cavaliers are still the team to beat and it doesn’t feel like the Wizards will have enough to get past them.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Kurt Helin:
1. Warriors
2. Rockets
3. Thunder
4. Spurs
5. Timberwolves
6. Nuggets
7. Clippers
8. Trail Blazers
Western Conference Finals: Warriors over Thunder

Is Golden State going to win more than 70 games? The Warriors are at the top, then you can put the Rockets/Thunder/Spurs in any order and I would buy it (although the Kawhi Leonard injury to start the season leads to San Antonio questions). The final three spots will come down to the Nuggets, Clippers, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, and Jazz and the teams that get the slots will be the ones that stay healthy.

Dan Feldman:
1. Warriors
2. Rockets
3. Thunder
4. Spurs
5. Timberwolves
6. Nuggets
7. Jazz
8. Trail Blazers
Western Conference Finals: Warriors over Rockets

It’s obviously the Warriors then everyone else. The Rockets, Thunder, and Spurs are the most serious challengers. The Timberwolves and Nuggets are up-and-comers. The next tier — which also includes the Clippers and maybe Pelicans — could see an incredibly competitive race just to make the playoffs.

Dane Carbaugh:
1.Warriors
2. Rockets
3. Spurs
4. Thunder
5. Wolves
6. Clippers
7. Blazers
8. Jazz
Western Conference Finals: Warriors over Rockets

I think we all want this series to happen if only because it will give us an inclination of what it’s like to watch a Mike D’Antoni team adapt on offense to an opponent he has all year to scout. Still, the question for most teams out West will be whether they can match the Warriors on both sides of the ball. People somehow forget that Golden State is typically a Top 5 defensive team. I’m not sure anybody can really match that.

NBA FINALS

KURT: Warriors over Cavaliers
DAN: Warriors over Cavaliers
DANE: Warriors over Cavaliers

It’s boring, we know. All three of us — and most of the rest of the NBA universe — picking a fourth straight meeting between the Golden State and Cleveland. But how do you not? If they are both healthy this seems inevitable. No team in the NBA is on the Warriors level. Boston doesn’t have the defense, Washington doesn’t have the depth to challenge the Cavaliers in the East. Things happen, the NBA rarely follows the script, but it’s hard not to envision this outcome.