Baseline to Baseline recaps: Hope in Orlando… maybe

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What you missed while suddenly caring about what happens to Western Kentucky’s basketball team….

Magic 104, Heat 98 (OT): Let’s not read too much into one game. I know Dwight Howard is talking about wanting to stay and contend with this team, but I’m not on board with them as contenders yet.

That said, they were down 14 to the Heat and did not roll over. They fought back. We all know Howard is a beast — 25 points, 26 and he even hit some key free throws late. The question has always been who else could create shots and get points on the Magic. Well Jameer Nelson had 25 points and showed that when on he is a force. For a night they were good enough.

Chris Bosh had a quality 23, Dwyane Wade had 28.

Lakers 116, Grizzlies 111 (2OT): This would be a fun first round playoff series. All the other teams in the West playoffs would love to see it, too — please pit the two best front lines in the West against each other and let them beat each other up and not us.

The Grizzlies are still without one of their key front line guys in Zach Randolph, but Marreese Speights stepped up and had 25 points, many of those knocking down midrange jumpers. Which was more than we can say for O.J. Mayo, whose 7-for-25 (and 0-for-8 from three) really shot Memphis out of the second overtime.

But the best big on the court was Andrew Bynum — 37 points on 18 shots, plus 16 rebounds. The Lakers ran a great set with a wing pick-and-pop where Kobe Bryant was the ball handler and Pau Gasol did the pop. The Grizzlies would trap Kobe, he would slide the ball to Gasol who would take steps toward the basket, when the help defender would come off Bynum on the weak side Gasol would throw a lob and Bynum threw it down. The Grizzlies had no answer.

Rockets 104, Thunder 103: This felt like a lot of other Thunder games — it was close most of the way, then midway through the fourth quarter they pulled away. James Harden was orchestrating the offense (and had 9 points in the fourth) and a 16-2 run had the Thunder up 9 inside of three minutes left. Then a 13-4 run by the Rockets to end the game gave them the win. Oklahoma City normally plays its best defense late in games but the Rockets were getting to the rim and getting open looks from three. And hitting the shots. Meanwhile the Thunder went away from Harden and struggled to score.

In the middle of that run the Russell Westbook got frustrated with Goran Dragic and picked up a technical. One point. Lots for the Thunder to regret at the end of this one.

Nuggets 118, Hawks 117 (OT): The most entertaining game of the night. There was a real, back-and-forth, “anything you can do I can do better” feel to it. Of course, nobody is doing anything better than Gallinari’s three that we thought would be the game winner at the end of regulation, which was flat out ridiculous. But this game had a lot of highlights. Josh Smith’s jumper was falling and when that happens he cannot be stopped, he finished with 33 points, 13 boards and seven assists. I feel bad for Zaza Pachulia — that was a great play call to catch a Nuggets team that can fall asleep on defense at the end of the overtime, and he just missed the layup.

Raptors 96, Cavaliers 88: Toronto took control of this game in the second quarter (when the shot 72 percent) and never let it go, thanks to good games from Andrea Bargnani (19 points) and Jerryd Bayless (filling in for Jose Calderon).

Pacers 92, Trail Blazers 75: Oh, Portland, what has happened to you? Indiana is a good team with good big men, but Portland let them turn the paint into their own private playground at both ends of the court. And the Blazers had five — just 5 — assists all game. On top of it all, Marcus Camby left the game with a shoulder injury. Good win for the Pacers, but we had such hopes for Portland early in the season.

Mavericks 107, Wizards 98: This was the kind of win Dallas needed, where they simply overwhelmed and inferior and less disciplined team. They didn’t do it well — a 10-0 Washington run in the third and a 10-3 one in the fourth kept it close, but the Mavericks were in control. Dirk Nowitzki had 27 points, Jason Terry 24.

Warriors 115, Kings 89: Call it the Ewing Theory, a trade bump, whatever you want — earlier in the day Golden State shipped half their team (it seemed) away and they came out as the more motivated and cohesive team. David Lee and Nate Robinson each had 17 and Charles Jenkins had 9 of his 15 in the fourth quarter for Golden State. Six Warriors were in double digits, it was a real team effort from a team that was shaken up earlier in the day.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

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There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.

Warriors beat Spurs in glum Game 3

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The Spurs were playing with heavy hearts following the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston appeared to injure their left ankles on back-to-back plays late.

Everyone seemed ready for the Warriors’ 110-97 Game 3 win Thursday to end well before it did.

Soon enough, the first-round series will. Golden State is up 3-0, and all 127 teams to win the first three games of a best-of-seven series won it – most of them via sweep. Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s hope neither Durant’s nor Livingston’s injury is serious. Durant walked off on his own, though gingerly. Livingston shot his free throws before exiting.

Durant (26 points) and Klay Thompson (19 points) have carried the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry sidelined by his own injury. If Durant isn’t at full strength for Game 4, Golden State could really struggle to score.

But it still might not matter, as the Spurs are overmatched against the Warriors’ dialed-in defense. Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) led tonight’s effort.

After two losses in Oakland to start the series, returning to San Antonio didn’t do much for the Spurs, who were 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road this season – the NBA’s largest home-road disparity in a half decade. It’s just had to see San Antonio – whether Popovich returns or Ettore Messina remains acting coach – finding enough sources of offense.

Pelicans move one game away from sweep after bashing Blazers in Game 3

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But for a moment, the Portland Trail Blazers felt as though they could turn the series. For half a quarter, the Blazers had hope. Then, Nikola Mirotic dropped a career-high 30 points, Anthony Davis added a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans moved one game away from completing a sweep of the third seed after a big win on Thursday night, 119-102.

Under the guidance of Mirotic, the Pelicans unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers starting midway through the first quarter. The game was close to being a contest, but Jrue Holiday and Mirotic started to pour it in after being uncorked, with New Orleans taking a 16-point lead going into the second period.

Running up and down the court in a panic, Portland looked nervous in the spotlight. The Blazers racked up 12 turnovers by halftime, all while rattling 3-pointers off the back iron. Portland rushed its offense in the face of unlikely success by the Pelicans, who continued to rain down from deep. New Orleans hit four big shots in the final 1:47 of the half, including three from beyond-the-arc.

Never one to back down, Blazers star Damian Lillard tried to force the issue. He would finish with 20 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but most evidentiary of his night was Lillard lobbing up a wild 28-footer with 24 seconds left in the half as he tried to answer a gutshot 3-pointer from E'Twaun Moore from a moment before. It didn’t work, and the Pelicans took commanding 64-45 lead to start the third quarter.

So went the story of the rest of the game, as Portland couldn’t fully tamp down the New Orleans offensive attack for longer than a few minutes at a time. Even after one 10-0 run for the Blazers in the third, the Pelicans ended it in the most deflating way possible — a wide open dunk for Mirotic on a cut after Portland’s defense fell asleep.

It was an electric atmosphere at Smoothie King, and the sellout crowd that gave us a glimpse of what kind of homecourt advantage the Pelicans could have in the second round. The New Orleans fans were in a back-and-forth with the players, with Smoothie King working to such a fever pitch it felt as though every shot hoisted by the team in red and gold was destined for the nylon.

Demoralized, Portland battled — flailed, really — but the Blazers couldn’t make up any ground as the momentum continued for New Orleans. Finally Blazers coach Terry Stotts relented and waived the white flag for Portland with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter as he subbed in his bench.

Even with a 49-win season under its belt, the questions surrounding the Blazers become more serious. The team that had a 13-game win streak this season now will face rumblings about whether Stotts will remain with the team. An exit for Stotts would be unwise for Portland — he did wonders with a team that didn’t play up to its potential most of the year — but it’s not out of the ordinary for a team looking to break through to look elsewhere, especially after Lillard’s meeting with owner Paul Allen.

Although their work isn’t done yet, New Orleans looks as though it’s a team to be feared in the playoffs. What it needs to do is concentrate on sweeping the Blazers, not only to give themselves confidence heading into the second round but to show their second-round opponent (likely the Warriors) that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

How Porltand can counter in the deciding Game 4 isn’t clear. The Pelicans have looked like the better team for nearly every quarter of the series, and the Blazers clearly don’t have an answer for them on either side of the ball.

Happy New Orleans fans will pack Smoothie King on Saturday for Game 4 at 2:00 PM PST in Louisiana. Davis will look to win his first playoff series, and Portland will try to avoid their most embarrassing sweep since they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili celebrate the life of Erin Popovich (VIDEO)

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The NBA community has been effuse in their thoughts and condolences to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich over the past 24 hours. Erin Popovich, 67, passed away on April 18, leaving behind her husband, Gregg.

Many were taken aback at the news, including players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom were emotional when they first heard the news of Erin’s passing.

Gregg Popovich was not with the team to coach them in their Thursday night matchup against the Golden State Warriors, as Ettore Messina took the reins for Game 3.

Meanwhile, those close to the Popoviches spoke about Erin, her influence on Gregg, and how much both mean to them. Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich in San Antonio for four seasons, told reporters that Erin was, “The sort of balance that Pop needed.”

Current Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker also voiced their support for the Popovich family.

Via Twitter:

Here’s hoping Popovich finds some solace in the support he’s received over the past day.