Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Bulls are beating everybody

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What you missed while getting emails from your dead friend….

Bulls 85, Magic 59: Chicago is now 10-4 this season when Derrick Rose sits and now have beaten the Heat and Magic without him in the last week. Credit where credit is due — they have been playing the best basketball in the NBA for some time now. They play hard and smart and when Rose is in the lineup (with Richard Hamilton) they are serious title contenders.

Chicago single-covered Dwight Howard (18 points on 8-of-12 shooting) and stop everyone else. As usually happens against the Magic, it worked. Orlando players not named Howard shot 16-of-56, or 28.6 percent. Jason Richardson was 1-of-7, Ryan Anderson 4-of-13. It was ugly.

Meanwhile on the other end Carlos Boozer stepped up 24 points and John Lucas III had 20. And then there was this from Joakim Noah.

Celtics 79, Hawks 76: What a wild fourth quarter — Boston went on a 17-2 run to open a 15-point lead, but Atlanta went on a late 16-2 run to make it a nail biter at the end. That made it entertaining — it was not pretty. Boston won shooting 39.2 percent, Atlanta shot 38.7 percent. Ray Allen had 19 points on n nine shots, and Kevin Garnett had another impressive game, but mostly this game was about shots clanging of the rim. Joe Johnson did have 25 for the Hawks.

Sixers 105, Bobcats 80: Nothing can get a sick offense feeling better like playing Charlotte. You knew the Bobcats were in trouble when they shot a ridiculous 57 percent over the first 18 minutes and were still down by 2. Philadelphia owned the second half and both Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young had 20 for the Sixers. We’ll see if all this carries over to a real game.

Cavaliers 105, Nets 100: He may be a rookie but Kyrie Irving is a closer. He had 14 fourth quarter points and helped spark a late 10-2 run that gave the Cavaliers a hard-fought win. Deron Williams couldn’t stop Irving, so the Nets tried newcomer Gerald Wallace but that didn’t help either. Tristan Thompson had an impressive 27 for the Cavaliers as well.

Timberwolves 97, Warriors 93: It wasn’t all booing the owner, they played a game, too. Minnesota appeared in control until a Klay Thompson and David Lee inspired 22-7 third-quarter run made this a game. Kevin Love had 12 of his 36 in the fourth quarter — and Anthony Tolliver pitched in 10 in the final frame — as the Timberwolves made a late run to secure the win.

Odd fact of the week: Minnesota is the opponent it two jersey retirements this week, Chris Mullin’s Monday at Golden State and Bruce Bowen’s Wednesday in San Antonio.

Mavericks 112, Nuggets 95: Kenneth Faried has been making a splash lately, but asking him to try and hang with Dirk Nowitzki defensively proved to be a mistake. Nowitzki had 33 and was key to Dallas controlling this game most of the way. Denver went without JaVale McGee in this one, but if Nuggets fans think he makes a difference they haven’t seen him play. Wilson Chandler did look good getting his 13 points. Arron Afflalo led Denver with 24.

Carmelo Anthony on shrinking role with Knicks: ‘I see the writing on the wall… I’m at peace with that’

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Carmelo Anthony scored just nine points on 12 shots in the Knicks loss to the Heat last night — well below his season averages of 22 points on 19 shots per game.

Anthony, via Ian Begley of ESPN:

“I see the writing on the wall. I see what it is,” Anthony said late Wednesday night. “I see what they’re trying to do, and it’s just me accepting that. That’s what puts me at peace. Just knowing and understanding how things work. I’m at peace with that.”

Is Anthony talking about just the Knicks’ final dozen games of this season, when they’re clearly interesting in testing less-proven players? Or is he referring to his entire tenure in New York?

Anthony has said he’d consider waiving his no-trade clause if the Knicks want to rebuild, and they’ll reportedly try again to trade him this offseason. Perhaps, this is Anthony indicating he’s warming up to the idea of allowing a trade.

Anthony’s and Kristaps Porzingis‘ timelines are barely compatible, if at all. It’d make sense for the Knicks to go in a different direction.

Could Anthony be at peace with that?

Dwight Howard’s offensive rebounding defies convention

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Hawks president/coach Mike Budenholzer has the authority to set the Hawks’ priorities.

“Organizationally, fundamentally,” Budenholzer said, “transition D is more important than anything.”

Dwight Howard challenges that daily.

Howard has already built a Hall of Fame résumé:

  • Eight-time All-NBA center, including five-time first teamer
  • Three-time Defensive Player of the Year
  • Five-time rebounding champ

But the big man is doing something he’s never done before: Grab 15.2% of available offensive rebounds.

And he’s doing it at age 31 in a league that has increasingly deemphasized offensive rebounding. The NBA will set a record this season for lowest offensive-rebounding percentage for the fourth straight year.

Teams have just figured getting back on defense trumps crashing the offensive glass, the strategy emanating most prominently from the Spurs. Budenholzer, a former San Antonio assistant coach, brought the plan straight to Atlanta. The Hawks ranked 28th, last and last in offensive-rebounding in his first three seasons — in part for philosophical reasons, in part because they’ve lacked the personnel to do better. They’ve also been a below-average defensive-rebounding team each season under Budenholzer.

Then Howard signed and forced Budenholzer to adjust.

Atlanta has become an above-average offensive-rebounding team and far better with Howard on the court – a helpful crutch with ace 3-point shooters Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague traded. The Hawks are ceding more transition opportunities, though they remain very good at defending those.

It’s an obvious tradeoff, says Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons coach who coached Howard with the Magic sees the center in the rare class of players who deserve full autonomy to chase offensive rebounds.

“You don’t limit those guys,” Van Gundy said.

Howard has made the most of his freedom to chase rebounds. His 15.2 offensive-rebounding percentage ranks second to only Kenneth Faried among qualified players.

And, again, Howard is 31. Offensive rebounding tends to be a young man’s game.

Here’s top 10 in offensive rebounding this season, plotted by age:

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Player Team Age Offensive-rebounding percentage
Kenneth Faried DEN 27 16.1
Dwight Howard ATL 31 15.4
Andre Drummond DET 23 15.2
JaVale McGee GSW 29 15
Tarik Black LAL 25 14.8
Tristan Thompson CLE 25 14
Rudy Gobert UTA 24 13.9
Enes Kanter OKC 24 13.9
Kyle O'Quinn NYK 26 13.9
Willy Hernangomez NYK 22 13.8

Howard’s previous career-high offensive-rebounding percentage was 13.8.

The only other players to set career-high offensive-rebounding rates north of 15% after their age-30 season: Dennis Rodman (20.8% at age 33 with the 1994-95 Spurs) and Alan Henderson (15.6% at age 32 with the 2004-05 Mavericks). Both Rodman (Cooke County Junior College and Southeastern Oklahoma State) and Henderson (Indiana) played four years of college basketball, giving them less wear and tear on their bodies and fewer opportunities to post career highs at a young age.

Howard jumped to the NBA straight from high school.

Yet, he’s having a resurgent year in his 13th season. How is he doing it?

“One, I’m not super old,” Howard said earlier this season. “Two, my body feels great. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff to take care of my body.”

Known for eating legendary amounts of candy earlier in his career, perhaps Howard has made a breakthrough. His defensive-rebounding percentage (31.8) is the second-best of his career and ranks fourth in the NBA. That has helped him anchor the league’s fourth-best defense.

Howard has been subject to widespread criticism, and last season with the Rockets was a low point. This year, Howard has recommitted to the basics: Rebounding, defending, scoring inside.

“He’s got a big personality, but I think we all knew that,” Budenholzer said. “But it’s all in the right place. He wants good things, and I’ve really enjoyed coaching him.”

So much so that Budenholzer has compromised a core basketball tenet for Howard.

And it has proved a worthwhile decision.

JaVale McGee misses open dunk (video)

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Shaquille O’Neal said he’d stop talking about JaVale McGee, who has featured prominently on Shaqtin A Fool.

This missed dunk, a low point in the Warriors’ otherwise-impressive win over the Spurs, will test Shaq’s sincerity.

Grizzlies’ James Ennis fouls out then hits half-court shot (video)

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Against the Pacers last night, James Ennis missed all three of his 3-point attempts… that counted. And he makes this one after fouling out?

Mike Conley more than picked up the slack to lead the Grizzlies to victory.