Baseline to Baseline recaps: Five in a row for the Knicks

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What you missed while being thankful a rogue boulder didn’t destroy your home and car…

Knicks 82, Sixers 79: This was the ugliest win for the Knicks on their five-game winning streak, but it may also be the best. Not the best because it moves them within three games of the struggling Sixers in the Atlantic division (well, that does matter, too) but rather because they won it a grind it out game. This was one where both teams looked tired and neither could get a shot to fall (New York won shooting 36.7 percent overall and hit 2-of-13 from three) but good teams win ugly games. Mike Woodson made the adjustments — he went small and got a good game from Stoudemire (21 points) and good defense from Shumpert on Philly’s guards.

These teams are moving in opposite directions — Philly has lost 4 of 5 — and now the Sixers are just one game ahead of the Celtics and three ahead of the Knicks. The race to win the Atlantic and avoid the Bulls or Heat in the first round is now fully engaged for the next five weeks. Along those same lines, the Knicks are now four games and Boston two behind six-seed Atlanta.

Thunder 113, Clippers 91: This was close through the first quarter, when the Clippers shot 50 percent, hit 6-of-8 from three and trailed just 33-30 after one. But in the next three quarters the Clippers shot 32.2 percent and the Thunder pulled away for a relatively easy win. On the other end of the floor, the Thunder did a good job getting Kevin Durant isolated on Nick Young and Randy Foye and that led to him looking dominant getting 32 points on just 18 shots. Durant did a good job of recognizing his matchup advantages and taking Young down on the block when he could. The Clippers never really adjusted, which is another issue altogether. Russell Westbrook had 19.

Kendrick Perkins picked up an early technical when he gave a hard foul on Blake Griffin who was trying to go up and dunk over him. That’s a little payback for last time.

Lakers 109, Mavericks 93: What is it with this Lakers team winning the hard game s and losing to the bottom feeders? A night after dropping a game to a Rockets team without its starting backcourt, the Lakers go on a 20-4 run in the second quarter to take the lead and win relatively easily over Dallas.

One real key was the Lakers shot 58.4 percent on the night — Kobe Bryant was 11-of-18 (Dallas really missed Shawn Marion, who was out), Paul Gasol 13-of-16, and Ramon Sessions was 7-of-8 on his way to 17 points plus 9 assists. The Lakers offense looks so much better with the quickness that Sessions brings to the point — Mike Brown, stop the charade, start Sessions and say you are going to close with him, not Steve Blake. The Lakers ball movement all night was fantastic — the Mavericks doubled Andrew Bynum had and fast all night and while he had just 9 points he passed well out of the double team. Dirk Nowitzki had 26, Jason Terry ran the pick-and-roll well on his way to 23.

Nuggets 116, Pistons 115: On a night of entertaining games nothing beat this one. It didn’t look that way early when the Nuggets owned the first quarter and were up 22, but that’s when the Ben Gordon show started — he had 21 points in the second and 45 for the game. He was 9-of-9 from three. He was a force of nature and it looked like he was going to lead the Pistons to a rare road victory. But Denver closed the game out on an 8-0 run — and that doesn’t do it justice.

Denver was down three with 5.6 seconds left when Arron Afflalo drove and hit the spinning layup for with the foul. Hit the free throw and Denver ties the game. Afflalo misses — but the first game as a Nugget JaVale Mcgee makes the play getting around Greg Monroe for a putback slam that gave Denver the win. McGee had 15 points in the game. Gordon got a good look at his own game winner, but that seemed to be the only shot he missed all night.

Bulls 94, Raptors 82: You really cannot over-sell just how impressive all these Bulls wins this season are without Derrick Rose — they are now 12-4. Toronto led most of this game behind 23 points from DeMar DeRozan, but the Bulls went on a 20-0 fourth quarter run thanks to John Lucas III and Kyle Korver to get the win. Yes, Lucas and Korver were the heroes. Deal with it.

Magic 103, Suns 93: Dwight Howard got the better of a fun matchup with Marcin Gortat scoring 28 points, grabbing 16 rebounds, and adding a couple blocks for fun. But the real story was the Suns defense kept losing Ryan Anderson on pick-and-pops or just out by the arc and he made them pay with 7 three pointers on his way to 29 points. The Magic started to take control late in the first quarter and by the fourth this was garbage time.

Wizards 108, Nets 89: Nene had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Washington. Mix that in with Jordan Crawford having and efficient 21 points on 13 shots and you get a pretty comfortable Wizards win. Washington looked much more fundamentally sound and smart with Nene out there. We’ll see how long that carries over.

Hawks 103, Cavaliers 102 (OT): Josh Smith seemed to be everywhere and had 32 points and 17 rebounds. Early on it was Kyrie Irving (28 points) and Antawn Jamison (23) who had the Cavs up on the road, but the Hawks battled back and the fourth quarter was pretty tight. That’s when Joe Johnson, shooting 3-14 to start the night, hit a big three to send it to overtime. Then in overtime he hit the game winner. So I guess he really is worth all that money… nah. But he had a good night.

Warriors 101, Hornets 92: Klay Thompson (career high 27 points) and David Lee (25) fail to understand the concept of tanking and lead the Warriors to the win. The Hornets get tanking, they have been doing it all season

Spurs 116, Timberwolves 100: San Antonio was in control of this one from the start and used and 11-1 run late in the first quarter to really grab hold of a double-digit lead it would never relinquish. Tim Duncan had 21 and didn’t play the fourth quarter, Stephen Jackson had 16 for the Spurs off the bench. Kevin Love had 17 points and 12 boards because that is what he does. But the Spurs owned this one.

Tony Parker did leave in the second quarter with what was described as a tight hamstring. Something to watch.

Lowry scores 24 points as Raptors beat Spurs 86-83

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TORONTO (AP) — Kyle Lowry scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan added 21 and the Toronto Raptors beat San Antonio 86-83 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak against the Spurs.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 17-3 at home, the second-best home record in the NBA behind San Antonio’s mark of 19-2.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 15 points and Patty Mills had 13 as San Antonio lost for the fourth time in six road games. The Spurs are 11-15 away from home.

It had been more than two years since Toronto last beat San Antonio. The Raptors won 97-94 at home on Dec. 9, 2015.

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili missed his second straight game because of a sore right thigh. Ginobili returned to Texas after the Spurs won at Brooklyn on Wednesday.

The Spurs trailed 70-69 after a 3-pointer by Bryn Forbes at 6:52 of the fourth, but DeRozan and Lowry connected on back-to-back possessions, giving Toronto a 74-69 lead with 5:11 remaining.

After a jump shot by Mills, Toronto reeled off a 6-0 run including baskets by Lowry, Valanciunas and DeRozan to lead 80-71 with 2:40 left.

Another 3-pointer by Forbes made it 86-83 with six seconds left. DeRozan was fouled but missed both free throws, giving San Antonio a chance to tie, but the Spurs couldn’t get a shot off in time.

After making seven of 23 shots in the first quarter, the Raptors hit 11 of 20 attempts in the second, including a buzzer-beating jumper from DeRozan that gave Toronto a 44-37 lead at halftime.

Toronto led 55-41 on DeRozan’s three-point play at 7:33 of the third but Aldridge did all the scoring in an 8-0 Spurs run that cut the gap to 63-60 heading to the fourth.

 

Memphis pays tribute to Zach Randolph as he returns to FedEx Forum

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Zach Randolph found his career around in Memphis.

He had fantastic on-the-court years in Portland, then bounced to New York and Los Angeles, but it was in Memphis that he became a beloved figure in the community who embraced it, plus on the court played a big role in the best years in the Grizzlies franchise.

He took the bigger check in Sacramento last summer, and when he returned to FedEx Forum in a Kings uniform Friday he was greeted with nothing but love.

🙌🏽 The @memgrizz pay tribute to @macbo50! #ThisIsWhyWePlay

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Randolph has earned this. Hope he savored it.

 

 

Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins: All-Star nods bode well for Pelicans pairing

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins figure they’ve proved they can co-exist to spectacular and prolific effect.

Both big men have been named All-Star starters, giving them hope they’ll be paired together beyond this season, which is Cousins’ last under contract.

“First time I’ve ever been in an All-Star game with a teammate,” the 6-foot-11 Cousins noted after practice on Friday, one day after All-Star starters were announced. “This is big for the entire city, the organization and just our team moving forward. It kind of shows what this combo has the potential to have.”

The 6-10 Davis, who was the Pelicans’ lone All-Star last season, sounded equally pleased by the results a decision by New Orleans to counter the trend of guard-heavy “small ball” by pairing dynamic big men who can dominate inside, handle the ball and shoot with range.

“The biggest question was, was it going to work? I think we just proved that it is and it can work,” Davis said. “We feel like we complement each other.”

The 24-year old Davis is averaging 26.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Cousins, 27, has averaged 25.3 points, 12.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.6 blocks. Their exploits have filled highlight reels, sometimes on plays involving one setting up the other – above the rim or otherwise.

“I’m mostly happy for DeMarcus,” Davis said. “To be a starter, that’s huge – huge for him. He’s having a hell of a season. It’s well deserved.”

The comparable production from both Davis and Cousins shows that “both of those guys are willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “Both of those guys are willing to leave a little bit of their game off the floor so the other guy can be good.”

There’s just one problem.

New Orleans hasn’t won enough to be firmly on a path toward postseason play.

At 23-21, the Pelicans entered Friday night’s action tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for seventh in the eight-team Western Conference playoff picture.

The Pelicans’ past two results were a microcosm of their season. On Tuesday night, New Orleans beat Eastern Conference-leading Boston. The following night, they lost at Atlanta, which entered the game with the worst record in the NBA.

“We’ve had flashes throughout the year,” Cousins said. “We’re still trying to find that consistency. There’s still a lot of things we need to work.”

Cousins acknowledged the Pelicans have yet to master “being the team we want to be at all times … no matter if we’re playing Golden State or the Atlanta Hawks.”

The Pelicans have yet to string more than three consecutive victories together this season and had developed a habit of losing to teams with losing records well before their Atlanta collapse. New Orleans has dropped home dates with Orlando, Sacramento, Dallas and New York. They’ve lost twice at Memphis.

If that trend continues, it could sour Cousins on the prospect of re-signing with New Orleans.

“I wasn’t really concerned about accolades. I’ve gotten accolades. I’ve done everything except win,” said Cousins, who spent his first seven seasons in Sacramento before his trade to the Pelicans following the 2017 All-Star game in New Orleans. “With the whole (trade) going down, what I thought I had a chance to do was win, and that’s why I was OK with it.”

Still, Cousins sounded confident he won’t be dealt to another club when asked if he liked the league’s decision to move up the trade deadline to Feb. 8 this season, before the All-Star break.

“I don’t really care because I don’t think I’m getting traded,” Cousins said. “Hopefully I’ve never got to deal with it again.”

If the Pelicans aren’t able to make a major addition with a trade, they could get a boost from the expected return of small forward Solomon Hill from an offseason hamstring tear. Valued by the club for his defense, Hill, a former starter, is scheduled to return for the final month or so off the regular season.

In any event, the Pelicans have 38 games to make their push, starting at home Saturday night against Memphis.

 

Thunder’s Paul George finding his role, doing a little bit of everything for new team

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thunder coach Billy Donovan can’t pinpoint the best thing about Paul George.

Oklahoma City’s versatile forward averages just over 20 points per game, leads the league in steals and is third in 3-point goals while shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc.

“I think that’s what makes him the player he is,” Donovan said. “There’s a lot of players in the league that are great offensive players, but they’re not great defensive players. I think arguably, it would be hard to make a case either way of what end of the floor he’s better on, offense or defense, because he’s that special.”

George believes he’s having an All-Star season in first year with Oklahoma City after being traded from the Indiana Pacers. There have been challenges as he has tried to fit in with superstars Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony and it’s still unclear where he will play next season because of his upcoming free agency.

Still, he has remained focused enough to be a top-notch performer. As he has found his way, the Thunder have rallied from an 8-12 start and have gone 17-8 since heading into Saturday’s game at Cleveland.

“He can score it, attack the rim and he defends,” Lakers rookie guard Kyle Kuzma said. “Anytime you do that, you’re going to be a pretty damn good player.”

George was first team All-Defense in 2014 and second-team in 2013 and 2016, and he was a defensive stopper for Team USA when it won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He says without hesitation that he wants to be Defensive Player of the Year this season and feels he should have won the award in the past.

“I think I have the makeup, I think I have the intangibles,” George told The Associated Press. “I’m physically capable of doing the things necessary. I thought 2013-14 I thought I was hands down the best perimeter defender on the league and I thought I was overlooked.”

George is averaging a career-best 2.2 steals per game. Having another top-notch perimeter defender in Andre Roberson to share some of the responsibility allows him to gamble more than in the past. He also credits carrying less of the offensive load.

“It gives me more energy, not having to create or generate offense every possession,” George said. “I can conserve energy that way. It allows me to really ramp up the defense on the other end, which is another reason why I’ve been able to accumulate so many steals. I have the energy, the endurance to keep flying around and keep being productive.”

An example of his all-around play this season was a five-steal performance against the Sacramento Kings. He made just 7 of 17 shots but was a critical factor in Oklahoma City’s win.

He hasn’t always emphasized defense, but he was forced to as a rookie for the Pacers during the 2010-11 season. Frank Vogel took over as coach at midseason and saw enough grit and improvement on that end to insert him into the starting lineup in March. He came of age during the playoff series that season against the Chicago Bulls when he faced league MVP Derrick Rose. George gave up some points, but he battled and helped the Pacers hold Rose to 37 percent shooting in the series.

“My mindset was I knew I was outmatched from a standpoint of staying in front of him,” George said. “That’s what really got me going in trying to think things through, trying to see what I can do that can disrupt the MVP. I tried to use my length. I tried to make it as hard as possible. I knew he was going to get his 20s, get his 30s, but how can I make it as hard as possible, and how can I wear this guy down? You’re not going to be able to shut down a guy like that at that stage.”

From that point, George embraced the role of defensive stopper while evolving into an all-around offensive player. He was the league’s Most Improved Player in 2013 and made the first of his four All-Star appearances. Last season, he averaged a career-best 23.7 points for the Pacers. Now, he can still create when needed and he has learned to be more of a catch-and-shoot scorer.

“He’s a beast out there,” Kings guard Buddy Hield said. “He’s great. He can score the ball from three, the mid-range and the post. He’s tough to guard so you have to pick your poison with him, and it’s hard to do.”