Baseline to Baseline recaps: Are the Hawks and Jazz still playing?

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What you missed while welcoming Don Draper back into your life…

Thunder 103, Heat 87: Kevin Durant outdueled LeBron James (making a nice MVP case), but the bigger concern for Miami should be that Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka combined to drop 35 on them. Matt Moore has a lot more as this was our game of the night.

Hawks 139, Jazz 133 (4OT): You’re reading that right — four overtimes. Twenty free minutes of hoop for the paying customers. First time the league has had a four OT game since 1997.

Let us not confuse a long and entertaining game with one that was well played — the Jazz went 2-18 at the end of the fourth quarter and first OT, the Hawks 2-10. First overtime saw the teams combine for four total points. Four. Joe Johnson took over in the fourth overtime and scored 8 of his 37 to ensure the win. Al Jefferson had 28 and Paul Millsap 25. Great game for fantasy leagues as each team had seven players in double figures.

Grizzlies 102, Lakers 93: Usually it is the length and size of the Lakers front line that bothers other teams, but today the size of the Grizzlies — one of the few teams that can match up with the Lakers — that really bothered Los Angeles. Andrew Bynum had just four rebounds. Pau Gasol shot 4-15. The Lakers as a squad just seemed thrown off their game. Memphis got 18 from Rudy Gay but it was O.J. Mayo (feeling at home back in his old USC neighborhood) who had 12 in the fourth quarter and helped Memphis get a win it needed to snap a three-game losing streak.

Mike Brown sat Kobe Bryant for a key four minute stretch of the fourth quarter. Kobe didn’t like it but wouldn’t talk about it after the game. This story is going to come up again. But for the record, the Lakers were +7 in that time he sat (and -13 the rest of the quarter). Also for the record, the Lakers lost because they couldn’t stop the Grizzlies, not that four minutes Kobe sat.

Spurs 93, Sixers 76: This makes a sweep of a back-to-back-to-back by the Spurs, but maybe the most impressive thing is they were the team playing with more energy in the second half. Great showing by Kawhi Leonard who seemed to control the paint. This game stayed pretty close until a San Antonio 8-0 run near the end of the third quarter, then a 12-2 Spurs run to start the fourth. Tony Parker had 21 for San Antonio, DeJuan Blair had 19. No Tim Duncan for the Spurs — he’s just old — and no Andre Iguodala, who was a late scratch for the Sixers.

Suns, 108, Cavaliers, 83: The Suns pretty much owned this game, being up 21 at the half and cruising in for the win. If the book on Steve Nash is to make him score not pass, well he had 4 points but 13 dimes. Marcin Gortat led the way with 20. The Cavaliers shot 38 percent as a team. Antawn Jamison was 1-for-8. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Timberwolves 117, Nuggets 100: Minnesota was in control from the start and up 25 at the half. Here’s all you need to know about Denver in this one: JaVale McGee was their best player (13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 11 boards). Kevin Love had 30 points, 21 rebounds, while Luke Ridnour added 25.

While they both are fighting to get one of those last playoff spots in the West, you get the feeling both of these teams may be lottery bound.

Celtics 88, Wizards 76: Boston has quietly been playing better offense of late, particularly at the start of games, and they did that in the start of this one with 21 points in the first 8 minutes. Avery Bradley led the way with 15 of his team-best 23 in the first quarter. Yes, You read that right, Avery Bradley. But forget the offense, what really mattered is the Celtics defense — the Wizards scored just 12 points in the first quarter. It was kind of a route from there on out.

Trail Blazers 90, Warriors 87: Two teams trying to tank the season — not officially, but if feels like it — yet someone had to win. Raymond Felton may have been the key here for Portland, scoring 19 points in the second half and draining three from beyond the arc in the final quarter. Charles Jenkins had 27 for Golden State, and if you just had to ask who that is remind yourself these teams are playing for ping pong balls at this point.

Report: Sweet-shooting 7-footer Lauri Markkanen leaving Arizona for NBA draft

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Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.

That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.

Evan Daniels of Scout:

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.

Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.

Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.

Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.

There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.

But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.

Dwyane Wade wowed by jumping, around-the-back alley-oop pass in McDonald’s All-American Game (video)

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Watch for Collin Sexton in the 2018 NBA draft.

In the meantime, the Alabama commit had all eyes — include Dwyane Wade‘s — on him with this pass in the McDonald’s All-American Game last night.

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.