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: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.

Report: Raptors, Magic can’t trade with each other for a year

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The Magic will send the Raptors a 2018 second-round pick for hiring Jeff Weltman, who was Toronto’s general manager.

But that’s not the only consequence of hire.

Yahoo Sports:

The move invoked the NBA provision that Toronto and Orlando are not permitted to trade players with each other until the earlier of May 24, 2018, or the conclusion of the 2017-18 season for either organization, league sources told The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

The NBA made a similar ruling when the Clippers sent the Celtics a first-rounder to hire Doc Rivers, and I don’t like it now, either. It’s needlessly restrictive, preventing talent from flowing to the optimal locations.

At least Orlando isn’t a logical destination for the Raptor most likely to be dealt: Jonas Valanciunas. The Magic already have enough centers with Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo – a lesson that influenced their last trade with Toronto, dealing Serge Ibaka.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.