Courtney Lee, Paul George

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Rockets playoff hopes take punch to gut

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What you missed while reading the book “Cooking with Poo”….

Thunder 92, Bulls 78: The Oklahoma City Thunder have rolled over everybody lately (that’s going to be good for them in the power rankings Monday) and their athleticism overwhelmed the Chicago in our game of the day.

Celtics 91, Heat 72: Does Boston have one more title run in them? Are the Heat bored or are their flaws being exposed? Not sure the answers to that are black-and-white, but we had a lot of questions after our other game of the day.

Pacers 104, Rockets 102 (OT): This loss is a punch to the gut of a Rockets team trying to hold on to the last playoff spot in the West — GM Daryl Morey tweeted it was the most painful loss of the season for him. The Rockets were up 10 in the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold on and the end of the game itself was fun to watch with the teams trading jumpers. Danny Granger was on fire with 32 points including 6-of-8 from three.

Lakers 120, Warriors 112: This was an old-fashioned shootout right down to the two teams trading threes in the final minutes. It was entertaining. The Lakers got the win but they can’t walk away from this one feeling particularly good — like the Hornets they let a team they should throttle hang around and make it close late. This was a one-point game with seven minutes left until the Lakers went on a 9-0 run. On the bright side for the Lakers, they had efficient Kobe Bryant back and he dropped 40. That will get them some wins until they figure out how to play defense again. The Lakers also got a good performance out of Troy Murphy (not sure you want to depend on that nightly, Lakers fans). This is five straight losses for Golden State as they continue a quest to pick up more ping-pong balls.

Nuggets 104, Magic 101: No Dwight Howard for the Magic, who sat out with back spasms, and so this turned into the battle of the point guards — Ty Lawson had 25 and Jameer Nelson had 27. The big key for Orlando was that even without Howard they grabbed 18 offensive rebounds (Glen Davis had 9), but it was not enough as the Nuggets balanced attack was back.

Trail Blazers 119, Timberwolves 106: LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love went at it, toe-to-toe — and at one point literally chest-to-chest. We’ll give the win to Aldridge because he had 26 points and 8 rebounds — and because his team won in large part due to his 10 points in the final frame. (Love had 26 points, nine rebounds). He got a boost from Raymond Felton who had 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Raptors 99, Wizards 92: Toronto got 18 points from Andrea Bargnani and better bench play which together. Washington has the excuse that Nene and Trevor Booker were out again. But really, this game was about ping-pong balls.

Suns 92, Hornets 75: If the Suns are going to make the playoffs they need to win these games. Phoenix took control of this one with an 18-4 run in the third and never looked back. Steve Nash had just 4 points but dropped 14 dimes. Jared Dudley had 21 for Phoenix; Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith each had 14 for New Orleans.

Pizza and soccer on agenda for Celtics on trip to Italy

Perry Jones III, Malcolm Miller, James Young, Jordan Mickey
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MILAN (AP) — After a couple of days in Milan, Isaiah Thomas‘ Italian experience is still lacking a certain something.

“I’m waiting on some pizza,” said a laughing Thomas, who used to do commercials for a regional pizza franchise when he played for the Sacramento Kings. “The place we went to last night didn’t have no pizza so hopefully tonight we go somewhere I can order some pizza for real.”

This trip isn’t just about culinary experiences, though. The Celtics are in Milan to play an exhibition game against Olimpia Milano on Tuesday before traveling to Spain to play Real Madrid as part of the NBA Global Games.

Ahead of the team’s practice session on Sunday, Thomas was also looking forward to his first soccer match, as the Celtics headed to San Siro later for AC Milan’s home match against Napoli in the Italian league – after an afternoon trip to nearby Lake Como.

“That’s going to be fun,” Thomas told The Associated Press at the Celtics’ first practice in Italy. “I’m excited about that. I’ve never been to a soccer match, to have my first soccer match be in Italy is going to be nice.”

Teammate Marcus Smart said the trip was also an important bonding experience for a young roster with plenty of new pieces. They went for a players-only meal in Milan on Saturday night.

“We had a good time with each other,” Smart said. “No phones, so everyone was talking to one other. It was good overall fun.

“We understand the severity of this trip, it is a business trip but at the same time not many people get this chance to travel like we do so we understand its business but we’re here to have fun at the same time.”

Coach Brad Stevens has overseen plenty of rebuilding since taking over the Celtics in 2013 but still led the team to the playoffs last season after trading point guard Rajon Rondo – the only remaining player from the 2008 championship team. After being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team is aiming higher this season. For Stevens, it all starts here in Italy.

“These sessions are really important to get something accomplished in practice and to make sure that we’re continuing to progress,” Stevens said. “It’s still very much a part of our training camp, and so you’ve got all of the great things about being a tourist – getting a chance to see new things and experience new things – and at the same time we’re 24 or 25 days away from our season opener.”

And after spending so many hours in the gym during the offseason, Thomas is ready to start playing actual games again – even if its just preseason.

“We’re ready to beat up on somebody else, we’re tired of beating up on each other,” Smith said.

Kings’ Karl admits mistakes in DeMarcus Cousins trade controversey

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In the NBA, elite players have the leverage. It is just simple supply and demand.

DeMarcus Cousins is an elite player — and a favorite of owner Vivek Ranadive. He is not going anywhere.

Which made this summer’s “George Karl wants trade Cousins” a battle the coach couldn’t ultimately win — the owner wasn’t going to sign off on it, and the fans are going to side with Boogie. Remember Karl said he never had a player that was untradable, and that spiraled into reports Karl probed trade options with other teams, much to the frustration of management and Cousins himself.

Karl owned up to some of his mistakes in an interview on Comcast Bay Area, as reported by James Ham at

“To be honest with you, I apologized to DeMarcus for making the trade comment that I’ve never coached a player that’s untradeable,” Karl told Christensen. “That was wrong for me to say, because you all (the media) took it and blew it up into crazy.”

“But it’s my responsibility to be smart enough to not say things like that,” Karl continued. “So I did apologize because I thought that was the only thing, maybe some other things, but really the only thing that got us separated was that comment that then everybody wrote the we’re going to trade [Cousins].”

The relationship between Cousins and Karl — not to mention Rajon Rondo and other veterans — is the biggest key to the Kings’ season. Karl and Cousins say their relationship is solid now, but what happens when that is put under stress at some point during the season?

In talking to people around the team, the Kings players seemed to have formed a tight bond — even if part of the glue of that bond is a distrust of Karl that can work for them. This is a team that has the talent to compete for the bottom couple playoff seeds in the Western Conference, but everybody needs to be pulling on the rope in the same direction. We will see pretty quickly if the Kings can do that.