Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Playoff impacts everywhere you look

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What you missed while getting drunk on peanut butter and jelly flavored vodka….

Heat 98, Thunder 93: Don’t read too much into “statements” before the playoffs start, but the Heat made one in one of our games of the night.

Lakers 113, Clippers 108: The Clippers had the big highlights, but the Lakers will take the win and likely the Pacific Division (and third seed) in our other game of the night.

Spurs 87, Celtics 86: Two veteran playoff teams put kept the Garden fans entertained in a close one… but when did Avery Bradley (19 points) become the best Celtic? For that matter, you could say Danny Green was the best Spur on the night (he had 14 and played good defense on Rajon Rondo). Stephen Jackson came off the bench for a good night for the Spurs. Be careful about saying this was a statement game of any kind — Boston scored 38 points in the second half, the Spurs 28 and both shot under 40 percent. This wasn’t pretty.

Mavericks 95, Grizzlies 85: Dallas used a 21-4 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead and get the win, a run sparked by Shawn Marion’s dozen in the final frame. Dirk Nowitzki had 23, Jason Terry changed the tone of the game with his 15 and energy off the bench. O.J. Mayo had 17 to lead the Grizzlies.

Raptors 99, Sixers 78: Philadelphia is just falling apart. The Sixers scored 15 points in the third quarter and 7 in the fourth, allowing Toronto to pull away behind Andrea Bargnani (24 on the night). Philly looked good in the first half (58 percent shooting) but a different team came out of the locker room for the second half. Which is starting to sound like the Sixers season.

Pacers 109, Wizards 96: Washington fell behind big early, fought back in the second and stayed close =until a 16-6 third quarter run by the Pacers broke the game open and from there the rout was on. Darren Collison had 17 points and 11 dimes, Danny Granger had 20 points. The Wizards traded Nick Young in part to get Jordan Crawford more run and he is responding, he had 28 in the loss.

Suns 107, Jazz 105: Utah went on a late 16-6 run in the fourth quarter to make this a close game and tied it on an Al Jefferson bucket, but Steve Nash hit the game winning bucket by splitting the defenders and hitting a 15-footer. With the win the Suns move to within a game Denver for the last playoff spot in the West and are now half a game ahead of the Jazz. Seven Suns scored in double figures. Paul Millsap had 25 for the Jazz.

Hawks 120, Bobcats 93: The Hawks shot 57 percent as a team. Good on them, but most of the reason for that falls on what the Bobcats call “defense.” This was over by halftime. Josh Smith had 24.

Hornets 94, Nuggets 92: Eric Gordon was back and he had 15 including the game-winning free throws after drawing the foul. They missed him so. The Hornets led pretty much the entire second half. If the Nuggets fall out of the playoffs by a game or so, they can look back to this one.

Warriors 97, Timberwolves 94: After the game Kevin Love said the Timberwolves deserved every boo they got. I say if you are booing the Timberwolves at home your perspective on what this team is right now is way, way out of line. Enjoy the improvement and support them. Love had 29, the Warriors took a night off from tanking behind David Lee’s 31.

Trail Blazers 101, Nets 88: LaMarcus Aldridge is better than Kris Humphries and dropped 24. Portland used a 16-1 run in the fourth quarter to take back the lead and pull away.

Bucks 107, Cavaliers 98: Milwaukee went on a 12-0 run in the first quarter to take the lead and never looked back. Monta Ellis dropped 30 and the Cavs had no answer for him.

Report: Cavaliers trading Kevin Love ‘not even remotely a consideration’

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 22: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Will the Cavaliers trade Kevin Love?

Cleveland’s championship quieted, but didn’t stop, the speculation.

The Cavs’ stance might.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

While there are no shortage of suitors who would take on Love’s contract, sources close to the Cavs say moving him is not even remotely a consideration.

Some parts of the equation haven’t changed since the last trade deadline:

  • Love is a good, and probably now underrated, player who can’t reach his full potential while playing with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. That’s OK. Most players must sacrifice to fit their team’s needs.
  • Love helps the Cavaliers against most teams. As I said above, he’s really good.
  • The Warriors – the overwhelming championship favorites – present a particularly difficult matchup for Love. The Cavs didn’t quite win the Finals in spite of Love, but his contributions were limited.

But a few things have changed:

  • Cleveland proved it could win a title with Love. There is no longer any doubt.
  • The championship also affects perception. Teams are reluctant to break up their cores coming off a title. It’d be surprising to see Cleveland make a major move until after the 2017 postseason.
  • Specifically, LeBron’s relationship with Love might have improved. Winning cures all ills. After previous reservations, LeBron might feel a stronger connection with Love due to their experiencing a title run together.

So, I buy that the Cavs are firmly against trading Love. The question: Will that stance change once they lose in the playoffs, whether that’s in 2017 or beyond?

Report: Blake Griffin’s camp ‘adamant’ he’ll re-sign with Clippers

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 06:  Blake Griffin #32 of the the Los Angeles Clippers drirbbles past Metta World Peace #37 of the the Los Angeles Lakers during a basketball game at Staples Center on April 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Doc Rivers said he doesn’t plan to break up the Clippers’ core, and that’s up to him.

For one more season.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can – very likely will – opt out of their contracts next summer, and J.J. Redick will also be a free agent. Will they stay?

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

Sources close to Griffin have been adamant that he is planning to re-sign in L.A. and that he’s not open to going anywhere.

Sources close to the situation say win or lose, Rivers is not open to trade talks on Griffin or Paul and that he’s not worried about either walking away in July.

There are two possibilities:

1. Griffin is truly intent on re-signing with the Clippers.

2. Griffin is not truly intent on re-signing with the Clippers.

The second could be true if Griffin wants to spend the upcoming season in Los Angeles before evaluating his options. If Griffin states anything less than a firm commitment to stay, Rivers might trade him.

But let’s take Griffin at his reported word. Even if he honestly plans right now to re-sign, a lot can change in a year. The pressure for the Clippers to advance at least to the conference finals is only mounting. If the Clippers fall short, the resulting fallout could affect Griffin’s thinking.

At minimum, this is bad news for the Thunder – who hoped to pair Griffin with Russell Westbrook – and good news for the Clippers. Griffin leaning one direction now means something, even if it’s not definitive.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it prohibitive for Griffin to sign an extension with the Clippers. So, whatever he thinks today about re-signing, he’ll have to play out the season and evaluate July 1.

Report: Timberwolves signing Toure’ Murry and John Lucas III

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 08: John Lucas III #15 of the Chicago Bulls drives against Elton Brand #42 of the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 8, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the 76ers 77-69. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Alert: Kick your Ricky Rubio trade theories into gear.

The Timberwolves, despite saying they’d keep Rubio for now, are acting like they might not. Minnesota is reportedly signing a couple point guards: Toure’ Murry and John Lucas III.

The Timberwolves already have 15 players – the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries, including three point guards: Rubio, Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones. Keeping Murry or Lucas would require a roster move.

It could be Kevin Garnett retiring, buying out Nikola Pekovic or some smaller trade. But unless that minor deal involves Jones – Dunn, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, isn’t going anywhere – Minnesota would still have enough point guards. Most teams carry three.

The Timberwolves obviously aren’t trading Rubio because they have Murry and Lucas. But Murry or Lucas would help if Minnesota trades Rubio.

Lucas had his best season with Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls, and he can create instant offense in Thibodeau’s grind-it-out scheme. Murry has the length to make an impact defensively.* Most importantly, both play extremely hard – an especially big deal to Thibodeau.

*Murry’s size also allows him to play the wing, which offers him another avenue for sticking. But his frame, special for a point guard, is merely ordinary at shooting guard or small forward.

The Timberwolves still might not be quite ready to trade Rubio. But if Minnesota does deal him to slide Dunn into the starting lineup, Murry or Lucas would provide a decent contingency with Jones in reserve.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey: James Harden ‘only a polarizing figure to people who don’t watch’

Daryl Morey, James Harden
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Do you struggle with evaluating James Harden?

I know I do.

Harden’s Rockets, projected by some to contend for a championship, struggled to a 41-41 record last season. A fair share of their downfall could be pinned on him.

His defensive disinterest is appalling, and it sets a tone. His leadership is questionable, which matters a great deal for someone so empowered. He relies on tricking referees to draw fouls, frequently hooking his defender to create contact.

But I still put him on my All-NBA team, because his offense was so darned effective.

Elite individual offensive contributions are incredibly valuable. Harden’s defensive shortcomings can be hidden in a better team scheme. His leadership issues would matter less in a better team culture. But you can’t simply create what Harden provides offensively.

Long story short, Harden can be tricky to assess no matter how deeply you dive into his plusses and minuses.

Unless you ask Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

Morey, via Oliver Maroney of Basketball Insiders:

“He’s only a polarizing figure to people who don’t watch,” Morey told Basketball Insiders. “Players voted him MVP [in 2014-15] for a reason. He’s had a winning team every season of his career, with multiple Conference Finals appearances.”

Morey has long defended Harden. That’s what general managers do for the superstar they acquired in tenure-defining trades.

But Morey also put his money where his mouth is. The Rockets will pay Harden an extra $20 million over the next two seasons just to get him locked up one extra year – and that extra year will cost about a max salary.

For better or worse, the Rockets are all in with Harden.

I think that’s a good plan given the alternatives, but I’m also not so sold on Harden that I find it foolproof.