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Baseline to Baseline recaps: Boston is hot, the Sixers not so much

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What you missed while buying a small town for yourself

Knicks 100, Bulls 99 (OT): It took some huge threes by Carmelo Anthony and some missed late free throws by Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, but the Bulls got a key win in their playoff chase.

Celtics 103, Sixers 79: Paul Pierce was hot early but it was an 18-2 run in the second quarter that had the Celtics running away with this game and never looking back. The Celtics are playing well right now, while Philly is not defending (something it did well early in the season) and are turning ball over a lot on their way to four straight losses. Right now they are one game up of getting passed by Milwaukee and falling out of the playoffs.

Thunder 91, Raptors 75: Credit Toronto, which hung around this game on the road until midway through the third quarter. That’s when OKC went on a 24-0 run to end the quarter and start the fourth. That was it. What else did you expect to happen? Kevin Durant had 23 and owned the second half. Jose Calderon had 19 points to lead Toronto.

Heat 98, Pistons 75: Dwyane Wade was out with an ankle injury (a game after saying his legs were tired, but sure it’s an injury). The Heat are now 10-1 when Wade has missed a game this year, mostly because LeBron James decides to take over. He had 26 and the Heat took control with a 9-0 run in the second and never looked back.

Spurs 114, Jazz 104: San Antonio opened this game on a 12-4 run — thanks to Tony Parker’s 10 first quarter points (he finished with 27). Fans in San Antonio were chanting MVP at Parker, and he has to be in the conversation. Maybe third, but he needs to be in the conversation.

Nets 122, Cavaliers 118 (OT): This is why you need league pass — nobody thought this game would be the most entertaining game of the day, but it was. They traded threes in the fourth quarter, went into overtime and it was a 6-0 run in the extra period that got the Nets the win. Gerald Green had 32 to lead the Nets (12 in the fourth quarter), he has come on of late. Antawn Jamison had 34 for the Cavs.

Rockets 104, Kings 87: Kyle Lowry was back, but this was the Courtney Lee show — he had 17 first quarter points on 7-8 shooting including nailing all his threes. The Rockets never looked back from there. With the win the Rockets move up to the six seed in the West, still only 1.5 games ahead of the nine seed but they are not the team fading right now (hello Denver).

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.