Baseline to Baseline recaps: Knicks, Heat win, can start thinking showdown

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What you missed while figuring out why ice cream causes brain freeze

Lakers 114, Thunder 106 (2OT): There was a game, too, not just an elbow. The Lakers got a win that can give them some confidence for a potential playoff meeting between these teams — but can they replicate this recipe for success? Our own Matt Moore discussed this game.

Knicks 113, Hawks 112: Very tight game, neither team had a double digit lead all game. Carmelo Anthony had 39 and took all the shots down the stretch. Amare Stoudemire was back and looking like his old self — 22 points, 12 rebounds and a key late block on Marvin Williams to save the game (actually, Williams did that himself trying to dunk a ball and not getting it out of his hands before the buzzer sounded).

The win locks the Hawks into a first round battle with the Celtics. Knicks have a 95 percent chance of having the Heat in the first round.

Heat 97, Rockets 88: Houston had a lead in the fourth quarter, but Miami owned the last seven minutes of this game, sparked by LeBron James dropping 11 of his 32 in the fourth quarter. The loss eliminated the already very slim chance the Rockets had of making the playoffs. The Heat can start dreaming of the Knicks, that’s not set in stone but it’s getting there.

Nuggets 101, Magic 74: Jameer Nelson played only two minutes in this one due to calf bruise he suffered. Because the Magic need another injury. This game was actually close until midway through the third quarter when the subs came in and Denver went on a 10-2 run, then the Nuggets blew the game open in the fourth. JaVale McGee had a good game for Denver with 17 points — if you throw him lobs he can dunk them.

The loss and other games this weekend has locked Orlando into a series against Indiana in the first round.

Spurs 114, Cavaliers 98: No Tim Duncan… but did you really think that would matter? Manu Ginobili dropped 20, DeJuan Blair 15 filling in as the guy setting the picks for Tony Parker. With the win the Spurs need just one more win in their last three games to secure the top seed in the West (or one more Thunder loss).

Clippers 107, Hornets 98: New Orleans took control of this game in the third quarter, them came the Chris Paul and Randy Foye show — CP3 had 13 points in the fourth, Foye 11 (he was knocking down outside shots all night). Chris Paul’s playmaking is something to behold, but will it be enough against a good team (like Memphis) in the playoffs?

Pistons 76, Raptors 73: With three seconds left and a final shot, the Raptors ran a simple set they have used a few times this year — Linas Kleiza inbounds the ball, runs off a pick near him, gets the ball back and… there isn’t a Piston within 10 feet of him. No switch off the pick, nothing. He has so much time he has a split second to gather himself and in doing so throws off his rhythm and misses. Pistons win. Brandon Knight and Ben Gordon each had 19 for the Pistons.

Kings 114, Bobcats 88: The Bobcats are so bad they are getting blown out be weak teams. DeMarcus Cousins had 29 and 10 for the Kings.

Warriors 93, Timberwolves 88: Golden State snaps its losing streak, thanks to a key three with a minute to go from Brandon Rush and a good game from Charles Jenkins (24 points, nine dimes).

Report: In wake of Chris Paul trade, Clippers focus on re-signing Blake Griffin

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Chris Paul is on his way to Houston in an attempt to form a superteam to challenge Golden State.

Now what for the Clippers?

They have two options: One, tear it all the way down and rebuild.

The other: Re-sign Blake Griffin, run the offense through him and put his underrated passing skills to the test while surrounded by shooters.

The Clippers are opting for door No. 2, at least for now, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

The fundamental question is: Does Griffin want to stay? The Clippers can offer more money and a larger contract, five -years starting just shy of $30 million a year. However, he will have good teams from the East calling. Miami is interested, and they have a strong point guard in Goran Dragic, a good wing defender in Justise Winslow, and a guy inside who can defend, rebound, and finish dunks in Hassan Whiteside. Plus, no state taxes on all that new money. Also, Boston (if they strike out with Gordon Hayward) and other teams will come calling. Griffin will have options.

If Griffin does stay, this could be interesting if the team is built right. Griffin is an underrated passer and playmaker — he averaged more than five assists per game last season, and that was with Chris Paul on the team. The Clippers would need to use him sort of like Denver uses Nikola Jokic, running the offense through him out high where he is a threat to score from with a midrange jumper, put the ball on the floor, or make a pass. Griffin would need to be surrounded by shooters and guys willing to work off the ball, such as J.J. Redick. Who is almost certainly gone.

If Griffin leaves, the Clippers don’t have much a choice and will have to start shopping DeAndre Jordan around and rebuilding the team (they got a fairly good haul for CP3 for that, considering the situation, Sam Decker and Montrezl Harrell are good young players who can be part of a rotation). Then Los Angeles will have two rebuilding teams, and that always makes for a great rivalry.

Report: Favoritism for Austin Rivers led Chris Paul to “despise” Doc Rivers

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If Chris Paul trusted Doc Rivers to build and coach a contender with the Clippers, he would not have been laying the groundwork with other teams in advance of free agency, then ultimately telling the Clippers he was headed to the Rockets and they should make a trade to send him there. Which they did.

That distrust isn’t just that the Clippers never got out of the second round, it was about the perception of how Rivers managed the team — specifically his son Austin Rivers. I have been told by multiple players and people around the Clippers there was a real frustration with how the younger Rivers was treated, including Austin getting a three-year, $35 million contract seen as more than he deserved.

Long-time Los Angeles-based broadcaster and current ESPN anchor Michael Eaves — who used to do the Clippers pre- and post-games shows on Fox Sports in L.A. — gave up the details on his Facebook page.

Paul’s relationship with Doc Rivers started to deteriorate rapidly after the Clippers acquired Austin Rivers. Several members of the team felt Austin acted entitled because his dad was both the coach and the President of Basketball Operations. In the view of the tenured players, Austin Rivers never tried to fit in, and when players tried to address the situation with him, he still did not respond the way the core of the team wanted him to. It led to resentment within the locker room, which often played out during games. One of Paul’s biggest contentions with Doc was that Paul, and other players, felt Doc treated Austin more favorably than other players. He would yell at guys for certain things during games and practices, but not get on Austin in the same manner for similar transgressions.

But what really solidified Paul’s dissatisfaction with Doc was a proposed trade involving Carmelo Anthony last season. New York offered Carmelo and Sasha Vujacic to the Clippers in exchange for Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce and Austin Rivers, a deal to which Rivers ultimately said no. That event led Paul to feel that keeping his son on the roster was more important to Doc than improving the team. So, ultimately, Paul lost both trust and faith in Doc. As one league executive put it, “Chris despises Doc.”

Would having swapped out Crawford and Rivers for Carmelo Anthony really have changed the course of last season for the Clippers? No. They weren’t beating Houston, San Antonio, or Golden State because they had ‘Melo (can you imagine what Golden State would have done to him defensively in the pick-and-roll?). But whether or not saying no to the trade was the smart move by Doc Rivers, because of his previous moves it was seen by players through the prism of favoritism

Eaves goes on to point out this is a perfect option for CP3. If he and Harden can mesh in Houston — no sure thing, they are both used to being ball-dominant guards — he can re-sign next summer with them on a max contract, essentially giving himself a six-year deal with $230 million that takes him to age 38. If it doesn’t work out, he and his buddy LeBron James can team up anywhere that a team can swing cap space for two max salaries (both Los Angeles teams could qualify there, so long as Doc is gone from the Clippers).

There have been a lot of tea leaves to suggest — and more obvious signs recently such as bringing in Jerry West — that Doc Rivers’ era in L.A. may be coming to end. He’s still owed a lot of money, but power seems to be moving away from him.

Chris Paul thanks Clipper fans in online statement

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Chris Paul is as competitive a guy as there is in the NBA — he and James Harden are not the smoothest fit next to one another, but he would rather team with another star and go hard at the Warriors juggernaut than sit back and collect a check.

That’s why CP3 wanted to go to the Rockets as part of the trade reported Wednesday.

But before he left, he wanted to say thank you to Clippers fans.

Paul is committed to his charity causes, he’s not giving those up. He’s likely keeping his home in Los Angeles, too — L.A. is the unofficial off-season home of the NBA anyway.

Rockets make series of cash trades for expiring contracts to help line up Chris Paul deal

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While everyone was rightfully raving about the move by the Houston Rockets to trade for Chris Paul — you have to love a team not cowering from the Warriors but willing to take them on Game of Thrones style — there was one little catch. The trade, as first announced, didn’t pencil out.

Because the Rockets were over the cap, this trade needs to be a salary match. The Clippers were getting back nice young players in Sam Decker and Montrezl Harrell, plus a first-round pick, but the salaries still didn’t match up. Then a string of small cash deals for expiring contracts started rolling in.

All those deals are official — and led to one of the funniest tweets of the year.

All three of those players will head to the Clippers as part of the official trade, but then be waived by the Clippers so they don’t actually pay them.

Also of note, by staying above the salary cap line (as opposed to diving below it to absorb CP3’s contract) the Rockets will keep their mid-level exception, giving them a full $8.4 million to spend in free agency to get a role player to help fill out the roster in Houston.

The Rockets are not done big game hunting, GM Daryl Morey is reportedly going after Paul George and maybe free agents such as Paul Millsap. Carmelo Anthony reportedly would like a buyout so he can get to Houston now, but with Phil Jackson gone and $55 million owed over the next few years that seems more up in the air. Regardless, expect the Rockets to keep making small moves to set up big ones.