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

2 Comments

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).

Fergie says she “tried my best” after national anthem blowback

Getty Images
2 Comments

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fergie is apologizing after trying something different with the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” the Grammy-winning singer said in a statement Monday. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after she finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on “the dawn’s early light.”

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 +-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured Sunday’s mood – and became an instant GIF – when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, “Let’s play some basketball!”

The Black Eyed Peas singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he “needed a cigarette” after Fergie’s performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal leaped to Fergie’s defense, saying: “Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone.”

Others on social media weren’t as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

 

Did Lakers help keep LeBron James in Cleveland with trade?

Associated Press
11 Comments

When the trade went down between the Lakers and Cavaliers before the deadline — sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus Cleveland’s 2018 first-round draft pick (top-five protected) — it caught the NBA by surprise.

The first reaction for a lot of people to the deal? This opens up as much as $70 million in cap space for the Lakers this summer (depending on other moves with players such as Julius Randle). Los Angeles could sign two max players — LeBron James and Paul George. Why would Cleveland help Los Angeles open up room to steal LeBron.

The Cavaliers didn’t see it that way — they knew they had to make a major shakeup or LeBron was gone. At that point, does it matter where? So in a series of moves, Cleveland GM Koby Altman radically remade the roster around LeBron. The goal was to energize them back into being the team to beat in the East, and from there make it hard for him to leave as a free agent. Since the trades, the Cavaliers are 2-0 and LeBron has clearly been reinvigorated, plus they will add Kevin Love back in a few weeks.

Altman’s plan seems to be working, one executive told Mark Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”

I had heard from sources for a while LeBron to the Lakers was not likely (Paul George is another story, that door remains open). As Spears notes, the Lakers did not have an All-Star in Sunday’s game. Even if LeBron and PG13 went to Los Angeles, that team was third or fourth best in the West next season. LeBron is in full on legacy mode and wants to win rings. Los Angeles is not the place to do it.

Houston is interesting (and it’s still a team I hear some execs think has a real shot), but the gutting or role players on that roster to make it work would be a concern. Maybe a dark horse such as Philadelphia can emerge. However, if LeBron can lead this newly-energized Cavaliers team to the Finals again (his eighth consecutive trip there), they get a high draft pick with the Brooklyn pick, then LeBron gets a commitment from Altman and owner Dan Gilbert to keep spending and being aggressive, where is he going to be closer to a title than at home?

Lou Williams trolls Jimmy Butler for resting during All-Star Game

Getty Images
7 Comments

Jimmy Butler was in Los Angeles and enjoying his well-earned All-Star slot on Team Stephen.

Well, except for the actual playing basketball part. Butler did not set foot on the court during the All-Star Game at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

Lou Williams, the Clippers’ guard who likely would have been near the front of the line for an open All-Star roster spot in the West (likely second in the queue behind Chris Paul), but instead took part in the Saturday Skills Competition then had Sunday off, trolled Butler for it on Twitter.

This seems more good natured than genuinely bitter.

Williams will roll with it, but his point’s a valid one — if you’re an All-Star, at least play a little and give the people what they want. Get out there for five minutes or whatever. LaMarcus Aldridge only played four minutes, no big deal.

If you’re not going to use the roster spot, give it up to someone who will.

Report: Raptors won’t sign Vince Carter if he gets bought out

Dave Sandford/Getty Images
3 Comments

Of returning to the Raptors, Vince Carter said, “It’ll happen one day.” It sounds as if the Kings would buy him out if he wants.

Will he end the season with Toronto?

Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050:

After speaking with a few team sources, I can confirm that they’ve had internal dialogue and debate about the idea of bringing Vince Carter back. It’s something that they wanted to do over the summer. That’s why they made him an offer, something that I’ve reported in the past. And it’s also something that they’d be open to in the future, perhaps next year in some capacity. But they’ve decided now is not the right time. And I think the consensus seems to be there’s so much going on right now, and they want this season to be about this team, their accomplishments and their playoff push and not the sideshow that I think would come with a Vince Carter return.

The Raptors (41-16) are on pace for their best record ever. They’re excelling offensively and defensively. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are spearheading a more dynamic offense that spurs hope for more playoff success.

Toronto is probably correct to save the Carter reunion for another year – though it depends who else is available. That 15th roster spot could be useful. If Carter is the best player who’d sign, the Raptors should sign him and deal with the hoopla.

But it’s not clear whom they could get or whether they could even get Carter. He hasn’t sounded like someone who’d forgo guaranteed salary to play for the minimum.