Rasheed Wallace, Tyson Chandler

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs, Knicks remain undefeated

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Our nightly recap of every game around the NBA. We catch you up on what you missed while you were finding out where Superman’s home planet Krypton actually was….

Spurs 101, Pacers 79: Don’t look now, but the Spurs are defending again this year. Which is how they crushed the Pacers. We broke it down.

Knicks 110, 76ers 88: Second night of a back-to-back, home-and-home but it felt a lot like the first game. The Knicks are still defending well and the 76ers are still willing to take bad shots in the face of it. Carmelo Anthony had a few more minutes where he wanted to go to isolation, but he had 21 points on 16 shots and was again playing defense. Raymond Felton destroyed Kwame Brown on the pick and roll on his way to 16 points.

And Rasheed Wallace had 10. When ‘Sheed is hitting shots like the one below you know it is his night.

Heat 124, Suns 99: This one felt over pretty quickly — Miami was up by 14 less than 10 minutes into the game, moving the ball and getting good looks on offense that the Suns couldn’t stop. Miami hit 15-of-26 from three, and when they do that they are basically unbeatable. Michael Beasley tried to fire up the Suns offense and score the only way he knows how — attacking with his athleticism. But that’s not going to work against the Heat. It doesn’t work most nights in the NBA period, but especially not against the Heat. Beasley went 3-for -13 on the night.

Credit the Suns for fighting to keep it in the teens for a while, but this was never in doubt. LeBron had 25 points and 11 boards, Dwyane Wade had 23, Ray Allen had 15 because the Suns stopped closing out on him on corner threes. Not smart. Shannon Brown had 18, Luis Scola had 15.

Timberwolves 107, Nets 96: The Nets had a 22-point lead in the third quarter and gave it all back — that happens when you shoot 4-of-22 to close out the game — in a painful loss at home. Alexey Shved had all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter to lead the comeback along with Dante Cunningham, who finished with 11 points, 11 boards and was +18 on the night.

Brooklyn still had a chance late, this one was 96-96 with less than four minutes to go. But in those final minutes, Shved was the guy making plays, attacking off the pick-and-roll and getting a floater in the lane and setting up Nikola Pekovic for a bucket in the paint. Then a skip pass from J.J. Barea to Chase Budinger for a three had the Timberwolves up 7 with: 38 seconds left and it was over. Brooklyn did not execute a team offense at all, they went to too much isolation late and Minnesota could defend it.

Grizzlies 103, Jazz 94: Utah looked like the better side early with Memphis struggling to score and Gordon Hayward racking up 11 points in the first quarter. But the Jazz never pulled away and Memphis came storming back. Mike Conley was key with a dozen second half points and disruptive defense that kept Mo Williams off balance. Marc Gasol had 22 points, Zach Randolph 16 points and 17 rebounds.

Mavericks 114, Trail Blazers 91: For three quarters Portland fought and scrapped to stay with a Mavericks team that was hot shooting from the time the doors opened — Dallas put up 31 points in the first quarter. Wesley Mathews and LaMarcus Aldridge each had 20 for Portland. But Dallas got even hotter in the fourth and hit 78 percent of their shots in the final 12 minutes to pull away. O.J. Mayo had 32 on the night and was hot from the start (12 in the first quarter) then it was rookie Jae Crowder with 9 in the fourth quarter to help seal it.

Cavaliers 108, Clippers 101: Cleveland’s three best players just flat out were better than anyone the Clippers had to stop them. Kyrie Irving came out on fire and had 16 first quarter points mostly matched up on Chris Paul. Then Irving had the dagger three late (when the Clips had it at a three-point game) because Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan both laid back and let him take the shot uncontested. Dion Waiters had 28 points, hit 7-of-11 threes (including a couple from north Orange County) and just abused Willie Green. And Anderson Varejao had 15 points, 15 boards and made life hard for Blake Griffin (who still got 20 points on 14 shots). How a team with a front line of Griffin and Jordan gets abused on the boards nightly is beyond me.

Kings 94, Warriors 92: The Kings took control of this game in the third quarter, going up by 16 behind a strong quarter from DeMarcus Cousins (11 of his 23 came in the third). The Kings were still up 11 with just more than 4 minutes left but the Warriors came storming back and had their chances late — Klay Thompson missed a 17-footer and Stephen Curry back ironed a 30-footer for the win as time expired. The Kings get a win at home but their execution isn’t striking fear in anyone’s hearts.

Best part of this game was Keith Smart having to run out and get a black tarp off the court that had been covering an advertisement on the scoreboard but fell off midgame.

PBT Podcast: Thunder/Spurs, Hawks/Cavs, and Game 6s talk with Dan Feldman

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - OCTOBER 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder tries to block Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of a NBA game at the Chesapeake Energy Center on October 28, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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Friday night sees some big Game 6s across the NBA playoffs — Indiana has the best chance of forcing a Game 7 — but everyone is looking ahead to Oklahoma vs. San Antonio in the next round.

That includes Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBCSports.com, who in this latest podcast discuss that series and the Atlanta and Cleveland series that tips off next week. Also they talk about the Friday night Game 6 matchups, and if Portland could beat Golden State if the Warriors do not get Stephen Curry back.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Report: Celtics believe they’ll get meeting with Kevin Durant

Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant (35) looks to move on Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart (36) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The Thunder won 130-109. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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The Celtics will chase Kevin Durant this summer.

Will it work?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

Ainge will be aggressive in free agency, team sources told The Vertical, and yes, that means a run at Kevin Durant. The Celtics believe Durant will meet with them this summer, but they know that meeting won’t accomplish much unless there are significant moves leading into it.

The Celtics are optimistic about meeting with Durant. The Warriors are optimistic about signing Durant.

That might just speak to different mindsets within the organizations – why shouldn’t Golden State be confident about everything? – but it also might handicap the odds of Durant’s next team. The Warriors definitely appear more likely than the Celtics.

Boston has plenty going for it: Brad Stevens, a solid young roster, extra draft picks (including the Nets’ first-rounder this year) and cap flexibility. But Durant wants to win now, so those more youthful assets mean only so much. It’s on Danny Ainge to prove he can turn that cap space into another helpful player, deal a Brooklyn pick or two for a veteran. That would become much easier if the Celtics win the lottery.

There’s a lot happening at once. If Durant isn’t coming, Boston might prefer to keep its draft picks and build slowly. Other free agents might not come. But if Durant is on board, that makes trades preferable and other free agents landable.

Of course, Durant should be the top option.

It appears the Celtics at least have their foot in the door.

Playoff preview: Four key questions about San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, center, scores against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Between 2011 and 2014, the Spurs and Thunder combined for six Western Conferences Finals appearances with at least one reaching it each year. Last season featured Warriors vs. Rockets. This year, one – but only one – of San Antonio and Oklahoma City will return.

1. Are these Kevin Durant‘s final games with the Thunder?

Let’s get this out of the way. Durant, as you well know, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. At this point, the best thing Oklahoma City can do to keep him is win. He knows the city. He knows the franchise. He knows the roster (which would likely return in similar form if he re-signs). Whether the Thunder send him into free agency with a good taste in his mouth is the biggest variable.

Will Durant leave just because Oklahoma City loses to the Spurs? Of course not. Will Durant stay just because Oklahoma City beats the Spurs? Of course not.

But this is a big opportunity for the Thunder to accentuate their positives – and the Spurs, another team in the Durant hunt, to do the same.

2. Who wins the Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard matchup?

More directly on the court… Durant is involved in what might be the best individual matchup of the 2016 playoffs

Durant and Leonard should both finish top five in MVP voting. If they do, it’d be the first time two players top five in MVP voting who play the same position met in the playoffs since 2012, when LeBron James and Durant faced off in the Finals.

The matchup should be fun on both ends of the court, but it’ll be particularly intriguing when Oklahoma City has the ball. Durant is one of the NBA’s best offensive players, Leonard the best defender. I can’t wait to watch them go at it.

3. How do the Spurs handle Oklahoma City’s athleticism?

In his last 20 games against San Antonio, Serge Ibaka is 15-5. Ibaka embodies the athletic advantage the Thunder hold over the Spurs. At his best, Ibaka attacks with hops and speed the Spurs’ bigs can’t match. Ibaka looked old throughout much of the regular season, but he appeared rejuvenated in the first round against the Mavericks. If he was just saving his energy for the playoffs, following the Dwight Howard model in previous years, Ibaka could play a major role.

Ditto Russell Westbrook, who will challenge Tony Parker to keep up. San Antonio could cross match with Danny Green, but that presents complications in transition.

The Spurs are collectively more skilled, but the Thunder have done a better job than most at neutralizing that advantage.

4. Has Billy Donovan found a rotation that narrows the gap?

Billy Donovan passed his first playoff test against Rick Carlisle. Now the challenge grows even greater against Gregg Popovich.

One thing Donovan did right: Putting Nick Collison, not Kyle Singler, in the playoff rotation. Collison’s minutes could be key against a Spurs team that often plays two slower bigs. I guesses Singler rather than Collison would play regularly, which lowered Oklahoma City’s adjusted net rating by a few points per 100 possessions when projecting using only players in the playoff rotation.

I’ll again use nba wowy! to rank playoff teams by regular-season net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), counting only lineups that include five players projected to be in the team’s postseason rotation, once the first round ends. But for now, here are San Antonio’s and Oklahoma City’s ratings, from the regular season adjusted to only lineups that include five players projected to be in the playoff rotation:

2. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 110.5 to 110.0
  • Defensive rating: 99.4 to 96.1
  • Net rating: +11.1 to +13.9

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 113.6 to 117.3
  • Defensive rating: 106.0 to 104.6
  • Net rating: +7.6 to +12.7

Both teams — already strong by this measure — benefited from beating up on their first-round competition, and the Thunder got a bump for using Collison over Singler. Oklahoma City still trails the Spurs, but the gap is much closer than overall regular-season results would suggest.

Prediction: Spurs in 7

Report: Deron Williams opting out of Mavericks contract

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 03:  Deron Williams #8 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball agains Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Center on November 3, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Deron Williams sacrificed $16 million to leave the Nets in a buyout last summer. He recouped $5,378,974 with the Mavericks this season.

Now – instead of exercising his $5,621,026 player option – he’s looking to get more.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Deron Williams intends to opt out of the second season of his contract with the Mavericks, sources told ESPN.com.

Williams could return to the Mavericks. They’re one of the few teams that need a starting point guard, and two others that do – the Nets and Knicks – are probably off the table given Williams’ antipathy for a large market. Expect Dallas to at least try for an upgrade like Mike Conley first.

But even if Williams signs as a backup, he can still probably command more than $6 million next season. With the salary cap skyrocketing to about $92 million and so many teams flush with cap space, the salary picture is changing.

This also increases the Mavericks’ potential cap space.

They project to fall about $24 million under the cap, counting cap holds for Williams, Chandler Parsons (who has a player option that could go either way) and Dwight Powell. In other words, Dallas could spend that $24 million then exceed the cap to re-sign Williams, Parsons and/or Powell.

Renouncing Williams ($6,454,769 cap hold), Parsons ($19,969,950 cap hold only if he opts out) and/or Powell ($1,180,431) could clear additional cap room. Parsons opting in would restrict the Mavericks’ ability to clear space .

Williams would have been a bargain if he opted in. Instead, Dallas gains flexibility.