Baseline to Baseline recaps: It’s all about the Boston offense

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while being scared by the idea of a Hillary Clinton decorating show….

Jazz 140, Raptors 133 (3OT): Utah got its first road win but the Raptors made them really work for it — they needed the second three of Al Jefferson’s career just to get it to the first overtime. This was easily the best game of the night and our own D.J. Foster broke it down.

Suns 110, Nuggets 100: We have a Markieff Morris sighting — he had a great game (13 points and was +24) and made some key plays at the end to help the Suns hang on for a quality win. Brett Pollakoff broke this one down for us.

Celtics 101, Bulls 95: In case you were worried about the Boston offense, they just dropped 101 points and shot 50.6 percent on the Bulls, the second best defense in the league coming into the game (granted, it’s early).

Rondo was on fire — 20 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds and 5 steals — and he had 8 points in the first quarter as Boston put up 33 and held a lead it would never give up. Boston never really pulled away because their bench still is not the spark many expected. Boston led by 13 in the fourth quarter but the Bulls clawed back into this one and got it down to two at 95-93 with: 49 seconds left. But Rondo’s 10th assist set up Bass for a dunk that ended the threat. Luol Deng had 26 points, Joakim Noah 17 points and 11 boards. All five Celtics starters were in double digits.

Thunder 92, Pistons 90: Ever see a team win a game they didn’t deserve to? That’s how Oklahoma City should feel with this win — Detroit got more out of their talent and led most of this game. But a 17-2 fourth quarter run (because they have more talent and because they started switching picks and using their athleticism on defense) gave the Thunder the lead. The Pistons could taste it and made their own push but the Thunder held on and the Pistons are 0-8. Credit Russell Westbrook for the comeback, he had 14 in the fourth quarter (33 for the game). Kevin Durant had 11 in the fourth and 26 for the game.

Bucks 105, Sixers 96: Did anyone else get the feeling Brandon Jennings looked at Jrue Holiday this game and said “he got a contract extension and I didn’t?” then turned it on as he dropped 33 points and 8 assists (with just one turnover) to carry the Bucks to the win? He had 11 of those in the fourth quarter, this was a close game until a 9-0 Bucks run gave them a lead they would not surrender. Holiday had 25 and played well, except for the 8 turnovers, and Jason Richardson was back from his ankle injury and added 20. But this was Jenning’s show.

Heat 113, Rockets 110: It took a 7-0 run at the end for the Heat to come from behind and beat the Rockets. Which is a surprise because when LeBron James is really on his game — 38 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists — the Heat normally steamroll their opponent. And it looked like that early when the Heat jumped out to a 22-5 lead. Chris Bosh had 10 of his 24 in the first quarter as Omer Asik dared him to hit midrange jumpers — Bosh can do that all night long.

But credit the Rockets for putting up a fight. Chandler Parsons had 25, James Harden an efficient 22 and Ask had a career high 19 points plus 14 boards. But they couldn’t hold off the Heat at the end and a LeBron dunk gave the Heat the lead and the win. Jeremy Lin had a good look at a 3 with 9.9 seconds left but air balled it.

Timberwolves 90, Mavericks 82: If you love small ball, this was your game. Especially after the Wolves lost Nikola Pekovic to a sprained his ankle in the third quarter (because Pekovic outrebounded Vince Carter than landed on him). Credit Rick Adelman, who has the Wolves scrapping and playing smart despite the rash of injuries, they are no 5-2 on the season. Dallas just sloppy all night, shot 36.2 percent and have now lost three straight. The Russians came through for Minnesota with Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved each scoring 16.

Hawks 95, Trailblazers 87: It started with an Al Horford dunk, then a little Horford hook shot in the lane — four points that sparked a 10-0 Hawks run to close out the game and pick up the win on the road. Credit the Blazers for getting back into this after falling back by 13 in the game’s opening minutes. Portland was inconsistent but they had their moments in the second half, plus we had a J.J. Hickson sighting (19 points, 18 rebounds). Josh Smith had 19 points and 10 boards for the Hawks.

Gregg Popovich on Fox News pundit attacking LeBron James: “Unbelievable”

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Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham launched an attack at Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James after the NBA star voiced his opinion on Donald Trump. LeBron had done so many times before, alongside other notable NBA personalities like Kevin Durant and Steve Kerr.

This instance of LeBron speaking up apparently struck Ingraham in some type of way, enough to invoke a shot at James’ intelligence and speaking mannerisms in thinly-veiled comments. Ingraham told James to “shut up and dribble” which sparked the ire of many around the league. LeBron responded in kind, and most considered Ingraham’s racially-tinged tirade to be par for the course from that particular outlet.

Ingraham, who failed to do basic research on LeBron’s background, community leadership, and charitable contributions, also drew criticism from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Speaking before San Antonio’s game against the Cavaliers, Popovich told a crowd that Ingraham’s comments said more about her than about LeBron, and that he was happy the game had such a positive role model for young fans in James.

Via Twitter:

Shoutout to Popovich for continuing to be a voice from such a prominent position within sports and pop culture. Guys like him and LeBron haven’t exhausted themselves even though the discussion about what they say is undoubtedly tiring.

Jimmy Butler has surgery on right meniscus, no timetable for return

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The playoff picture in the Western Conference became much more opaque after Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler went down with a knee injury earlier in the week.

Reports out of Minnesota was that Butler had suffered a right meniscus injury, ducking what many had feared was an ACL tear. According to the team, Butler had successful surgery on his right meniscus this weekend.

As of Sunday morning they did not have a timetable for his return.

Via Twitter:

Minnesota currently stands third in the West but they will have a hard time fending off the rest of the playoff hopeful teams below them without their star player.

For his part, Butler is hoping he will be back in time for the playoffs. Early reports were that the team was thinking his recovery had a 4-to-6 week timeline, but again nothing has been set. Meniscus recovery times vary greatly depending on the issue at hand and the procedure done, neither of which we have details on at this time.

The Timberwolves have the 15th most difficult strength of schedule ahead of them according to Tankathon.com, with games against major Western Conference opponents ahead of them as well as bottom-dwellers like the Memphis Grizzlies.

Minnesota has been a good story all season long. No doubt many will bring up Tom Thibodeau’s workload once again with Butler injured, something compounded by Butler apparently requesting to rest during the 2018 All-Star Game.

Wolves fans have been waiting a long time for this. They don’t deserve this kind of punishment at this late a date, but the Basketball Gods are cruel and unceasingly unforgiving.

Isaiah Thomas on Cavaliers trade to Lakers: “They were in panic mode”

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It seems Isaiah Thomas is a thorn in the side of many in the NBA these days. The Los Angeles Lakers point guard reportedly was the source of some locker room conflict while he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers, although it appears that Dwyane Wade was the first to lead the charge against Kevin Love in the infamous player rap session.

Thomas is now a member of the Lakers after being part of the worst section of the season in Cleveland. The Cavaliers, with their revamped roster, have just one loss since the trade deadline. LeBron James & Co. have moved on, and Thomas appears set for free agency this summer and yet another team.

A move for the Cavaliers seemed inevitable, even if the return for Kyrie Irving from Boston — conveyed through consequent trades — was less than ideal. Meanwhile Thomas, who didn’t appear to enjoy his time in Ohio, has now said that he was surprised Dan Gilbert’s team bailed on him so quickly.

Via ESPN:

“I didn’t think they would pull the trigger that fast, 15 games,” Thomas told ESPN’s E:60 in an interview that will air March 11. “But again, it’s a business. And the Cavs were, I mean, they were in panic mode. We were losing — a lot. And I think they felt like they needed to make a move, and they, they basically cleared house.”

Thomas went on to say that he didn’t think he had enough time to find a rhythm not only coming back from a hip injury but on a new team in a new system. Thomas also mentioned that he harbored no ill feelings toward the Cavaliers.

We’ll see if that’s the case when the Lakers take on Cleveland on March 11 in LA.

Coach Tyronn Lue says not to expect LeBron James to have “rest” games

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LeBron James has not missed one Cleveland Cavaliers game this season. At age 33 in his 15th NBA season, LeBron is fourth in the league in total minutes played, third in the league in minutes per game at 37, and is top 10 in the NBA in usage rate.

Don’t expect that to change.

LeBron doesn’t want to take games off — he even dominated the All-Star Game — and do you really think Lue is going to force him to sit while the Cavaliers try to adapt to a radical roster shakeup at the trade deadline? From Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

“I just think being the leader of this team, I don’t think he thinks he can take games off, because, you know, guys being hurt and going through a rough patch, and now new guys coming in,” Lue said before the Cavs’ 112-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. “So, I think he’s trying to lead and lead by example … I think we still got to be smart about the situation, but [the training staff] say he feels good.”

LeBron said this last month and things have not changed.

“I told you I want to play every game,” James said. “If my health continues as it is right now, then that’s what it is.”

While “load management” is a buzzword around the NBA — one ignored in Minnesota — LeBron has responded to his increased workload with an MVP level season. LeBron is averaging 26.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game, is shooting 35.9 percent from three, and has the highest value over replacement player in the league. (His less energized play in January likely cost him any real shot at his fifth MVP.) With the league emphasizing not resting players — particularly in nationally televised games, which the Cavaliers have a lot of — LeBron is not getting much if any rest. He wants to play in a full 82.

The only concern is will he wear down. LeBron is going to have to dominate in the playoffs for the Cavaliers to come out of the East. How much gas will LeBron have in the tank come May? There’s a reason Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, and a lot of other elite coaches give players a night off. That’s not going to happen with LeBron, at least not likely in a meaningful way.

Consider it something to file away and remember if the Cavaliers and LeBron look a step slower in the postseason.